When will Virgin Australia reopen its airport lounges?

Some Virgin flights are coming back, but there's no sign of the lounges opening their doors once again.

By David Flynn, July 3 2020
When will Virgin Australia reopen its airport lounges?

Virgin Australia has begun adding more flights to its network and putting more planes back in the sky, with a target of 28 destinations by early August, but its airport lounges remain closed and the airline is giving no clues as to when they might reopen.

Virgin, alongside Qantas, pulled down the shutters on its airport lounges across Australia in late March to comply with nation-wide social distancing laws, just prior to grounding almost all flights – and just four weeks before the airline collapsed into administration with almost $7 billion in debt.

However, while Qantas' domestic reboot has been accompanied by a reopening of its capital city and regional lounges, many Virgin Australia passengers are wondering when the challenger's lounges will unlock their doors.

Virgin isn't able to name a date, saying it will all depend on both the number of lounge-worthy passengers on its flights and how it will need to adjust to the new dictates of physical distancing and minimal contact.

Virgin isn't ready to say when its domestic lounges will reopen.
Virgin isn't ready to say when its domestic lounges will reopen.

"We continue to assess the opening of lounges as travel restrictions ease and demand returns," a Virgin Australia spokesman told Executive Traveller. "We are assessing travel volumes and working on the right approach to lounge re-opening."

As Executive Traveller reported earlier this week, Qantas' approach has been to impose a strict capacity limit on each lounge, rearrange some seating to suit physical distancing, and introduce a personalised service for everything from quick bites to tray-around dishes.

The tray-around service delivers lounge guests a personal touch.
The tray-around service delivers lounge guests a personal touch.

Read more: Qantas lounging in the coronavirus era

A spokeswoman for Spotless Group, which provides catering and cleaning for the majority of Virgin Australia lounges, told Executive Traveller that "given the continuing impact of COVID restrictions, Spotless continues to work closely with all of its customers in the hospitality industry, including Virgin within their Lounge and integrated Facilities Management requirements into the future."

Virgin's new owner Bain Capital, which is now paying the bills as of July 1, continues to work with the airline's management team on the exact shape of Virgin 2.0.

Read more: Free of baggage, Virgin Australia is set to soar

There's little doubt that the lounges themselves will remain but business travellers, frequent flyers and paid-up lounge members will be curious about how they might change.

One concern is that paid meals and drinks could become part of the lounge proposition as Bain works to slash Virgin's overall running costs and steer the airline towards more of a mid-market 'value-based' operation.

Read more: Here is what Bain Capital's Virgin Australia 2.0 will look like

However, Virgin's invitation-only The Club lounges – created with the sole purpose of competing against Qantas’ influential Chairman’s Lounge network to woo the top end of town  – will almost certainly be closed.

Virgin Australia's The Club is tipped to be a casualty of Bain's repositioning of the airline.. Source: Supplied
Virgin Australia's The Club is tipped to be a casualty of Bain's repositioning of the airline.
Source: Supplied

"In our research, access to The Club is important to a small elite segment of our customers and not the mainstream," Bain Capital’s local managing director Mike Murphy has told the media.

“Things like a fancy club and fancy meals and all of that are relevant to a very small portion of customers… but for the vast majority of customers, they just don't value that as much."

Read more: Secret perks of Virgin Australia's invitation-only The Club

David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

FYI, Spotless has handed in its f&b license for the Brisbane lounge to Brisbane City Council. A cost-saving measure for Spotless right now but without that license Spotless would still be able to operate the lounge but not to run an open bar or kitchen, they could serve only packaged meals and drinks. Maybe this is a sign of things to come for the new direction of the Virgin lounges?

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

30 Oct 2015

Total posts 54

FYI, BCC aren't charging fees this year due to COVID-19. Letters went out over a month ago - around $2,800 saving.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

05 Sep 2013

Total posts 53

If they start paid food in the main VA lounge it would be terrible.

I can rationalise paid alcohol but nothing else food and beverage wise.

Food costs can be minimalized by a reduced selection e.g. one hot dish.

19 Jun 2020

Total posts 10

forget about the so called elite at your peril Bain, these are often the people who decide which airline their staff (sometimes numbering in the thousands) fly. once things get back to normal, the amount of business flyers between Monday and Friday would be substantial and someone has to sign off on corporate policy. Qantas would be licking their lips at the business custom that will be handed to them for no real effort if Bain don't at least try to offer up some incentive

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 280

Something needs to be done, with too many travellers using the lounge as a surrogate restaurant rather than a convenient light meal. I'm talking plates stacked with so much food they spill it. The self-service aspect was being abused, turning the lounge into a food barn for the starving animals. Perhaps a staff served plate will change that. I don't have a solution, but the Sydney and Brisbane lounges became appalling between 5-7pm.

