Review: Plaza Premium Lounge, Sydney Airport T1 (international)

Plaza Premium's new lounge at Sydney Airport is worth arriving early for, and perhaps even using instead of your airline's lounge.

Overall Rating

By Chris Chamberlin, March 11 2020
Plaza Premium Lounge, Sydney Airport T1 (international)
Country

Australia

City

Sydney

Airport

Sydney - Kingsford Smith

Alliance

Plaza Premium

Airline

Any

Cabin-class

Any

Notes
The Good
  • Relatively central location with airport views
  • A design that detours from Plaza Premium's typical darker palette, adopting Sydney-inspired colours
The Bad
  • While currently adequate, the small footprint may become an issue over time
X-Factor
  • Extensive à la carte dining, including high tea in the afternoons
Location
Dining
Work
Overall

Introduction

Sydney Airport is now home to another independent airport lounge for international passengers, with Plaza Premium opening the doors to its all-new space in the footprint of the old American Express lounge. A light and welcoming look, à la carte menu and high tea service all add to the boutique appeal.

Location & Impressions

You'll find Sydney Airport's Plaza Premium Lounge in the international departures area of Terminal 1, opposite gates 25 and 26: relatively central and easy to access, regardless of which gate you're flying from.

It occupies the space formerly used by the American Express Lounge – which has since relocated elsewhere in the terminal – but this isn't just a re-badging of that AMEX space: it's a completely new lounge, with a new design to match.

Walk past reception and you'll emerge in a fresh, modern space. There's no missing the bar and barista coffee counter, which is now located just by the entrance:

The rest of the lounge is styled with lighter colours and bursts of greenery, drawing on the colours of Sydney's landscapes and Bondi Beach.

While retaining the same rectangular footprint as travellers would remember from the AMEX lounge, the space is split into different zones, with plenty of natural light, and airport views.

The Plaza Premium Lounge opens from 6am until 10pm daily.

Access

Complimentary access is provided to the following guests:

  • Business class passengers of Hainan Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Malindo Air and Samoa Airways.
  • Codeshare business class passengers travelling to Los Angeles on a Delta Air Lines aircraft, when booked on the Virgin Australia (VA6552) codeshare flight number. When booked on the DL40 flight number, access is to the SkyTeam Lounge instead.
  • Virgin Australia Velocity Gold, Platinum and VIP frequent flyers travelling with Delta to Los Angeles, when booked on a Virgin Australia codeshare flight. (Otherwise, it's the SkyTeam Lounge when booked on DL40.)
  • American Express Platinum Charge Card and Centurion Card holders taking a flight from T1 with any airline.
  • DragonPass members, in line with the inclusions of their individual lounge membership, presenting a same-day boarding pass. However, shower facilities for these visitors are subject to payment.
  • Selected HSBC Platinum, Business, Corporate and Premier customers presenting an eligible credit card issued in Hong Kong or Malaysia. (No access with Australian cards.)

Not on the list above? Paid entry is also available online at the following rates. As the core price is based in US dollars, the Australian dollar values change from time to time based on international currency movements.

  • Two hours: A$68.85 (USD$45)
  • Five hours: A$79.56 (USD$52)

Passengers can also purchase access directly at the lounge reception desk at similar rates.

At the time of publication, lounge access via programs such as Priority Pass, LoungeKey and Diners Club is not currently available, although Executive Traveller understands that those negotiations are underway.

Also note, there's no access here for Velocity Gold and Platinum frequent flyers travelling with Hainan Airlines or Hawaiian Airlines, unless flying business class. Instead, The House lounge is available, but only when booked on a Virgin Australia (VA) codeshare flight number.

Dining

On the food and beverage front, breakfast is served until 11:30am, before switching to an all-day menu covering lunch and dinner.

But whether your journey calls for an early start or a more leisurely check-in, one thing is certain: barista-made coffee is always on call.

The buffet breakfast entails the typical fruit salad, yoghurt, cereals and toast, along with cheese and crackers for a morning tea snack.

That's great if you've only got a few quick minutes to eat and run, but most passengers have a little more time to spare, which sees everything else served from an à la carte menu.

Your breakfast choices currently include an "Aussie breakfast pizza" topped with eggs, bacon, tomato, mozzarella and Feta; or you can order-up Spanish baked eggs, served with eggplant, zucchini, red peppers, herb tomato sauce, chorizo and Feta.

There's also French toast with berry compote and whipped cream, which was delicious and arrived within five minutes of ordering.

Beyond the breakfast pizza, the menu also offers five other options including the lounge's signature dish, pepperoni pizza. The serving size is large enough to share, but small enough to finish without guilt.

This mirrors the pizza offering in Sydney Airport's American Express lounge, which Plaza Premium also manages.

But it's the rest of the menu that sets this lounge apart from Plaza Premium's other locations – where the focus is typically on buffet dining, sometimes accompanied by one or two dishes made to order – and edges it closer to 'Plaza Premium First' territory.

The lead-in bite, a sticky pork bao, has a nice spicy kick to it, and sure beats the typical buffet.

