Executive Traveller exclusive
Virgin Australia will open a temporary lounge at Melbourne Airport to address over-crowding while its main lounge remains closed for ongoing maintenance and renovation.
The airline has been relying on The Club lounge – previously a private haven for members of its exclusive invitation-only Velocity VIP tier – since December 2020, with access for business class passengers and alongside Velocity Platinum and Gold members.
However, the continued recovery of domestic air travel – while good news for the airline and travellers alike – has had a side-effect of The Club's limited capacity being swamped.
Many Virgin Australia travellers are experiencing long queues at the door during peak periods, with some reporting a wait of 15-20 minutes or simply skipping their pre-flight lounge visit entirely.
Where is Virgin's temporary Melbourne Airport lounge?
As a short-term solution, Virgin has created a new 'pop-up' lounge adjacent to Terminal 3's AFL Kitchen & Bar – which in turn is next to Virgin's service desk – in space previously occupied by Picketts Deli & Rotisserie.
This means it's located before security, so visitors won't be able to dally once their flight is called.
The temporary lounge will open on Monday May 3 and operate across the same hours as usual: opening an hour prior to departure of the first flight each day and closing after the departure of the last flight.
Who can use Virgin's temporary Melbourne Airport lounge?
The temporary pop-up lounge will host Velocity Gold members, holders of single-use lounge passes (such as those issued to Velocity Silver members), Virgin Australia Lounge members, "eligible partner airline guests and eligible credit card partners."
Executive Traveller understands there'll be room for around 90 passengers, as the airline remains subject to Victoria's strict COVID capacity constraints.
Visitors can expect similar food and drink options as at The Club, with an added 'grab and go' section for those short on time.
What about The Club lounge?
The Club lounge will now be restricted to business class passengers, Velocity Platinum frequent flyers and The Club members, making it both a little less crowded and a little more exclusive.
Some changes are also being made to the placement of furniture to increase the number of seats available from the current 144.
Virgin estimates that both lounges will provide room for some 250 travellers, or an over 65% increase - although that's still well short of the standard Melbourne lounge's 700-person capacity.
When will Virgin's Melbourne lounge re-open?
Virgin Australia Group CEO Jayne Hrdlicka anticipates the renovated Melbourne lounge will pull down the hoardings and roll out the welcome mat "mid-year."
It's not known how different the lounge will look from before – for example, how close will it look to Virgin's fresh lounge experience as typified by the new Adelaide Airport lounge?
Virgin's General Manager of Product and Customer Experience, Sarah Adam, has told Executive Traveller "there will be elements that we'll be able to inject into our existing spaces as we go through our maintenance and refurbishment plan...where it makes sense that aesthetically we can make those changes."
"The greenery around the (Adelaide lounge) makes it feel a bit more welcoming, so that would be one of the obvious choices we would make," Adam says. "In addition to that, potentially some of the soft furnishings that we have in the space."
A fresh menu for frequent flyers
Virgin is also rolling out a new menu featuring freshly-made sandwiches, salads, wraps and healthy snacks across its lounge network.
Already in place at the Sydney, Brisbane, Canberra and Adelaide lounges, it'll appear next week at both of the temporary Melbourne lounges (with the exception of salads, which will make their leafy return "upon the reopening of the renovated Melbourne Lounge"), followed by the Gold Coast and Perth lounges by mid-May.
"Freshly prepared on site, the menus are just some of the new and exciting products you'll see when you travel with Virgin Australia over the next few months," Hrdlicka says.
In other Virgin Australia news, and as exclusively reported earlier today by Executive Traveller, Virgin is tipped to launch its new points-for petrol alliance with 7-Eleven within the coming weeks.
Earning rates will be set at 2 Velocity Points per litre of 'premium' Supreme 98+ and Extra 95 fuel, and 1 Velocity Point per lite for all other 'regular' fuel blends, with earn 2 Velocity Points per dollar spent in-store.