20 Jun 2020

Total posts 5

People treating the lounge as a restaurant isn't unique to VA and I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing, a lot of other carriers embrace that aspect of the lounge.

I remember a few years back a survey went around from VA asking whether pax would be interested in having a dedicated dining area. To me that was appealing - proper tables and chairs to dine on as apposed to awkwardly bending over a low table.

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 50

While I agree that some pax behaviour with food stacking is appalling, I do use the lounge for dinner, since I may not like the offering on the airplane and for many travelling and waiting in the lounge between 5-7 pm it meant we may not get home/hotel before 8-9pm

16 Aug 2017

Total posts 10

Thanks to QR for the VA Platinum status match I may transition to QF and use their lounges as OneWorld Emerald if VA haven't opened theirs when I next fly.

Bain needs to take care of VA's up-till-now loyal FF's.

11 Sep 2017

Total posts 2

I agree Freebo. I will happily walk straight to the QF lounge courtesy of QR - and the more I do the less likely I'm coming back. Given the apparently overwhelming take-up of that status match campaign, I would say that Bain has better straighten this up soon or there will be no regular corporate travellers on their dumbed-down mid-market airline. Given their favoured routes, that's a problem...

20 Jun 2020

Total posts 5

Paid f&b would be a deal breaker for me. This would become no different to a public waiting area.

Jetstar Airways - Qantas Frequent Flyer

03 Jul 2018

Total posts 31

Absolutely ridiculous to have "paid food" if the alternative is Qantas where it is complimentary. They may as well give up, and just concentrate on cheap airfares , even undercutting Jetstar, because they at least allow lounge access to Qantas club. If that is the market they are aiming for, then ,so be it....but the fares better be cheap. However, if they want to be a cheaper Qantas alternative, they have to supply the goods. Virgins problems started when they purchased Tiger...this should be a lesson for somebody.

16 Aug 2017

Total posts 10

Agree, basically if they do this I jump ship to QF, and I've been VA Platinum for many years.


Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

07 Dec 2014

Total posts 157

I rarely found any food of substance whenever I went into a Virgin domestic lounge ... perhaps I am missing something here?

Yes, there was the salad bar/sandwich toastie station; nuts/popcorn, and sometimes a soup or a single pasta dish - but certainly nothing particularly special (and obviously no comparison to an international lounge).

If they went to a charged arrangement, then they would need to be providing a range of good quality food ... otherwise you'd be better off in a restaurant in the terminal. Certainly in Sydney and Melbourne there are a few cafes/restaurants that are separated from the food court so you are still sitting outside the scrum of people.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 280

Your observations are correct, Andyf. In the alternative, perhaps Bain should retain 'The Club' lounges premises, but avail them only to VFF Platinum and any Business Class fare passengers on the basis that a superior F&B service offering has, effectively, been paid/purchased by those passengers. That would leave the regular lounge for VFF Gold and Lounge Club membership paying travellers, including Platinum and Business who, for what ever reason, prefer that lounge.

This would combat the loss of business to REX when they commence inter-capital sectors on what will, I'm sure, be notably cheaper airfares.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Jan 2014

Total posts 252

If Virgin 2 is now a new business wouldn't they first have to sort out lounge deals with the airports, who may not be all that eager in the current environment considering they too have lost millions to VA.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

07 Dec 2014

Total posts 157

True in that presumably they need to come to new lease agreement ... however the same airports are allowing them to use their gates at the moment so there is still an ongoing commercial relationship, and I wouldn't imagine there is a line of alternative tenants available to fill the space.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

21 Aug 2013

Total posts 135

The sooner American Express cuts a deal to transfer the lounge access benefit with their Platinum Charge cards from VA to QF, the better. QF obviously wanted to charge Amex far too much, resulting in them opting for VA. QF may now lower the cost enough in the age of COVID-19 to win the business; here's hoping.

17 Jun 2020

Total posts 33

I wouldn't mind a paid food and beverage offering if it results in there being access to a greater range of items not available today (Delta do something similar from memory).

Would be more than happy to pay $15-20 at the end of the day for a proper cocktail instead of very basic and undrinkable options. And if the airfare is say $50-100 cheaper than QF, you come out ahead with a better experience anyway.

Joe
Joe

03 May 2013

Total posts 490

As I said, once a low cost carrier, always a low cost carrier.


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