Singapore - Changi
- Excellent pre-flight dining and drinks with attentive service
- Fresh contemporary design with local influences
- Reserved area for first class and top-tier frequent flyers
- Can get crowded at peak travel periods
- Arguably Singapore's best first class lounge?
The new Qantas First Lounge at Singapore's Changi Airport is a welcome haven for those making a Singapore stopover en route to or from London, or visiting The Lion City in its own right.
It's been eagerly awaited by both first class travellers and top-tier frequent flyers – mainly Qantas Platinum, Platinum One and elite Chairman's Lounge members, but also their Oneworld Emerald equivalents – and marks a fresh look in Qantas' lounge design.
Location & Impressions
Due to space constraints at Changi Terminal 1, the Qantas first class lounge is in a very different location to the business class lounge: you'll need to head towards the D gates, whereas the business lounge is closer to the C gates.
It's an easy 10 minute stroll between them, and you can clock it in five minutes if you're a fast walker with minimal carry-on luggage.
Obviously, any Qantas Airbus A380 flights which dock at the D gates will favour first class and Platinum flyers with a little extra lounge time, especially if they're doing the quick transit stopover on QF1 or QF2, while there will be a little less lounging and a little more walking if your flight is from the C gates.
If you're departing from Singapore, turn right immediately after going through T1 passport control – rather than left, as for the Qantas business class, Emirates and British Airways lounges. When you reach the Hermes store (it'll be on your left), you'll see lounge signage overhead and an escalator to whisk you upstairs.
On that upper mezzanine level, the First Lounge is next door to the independent Dnata Lounge, and close to the Aerotel transit hotel and outdoor swimming pool.
From the outset, and from the outside, the Qantas First Lounge introduces itself as a very premium affair with Carrara marble, brass accents, greenery and light woods.
This represents a new first class look for Qantas, moving away from the Marc Newson-designed First Lounges of Sydney, Melbourne and Los Angeles, to a design created by David Caon which embraces a clear Singaporean influence. Many of the materials, finishes and flourishes wouldn't be out of place in a carefully-curated upscale apartment (or 'condo', in local parlance).
Caon shaped the lounge to suit the space available, so instead of the V-shape of the business lounge, this one is almost shotgun-straight from one end to the other, starting at the reception desk and going all the way to the dining room and open kitchen.
What there's not is natural light, as the lounge's location is tucked away in a corner of the terminal. But there's much more to a good lounge than a view.
Qantas' Singapore first class lounge is open daily from 2:30pm to midnight (or later, if Qantas' evening departures are delayed, in particular the Singapore-London leg of QF1 which leaves at 11.55pm).
Entry is open to the following:
- First class passengers of Qantas, Emirates and Air France, plus British Airways and other Oneworld airlines.
- Qantas Platinum, Platinum One and Chairman's Lounge members travelling on a Qantas, Emirates, Jetstar, Jetstar Asia, Jetstar Pacific or Oneworld flight, as well as Qantas codeshare flights operated by non-Oneworld partners such as Air France (to Paris) and KLM (to Amsterdam).
- Other Oneworld Emerald frequent flyers prior to Qantas and Oneworld flights: currently in Singapore, that includes British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Japan Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Qatar Airways and SriLankan Airlines – although not all airlines' flights will line up with the lounge's opening hours.
- Passengers connecting from a long-haul first class Oneworld flight (e.g. Qantas First) onto a short-haul Oneworld flight in any class of travel (such as Malaysia Airlines to Kuala Lumpur), including where the onward flight is in economy.
- Emirates Skywards Platinum and iO cardholders prior to Qantas and Emirates flights with a QF or EK flight number on their ticket.
- Holders of a single-use Qantas first class lounge pass, such as issued to Platinum One frequent flyers which can be shared with friends and family.
Although several Oneworld airlines depart from terminals other than T1, eligible passengers can still visit the Qantas Singapore First Lounge – although they'll need to allow time to change terminals and get back to the departures gate ahead of their flight, which could make the exercise a futile one.
Oneworld Emerald-grade travellers on Malaysia Airlines (including Enrich Platinum) may find the Qantas First Lounge a very appealing alternative to using the airline's designated SATS Premier lounge at T2, especially as the Qantas first class lounge is very close to the Skytrain connecting T1 and T2. That said, for the sake of expediency, it will also help if your flight is departing from one of T2's E gates rather than the more distant high-numbered F gates.
Cathay Pacific flights depart from Terminal 4 in Singapore, which is detached from the main T1-3 precinct, so Qantas First Lounge access would only be possible if you visit T1 before taking the Skytrain to T2 in order to catch the airside shuttle bus to T4. For almost all passengers this simply won't be worth the time and trouble, compared to heading straight to T4 and relaxing in Cathay Pacific's own Singapore lounge.
Being tailored to passengers taking afternoon and evening flights rather than departures first thing in the morning, the Qantas Singapore First Lounge is geared for dinner and drinks. Especially drinks, it seems, with not one but two tended bars.
The first is in the dining area, doubling as a place where solo travellers can enjoy their meal.
The second is halfway along the lounge and serves more as a traditional wine, Champagne and cocktail bar: the headline act is one of the lounge's new signature drinks, a Calamansi Mojito.
