Review: Qantas International First Class Lounge, Sydney

No list of the world’s best airport lounges is complete without Qantas’ first class lounge in Sydney.

Overall Rating

By Chris Ashton, November 28 2023
Qantas International First Class Lounge, Sydney
Country

Australia

City

Sydney

Airport

Sydney - Kingsford Smith

Alliance

Oneworld

Airline

Qantas

Cabin-class

First

Notes
The Good
  • Treatments at LaGaia Day Spa
  • Seasonal à la carte menus
The Bad
  • Showing some signs of age
  • Lack of power points
X-Factor
  • Bookable meeting rooms
Location
Dining
Work
Overall

Introduction

Given its status as the flagship in Qantas’ network, a visit to Sydney First Lounge is one weighted with expectation. It should be a clear step up from its business siblings, while service must be an extension of that premium experience offered at 40,000ft.

And on both counts, it delivers – and then some. Whether accessed via a first class ticket or simply holding a shiny Platinum frequent flyer card in your wallet, Qantas’ Sydney first class is arguably the greatest way to begin any journey from Australia.

Marc Newson-designed and opened in 2007, the architecture is simply stunning, while seasonal menus backed by an extensive wines and spirits list keep the experience fresh on repeat visits.

Dramatic wooden ceiling spars – cambered like the inside of an aeroplane wing – subtly yet naturally divide the sweeping space into almost a dozen semi-contained areas, all bathed in natural light thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows.

There are delightful vintage touches also, most notably two old-school flipper boards tracking flight departures.

This split-flap 'Solari' display board makes a nostalgic appearance.
This split-flap 'Solari' display board makes a nostalgic appearance.

Location & Impressions

After browsing the airport’s new premium retail hub or grabbing those last minute essentials, you’ll find the Qantas First lounge entrance above Heinemann duty free, at the end of the escalator and next door to the Qantas business lounge.

The lounge welcomes First Class, Platinum and Platinum One members, as well as select partners.
The lounge welcomes First Class, Platinum and Platinum One members, as well as select partners.

Gliding through the honeycomb-frosted glass doors, past a flourishing green wall and up yet another escalator leads you to the lounge proper – and it is indeed a big step up from its business class counterpart (as seen in this review).

Floor-to-ceiling windows maximise the city view.
Floor-to-ceiling windows maximise the city view.

European oak dividers angled to the windows beyond break up the cavernous lounge, with each resulting nook adorned in deep armchairs ready for sinking into, lounges for casual chats, or Scandi-esque dining tables and cherry-red buffet counters.

The latter house television screens and magazines, plus a few bottles of Champagne chilling on ice for good measure.

Varied seating areas create a feeling of intimacy within the vast space.
Varied seating areas create a feeling of intimacy within the vast space.

That aforementioned honeycomb motif flows throughout the lounge, adorning everything from carpets to smoky mirrors behind the self-service drinks and snack stations.

A selection of grab-and-go bites, as well as beers, soft drinks and tea/coffee.
A selection of grab-and-go bites, as well as beers, soft drinks and tea/coffee.

However, it should be noted that the lounge is showing signs of age, particularly when it comes to some of the furnishings, and could do with a subtle refresh.

The lounge can get rather busy at times, notably for the morning rush around 8am, just after lunch and again in the mid-afternoon around 4pm.

Access

Open from 5am to 10pm daily, the lounge has an exclusive guest list. It’s of course open to passengers in first class on Qantas and Oneworld partners including British Airways and Qatar Airways, in addition to Platinum and Platinum One frequent flyers.

Oneworld Emerald status holders are also welcome regardless of the class they’re flying.

Dining

The lounge’s culinary offering is, as you’d expect, top tier. The seasonal à la carte menu, stacked wine list and fine service are all what you’d expect from an up-market bistro.

All furniture - from tables to chairs and bar stools - was designed my Marc Newson.
All furniture - from tables to chairs and bar stools - was designed my Marc Newson.

There’s counter seating with a view through to the kitchen, adjacent to a bar and barista to cater to all your hydration/caffeination needs.

