Qantas vs Virgin Australia: battle of the business lounge breakfast

By Chris C., February 18 2016
Qantas vs Virgin Australia: battle of the business lounge breakfast

Breakfast: it's the most important meal of the day, and one that many business travellers tuck into at their favourite airport lounge.

But how do those lounges compare in the breakfast stakes?

In our exclusive 'Battle of the Business Lounge Breakfast' we set out to compare the morning fare at the Qantas Club, Qantas Business Lounge and Virgin Australia Lounge.

Round 1: Coffee

There's no better start to a journey than with a great cuppa. Qantas and Virgin Australia both recognise this, with all three lounges offering a barista service which continues until closing time.

Qantas grinds Vittoria Oro beans in both its lounges, pouring coffees into takeaway cups in the Qantas Club...

... and into mugs and pyrex glasses over in the Business Lounge for a more cafe-like experience, where caramel- and vanilla-flavoured syrups are also available with hazelnut frequently appearing as well.

Virgin Australia too uses mugs and glassware for its range of Grinders coffees, breaks out a 'Virgin' stencil for the cappuccino crowd and keeps the same three flavoured syrups at the ready:

The baristas at all three airport lounges were skilled in 'latte art' – although the espresso shot in our Virgin lounge latte tasted slightly bitter this time around, while the milk in the Qantas Club latte was hotter than usual and singed a few taste buds.

Delivered and presented flawlessly in every respect, the Qantas Business Lounge wins on the morning coffee with Virgin Australia's java next in line ahead of the Qantas Club.

Round 2: Food

The Qantas and Virgin Australia lounges all serve basic cereals and breads, with toasters nearby, but what sets each lounge apart is what else is on the menu.

In the Qantas Club you'll find ham, cheese and tomato for an easy toasted sandwich...

... fresh fruit salad, yoghurts and a delightful Bircher muesli...

... a choice of apples...

... hard boiled eggs and a pancake machine with maple syrup standing by...

... but which churned out what we'd call bite-sized pikelets rather than actual 'pancakes', despite their tastiness:

The Qantas Business Lounge kicks things up a notch with waiters serving a cafe-style 'plate of the day' straight to your table or seat between 6am and 8am, with the plate changing weekly and also from lounge to lounge so that travellers aren't constantly seeing the same dish.

When we compared the lounges at Brisbane the breakfast menu boasted sautéed mushrooms with goat's curd bruschetta: a somewhat uncommon breakfast pairing but which arrived perfectly seasoned and went down a treat...

... with more mushrooms, bacon and also light and fluffy scrambled eggs found over at the buffet, along with hard boiled eggs in a nod to the Qantas Club.

Those are joined again by fruit salad and also ham, cheese and tomato – but which take the sidelines against individually-prepared Greek-style yoghurts, rather than being the main attraction:

Our pick of the bunch? The raspberry and granola mix in the centre...
Our pick of the bunch? The raspberry and granola mix in the centre...

As a further X-factor, Business Lounge guests can also create their own breakfast smoothies and juices by blending any or many of the fresh ingredients nearby:

The Virgin Australia Lounge puts its best foot forward in offering two hot dishes at any one time: our visit saw delicious potato rostis and crispy Canadian bacon.

There's also the familiar pancake machine, producing full-sized pancakes with a more inspired and delicious variety of condiments with cream, strawberry jam and pineapple joining the traditional maple syrup:

When eggs aren't featured as one of the two other hot dishes you'll instead find them here in the chilled zone with nice Bircher muesli and a Greek-style yoghurt that mixes well with the adjacent fruit salad...

... plus sliced mango, relish and the usual toasted sandwich favourites, with green pears over by the bread selection:

Let's be honest: between these two airlines and their three lounges, Australians are fairly spoiled!

So who's got the best business lounge breakfast..?

No surprises here: the combination of table service, weekly cafe-grade specials, a larger variety of yoghurts and hot dishes plus coffee to rival the country's best cafes sees the Qantas Business Lounge win this battle hands-down.

