Review: Virgin Australia Lounge, Sydney Airport

Kerb to lounge access and varied seating make this a decent option for work and leisure.

Overall Rating

By Chris Ashton, January 25 2024
Virgin Australia Lounge, Sydney Airport
Country

Australia

City

Sydney

Airport

Sydney - Kingsford Smith

Alliance

None

Airline

Virgin Australia

Cabin-class

Business

Notes
The Good
  • Broad seating selection
  • High-speed WiFi
The Bad
  • Food offering could be improved
  • Inconsistent opening of overflow level
X-Factor
  • Premium Lounge Entry (when available)
Location
Dining
Work
Overall

Introduction

Virgin Australia travellers flying business class or holding Velocity Gold or Platinum status will be intimately familiar with the airline’s Sydney lounge. Barring some minor edits, it has remained virtually unchanged for a decade. 

In a way, it’s a fair case of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. The layout is decent, the location right alongside security still convenient, and the variety of seating options across its two levels caters to just about every need. Yet it could be more. 

The seating-only area upstairs often retains a quieter feel than the main lower level.
The seating-only area upstairs often retains a quieter feel than the main lower level.

Location & Impressions

Those jetting off without checked luggage between 5am and 8am Monday to Friday can take advantage of Virgin’s Premium Lounge Entry.

 Featuring a dedicated security screening, it can take you from the kerb to the coffee queue in under three minutes. It’s an appreciated point of difference for the airline, though opening hours really need to be extended. 

Sydney Premium Entry is just beyond the parking set down area at the far end of Terminal 2.
Sydney Premium Entry is just beyond the parking set down area at the far end of Terminal 2.

Lounge-worthy travellers with checked luggage can access a priority check-in lane in the main departures hall. The Virgin Australia Sydney lounge entrance is found immediately to the right once you’ve collected your belongings after security.

The lounge is light and bright with a somewhat retro-futuristic vibe. Seating choices span low-set lounges, dedicated work desks and upright benches with a view to the runway (my personal favourite).

You'll find me seated here most visits.
You'll find me seated here most visits.

At the heart of the first level is a lengthy buffet counter – a focal point drawing the eyes in before you start scanning for an available seat somewhere, anywhere. Because, as guests arriving in peak times can attest, finding a seat can be a bit of a challenge.

Curved screens create semi-private nooks throughout the lounge.
Curved screens create semi-private nooks throughout the lounge.

Outside the traditional high traffic hours of the early morning and evening though, locating somewhere to perch for an hour or more before the flight is much simpler.

The Beyond lounge is located directly upstairs.
The Beyond lounge is located directly upstairs.
Tag-teaming baristas make quick work of any coffee queue.
Tag-teaming baristas make quick work of any coffee queue.

An upstairs overflow area is also opened sporadically when need arises – you’ll find the staircase tucked in a corner opposite the main reception.

Within it offers the same broad mix of seating, in addition to a secondary bar area, which sadly remains closed. Tea and water facilities are conveniently provided. 

The overflow tends to be quieter than the lower level, even during peak times.
The overflow tends to be quieter than the lower level, even during peak times.

The overflow is immediately next door to the invitation-only Beyond lounge and benefits from the same elevated runway view, although that’s where the similarities end.

Access

Unlocking its doors 60 minutes prior to the first and until the very last Virgin Australia flight of the day, the Sydney Virgin Australia lounge rolls out the welcome mat for:

  • travellers seated in business class on Virgin Australia-operated flights
  • Velocity Platinum and Velocity Gold frequent flyers, Beyond members
  • top-tier frequent flyers of select partner airlines
  • Virgin Australia lounge members
  • holders of select credit cards, such as the American Express Velocity Business Card

Detailed info on Virgin Australia domestic lounge access and guest policy, in addition to which international partner airline members are welcomed inside, can be found here.

Dining

As with its counterparts across the country, the Sydney Virgin lounge offers a self-serve cold buffet complemented by rotating hot meals to suit the time of day.

Ready made sandwiches, salads and corn chip platters.
Ready made sandwiches, salads and corn chip platters.

For breakfast, it could be ham and cheese croissants or sweet corn fritters and baked beans, side-by-side with a selection including bircher muesli, freshly cut fruit and natural yoghurt with granola. Breads, pastries and cereals are often at the ready too.

Lunch generally sees eggs and lettuce wraps, ham salad sandwiches and perhaps a halloumi salad drizzled in balsamic vinegar, in addition to ready-made plates with guacamole, salsa and corn chips.

Barista coffee is available throughout the day.
Barista coffee is available throughout the day.

Sweet treats and fruit are always offered, while various hot snacks (quiches, party pies et al) are often laid out in the afternoons alongside a counter laden with cheese and crackers, giving those arriving between meals a chance to graze.

Water crackers, dried fruit and cubes of tasty cheese.
Water crackers, dried fruit and cubes of tasty cheese.

For dinner, it’s typically penne pasta alongside chicken and sweet corn soup or occasional sliders and wedges (both hot-ticket items that never fail to draw a crowd). 

Soups, bread rolls and pasta are common sights in the evenings.
Soups, bread rolls and pasta are common sights in the evenings.
Brisket and coleslaw sliders, served with potato wedges.
Brisket and coleslaw sliders, served with potato wedges.

