Qantas vs Virgin Australia: who has the best airport lounge breakfast?

By Chris Chamberlin, March 8 2018
Qantas vs Virgin Australia: who has the best airport lounge breakfast?

A good breakfast makes a good start to the day, and it’s a meal many business travellers enjoy at their airport lounge of choice before jetting off to meetings or the office.

So how do Australia’s domestic airport lounges compare on the breakfast front?

In our 2018 ‘Battle of the Business Lounge Breakfast’ we compare the morning fare at the Qantas Club, Qantas Business Lounge and Virgin Australia Lounge, from a series of early morning lounge visits at Brisbane Airport.

Round 1: Coffee

When it comes to that morning cuppa, all three lounges offer barista-made coffee to get you going.

While Brisbane’s Qantas Club previously served these exclusively in disposable cardboard cups – generating lots of unnecessary waste – we’re glad to see that mugs and glasses are now standard at the barista station:

The Qantas Business Lounge kicks things up a notch, often with table coffee service in the lounge’s main dining area…

… and between the two Qantas lounges in Brisbane, the Roo has up to four separate barista coffee counters going at once, including one at the top of the Premium Lounge Entry escalators, one inside the Qantas Club, and up to two in the Business Lounge (the second opens when it’s busy).

In the Virgin Australia lounge, all-day barista coffee is available as well, again with a choice of mugs/glasses or take-away if you’re running for your flight…

... but in Brisbane, Virgin only operates one barista coffee station – and because this single lounge is shared by all of the airline’s premium passengers, the wait times for your coffee during peak periods can be lengthy: up to 20 minutes in my experience, before the first few flights of the day are called for boarding.

Winner: With four times as many coffee stations to help pump through orders during peak times, and now glassware in the Qantas Club (previously in the Business Lounge only), we’re giving this one to the Qantas lounges.

Round 2: Breakfast

Whichever lounge you’re in, you can expect basics like cereals, breads and fruit, but the broader menus vary from lounge to lounge.

At the Qantas Club there’s a choice of both plain and flavoured yoghurt, and Bircher muesli…

… alongside the popular pancake machine with maple syrup at the ready, joined by baked beans and boiled eggs…

… plus ham, cheese and tomato…

… either on their own, or in a toasted sandwich:

Finally, with that bread, a selection of Australian condiments such as Vegemite and Berenberg jams:

For business class passengers and Platinum frequent flyers, the Qantas Business Lounge elevates the preflight experience with a ‘plate of the day’ served to travellers seated in the lounge’s dining area between 6am and 8am.

On this visit, a healthy bowl centred on a soft poached egg with avocado, kale, feta, buckwheat, pistachio, sunflower seeds and herbed tahini dressing, which is an option I appreciate as a calorie-conscious traveller in place of many other brekky dishes which hero fried foods:

If you’re in a rush, a smaller version of the same bowl can also be grabbed from the buffet…

… alongside a wider range of yoghurt than in the Qantas Club, and which is individually-portioned:

As expected, there’s also fresh fruit salad, and ham, cheese and tomato for toasted sandwiches – which you can assemble yourself…

… or grab one already pre-made from next to the sandwich press, and pop it on to toast:

But don’t fret: it’s not all kale and toasted sandwiches – if you’re after bacon, eggs and baked beans, you won’t be left wanting…

… and, of course, there’s a pancake machine:

Finally, a juicing station where travellers can make their own fresh mix:

Over in the Virgin Australia Lounge the buffet features many of the same staples like ham, cheese, tomato and also pineapple – which goes well on toasted sandwiches in place of tomato to create something resembling a ‘mini pizza’ if your visit is more ‘brunch’ than ‘breakfast’…

… joined by ingredients to custom-make your own fruit salad, with yoghurts and Bircher muesli too…

… and again, a reasonable selection of condiments for your morning toast (bread is found next to the cereal):

Hot dishes on today’s visit included poached eggs and bacon…

… which, if you’re really keen, could be assembled with other bits and pieces from the buffet to represent something similar to a café breakfast:

Finally, there’s a pancake machine with a selection of toppings nearby to dress your dish…

… and a line-up of juices, too:

Which lounge has the best breakfast?

With its healthy ‘plate of the day’, table coffee service and a buffet designed with business travellers in mind – especially those maximising their rest before morning flights and stopping by the lounge for a quick bite – the Qantas Business Lounge is the easy winner here.

