Visiting Virgin Australia's newly-reopened Brisbane Airport lounge

With Virgin Australia re-opening its lounges, we stopped by to see how the experience stacks up.

By Chris Chamberlin, November 20 2020
Visiting Virgin Australia's newly-reopened Brisbane Airport lounge

After sitting closed since March, Virgin Australia's domestic airport lounge network is beginning to re-open.

Brisbane is first cab off the rank, and in the coming months will be joined by Virgin lounges in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth T1 and on the Gold Coast.

(The fate of Canberra remains "under review", while Virgin has confirmed that its 'regional' lounges at Alice Springs, Cairns, Darwin, Mackay and Perth T2 have been scrapped.)

Virgin's Brisbane lounge should therefore serve as an example of what passengers can expect when its siblings roll out the welcome mat.

Currently, the lounge opens its doors from 7am to 7pm Monday to Friday, and 7:45am to 7pm on Sundays.

Passengers travelling on Saturdays continue to miss out on lounge access for the time being.

Virgin Australia lounge: arrival and entry

Glide through the now-unlocked doors and your lounge journey routes via a hand sanisiting station, as you'd expect in 2020.

Once that's taken care of, business class passengers and Velocity Gold and Platinum frequent flyers can admit themselves to the lounge in the usual way, by scanning their boarding pass or frequent flyer card at the self-serve podium.

Alternatively, staff at the service desk can process your entry. Regardless of how you're scanned in, you'll also need to 'sign in' by scanning a QR code at reception, for contract tracing purposes.

Virgin Australia lounge access 

Travellers will be happy to learn that there are very few changes to the eligibility requirements for Virgin Australia lounge access, versus who made the cut prior to the shutdown.

The roster of those that still make the cut includes:

  • Virgin Australia business class passengers, Velocity Gold and Platinum frequent flyers, members of The Club, and Virgin Australia Lounge and Lifetime Lounge members.
  • Velocity Silver frequent flyers and various eligible credit card holders holding a single entry Virgin Australia lounge pass.
  • American Express Platinum Charge Card and Centurion cardholders on presentation of their eligible card and a Virgin Australia boarding pass.
  • Gold and Platinum-equivalent frequent flyers of Delta, Etihad, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways and Virgin Atlantic.

Rules around bringing 'guests' into the lounge also remain the same.

For example, Velocity Platinum members are still entitled to bring three adult guests into the lounge, and most other travellers (except those flying business class without status) can bring in one guest.

However, elite frequent flyers of Alitalia Millemiglia and Fortune Wings Club (the loyalty program of Hainan Airlines and Hong Kong Airlines) no longer have access to Virgin Australia lounges.

For the time being, Virgin Australia is also not selling walk-in passes at the door (normally $65) due to capacity constraints, but Executive Traveller understands this will be reviewed as lounge capacity limits are increased over time.

Virgin Australia lounge: first impressions

A visit just after what's currently the morning rush finds the airline's Brisbane lounge peaceful and quiet.

Although the rear section of the lounge is currently off-limits, there's still no shortage of available seats, which are generally spaced quite widely apart. 

For solo flyers looking for added tranquillity, pull up a perch over by the windows, which puts you as far away from the typical sources of noise as possible. 

For shorter stays, plenty of seats aren't far from reception, with flight information screens brought back to life with more daily departures than the airport has seen in recent months.

However, some facilities of the lounge aren't available right now.

This includes what was the business centre, where the computers have been removed to avoid having travellers share communal keyboards and mice. 

To accommodate social distancing requirements throughout the lounge, many of the tables and chairs have been removed from service for now, kept at the rear. 

It's a strange sight, when you think that earlier in 2020, these seats would have all been full at peak times, with travellers jetting about the country – each empty chair now representing not just one, but many business travellers currently grounded.

Virgin Australia lounge: food service

When you're feeling peckish, there's a selection of complimentary food available: you'll just need to ask for assistance, as the staff will pass your choices to you. 

Right now, the selections include pre-packaged sandwiches, cheese and crackers, biscuits, chips, and fruit.

With the buffet counter roped off, menus are positioned at each end, so you won't need to squint to read the writing on each packet.

Right now, there's no hot food being served, but the sandwich list caters for both meat eaters and vegetarians.

Those with vegan or gluten-free dietary requirements, however, will struggle to find anything substantial.

Lighter bites on offer include packaged biscuits and cookies, as well as various chips served individually portioned.

Fresh apples, as have been a staple of Virgin Australia's lounges for many years, are available too.

Overall, you won't go hungry here – and the lounge host didn't bat an eyelid when one traveller requested three sandwiches – but for anything more substantial, you'll need to explore the airport food court, for the time being.

Earlier in the day, more morning-appropriate bites like muesli bars are also on offer.

Virgin Australia lounge: barista coffee

Although the food offerings are currently on the lighter side, Virgin Australia's barista bar is back in full swing, with freshly prepared coffee served throughout the day. 