The open kitchen adds an element of theatre to your meal.
The open kitchen adds an element of theatre to your meal.

Table service is also available at no less than four dining areas, one of which is roped off for first class flyers, Platinum Ones and Chairman's Lounge members, and other VIPs.

As covered by Executive Traveller previously, Qantas’ approach to seasonal cuisine sees a raft of new dishes rolled out every four months, with some perennial favourites (including the signature pavlova) remaining year-round. 

Neil Perry's oh-so-Instagrammable pavlova.
Neil Perry's oh-so-Instagrammable pavlova.

Breakfast is plated up through to 11am, after which the all-day menus kicks in. This places travellers with early afternoon departure in the best position to enjoy the lounge’s wares, tasting their way through the full menu.

Typical breakfast choices include eggs florentine, a bacon and egg brioche, and signature breakfast combo (aka a big breakfast), in addition to fluffy buttermilk pancakes – seasonal twists pair these with pears and hazelnuts in winter, or rhubarb and orange in spring.

Buttermilk ricotta pancakes dressed with poached pears, hazelnuts and Qantas Honey.
Buttermilk ricotta pancakes dressed with poached pears, hazelnuts and Qantas Honey.
Corn fritters served with chilli jam, sour cream and guacamole. A lounge staple.
Corn fritters served with chilli jam, sour cream and guacamole. A lounge staple.
The healthy breakfast bowl is also a worthwhile option.
The healthy breakfast bowl is also a worthwhile option.

Salt and pepper squid, a club sandwich and cheeseburger, as well as the classic ‘pavlova in a glass’ are all staples of the all-day menu, sitting alongside seasonal fare such as Balinese-style duck salad or 8-hour soy braised beef brisket.

Diners in the roped off area also have access to an exclusive menu, which in the past has included salmon sashimi with finger lime and coriander (best paired with a Grosset Springvale Riesling 2022)…

… and a scotch fillet minute steak with Café de Paris butter and chips, which is recommended to pair with either a Yarra Yering Pinot Noir 2021 or Clonakilla Hilltops Shiraz 2021.

Work

Though dining is indeed worth relishing, Qantas Sydney First Lounge is also well-suited to finishing a bit of work before your flight (WiFi is still missing on most international flights, after all).

You’ll find a couple of semi-private desks with leather-backed office chairs tucked between the long dining counter and bar, each with multiple power outlets and backed by two printers.

These work desks provide a nice alternative to the dining tables, when available.
These work desks provide a nice alternative to the dining tables, when available.

While at the other end of the lounge are two dedicated private office spaces – these are often set aside for VIPS such as government ministers and celebs, though can be booked by anyone who qualifies for lounge access.

Meeting rooms also double as a solid family room.
Meeting rooms also double as a solid family room.

Each houses a broad desk with seating for two, armchairs for informal conversations, plus a printer and a television screen.

WiFi is beamed throughout the lounge, hitting an average download of 100Mbps.

Relax

Whether it’s sinking into a good book from the library, partaking in a spa treatment or just breathing in the view outside over a glass of Champagne that sets your pulse to relaxation, you’ll find plenty to enjoy here.

Eight shower suites are provided for a pre-flight freshen up. Within are walk-in rain showers, plus a selection of Li’Tya amenities (the same found in onboard amenity kits).

Shower suites are adorned in marble from top to bottom.
Shower suites are adorned in marble from top to bottom.

In addition, there’s the green wall-adorned LaGaia Day Spa at the far end of the lounge – just past the long flipper departures board – and through a frosted glass door, where a feeling of Zen-like calm soon washes over you.

The streamlined treatment menu comprises just one facial and three massages – a neck, shoulder and scap; hot stone back massage; and a mineral scrub and foot massage. Each spa booking is for 20 minutes, and spaces are quite limited.

Start your trip on a relaxed note with a visit to the day spa.
Start your trip on a relaxed note with a visit to the day spa.

Qantas first class flyers are invited to book the day before, while everyone else can enquire at the door, so it’s worth making a beeline to put your name on the list as soon as you arrive.

