Qantas Club members are finding themselves turned away from the airline's new Los Angeles Business Lounge during peak periods due to overcrowding.
Although Qantas promotes access to the LAX lounge as one of the perks of Qantas Club membership, for which travellers pay upwards of $400 per year, the airline says it's unable to guarantee cardholders will get past the reception desk at the newly-opened lounge.
Instead, they'll be handed a US$50 voucher for buying food and drinks at any of the terminal's retail outlets.
While allowing that this "is not the case in general... during recent peak periods when the Lounge has been at full capacity, some Qantas Club members and other eligible Lounge visitors have been offered vouchers in lieu of entry" a Qantas spokeswoman confirmed to Australian Business Traveller.
"Current peak period capacity constraints will be further relieved with the opening of the new First Class Lounge early next year" the spokesperson said.
This will not only funnel first class travellers and Platinum-grade frequent flyers into their own space, it will include an extension to the business lounge that's expected to completely alleviate current over-crowding.
"Between now and then, we will continue to welcome Qantas Club members in to the Los Angeles Business Lounge when capacity allows."
Opened only last month, the lounge has seating for 400 passengers but is shared by Qantas, British Airways and Cathay Pacific, along with Oneworld airlines JAL and LAN which also fly out of LA's Tom Bradley International Terminal.
And first and business class travellers plus top-tier frequent flyers are rapidly filling those seats – especially during the evenings when four Qantas flights including two Airbus A380 superjumbos depart for Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, alongside a British Airways A380 bound for London and a Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300ER headed for Hong Kong.
Those six passenger-packed flights leave LAX within a two hour period from 9.45pm, so it's no surprise that during the busiest days of the week and holiday periods the lounge can approach 'standing room only'.
No room at the inn
Melbourne resident and Qantas Club member Gareth Beames tells Australian Business Traveller he has been denied access twice in the past month, "on a Thursday and a Friday," and instead received a US$50 voucher to use within the terminal.
"At 9pm Thursday on July 17th I arrived at the LAX lounge and was told due to capacity problems they were not allowing Qantas Club members" Beames recounts.
"I witnessed probably another seven people get rejected from entering due to only having Qantas Club cards."
Beames says his family "has just relocated from Melbourne to Seattle, and I do offshore logistics FIFO (fly in, fly out) work out of Darwin which is three weeks on and three weeks off."
"I fly Seattle-LAX-Melbourne in economy, then my company flies me to Darwin and after three weeks' work my company flies me with Qantas from Darwin back to Melbourne and I head back to LAX-Seattle with Qantas, paying out of my own pocket."
Fortunately his Qantas flights are slowly edging Beames towards Gold status in the Qantas Frequent Flyer scheme, will ensure him access to the Qantas Los Angeles Lounge.
However, Beames feels he has been shortchanged on his Qantas Club membership, saying his time in the Los Angeles business lounge is about more than just grabbing a bite to eat.
"I visit the lounge to have a shower and get changed before flying out, as I find I get a lot more sleep on the plane when I'm refreshed. I also use the lounge's WiFi due to LAX not having very good Internet."
"It's just a lot more comfortable that sitting around in the terminal."
Qantas last week revealed that Qantas Club members would also no longer be able to use Qantas international business lounges when travelling in economy on an Emirates flight number as of October 1st.
The new rules will keep Qantas Club members out of Emirates' airport lounges at Dubai and the American Airlines' Admirals Club lounge in London Heathrow unless their ticket carries a QF flight number rather than Emirates' own EK code.
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