With Qantas now sending its flagship Kangaroo Route flights from Sydney and Melbourne to London (and back) via Darwin, due to Perth remaining closed to not only interstate but overseas travellers, the airline has opened a temporary 'pop up' international lounge at Darwin Airport to cater for passengers in transit through the top-end capital.
And that stop-over could be in place for months to come, at least for the Melbourne-London QF9/QF10 flights, after Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan announced in late January the state would keep its borders shut for an indefinite period.
Qantas' Darwin international transit lounge is actually the airport's Catalina Lounge, which has been leased out with the aim of delivering that familiar Qantas lounge experience during the short stopover.
"Given the relatively brief transit time of 90 minutes, our focus will be on offering a comfortable space for customers to stretch their legs, enjoy a brunch or light supper and to refresh before their onward journey," explains Qantas Group Chief Customer Officer Stephanie Tully.
So what can travellers expect when they break their journey at Qantas' Darwin international transit lounge?
Executive Traveller reader James Wallis, who recently flew from Sydney to London in business class on QF1, has shared some photos and observations.
First up, he found the lounge "was quite busy" even though his QF1 "wasn't a full flight".
The lounge is open to the following travellers:
- Business class passengers
- Platinum One, Platinum and Gold Qantas Frequent Flyers
- Qantas Club members
- Oneworld Emerald and Sapphire members
(Qantas tells Executive Traveller that the layout of the Catalina Lounge offers scope to increase its capacity by adding more seating as needed, with the ability to plan ahead to a large extent based on the frequent flyer status of travellers on each flight.)
Wallis describes the Darwin international transit lounge as "very much a Qantas Club setup, with all food and drinks having to be prepared in the main (Qantas Club domestic) lounge and brought through security to get to the transit lounge."
During his brief visit the lounge staff were "fantastic" and eager to please: "we were offered a local non-alcoholic 'Top End Lemonade' cocktail as we entered, and handed a refreshing cold towel."
The menu ranges from quick bites and sweet treats to warming dishes such as vegetable gyoza and chicken tom yom soup, both of which are a nod to Darwin's Asian influence.
Of course, the buffet isn't self-service, with lounge staff plating up your selection.
The tended bar serves wine, beer and spirits...
... with coffee from a machine rather than barista, and jars of nibbles (including the colourful liquorice all-sorts which have become a Qantas lounge signature) close by.
Although the lounge has showers, Wallis reports those "were closed due to Covid restrictions."
And if you forgot to download some video to watch on the next leg of your trip, the WiFi delivered a decent 50Mb/s.
"As pit stops go, it’s quite adequate," Wallis recounts. "I think I ended up spending about 50 minutes there in total."