Review: Qantas international transit lounge, Darwin

What can travellers expect from Qantas’ Darwin transit lounge during their stopover on the way to or from London?

By David Flynn, February 3 2022
Review: Qantas international transit lounge, Darwin

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.

Qantas will turn Darwin Airport's Catalina lounge into a dedicated space for its transit passengers.
Qantas will turn Darwin Airport's Catalina lounge into a dedicated space for its transit passengers.

"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?

Qantas' Darwin international transit lounge.
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.

Qantas' Darwin international transit lounge.
Qantas' Darwin international transit lounge.

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."

Qantas' Darwin international transit lounge.
Qantas' Darwin international transit lounge.

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.

Qantas' Darwin international transit lounge.
Qantas' Darwin international transit lounge.

Of course, the buffet isn't self-service, with lounge staff plating up your selection.

Qantas' Darwin international transit lounge.
Qantas' Darwin international transit lounge.

The tended bar serves wine, beer and spirits...

Qantas' Darwin international transit lounge.
Qantas' Darwin international transit lounge.
Qantas' Darwin international transit lounge.
Qantas' Darwin international transit lounge.

...  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.

Qantas' Darwin international transit lounge.
Qantas' Darwin international transit lounge.

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."

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Mar 2014

Total posts 209

the food looks reasonable but no showers allowed is a killer, also lack of natural light

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 379

No showers "is a killer"? That's a bit of a stretch. Sure, the option to grab a quick shower would be nice, but it's hardly "a killer" which makes the lounge otherwise worthless. And of course if the showers were open then we'd have some people complaining that there are not enough showers because they had to queue and wait. It's a 90 minute stopover, you won't spend any more than 60 minutes tops in the lounge and that's assuming you're first off the plane and last to get back on, so sure, a shower would be nice but it's hardly a must-have.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

16 Jun 2022

Total posts 1

I am flying on QF1 tomorrow 17th June 2022 and one of the things I was really looking forward to was a shower in Darwin. I will have flown from Gold Coast to Sydney and then Sydney to Darwin before going on to London and then Basel Switzerland. I noticed in one of the pictures that the sign showed toilets and a shower symbol. I assumed I would have to book a shower in advance but now I know there isn't one I will just have to have a refresh and a change of clothes.  

28 Mar 2018

Total posts 17

There is natural light in the lounge. One end has full-length, wall to ceiling windows. 

I suspect a northbound flight was reviewed. These fly through Darwin at night, hence the darkish photos.  The southbound flights pass through in daylight and the lounge is much brighter. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 470

Very similar to the Perth International Transit Lounge, apart from the showers - which most people don't have time to use, anyway.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Oct 2014

Total posts 684

A big 'thank you' to James Wallis for taking the time and effort to provide commentary and photographs for the article. Well done !

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Sep 2012

Total posts 32

Interesting to now but If I were doing that length of a flight I'd be walking/stretching that entire 90mins! Yikes...

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 Oct 2017

Total posts 4

Given this was never planned for, with all plans thrown out the window with COVID. I feel they have done a great job to create a good passenger experience, with short notice.

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 379

Yes, this was a nice little summary of what people can expect. I like his description of it being more like a Qantas Club than anything else, and to be fair, Qantas doesn't have much to work with in Darwin, they can only work with what they have ie the Catalina Lounge, it's just a short-term arrangement so good on them for taking this initiative. I just hope those Sydney-London flights can return to Singapore as soon as possible!

05 May 2016

Total posts 630

I assume no COVID tests are required as only proof of vaccination and a booking for post arrival COVID tests are needed to travel to LHR?

You assume correctly when it comes to only proof of vaccination needed to depart Australia, unsure if you must actually show a booking for a post-arrival test in the UK. But I'm once again mystified why people are 'assuming' anything when it comes to vital travel arrangements and asking for reader comments instead of actually doing their own research, checking with Qantas or with the Australian and UK government websites, basically doing a little bit of Google searching and getting a 100% accurate answer from the actual authorities.

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 379

That's correct. You have to book a COVID test to be taken in the UK on the day you arrive or within the following two days, the test can be booked at https://www.gov.uk/find-travel-test-provider. This can just be a rapid antigen test, and there's no need to isolate while waiting for the result. You'll also need a COVID PCR test taken before your flight back to Australia, of course, that must be done inside of 72 hours of the flight's departure from London.

05 May 2016

Total posts 630

I visited the lounge for QF9 and QF10. For the trip to London you arrive at night and it's going to be dark wherever you are. For the trip home on QF10 to MEL you arrive in the afternoon and it's nice and light. There are windows providing natural light.

The gate is literally right near the lounge which is very handy too.

I found the lounge was very good.

Considering the temporary arrangement I was really impressed with the offering when I stopped off in December. As mentions the staff were a huge part of that experience - they genuinely seemed keen to help and welcome guests, secondly a tiny touch but being welcomed into the lounge with a cold towel and a cold refreshing lemonade really felt special and memorable. Well done Qantas, you got this arrangement spot on. 


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