Verdict

On my first visit ahead of the inaugural from Sydney to Seoul, I was (no doubt like many first-timers) impressed by the scale and design of the lounge, of the view and refined service. But on reflection, it’s the intimacy of the space where it succeeds most.

The design is exceptionally clever, creating what feels like a dozen mini lounges. For many regulars, these are almost a second home – an extension of their living room. And even in peak times, the lounge maintains that feeling of warmth and cosiness.

Early morning in the Qantas Sydney first lounge.
Early morning in the Qantas Sydney first lounge.

Despite showing some signs of age, this Qantas flagship still sits proudly among the best first class airport lounges in the world – and is well worth an extended visit if you have the chance.

04 Sep 2022

Total posts 6

Are we talking about the same lounge???? No charging ports at the seats? Can't order cocktails that aren't on the menu? Extremely limited beverage selections? No quiet rooms for longer layovers? Obsession with Neil Perry that I'm still trying to figure out? Please, if QF Insists on pricing itself like EK, then these types of shortcomings should be addressed. I've seen better choices and amenities in most business lounged

Etihad - Etihad Guest

19 Jun 2019

Total posts 20

I agree with you trying to charge my laptop or phone is a hard task. I tend to work in the lounge for a few hours before taking my flight. Also, why can I not order an espresso martini? First world problems however we are in a first-class lounge.

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2555

Lack of charging ports goes back to the era when the lounge was designed and built. If Qantas designed a new Sydney First Lounge today there would be a lot more charging ports around the place – look at the Singapore and Hong Kong lounges for example. There are AC sockets along the walls including the dining room, so you just have to choose your seat with that need in mind.

My take is that while I love a lounge which has AC/USB outlets almost always within reach, such as the latest Cathay Pacific lounges, not everyone has to be next to an AC or USB port, so I think this is a relatively small shortcoming. No lounge is perfect.

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 572

David, unless QF has some pricey tradesman on contract or weird airport deal, surely it doesn’t take much to retrofit power outlets with USB ports?

Or are we expecting to wait for another revamp in the next decade for the First Class Lounge to be in the 2010s era?

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 413

I agree 100% with observations about the cocktails. Before COVID the bar would make up pretty much any standard or popular type of cocktail, although when the Neil Perry team took over they started pushing their own cocktails more and more. It's either cost-cutting or a 'Nanny' mentality that stops the bar staff from being allowed to make proper cocktails these days. Probably both.
SYD
SYD

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 13

NP was in play well before the “Cocktail Gate” situation. That’s a post Covid thing.

PK
PK

03 May 2012

Total posts 120

This can be an unpopular sentiment on this forum, but the Lounge does not do enough to make passengers flying in First feel special. Lots of QF passengers flying internationally on a given day have Platinum and above status, and it can turn into a zoo, and you do not feel like your very large amount of money has been spent well. 

Qf

26 Apr 2015

Total posts 21

Totally agree PK!  Visited the lounge when it first opened in 1997 and it was stunning.  One small dining area and plenty of space in the lounge with waiter service at your chair.

Now it feels like a cafeteria with so much space turned over to dining.  I have been there as a revenue F passenger and struggled to get a cup of tea, as a jetstar plane was departing for NZ and the place was a zoo.

However it’s not just the lounge, as the service onboard doesn’t deliver either (apart from the bed and champagne), which is why I no longer travel Qantas internationally- much better options available.

PK
PK

03 May 2012

Total posts 120

This is very true Flying mermaid.  Revenue F passengers are so relatively unusual for Qantas that they do not really know how to treat them, and, understandably, are not changing their business model to try.  There are few F routes, and they are mostly full of points upgraders and staff. On a recent trip, a relatively inexperienced flight attendant in F told me excitedly when introducing herself that I was the only non staff member in the cabin. I am not critical of Qantas in this regard.  Their business model is based on leveraging their domestic dominance to provide their travel warriors with status that they can then utilise on international trips, including vacations with the family.  I rarely travel domestically and am privileged to fly revenue F internationally, so I prefer to direct that money to a commensurate onboard experience. It is no more than a case of I am not the passenger they are looking for, and they are not the airline I am looking for. That is why competition is healthy. 