Pleasingly, coffees come served in glasses and mugs, and are just as you'd have expected in the past.

Virgin Australia lounge: bar

One small change from Virgin Australia's prior lounge experience is that complimentary alcohol is now served from midday – the same time Qantas opens its own domestic lounge bars – rather than 11am.

As well, the list of available beers has been shortened for now, with other options like cider off the menu too: but you'll still find a choice of beer, as well as red, white and sparkling wine on offer.

These are all now served via the coffee counter.

Virgin Australia lounge: WiFi

Internet access is back, and as before, you'll find the latest WiFi password on signs throughout the space.

Speed tests revealed average downloads of 7.2Mbps and average uploads of 2.1Mbps – fine for basic browsing, email and social media, but not particular zippy for more data-intensive tasks. 

As well as the lounge's business centre currently being closed, access to reading material via the PressReader app has also been suspended, with all printed magazines pulled from the lounge as well.

Restrooms remain available, but showers are not: the same approach Qantas has also taken in its own lounges.

Overall, it's great to see Virgin Australia take the first steps towards welcoming back business travellers, and all eyes will be on the lounges to see how the offering expands over time.

Also read: Virgin to reopen some lounges, others stay closed for good

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.

21 Jul 2020

Total posts 10

This and the Gold Coast were my locals, crazy to see it like that, I could never get a seat in BNE as I used to fly out from there only on Monday mornings. Very upset about Darwin closing, I did plenty of work in there.

05 Sep 2019

Total posts 1

Totally totally agree on Darwin!!! Can just not understand that  

Also sad that gluten-free food is basically not available. I’m just hoping that this offering  is not the new normal.  Fear that it might. 

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 281

No one attempted to ask for a sandwich to be toasted on the grill or nuked in the microwave?

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

13 Jun 2018

Total posts 8

What is the point of having to scan a QR code for contact tracing purposes after checking in to the lounge.   As if they don’t know who you are from your boarding pass.

Still can’t believe the decision to close the cairns lounge.  Qantas sent an A330-300 on BNE - CNS yesterday.  Very short sighted move by Bain /VA.

18 Jan 2017

Total posts 34

Have you done a speed test in a Qantas lounges? Plus taken into account the connection ratio? IE a slower performance with a lower connection ratio can be much better than faster performance with a higher connection ratio.

Hi bagpuss, you can find Speedtest results from Qantas lounges in the various reviews of those. The primary element ET has always focussed on for WiFi in lounges and hotels is speed, and that's reflected here.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Nov 2020

Total posts 1

Guessing the budget cuts took their toll on the bar menu spelling too; "curvee" and "Coke-a-cola"? 

24 Nov 2020

Total posts 4

And “sodas”! The American influence is showing.

Thai Airways International - Royal Orchid Plus

15 Jan 2013

Total posts 320

i admit the sandwiches are a bit of a let down.have seen better way back in the days when qantas club was known as the captain clubs lounges as a kid ex melbourne.those things and i was flying to america with my family on continental along with the assorted pepsi offerings of the era were better.it was the eighties.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

13 Dec 2012

Total posts 50

Given Gluten-free has been hit an miss on board (passable in business class - usually have to purchase something in economy class (which you don't have to do with Qantas or Rex), they do need to have a gluten-free option in the lounges as they have in the past.

07 Mar 2017

Total posts 46

Just because they limit themselves to sandwiches and crackers, doesn't mean they have to limit the choice so drastically.

Just two choices of sandwich, all on white bread, with pretty uninspiring fillings. There were better choices in other lounges pre-covid.

Very uninspired.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Mar 2015

Total posts 187

Has anyone actually used the lounge since it reopened?

Be interested to see just how they found it .

Also has anyone done the Brisbane - Perth flight in Business lately? ( BNE-PER )

Also keen to ask how it was service wise on that sector.

I'm Flying Business VA BNE-PER on Dec 15th so would love to know what to prepare myself for as in maybe taking decent food on board or eating in the lounge  or a food stall prior to the flight.

All of my flying these days is from BNE-PER and prior to Administration/ Bain the flight on the A330 ( via Sydney ) was one of the great highlights of my journey. The service on the A330 was second to none, absolutely fabulous but alas no more!

Not really looking forward at all to the flight on the B737 but I guess Business Class is marginally better than economy or so reports would indicate.

07 Dec 2016

Total posts 36

Furious with the shabby treatment of Cairns by Virgin, the Brisbane~Cairns route having been a mainstay of VA through the pandemic and remaining high volume traffic.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

07 Mar 2018

Total posts 7

If the lounges QF and VA just concentrated on ONE good alternative to an omnivore meal, they could make a great single dish which was both vegan AND gluten free (and hence also suitable for vegetarians).   Not fair that us vegans have to make do with an apple. 


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