Pay your way into Air New Zealand's Australian, NZ airport lounges

By John Walton, November 12 2012
Pay your way into Air New Zealand's Australian, NZ airport lounges

Flying in economy or premium economy with Air New Zealand (or one of the many that use its lounges), but still want to use the Koru or international business class lounges in NZ, Melbourne, Sydney or Brisbane?

Hand over some cash and the answer will be "right this way, please", under a new scheme where you can purchase entrance on a walk-up basis.

Lounge staff confirmed that you're eligible if you're flying any airline whose business class passengers would have access to the lounge, which covers:

  • Air New Zealand
  • Virgin Australia (even across the Tasman, where Virgin doesn't operate a business class)
  • Star Alliance airlines: from Australia, that includes Air Canada, Air China, Asiana, Thai and United (we got conflicting answers for Singapore Airlines passengers, since SQ has its own lounges in some ports, but are seeking clarification from Air New Zealand's PR team)
  • other partner and contract airlines, including Air Mauritius, China Southern, Delta, Etihad, Hawaiian, Korean Air, Philippine Airlines, and Virgin Atlantic

Prices start at NZ$35 (A$27) for up to four hours in the domestic lounges at Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. It's $55 (A$43) for more than 4 hours.

International lounges in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane start at NZ$55 (A$43), or $85 (A$66) for more than four hours.

Overall, it's good value if you happen to be taking an afternoon or evening flight and need to clear out of your hotel early, or if you have several hours between your last appointment and the plane.

What you'll find inside all nine lounges

Air New Zealand's lounges are up to a reasonable standard for our region, though they're not up to the the Qantas Business Lounge, nor the new Virgin Australia Lounges.

Air NZ's Sydney lounge is large, but often busy. Better than the terminal, mind...
Air NZ's Sydney lounge is large, but often busy. Better than the terminal, mind...

My personal call: it's worth it if you're hungry, thirsty, really need some Internet or will be there more than two hours.

If your flight is delayed or cancelled, you'll also have access to the especially helpful staffers, who frequently have special rebooking and seat allocation powers -- much better than taking your luck in the queue in the terminal.

In terms of the food and drinks, you'll find salads, soup, cheese, and occasionally a hot dish. New Zealand and Australian wine are featured, with most bottles around the A$10/NZ$15 mark. Fine for a glass or two -- but, like the lounges, nothing to write home about.

Over the past year, I've visited all nine of the lounges, so here's a potted guide to what you'll find in each one:

Sydney: large, busy and looking a little frayed around the edges, Sydney's large barn-like lounge is contracted to over a dozen airlines, many of which you can see through the large windows.

Melbourne: the ground-level "bunker" in Melbourne feels more intimate and a little newer than Sydney's, and has a wider range of seating styles. And a foozball table. Peering out at the tarmac can be quite entertaining at times. Best in Australia.

Air NZ's Melbourne bunker has restricted (though often interesting) view.
Air NZ's Melbourne bunker has restricted (though often interesting) view.

Brisbane: this rather small lounge is the smallest in Australia, with a lovely view of a car park.

Auckland International: functional, but feels very worn. I miss the chance to get rid of my last NZ dollars with a footrub -- Air NZ removed the spa area last year.

Wellington International: tiny one-room lounge (smaller than Brisbane), with the world's worst power points and a view over the scenic car park.

Wellington's international lounge is two small for the three flights that use it most afternoons.
Wellington's international lounge is two small for the three flights that use it most afternoons.

Christchurch International: the newest international lounge, it's chic and feels like a winter lodge. No view, though.

Auckland Domestic: it's functional and in relatively good nick, but finding a power point is a real pain. The far end has some decent views out onto the runway.

Wellington Domestic: floor-to-ceiling runway and sea views, a large space and the chance to watch planes wobbling their way into windy Wellywood -- this is the best domestic lounge in NZ, and arguably the best lounge in NZ.

Christchurch Domestic: the worst of the domestic lounges in the worst of the domestic airports, this one's well overdue for demolition. Only worth it since the rest of the terminal should be knocked down too.

Will you be buying your way in? Do you agree or disagree with our impressions of each lounge? Share your thoughts in a comment below!

And as ever, all the latest is on Twitter: we're @AusBT.

John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.

12 Jul 2011

Total posts 75

I'm really lucky to have Star Gold status, so I would ordinarily have access to the NZ lounges anyway on an NZ or Star Alliance flight. But if I didn't have access to NZ lounges, I probably wouldn't bother with paying for it unless I had a long wait. Simply because I don't think the lounge product is of a standard where I'd want to part with money for access.

But each to their own, I guess. They obviously wouldn't offer this if they didn't see a demand for it.

03 Jan 2011

Total posts 665

Yes, I'm in a similar position with frequent flyer status and my opinion of the lounges, but my conclusions are slightly different.

If my options were "wait at home/office/hotel and arrive at the airport late" then I'd do that, but the unfortunate reality (especially flying trans-Tasman) is that flights are a pain in the schedule.

NZ$35 or $55 for a few hours' comfortable sit-down and a glass or two of that decent Yealands Merlot (or is it a Malbec) and I'm sold.

On a related note, I've been doing a lot of international travel around Europe and the US this year, and we really don't know how lucky we have it down this end of the world with lounges!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

16 May 2012

Total posts 30

Must say I'm not such a fan of this idea by AirNZ mostly because I find their lounges are usually overcrowded as they are with existing customers from both their own flights and those of their partnes. I wonder if AirNZ has any plans to limit the number of ad hoc customers at any one time to ensure everyone in the lounge is comfortably accommodated?

03 Jan 2011

Total posts 665

That's my concern too, ciaomucca, and I've asked that question of Air NZ.

I'd be interested to hear from anyone who hears of people being turned away.

10 Mar 2011

Total posts 526

I would be annoyed if I was a Business Class passenger or high status holder as it will undoubtedly mean that my more peaceful oasis of the lounge will now be busier and fuller than before. Not sure this is my idea of Air New Zealand looking after their premium passengers.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Sep 2012

Total posts 37

I totally agree with AusFlyer least part of the 'perk' of FF Status or even paying an exhorbent amount to fly at the pointy end is its exlusivity? This is something that they completely lost with the Qantas Club/Business Lounge..seems AirNZ are going down the same path :(

One thing I can say for the outdated and overly small SQ lounge (First) is you'll never find anyone who didn't 'earn' the right to be in there..heheh

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Sep 2012

Total posts 37

SQ Lounge in Sydney that is...

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

05 Jan 2012

Total posts 335

I'd have to agree the Melbourne lounge is their best lounge in Australia.

People should get lounge access for their loyalty not for forking out $66.00! 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

05 Jun 2012

Total posts 54

definitely would not pay for the NZ lounge access in Sydney or Melb - been there done that and didn't like it

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

10 Jan 2012

Total posts 259

When I flew BNE-WLG back in 2010 I considered purchasing a lounge pass, but as BNE has the smallest lounge, and BNE International isn't the worst airport in the world, it really wasn't worth it.

Had I been flying NZ home from AKL, I would have givne the AKL Koru Lounge a go though.

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