04 Sep 2019

Total posts 55

Looks like the author is a friend of qantas, not a friend of the people

When its of the same calibre as its local neighbours like the first class lounge for singapore airlines in changi or japan airlines in tokyo then lets talk 

Why is it that people can't offer criticism without sledging the writer?

"When its of the same calibre as its local neighbours like the first class lounge for singapore airlines in changi or japan airlines in tokyo then lets talk"

Well let's start talking right now, eg does SQ's first class lounge in Singapore have an a la carte dining room? No, it has a buffet. A good selection of dishes, yes, but a buffet isn't very 'first class'. Does SQ's first class lounge have a spa with free treatments? No.

And as much as I like JAL's first class lounge in Haneda, yes it's a very refined space, airlines ARE allowed to be different and offer different experiences and spaces, so if somebody prefers the JAL lounge or the Qantas lounge comes down more to their own preferences.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer P1

23 Aug 2014

Total posts 139

Lost in Transit

Agree

Chris has written an accurate, informative, article

All lounges (F and F+ eg The Private Room) have strengths and weaknesses

No lounge will ever appeal to everyone 

The strengths of the QF F lounge n Sydney are:

1. The stunning architectural space and natural light with soaring views of the apron and runways

2. The Spa

3. The First Hosts

4. The food (there is a reserved area for F passengers), usually better than the onboard F dining 

SMM
SMM

01 Feb 2013

Total posts 28

The 'lounge' seats are awful, mostly broken and worn. Hardly premium. Food offerings are fine as are the bubbles. Spa if you can get a treatment is also great. Showing its age but staff are great.

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 413

I can't agree that most of the lounge seats are broken and worn. Most seem fine to me, certainly not broken.

SMM
SMM

01 Feb 2013

Total posts 28

Sit facing the windows and they recline regardless of whether you want that or not. Faded & worn leather too. 

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 413

Are there TWO Qantas First Lounges at Sydney? Because it seems like half the people complaining are visiting a very different lounge to the one I visit!

Is the lounge as amazing as it was when it first opened, when it was so new and everyone was experiencing it for the first or second or third time? No, of course not. The menus were better, the spa had so many different treatments and some went for over an hour long, the showers had amazing Kevin Murphy product.

But let's not forget that the lounge being such a 'new' experience to people must also have added a glow to the over-all impression. Now it's more familiar and for many very frequent flyers it doesn't have that 'WOW' factor, but that is NOT the fault of the lounge, it's just that we have become so much more familiar with it.

And yes, we can also remember the glory days of the lounge's early years, there is no doubt that the lounge was a better experience in say 2010-2015 when it had the best menus and those amazing spa treatment options, but in my opinion it still holds its own despite having lost a bit of that shine.

If it was a 5/5 when it first opened and in those early years, then now it's maybe a 4/5, but that doesn't stop it from being the best lounge in Australia and one of the best first class lounges in the world.

21 Dec 2012

Total posts 41

as much as I enjoy the F lounge, that floor to ceiling views are lovely in the middle of the day, and the sunlight looks pretty in the mornings as you enter the lounge...until you sit down for brekky and realise there is no escaping it. You're either blinded by it beaming straight into you, or you're unable to see your laptop/tablet as the full force of the sun reflects off the screen and into your eyes again (I'm not sure the best solution, but I know I'm not the only one squinting through their avo and eggs).

The power point situation needs to be fixed, for a modern lounge you need it. I'm sure there is a sleek style appropriate retrofittable solution. Maybe run the power under QF coloured red accent panels.

I still enjoy it, but as the review notes, there are signs of age that don't match our current flying habits now that pre-flight entertainment isn't a paperback book.

29 Jan 2012

Total posts 176

This lounge is tired, dated and definitely showing its age, while draining budgets from other lounges which are in even worse condition, not to mention the stale menu offerings. Its all marketing hype with QF with no delivery. How many changes and enhancements do QF say are going to happen, rather than ever actually happening. 

