Qantas to upgrade Sydney, Melbourne international business lounges

A multi-million dollar makeover will take the flagship business class lounges from drab to fab.

By David Flynn, February 21 2023
Qantas to upgrade Sydney, Melbourne international business lounges
Executive Traveller exclusive

Qantas is set to splurge on its lacklustre Sydney and Melbourne international business class lounges, spending millions of dollars to ensure the well-worn spaces finally live up to their flagship status.

It’s the domestic cornerstone of a $100-million investment in the airline’s lounge network, which will also include a dedicated first class lounge for London, the return of the Qantas Hong Kong Lounge plus an all-new Qantas Club for Hobart and regional Qantas Regional Lounge for Broome.

That cash splash comes ahead of what’s expected to a blockbuster set of financial results when the airline reveals its half-year update on Thursday February 23. 

“Being back in profit means we’re back to making long term investments for our customers,” remarked Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce in announcing the airline’s lounge roadmap through to 2025.

“That started with the major aircraft order we announced last year” – that being for a future fleet of Airbus A350, A321XLR and A220 jets – “and now we’re building on that with a major investment in our lounges.”

Mapping out the Qantas domestic lounge network.
Mapping out the Qantas domestic lounge network.

“Millions of people a year visit our lounges and they are typically our frequent flyers who travel with us the most, so anything we do to improve them is a way of saying thank you to our most loyal customers.”

But those improvements will take time, especially as both the Sydney and Melbourne international business class lounges have to remain open throughout the upgrade process.

“It’s a big challenge,” admits Phil Capps, Qantas’ Executive Manager of Product & Service.

“The positive thing with both of those (lounges) is the actual space is quite large today,” Capps tells Executive Traveller, “so we can still accommodate quite a large number of customers, even when sections of the lounge are progressively closed off or hoarded off for the works.”

Hard details on exactly what we’ll see and when remain scant, but here’s what we know so far.

Melbourne’s Qantas international business class lounge is first in line for “a full internal refresh and a new signature food and beverage concept” – and that’s news to cheer regular visitors to what’s colloquially nicknamed ‘the dungeon’.

The lounge will expand into the adjacent Cathay Pacific lounge, with Cathay confirming to Executive Traveller that its Melbourne lounge will not be reopening.

This will allow Melbourne to increase capacity by up to 30% “to accommodate future passenger growth”  – no doubt with an eye towards new routes including non-stop Project Sunrise flights to London and New York from 2026.

“We’re taking the opportunity to expand that footprint, and do a full interior refresh as well,” Capps says.

The redevelopment work will be carried out in stages beginning later this year, with the aim of the undefined ‘stage one’ opening in mid-2024 – but Capps is unable to say when the project will be completed.

“We’re still very early in terms of the engineering assessments, architectural assessments and work with the airport.”

The David Caon-designed Qantas Singapore First Lounge.
The David Caon-designed Qantas Singapore First Lounge.

Bigger and bolder things are planned for the Qantas Sydney international business class lounge, which is slated for a “complete refurbishment and expansion.” 

The airline is reactivating a pre-pandemic plan – albeit one first promised for 2018-2019 – to deliver a make-over that the Flying Kangaroo's business travellers and Gold-grade frequent flyers have long been waiting for, with a centrepiece being “a new signature dining experience.”

That initial transformation saw “a completely new design” to be developed by Qantas designer David Caon – which we rate as a plus, because we're generally fans of his clean, fresh and understated aesthetic – in collaboration with Australian architecture firm Bates Smart.

“Our customers have told us that ample space, privacy and ambience are what they value most in their lounge experience, so the overall design of the new lounge will be tailored with this in mind,” Joyce said of the original plan.

Capps says the Caon design will remain the foundation of Sydney’s makeover “but we also want to take an opportunity to look at that with fresh eyes.”

“Obviously the network’s a little bit different, the shape of the schedule’s a little bit different, and we’ve had some other lounge programmes develop and evolve in the meantime... so we can incorporate a fresh perspective” into the lounge’s evolution.

Lounge capacity will grow by 40% “to more than 600 seats” through a combination of expansion and better use of the current footprint.

“We're working with Sydney Airport at the moment,” Capps tells Executive Traveller.

“There are opportunities to expand the floor plan beyond its current footprint, plus there is an opportunity to optimise all of the services – the bathrooms, the kitchen and back of house.”

However, this “full redesign and rebuild from scratch” is no simple task – Qantas says work is estimated to commence in early 2024 “with completion of stage one estimated by early 2025”, with the project and timeline “pending confirmation of Sydney Airport terminal upgrade plans.”

Jetstar Airways - Qantas Frequent Flyer

24 Aug 2018

Total posts 103

I note with regret your comment about the Tullamarine Qantas international business  dungeon. Sure to make me treasure my ( extended P ) status.


12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1488

IMHO it is most uninspiring international lounge where I been. Oh, no - Cathay in Melbourne was even worse. Everyone say that Emirathes is good one, but I never been there purely because it timing not in sync with QF flight that I use. Poor Melbourne definitely deserves better attitude from our flag carrier.