We’d rank the Virgin Australia Lounge a close second given its well-rounded offering and broad-appeal hot dishes of bacon and ready-to-eat poached eggs, plus the DIY approach to fruit salad that lets you stock up on the things you like and skip the things you don’t, without fishing through one main salad bowl.

That said, the Qantas Club brekky is still more than reasonable – and with all three lounges now offering barista-made coffee in glasses and mugs throughout the day (rather than cardboard cups), we’re reminded just how spoiled we are in Australia when it comes to lounge brekky for the business traveller.

Readers: what's your take on which airline lounge has the best breakfast for the business traveller?

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.


02 Sep 2015

Total posts 38

Can we have this artical as a vote. Qantas for me

25 Nov 2016

Total posts 2

In all areas. no comparison...qantas may have some faults, but the lounge facilities are second to none


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 May 2017

Total posts 87

Well of course Qantas would win.

Virgin is a budget airline.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 May 2017

Total posts 78

VA still lives in the day of being Virgin Blue. They have made some attempt however they do not compare to QF not even close. Then if you are a Platinum FF with QF or business class it makes VA look worse than McDonalds. If VA had a similar offering to QF they would win all my buisness!

13 Sep 2016

Total posts 184

Virgin's breakfast selection has gotten better over the past few years but in Sydney a LOT of Virgin travellers with lounge access will actually go to [email protected] with their Priority Pass card for a 'free' breakfast to the value of $36.

02 Dec 2016

Total posts 92

What?! Why do I not know about this!!!!!

15 Feb 2013

Total posts 162

Dear American Airlines: please take note.

02 Dec 2016

Total posts 92

Exactly.... both Aussie airlines are good/great in comparison to WW airlines... even those like SQ

02 Jun 2013

Total posts 49

Being a regular at both lounges in BNE, my vote is for the VA lounge for breakfast.

Aside from what is mentioned in the article, there are also now muffins and pastries available, including take-away paper bags to take one onto the plane with you.

30 Jun 2011

Total posts 50

Been a while since I've been at a QP but VA's Grinders coffee beats the Vittoria I recall at Q. VA's recent decision to close the second espresso location at SYD was dud one. Q's Bircher was always pretty good but I've copped maybe one too many Cardomom pods.

15 Feb 2013

Total posts 162

Vittoria coffee is rubbish - I’ve made numerous requests to Qantas about it and they just don’t listen. Might be something to do with Mr Perry being in bed with them, considering it’s what he serves in all his restaurants as well. Would be nice to see some local coffee in the lounges rather than mass produced garbage - perhaps some Proud Mary, Padre, or Axel Grinders in Vic, and similar local roasts in other cities.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Jan 2018

Total posts 95

I couldn’t agree more. I’ve made this very comment on a recent community discussion.

QF does a good job supporting quality local businesses. It defies belief that they keep serving up Vittoria which is just awful.

Agree with the overall sentiment though that QF edges out VA on the quality of breakfast offerings in the lounge. Consistent with the respective quality of the lounges more generally in my view.


21 Jul 2011

Total posts 72

100% agree - Vittoria is slop (that any Melburnian will rightly turn their nose up at). I’ve mentioned to Qantas, but they don’t care. QF coffee is like going to Gloria Jeans. BUT the one time I was in VA their stuff was awful and took forever to arrive.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Jan 2018

Total posts 95

I would say Grinders is marginally better, but still low grade commercial slop.

Mind you, the skills of the baristas employed doesn’t help an already bad situation.


11 Jul 2014

Total posts 558

Qantas business lounge does have a better feel about it and I find the Virgin lounge in Brisbane like a sardine can. Qantas food in the business lounge is better as well. If I was Virgin I would try and have an area for platinum members with a few home made treats served around to guests.

30 Jun 2011

Total posts 50

You want a separate section for Plats just walled off with some plants and a screen? Geeze - imagine how that would go down in Oz. In AUH Etihad maintained a reserved area for the 'higher-ups' during the period while rebuilding their First lounge. You can get away with that in the Middle-East, but doubtful for Oz.


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Sep 2017

Total posts 150

Yes QF (Neil Perry). Ditch Vitoria. It’s old-hat now. Plenty of better quality options available now.

MarkJohnSon Banned
MarkJohnSon Banned

19 Jan 2018

Total posts 89

I choked on my coffee as I read the headline here! How is this even a question!

Mr. Joyce runs a sharp shop, that's all I will say.