While it's still early days for the lounge, which only opened in early March 2020, the gourmet mac 'n' cheese is already proving to be the most popular dish. It's warming comfort food, but the herb gratin elevates it beyond its typical home-cooked style.

As well as the other dishes on the lunch and dinner menu, you'll find a choice of salads and sweets at the buffet.

But wait, there's more – between 1pm and 4pm, guests can also enjoy high tea, with sweet and savoury bites accompanied by a choice of Dilmah teas. If you can't decide, we suggest the gourmet Italian almond Ceylon single origin tea.

Rounding out the food and beverage offering, the bar offers beer, wine and spirits, most of which are complimentary.

As in many other Plaza Premium lounges, guests have the option of 'upgrading' their drink to a more premium pour at a nominal fee (in this case, $5). Cocktails such as Espresso Martinis and Mojitos are also available for $5.

Non-alcoholic drinks can also be self-served, including still and sparkling water by tap.

Seating-wise, you'll find a row of dining tables close to the chef's counter, privy to plenty of natural light.

Behind these, and tucked behind a 'living' privacy wall, are booth-style tables, which have the added benefit of having both AC and USB power available below.

You'll find stools along the chef's counter too, but these seem best suited to shorter stays and when the lounge is on the busier side.

Beyond these areas, other seats are accompanied by cocktail tables to cater for refreshments and small bites.

Work

Given the limited space available here, there's no dedicated business centre, but the tables in the dining area proved perfectly suitable for tackling laptop work: ditto the few bench seats along the windows, with desk-level power.

Being an independent lounge, there are relatively few boarding calls and announcements made here – generally, limited to the airlines that contract the space – which keeps things nice and quiet.

The password-protected WiFi flows fast and free, serving up average download speeds of 43Mbps and average uploads of 51Mbps on a quiet day: but even speeds one tenth as fast would still be usable for basic tasks.

Relax

Checked-in early for your flight? Sit back and enjoy the airport views, or the company of any travel companions.

While the dining tables tucked behind the living wall offer more privacy to work, they're also a nice place to relax with a beverage in-hand when there's something interesting on the (muted and captioned) TV.

A small selection of reading material is on offer, covering magazines and newspapers. Shower facilities are also available in the SkyTeam Lounge downstairs: contact the staff for access.

While it's still early days for this lounge – which could well become busier over the coming months as more airlines and passengers begin to use it – at first impressions, it's a solid performer.

The extensive dining options, and in particular, the high tea service, nudges this lounge much closer to a first class space, but one that any passenger can access.

Chris Chamberlin visited the lounge as a guest of Plaza Premium.

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.

06 Jun 2017

Total posts 39

Just when I thought the VA lounge agreements couldn't get anymore confusing.

So you're flying SYD-LAX as a VA status member, if you're on VA1 you use the House, if you on DL40 you use the SkyTeam lounge, and if you're on DL40 but ticketed as VA6552 you use this lounge. Compare this to QF/AA SYD-LAX they just use the QF lounge no matter which flight/ticket.

04 May 2015

Total posts 261

All 3 of those have to be better than what Qantas calls a business class lounge in Sydney, just saying... first class lounge is different though.

Given the choice this or the amex lounge?

I don't really get the issue with VA's lounge arrangements. I mean, sure, of course it would be great to have all VA passengers go into a single lounge, as long as that lounge was large enough to cope with peak hours, but let's be real, VA simply is NOT Qantas, it obviously cannot justify or afford its own international lounge. As long as there's a decent lounge to go to, why worry which flight or passenger gets access to which lounge? As it happens I was flying out from SYD T1 this morning, saw this review appear on ET's Facebook page and decided to check out the new Plaza Premium lounge, with access via my Amex Platinum card. It's a great little lounge, better than the old Amex lounge I reckon. Would have no complaints if any airline sent me there.

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 92

Just with regard to a single VA lounge, and sorry Chris if this is 'off topic', but Virgin did in fact intend to have its own lounge at SYD, well, its own part of a lounge. If you go back far enough, and I think there's even an old AusBT story on this, when Etihad first announced its plans for a SYD T1 lounge, the lounge was going to be a joint venture between EY and VA. John Borghetti was still a bit new to VA and on a roll with his visions of taking on Qantas with lounges, business class etc etc. A VA lounge at SYD was part of this but obviously not something even Borghetti could do alone so when the ink on the VA-EY partnership was still fairly fresh they planned to be 50/50 partners in a 'premium' lounge for both airlines. Never happened of course and eventually EY did its own thing.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Sep 2018

Total posts 137

The alacarte menu is a great way to reduce food consumption as waste, saving costs whilst providing a more premium experience overall.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

01 Mar 2013

Total posts 166

Appreciated, Thanks, Chris.

06 Nov 2019

Total posts 9

The new Amex lounge - it's not worth the shlepp.

It's basically a glass encased room with some chairs and a central lounge area in addition to booth dining locales.

But there's nothing to look at, except your other guests or the odd passerby the other side of the glass wall or just enjoy the kids throwing newspapers in the air and scream as they jumped on the furniture.

Awful!


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