Virgin to reopen some airport lounges, others stay closed for good

Virgin's airport lounges are ready to open up again, and there's also a new look on the way...

By Chris Chamberlin, November 18 2020
Virgin to reopen some airport lounges, others stay closed for good

Virgin Australia has laid out the roadmap for the future of its domestic airport lounges, having emerged from administration under the ownership of US private equity firm Bain Capital.

The question most travellers are asking is "When will Virgin's airport lounges open again?" – and the answer depends on which lounge they have in mind.

Virgin's home base lounge in Brisbane has already unlocked its doors this week.

Lounges in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth (T1) and the Gold Coast remain closed for now, with the airline saying each will reopen as demand grows, which in turn will depend on the relaxing of domestic border restrictions.

The newly-built Adelaide lounge – originally primed for an early April 2020 opening before Covid forced the closure of all airport lounges Australia-wide in late March – will roll out the welcome mat "in the first quarter of 2021", Virgin says.

Virgin Australia's cosy Cairns lounge is among six lounges axed.
Virgin Australia's cosy Cairns lounge is among six lounges axed.

Virgin has also confirmed that its lounges in Cairns, Darwin and Mackay will be permanently shuttered. These join the previously-reported closures of Alice Springs, Perth T2 and Wellington.

The airline's lounge in Canberra is also "under review" and may or may not return. Likewise, the fate of Virgin’s invitation-only The Club lounges remains unknown.

Premium Entry to stay

Virgin Australia says it will keep the Premium Entry facilities at its Sydney and Brisbane lounges, which offer a direct path into the lounge via a dedicated security checkpoint for business class passengers and top-tier Velocity Frequent Flyers and Lifetime Lounge members.

However, a source inside Virgin Australia management – who declined to be named, as they were not authorised to speak directly with the media – tips that Virgin Australia's Premium Entry facility in Brisbane would spring back to life in December.

Virgin Australia's Premium Lounge Entry at Brisbane.
Virgin Australia's Premium Lounge Entry at Brisbane.

Due to the high staffing costs in keeping this feature open, the airline’s initial plan is said to make Premium Entry available “only for a few hours in the mornings” across December and January for now, the source advised.

Virgin has not advised if the 'Premium Exit lane at its Melbourne lounge will also resume.

A new look for Virgin lounges

When the Adelaide lounge opens in early 2021, it'll also serve as a preview of a fresh new look which Virgin intends to roll out to all other domestic lounges.

The airline says this "reimagined" design "will provide customers with an experience and aesthetic more aligned to the Virgin brand they know and love."

To date, all of Virgin's lounges have drawn from a template created by Sydney’s Tonkin Zulaikha Greer Architects in 2010-2011 and which debuted at Virgin’s Melbourne Airport domestic lounge.

Read: Bain reveals new 'mid-market' Virgin Australia 2.0

Lounging in Covid-19 era

Virgin says that as its lounges reopen they will initially "offer guests an interim food and beverage menu, which will be reviewed as the lounge network gradually re-opens and passenger volumes return."

"The offering will adhere to COVID-safe protocols and will include fresh and pre-made food, including sweet and savoury snacks, sandwiches and fruit, along with barista-made coffee, juices and premium sparkling, wine and beer."

Shortly prior to the March shutdown, the airline had already implemented a set of revised policies around how food and drinks were served in its lounges.

These procedures are expected to remain in place for some time to come.

The lounge’s usual salad buffet – requiring guests to handle communal serving utensils – had been replaced by a selection of individually wrapped single-serve salad bowls, pre-made bread rolls and pre-assembled sandwiches, which staff could place on the toaster.

At dinnertime, hot dishes such as soup and pasta remained available, but were plated on request by lounge staff.

Self-service wine, soft drinks, tea and water had also been removed, with all beverages ordered via the bar counter or the barista station.

Of course, Virgin Australia lounge guests shouldn't expect hot food for the time being, with sandwiches being one of the more substantial options at present.

Since re-opening its own airport lounges, Qantas has provided a similar 'hosted' experience.

Rather than helping themselves, Qantas lounge guests advise staff of any food and beverage requests, either at the counter where queueing is allowed under local regulations, or from their seat.

Also read: Five ways coronavirus will change airport 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.

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 285

Are those plated servings from VA BNE lounge today? 

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 285

Sorry I meant if those photos of plated serving taken today at BNE lounge?

Those photos and detail come from a visit "shortly prior to the March shutdown", noted in the story.

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 285

Thanks for the reply 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

30 Aug 2013

Total posts 8

Im sure theres some positive news in this story....they are slowly reopening.

I really want to see Virgin Survive and thrive so try to always look at the positives, like this case we already know the history..

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Jan 2014

Total posts 283

I would be checking the dates on the beer.

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 285

Flat beer at an airport lounge? That will be a new experience 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Nov 2014

Total posts 367

So entry require remain the same? Can we still enter with Amex plat card? 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

13 Jun 2018

Total posts 8

The premium entry will be a very welcome return.  With passenger volumes returning the standard security is a 20 minute wait at most times.  Don’t care what is in the lounge to start with just let me avoid the security queue at BNE.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 403

Have you tried going through security in the middle (Jetstar) entry or at the Qantas end? You don't need to enter it at the VA end.

As someone who often flies at weekends, I've found it very annoying that the VA premium entry is closed at weekends. The Qantas premium entry is open all the time. 

20 Jun 2020

Total posts 16

If they retire the club offering, I wonder if that means they can utilise the club curbside entry as a lounge premium entry?

20 Jun 2020

Total posts 16

For Melbourne airport to clarify *

06 Feb 2014

Total posts 14

Would be super disappointing to lose the Canberra lounge, as its always nice for a quick stop before flights. Would likely be the final straw that would mean we would give up trying to actively maintain our gold status - not that we are high value travellers for Virgin anyway, but have enjoyed the perks of gold, but if there is no lounge at the airport we visit most, then that will probably be that.

Rxm
Rxm

Jetstar Airways - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Jan 2017

Total posts 54

It is telling that Virgin are thinking of keeping the Canberra lounge closed. That would suggest they are not chasing government business so one must wonder what the business class offering is going to look like.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 808

It may also be a bit of brinksmanship with the Snow Family (owners of CBR) about what is a fair price for leasehold rental.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 808

It's kind of surprising that they have gone straight to full closure of lounges such as DRW, CNS and MKY rather than going to a regional lounge product that offers less similar to what QF does with its regional lounges which are often fairly bare-bones but meet the need.  

Of course, maybe the maths of lounge operation means its the real estate that is the killer cost and no amount of soft product adjustment could make the sums work.

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

12 Sep 2011

Total posts 159

So not worth flying VA C from ADL - no lounge?   Used to have great service on board (far better than Qantas C!!!!) 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 403

The article says the VA lounge in ADL will be opening in the first quarter of 2021.


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