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

12 Apr 2017

Total posts 211

The Emirates lounge in Melbourne is so much better that you cannot compare the Qantas lounge to it. Even a re-fit of the dungeon will still keep it as a slightly better dungeon. The only realistic option is to find space upstairs overlooking the runways and move completely from that space.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 474

And where exactly is there such a space available? Qantas can only lease space that Melbourne Airport makes available. As far as I can see, the only way to put a lounge upstairs would be to close or reconfigure one of the gate areas.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

15 May 2019

Total posts 31

It’s interesting that Joyce said the Sydney Domestic Business Lounge was top of the domestic upgrade list in 2019 only to prioritise Adelaide a few weeks ago. It’s a bit odd frankly that the busiest airport in the country gets the worst domestic business lounge. The Sydney Qantas Club is way better.

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

12 Apr 2017

Total posts 211

I was able to visit the Sydney Qantas business lounge twice within a couple of weeks and was underwhelmed. Recently I had to visit only the Qantas club and based on what I had experienced in the Business lounge was not expecting much. However, I agree, its was so much better. Given the choice, I would choose the Qantas club over the business lounge!

About time for an upgrade

26 May 2016

Total posts 18

I would be curious to know if the lack of plans for qantas to refurbish their Melbourne international business class lounge has anything to do with likely future plans for a full redevelopment of Melbourne T2 


03 May 2013

Total posts 668

Well overdue but I wonder where this leaves things if Qantas moves all ops to a single terminal. As for Neil Perry's "dining experience" it's the most underwhelming out there.

Looking forward to the details on this, including how long it will take and how Qantas proposes to 'stage' things and handle displacement of travellers in the meantime. But I'm sure in the end it will be worth it.

25 Jun 2018

Total posts 41

The inclusion of the phrase “…….experience” is a colossal turn-off; see Joe’s comment about Neil Perry’s dining experience and AJ’s comment about lounges.   Nearly as bad as ‘going forward’ which means ????.

In short - about time too.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 642

Opoops, what did I miss?  Run that past me again - has Captain AJ given Melbourne priority over Sydney in something good?  Quick, someone get me a chair before I collapse.  

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1192

I assume an expansion in the MEL International Business Lounge means the existing location remains and the extra space comes from assuming the space which was previously the MH Lounge which has been empty for a number of years.  

The original plan was for a new lounge to be built above the new concourse linking the C&D concourses for the proposed swing gates on Concourse C but that whole extension and the corresponding linkage between Concourses D&E seem to have gone the way of the Dodo.

14 Oct 2016

Total posts 105

The Malaysia Airlines lounge is long gone and the only lounges down there are Qantas business, Singapore Airlines, Amex and Plaza premium which took up the old Malaysia Airlines spot. Up until recently there was a small Cathay Pacific lounge  next to the Qantas lounge which is now closed and I'd imagine this is where the expansion space is coming from (since Cathay now send their pax to Qantas). 

With the short completion time, and the fact the airport has more of less put their T2 expansion on ice, it think this is a short term measure as the current lounge is not up to standard, but there is probably a good 5 years before Melbourne Airport does its expansion, so I think this is a stop gap until major T2 works are done. 

Jetstar Airways - Qantas Frequent Flyer

03 Jul 2018

Total posts 47

I have only experienced the Melbourne Business class lounge once , as I usually used the First class lounge in the past, but for me, the main issue was the lacklustre food and beverage on offer. The obvious other issue was the lack of views. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

30 May 2013

Total posts 363

Excellent news about a new Hobart Qantas Club. I was in the Hobart Qantas Lounge two weeks ago. 4pm on a Wednesday and three flights were all departing within 30 min of each other. It was standing room only and the LOUDEST Qantas Club I'd ever been in. Simply far too many people for the tiny space. It was so loud that none of the boarding calls were heard and the Qantas Lounge Staff Attendant had to stand in the middle of the room and literally SHOUT out all of the boarding calls at the top of her lungs. It was absolutely farcical.


15 Feb 2023

Total posts 2

I hope it's not to late for Qantas to include a dedicated "quiet" zone in the new lounges. It's time lounge patrons were given the opportunity to access a separate, perhaps enclosed, area were the use of audible electronic devices ( eg. mobile phones and video games) and children under the age of say 10 years, are not allowed.

29 Mar 2017

Total posts 32

Is there anything positive to say about any of the domestic lounges at the moment? Maybe only that they have spirits unlike VA lounges, but the food and furniture are dire. The occasional traveller cannot justify a QC club anymore with a horrible food selection, no magazines or newspapers, usual cheap wine etc.

No surprise to see Newcastle doesn't get a mention either, despite now flying to Brisbane, Melbourne and Adelaide (with JQ also flying to Gold Coast).

I will say that the staff in the lounge were exceptionally helpful and polite, which actually surprised me. They also knocked back a group of three guys wearing thongs at the door too.

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