13 Sep 2016

Total posts 56

Agree that Qantas has the best breakfast but it really does need to get better coffee. Australians love their coffee, you only have look around at all the independent cafes and all the independent roasters and brands we have, surely Qantas could be backing one of the many great new breed of Aussie coffee brands.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Apr 2012

Total posts 306

Would love a cook to order egg station, like they have at many hotel breakfast lounges, where you can order how you like your eggs done, or even an omelette.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

08 Sep 2012

Total posts 244

Sounds great but given the volumes of passengers passing through, I wonder if that's viable? Probably cause more frustration and disappointment than good.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Jan 2014

Total posts 292

Wonder how much ham Qantas churn through in a year, whether brekky, lunch or dinner from small regional lounges to Business lounges there’s is always a bowl of ham on offer.


21 Jul 2011

Total posts 72

In Australia, we are so lucky with both lounge offerings. It staggers me visiting o/s domestic lounges. But QF is the best and the J lounge by far IMHO

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

03 Oct 2016

Total posts 18

I have only been to the Virgin Lounge so unsure if its the same over the fence.. however I never seem to see anything but the pancake machine for breakfast in the lounge on a weekend. All the other stuff appear to be only week days or for some reason just not when I am travelling weekends.

30 Mar 2017

Total posts 6

Yes that annoys me also there is no hot food in va lounges on the weekends as alot of us travel then with kids and it would be much better with more choices for travelling families

13 Jul 2016

Total posts 5

Virgin is the best in Economy, but Qantas is the best in Business Class Lounges


07 Jan 2017

Total posts 31

Agree on the coffee front. Virgin is bad, Qantas is terrible. Must confess I like the V poached eggs, hate the QF scrambled eggs.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Sep 2013

Total posts 6

Why ruin a good egg with kale & keenwa ???

Feed me unadulterated eggs, bacon & beans !!!

Simple man - simple needs


Jetstar Airways - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Jan 2017

Total posts 54

Virgin can’t possibly win any lounge contest when they only operate 5 days a week with a budget option happening every weekend.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

13 Jan 2015

Total posts 9

I mus live in an alternative universe. I regularly do the transcontinental PER to SYD or MEL and in none of the Qantas Clubs have I ever seen hot food at breakfast, other than toast. Certainly never seen eggs or baked beans or any other similar offering. Only cereal, muesli, toast and cold cuts.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

19 Jul 2017

Total posts 7

The comparison was done in Brisbane, where both the Qantas lounges have been recently refurbished and the F&B offerings refreshed. I can't speak for Perth, but to describe the Sydney QC lounge as 'dated' compared to BNE is being generous.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Mar 2016

Total posts 27

Qantas has best Breakfast but having said that, traveling Business Class in USA, US Lounges really does make both Qantas & Virgin Lounges in different league. "America First?", I don't think so!

10 Mar 2018

Total posts 1

Truth be told: I am a HUGE fan of the Virgin brand and the Virgin Airlines, having flown Virgin America & Atlantic quite frequently. That being said, I went to Australia for the first time 18 years ago in a time when Premium Economy didn't exist, and Virgin Australia was conceived, but had not yet entered into service.

Therefore, I flew Qantas back and forth from Los Angeles to Sydney, and at the least, I thought I had scored sitting in the bulkhead exit row on a Qantas 747. Which, 18 years ago, was a triumph in Trans-Pacific flights if you couldn't afford First Class. Of course a flagship carrier like Qantas is going to offer a superior lounge and food experience versus a teenager like Virgin Australia.

With that being said, I STILL prefer the Virgin airlines and will fly them over a flagship carrier. As I ready myself to come back to Australia for a visit and combine it with NZ and Tahiti on my itinerary; I find that honestly, Air New Zealand may be the better airline over Qantas overall. In one instance, flying Trans-Tasman from Queenstown to Sydney, the airline with the better flight schedule and less expensive Business Class product was Virgin Australia versus Qantas. And flying to Papeete, Tahiti from Melbourne (via Auckland) was better served by Air NZ. Qantas may fly to Tahiti, but not from Melbourne or Sydney, as it only codeshares flights on those routes with Air Tahiti Nui.

So, if Qantas offers a better food and lounge product it should, because it's route network is severely lacking. And the memories of being uncomfortable on a 14 hour Qantas flight haven't disappeared with time, but rather made me more savvy. To NOT even fly one leg of my itinerary on Qantas. Darn, guess I'll have to submit to a lesser brekkie experience in the lounge. Fudge. No thanks Qantas, twice was enough for me.

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