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.
"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.
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.
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.
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.
"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."