What's the future of Virgin Australia’s airport lounges?

We speak with Virgin Australia's Chief Executive and Chief Experience Officer about what's happening with the airline's lounges.

By Chris Chamberlin, August 7 2020
What's the future of Virgin Australia’s airport lounges?

As Bain Capital’s vision for Virgin Australia 2.0 begins to unfold, the question on many frequent flyers’ minds is whether Virgin Australia will continue to have airport lounges going forward, and if so, when those lounges might re-open.

Firstly, don’t panic – the airline has committed to maintaining a “network of domestic lounges” in “key” locations: but some lounges will close permanently, and others may not re-open for some time, depending on how long it takes for passenger demand to recover.

Executive Traveller spoke with both the airline’s Chief Executive Officer Paul Scurrah, and its Chief Experience Officer Danielle Keighery, to find out more.

Three Virgin Australia lounges get the chop

While all Virgin Australia lounges remain shuttered on a temporary basis, three of those facilities will be closed for good.

These include the domestic lounges in Alice Springs and at Perth Terminal 2, along with the international Virgin Australia lounge at Wellington Airport, which opened just last year and was Virgin Australia’s first own-brand lounge overseas.

Virgin Australia's international lounge at Wellington Airport will not return.
Virgin Australia's international lounge at Wellington Airport will not return.

For Perth passengers, the airline’s flagship lounge in Terminal 1 will be retained – Terminal 2 being the lounge primarily used by travellers taking regional flights – although in Alice Springs, no alternative lounge is available to Virgin Australia guests.

It remains to be seen whether Virgin Australia flyers will have access to another lounge facility in Wellington when trans-Tasman flights resume.

However, given the only two available lounges are operated by Virgin’s rivals Qantas and Air New Zealand, the prospects of gaining access to these would be remote.

Virgin Australia passengers previously used the AirNZ lounge in Wellington, and in many other international ports, but were given the boot when the partnership between the two airlines ended, which saw Virgin construct its own 32-seat lounge at Wellington Airport.

Read: Virgin to close lounges in Perth, Wellington, Alice Springs

Some other Virgin Australia lounges may also close

While Virgin Australia CEO Paul Scurrah affirms to Executive Traveller that “we haven’t decided (on) any other (lounge) closures,” it remains possible that some of Virgin Australia’s other lounges may also no longer be required.

The airline says it will continue to operate lounges in “key” locations, making it highly unlikely that lounge facilities would disappear in places like Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, or indeed, in Perth Terminal 1, following the closure of Perth Terminal 2.

When questioned whether those “key” locations would include both capital cities and regional lounges, however, Virgin Australia Chief Experience Officer, Danielle Keighery, confirmed that “a number of the regional lounges that don’t get a large (passenger) footprint,” are up for review.

Virgin says it will retain airport lounges in "key locations", but won't be drawn on which airports will make the cut.
Virgin says it will retain airport lounges in "key locations", but won't be drawn on which airports will make the cut.

Outside of lounges in the major capital cities (with the notable exception of Hobart), Virgin’s remaining facilities are found in Cairns, at the Gold Coast and in Mackay.

It’s unclear what approach Virgin Australia will take with its lounge at Adelaide Airport, which remained under construction when the first batch of domestic travel restrictions came into effect, and government prohibitions on dining and indoor gathering venues forced all other lounges to close.

As part of the redevelopment of Adelaide Airport, Virgin Australia had relinquished the space it formerly used as a lounge and had set up a temporary ‘summer pop-up’ facility nearby, while construction of a new-build lounge in a brand new location was underway.

When will Virgin Australia’s lounges re-open?

With Qantas having re-opened many of its domestic Qantas Club and business class lounges across the country, frequent flyers are fairly wondering when Virgin Australia’s lounges will once again welcome travellers: at least, those lounges that remain on the map.

Both Scurrah and Keighery confirm that lounge re-openings will be triggered by demand, which is currently being significantly hampered by domestic travel restrictions and border closures.

“As soon as the borders are open, and business traffic returns, then that’s the trigger” to re-open lounges, Scurrah tells Executive Traveller.

Keighery elaborates that “we really need to start seeing reasonable traffic coming through before we will (re-open lounges).”

Virgin lounges will re-open as demand returns, the airline says.
Virgin lounges will re-open as demand returns, the airline says.

Border closures “continue to have an ongoing impact on demand, and until we start seeing the right numbers coming through the airports, we will keep them closed: but we’re monitoring that closely.”

This week, Queensland’s hard border with the entire state of New South Wales will be reinstated – an extension of the previous ban on travellers from Greater Sydney – with the added disincentive of mandatory hotel quarantine for Queensland residents returning from NSW from Saturday.

Queensland is also closing its border to the ACT from the same date, and forcing QLD residents into 14 days of hotel quarantine at their own expense upon their return from the Australian Capital Territory – despite the fact the ACT has no active cases of COVID-19.

What’s the future of The Club?

Virgin Australia’s new owner initially expected to make the airline more of a mid-market carrier, with the airline's invitation-only  The Club – created by former Virgin Australia CEO John Borghetti as his answer to the Qantas Chairman's Lounge – widely speculated to close under Bain Capital’s reign.

Virgin's The Club is a sanctuary of schmooze for high-flying corporates and captains of industry.. Source: Supplied
Virgin's The Club is a sanctuary of schmooze for high-flying corporates and captains of industry.
Source: Supplied

When quizzed on the repositioning of Virgin Australia and its future plans for The Club, Scurrah initially quipped that “people aren’t meant to know about The Club… but of course, we all do!"

"We don’t have any updates on that today," he continued. "The only thing I will say about it is that we know our customers, particularly high-tier customers, want a differentiated level of service, and we're working through exactly how that will look once the demand comes back."

Virgin Australia’s The Club lounges are located in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra and Perth.

Also read: Virgin Australia 2.0 to cut fleet, routes and some lounges

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller, and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins not just with a single step, but also a strong latte, a theatre ticket, and later in the day, a good gin and tonic.

26 May 2016

Total posts 16

Since 'the club' lounges are within the existing leasehold of their terminals, I would guess virgin may wish the rework these spaces as a business class lounge rather than an invite only lounge. The trouble virgin would have sub letting these spaces plus the benefit of renegotiated their own leases may make the numbers work.

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 113

I'd turn them into a dedicated business class lounge.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

15 Oct 2018

Total posts 1

Any thoughts on The House lounges at the Melbourne and Sydney airports? Could those be in jeopardy? Or would they be safe as they're shared with Etihad?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Nov 2017

Total posts 259

The House in Sydney/Melbourne and MyLounge in Brisbane are operated by the third party company. EY and VA pays the company to put their names on it.

I would guess that VA may look at removing their name from The House/MyLounge (BNE) whilst still continuing to use for their passengers on Short Haul International. Codeshare passengers on the long-haul partner airlines may be directed to their partner's lounge.

Meaning it'll be just "The House, home of Etihad and other airlines". (with VA being under the "other airlines" bit).

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 113

I don't think Virgin needs to think about The House for at least a year until it starts overseas travel. It would be an expensive contract and maybe easier for them to sign an agreement with Plaza Premium?

01 Aug 2019

Total posts 9

Hope they keep the lounge in Mackay open as Mackay gets quite a few flights a day


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