Drawing inspiration from a classic mint-based Mojito and mixing in local flavour via the calamansi fruit, it's a nice detour from the better-known Singapore Sling.
Speaking of signatures, while you can order that iconic drink, the lounge has its own Sling-inspired creation: dubbed the Merlion Blush, it mixes vodka, cranberry and grapefruit, and pairs well with the side of olives flavoured with garlic, fennel and orange.
You can order this at the bar, in the dining area, or enjoy it right in front of the bar, meaning there's not far to walk for the next round. The counter off to the side offers more of those olives, as well as a variety of fresh fruit.
This is the only 'self-serve' option, which might frustrate some transit travellers who are very short on time and would rather choose from a well-curated spread of hot and cold dishes.
More than half of the lounge is given over to an à la carte dining area – again, a sign that the lounge has been made to handle a wave of passengers in clearly-defined peak periods (mainly from 6pm to 8pm) and especially the short-stay rush of passengers in transit on QF1 and QF2.
The seating area at the furthest end of the lounge, closest to the open kitchen and including the raised chairs at the bar, is nominally set aside for Qantas' first class, Platinum One and Chairman's Lounge passengers.
While the tables are not reserved per se, Executive Traveller understands that the maître d' will escort passengers to this 70-seat space based on their travel class or status and, except for the busiest times, guide other travellers (Qantas Platinum and Oneworld Emerald) to other areas of the dining room.
You'll find the seats are very comfortable, and you probably won't be in a hurry to leave – certainly not once the food starts to roll out.
It wouldn't be a Qantas First Lounge without salt and pepper squid, served with aioli and a green chilli dipping sauce. This pairs beautifully with a glass of Champagne, with Joseph Perrier Brut NV, Taittinger Brut Reserve NV or Taittinger Prestige Rosé NV to choose from.
Otherwise, branch out with the tea smoked duck breast with pickled cabbage and Chinese mustard: best enjoyed by mixing a little of everything with every bite.
Sitting between a starter and a main, the grilled skate in browned sambal butter with capers and calamansi arrives deliciously fresh, with the non-alcoholic House Lemonade from Neil Perry's Spice Temple acting as both a palate cleanser and a complement.
As a main course, it's hard to look past something distinctly Singaporean: laksa. The Rockpool version is served with crayfish, rice noodles, bean sprouts and egg, being bold in flavour, with a light gin spritz being a great offset.
For dessert, try the Torta di Verona with blueberries and toasted almonds – it's a lighter, fresher take on tiramisu.
As you'd expect from a Qantas lounge, barista-made coffee is available around the clock – along with some off-menu tipples such as an espresso martini.
Travellers tackling a build-up of emails or other work ahead of their onward flight are catered for at these low-set communal working stations – the first time these have been included in a Qantas First Lounge, and it's great to see.
AC and USB power are both available and can be found by tilting open the golden hatch in front. If your plug isn't working, be aware that the rectangle highlighted below isn't a USB slot (those are in the middle): it's the power switch.
Just behind the lounge's entrance is also a quiet zone with two workstations and a wireless printer: useful for those making last-minute reservations at their destination (ideal for some West End theatre tickets before hopping into the London-bound QF1).
Many of the other seats here also offer convenient access to power, so that you can relax while your devices recharge without being stuck in the business zone.
WiFi speeds fluctuate based on how busy the lounge is. We clocked downloads between a solid 54Mbps and a super-speedy 244Mbps, with uploads at 154-242Mbps. Even at those 'lowest' speeds, that's still fast enough for the likes of HD video streaming and transferring large files and attachments.
Although travellers taking QF1 all the way through from Sydney to London (or QF2 in the reverse) won't have much time to settle in before needing to board again, others can explore the wide variety of spaces to find their perfect fit.
For something more social, these banquette seats combine comfort and convenience, again with power points handy and easily accessible – the same applies to other handy seating nooks you'll find here and there.
With the lounge being mainly rectangular in shape, the centre areas are also geared towards socialising, with individual chairs lining the wall for a little more solitude. While not completely closed off, they also offer improved privacy compared to most other seats, given the large side wing.
The ten shower suites come stocked with LaGaia Unedited amenities and a design that's a noticeable step above the airport's Qantas business class lounge and include an adjustable LED light panel overhead, although we'd have welcomed more shelving for stowing carry-on bag if you want to change into fresh clothes after a shower.
While passengers will only visit this lounge in the afternoons and evenings, being a major international airport, many travellers will have their body clock set to a different time zone. Qantas has also installed an artificial skylight in the relaxation area.
For first class passengers and Platinum-grade frequent flyers, the new Qantas First Lounge at Singapore Changi Airport represents a significant upgrade to the previous singular lounge, and gives top-tier jetsetters an added incentive to check-in early for their flight and relax.
Of course, the opening of this space is still good news for those who can't access it, as the regular Qantas Business Lounge in Singapore is now much noticeably quieter and less crowded, even during what were previously the lounge's peak times.
Our take, now that Qantas has set aside seating for first class passengers and its very top-tier frequent flyers, is that this is arguably the best first class lounge in Singapore.