With a well-rounded offering that's steadily improved over recent years the Virgin Australia Lounge slips into second place, ahead of the Qantas Club.

It's worth noting that Virgin allows both Gold and Platinum frequent flyers into its lounge, while Qantas sends Platinums to its business lounge and Golds to the Qantas Club: so for Gold-grade flyers, Virgin comes up trumps.

Also read: LAX business lounges compared: Oneworld vs Star Alliance

Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT

Chris C.

Chris is a a former contributor to Executive Traveller.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

08 Nov 2011

Total posts 122

Aren't the pancake machines exactly the same in the Qantas Club and Virgin Lounge? How is one described as a piklet, and the other a full sized pancake?

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2476

They're the same machine but obviously programmed differently: the Qantas Club machine 'pikelets' came out about the size of a small drink coaster, while the Virgin Lounge 'pancakes' were proper-sized pancakes and filled the plate.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

08 May 2014

Total posts 48

I've found the pancake machines in the Virgin lounges will, on occasion, produce the 'pikelet' sized pancakes, but come back next week to the same lounge and they're full sized again!

My guess is that the machine reverts to a smaller size when the batter starts to run low.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

19 Mar 2014

Total posts 569

Great wrap. The hard boiled egg is a hit for me with Qantas Pub. It's practical and not something I have really any other time... The taste is now synonimous with an early morning Qantas flight!

Coffee though... I'm yet to get anything that remotely resembles a decent coffee in the VA lounge or Qantas club / Qantas business lounge. I think you went easy on them Chris. Those errors for a barister are like you putting a typo in the article or a pilot overshooting the runway. Simply not acceptable. 

Unfortunately commerical coffee bean suppliers with a logistics model, machine and training infrastrucure (not to mention competitive cost) trump any decent roaster. It's sad. I long for the day one of these airlines will cease the opprtunity to run a proper coffee pop-up. Imagine actually getting to the lounge to enjoy your coffee instead of making do?

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2476

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Riley. I'm not quite sure I agree that over-steamed milk or a typo in a news story are on-par with a much more serious runway overrun, although granted, in an ideal world you'd have none of the above.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

19 Mar 2014

Total posts 569

Yeah long bow with the plane... It's probably more akin to lost luggage.


19 Feb 2016

Total posts 1

While I accept that one swallow doesn't make a summer, even with global warming, I had a stunning good skinny flat white in the QF Business Lounge at Perth Domestic a bit more than a week ago. This barista knew his stuff like none I've seen before - in an airport lounge. I did make my satisfaction clear. It would be good if it were a sign of things to come.


11 Jul 2014

Total posts 939

Has the Virgin lounge in Sydney got a pancake machine?? That is the one thing they really need and I miss when not flying Qantas out of Sydney. Can I even also ask for Golden Syrup?? 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

07 Dec 2014

Total posts 174

I was going to ask the same thing ... last time I was in Virgin's Sydney Lounge in the morning, they had premade pancakes and no machine - and no other hot dishes. It was the weekend though.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 Nov 2012

Total posts 118

Totally agree with the statement on how spoiled we are in Aus.  Travel the US and the lounges there are so dire, it's depressing (and inedible) with Europe and Asia only just ahead. 

But I do think that the offerings could change more frequently (and I'm in the QF J lounges).

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Feb 2016

Total posts 9

You are so right.

US lounges are appalling compared to what we are used to in OneWorld lounges in Oz, Europe and Asia.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Feb 2016

Total posts 9

Qantas Business Lounge, Perth Domestic.

No boiled eggs! Had to go upstairs to the Qantas Lounge and bring them down.

Yeah, it's first world problem.


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Feb 2016

Total posts 9

Now that we have the la-di-da Qantas Business Lounge downstairs, I do miss the toasting machine in the Qantas Club upstairs. For years I could show off to less-frequent-flyers that you had to stand at the back of it and push through your toast - otherwise it would stay there forever in limbo... :)

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