18 Feb 2018

Total posts 16

Not sure what all the fuss is about in regard to the number of (or lack thereof) power points and charging ports.

A great First Class lounge is surely a place to relax and forget about the stresses of the day whilst enjoying the fine wine and fine food on offer - The Qantas International First Lounge needs to be an oasis, a place to escape the busy airport terminal and, overall, the Qantas First Lounge, from my perspective, hits the mark (That said, restricting the lounge to those with First Class tickets would significantly enhance the ambience of the place but, given the size of the lounge and the substantial upfront and ongoing investment, I don't think that is viable option for Qantas). 

I agree that the lounge could do with bit of a refresh here and there but the slightly tired edges are more than compensated for by the universally excellent Qantas Team in the lounge - Over the course of my many visits to the lounge they have been caring, understanding, helpful, courteous and throughly professional at all times (and I've seen them having to deal with the odd challenging moment or two).

01 Dec 2023

Total posts 3

I suggest "a great First Class lounge" is one which caters for a range of its patron's needs - those wanting to work, or 'connect' as well as those who wish to relax.  Same as in hotel rooms - we do more than sleep in them these days.

Lack of power points and USB ports are a drawback that could be partially alleviated with not much difficulty or investment, but to update the lounge completely would probably need a major refurb (which wouldn't go astray - it is a First lounge, after all).

18 Feb 2018

Total posts 16

A very valid point indeed and I certainly understand your point.

I suppose I am somewhat old fashioned and out of date (as well as being old) as to what, in my opinion, a great first class lounge should 'deliver' - I am so over trying to relax in a quiet, elegant oasis only to hear loud voices declaring on their mobile phones 'I'm in the First Lounge at Sydney' or the utterly frustrating (and increasing) number of people on 'FaceTime' without an ear piece (don't you just love having to listen to people on their 'devices' being 'connected'). I must be in the minority - Sigh. 

I know there is a 'quiet' area but, when it's busy, forget it being anything near quiet - I suppose I should just join in, plug in my laptop (oops, I don't travel with one) and get with the beat...... 

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1209

The SYD F lounge benefits from a great location and a very good general design.  It was a product of the time when John Borghetti was in charge of Qantas' customer experience who despite his financial management faults really understood what appealed to customers.  Where the lounge now falls down is that, like most things in the now discredited AJ era, it has been left pretty much unchanged for nearly 20 years because spending money would have affected results and therefore eaten into the executive incentive payments.  

Despite its faults, some of which like lack of USB points could be fixed in a very short period, it has one distinct advantage and that is it is miles better than the even more unloved Business Lounge directly underneath it.  The SYD Business Lounge is very tired and would be the second worst International Lounge in Australia only surpassed by the equally old and unloved QF Dungeon in Melbourne.

22 Oct 2019

Total posts 2

Unlike most seasoned travellers here, I've only been to the Sydney 1st lounge 4 times. With each visit I noticed a little bit more than the last. Yes it's crowed during peak breakfast hours, and yes a few of the chairs have worn marks, and yes there are seats without power points... That didn't stop me of making every possible effort (included cheating) to gain entry each time I flight out of Sydney. It is still the BEST airport lounge in Australia, and YOU CAN'T CHANGE MY MIND 😂

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Nov 2016

Total posts 47

I shake my head in disbelief at some comments made here. "It hasn't been updated since it opened", "There's a lack of power points", and the worst of all, "The sun is too bright".

I've made ~100 visits to this lounge and it is a great addition to the Qantas experience.

01 Dec 2023

Total posts 3

I've been visiting the First Lounge since shortly after it opened.  Then it was sensational, a true 'First Lounge' with design and amenity amongst the best if not the best airline lounge in the world.

Today, its still a good First Lounge, but it is showing its age and the dining and bar amenity is nowhere like it was - some of this is Covid-era cutbacks not yet restored, but nevertheless its far from its former glory.

So, in absolute terms, its still a good lounge, but comparatively, against other airlines' First Lounges around the world, its well back in the pack now.

I don't think its on the list of lounge refurbishments Qantas has announced, so I worry it may end up sliding a bit more before they get around to it.


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