As for the cold selection, this is where you’ll typically find more variety, whether it’s wraps, potato salad, couscous and roasted pumpkin salad, pasta salad or falafels. 

Unleash the sandwich artist within at the salad bar.
Unleash the sandwich artist within at the salad bar.

Fruit juice, soft drink, teas and barista coffee are of course available all day, while alcoholic drinks including beer and Australian wine are poured from midday.

Work

One area where the lounge excels is its workspaces. There are several in fact: long upright benches with AC and USB outlets lining their centre, regular-height work desks with comfortable chairs and power outlets, and several tables near the main buffet.

Two upright work areas are located either side of the buffet.
Two upright work areas are located either side of the buffet.

In addition are oft-overlooked cushioned semi-private workpods, which are found immediately next to the Premium Entry.

It’s first come first served though, as there are a mere handful. Even in peak time this area of the lounge remains fairly quiet, making it a good option if you can nab a seat. 

Work desks with central power outlets are a dotted throughout.
Work desks with central power outlets are a dotted throughout.

Upstairs, several work benches with high stools and under-table AC outlets are available.

Unfortunately the upstairs work benches lack USB outlets.
Unfortunately the upstairs work benches lack USB outlets.

Free high-speed WiFi is conveniently beamed throughout: 98Mbps download on last visit.

Relax

Passengers looking to freshen up before their flight (or indeed after, if holding Velocity Platinum status) can make use of showers with fragrant Appelles amenities in each of the bathrooms.

Verdict

When compared to the Qantas Club across the way at Terminal 3, Virgin Australia’s Sydney lounge is lagging behind in amenity and dining (particularly around dinner time), though improvements are being made. Service remains consistent and always a pleasure. 

While the bones of the lounge are solid, and subtle updates indeed have been made over the years, the space deserves a deeper refresh – one bringing it into line with the softer, more colourful aesthetic found in Melbourne and Adelaide

A little love goes a long way, and with a few select changes, the lounge could live up to its potential as a flagship within the Virgin Australia network. 

The writer visited as a Velocity frequent flyer. 

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1205

It is surprising how both VA and QF have left their lounges in SYD to remain unrenovated for so long.  Both are showing their age; the Qantas Club hasn't materially changed in 20 years except for the blocking off of the Business Lounge and you don't have to scratch the Virgin Lounge surface too much to find the bones of the 1999 Ansett Golden Wing Lounge.

I just hope that, when they are eventually renovated, they are actually improved.  VA has done a great job with its MEL Lounge but it is hard to find anything good to say about the "renovated" MEL Qantas Club.

26 Jul 2015

Total posts 76

Would be a huge improvement if the Premium Entry stayed open until 10am as it does in Brisbane (to optomistic for it to be open all day).

And sadly the Valet Parking hasn't returned, which is surprising as it can't have cost Virgin much, if anything given the driver paid for the parking. Put thos two things back in place and it would be a great lounge experience.

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 951

Ditto Ditto but also would be good for the priority entry to be open in the afternoon

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Aug 2017

Total posts 83

My major gripe with this lounge has to do with management's refusal to open the upstairs area at times even when it's standing room only (eg. Sunday evenings). It's a good lounge when it's not crowded, so why is the upstairs area open so infrequently?

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

09 Aug 2016

Total posts 37

Sunday penalty rate staffing costs would be my guess for that one....

09 Feb 2021

Total posts 11

Agreed.  VA can remove the bar upstairs, if they don't want to pay to staff it, but at least leave upstairs open as a seating area.

16 Oct 2012

Total posts 41

VA’s SYD lounge is arguably the worst of their lounges. It’s pokie and at peak times way overcrowded. Defiantly sub-par for business class pax. 

I remember being at the opening of the space when it was first unveiled… back then as Ansett’s flagship lounge. If I’m not mistaken the enormous hanging pendant chandeliers were even there! 

Would be great to see VA do a major overhaul on the SYD lounge now, but I can’t see that sort of expenditure happening while VA remains in the hands of Bain. 

02 Sep 2020

Total posts 1

To be honest VA's lounges fall short in their food offerings. It's all quite predictable and boring. 

Singapore Airlines - The PPS Club

11 Sep 2015

Total posts 45

It was very kind of the reviewer not to use any pics taken between 0730-0930 and 1500-1830 when its a zoo. Having said that its streets ahead of the Brisbane VA lounge which is awful. 

They both share the problemt that we MUST have barrista coffee only.  In Brisbane the queue for coffee is literally out the door in the morning. Put in coffee machines dunh! which make  perfectly acceptable cup of java.  In fact install the same ones that Shell servos have.

Then again why should Virgin suddenly start listening to its customers? I reckon the IPO will be flop.

23 Nov 2023

Total posts 1

There is no way the Virgin Lounge is 3.5stsrs. It’s 2 at best. I am a very frequent flyer in and out of Sydney.

Firstly, the premium entry is closed almost all of the time. What is the point of having it. It’s annoying. Particularly as the security queues in Sydney are an absolute joke. Having the Virgin premium entry would make it a better experience to get through. Before the current ownership, it was open most of the day. Bain Capital has made cuts everywhere. 

This extends to the limited and poor poor food options. Salads a saturated in sugary dressings. Hot food such as pies are dry and overly processed. When they have pasta it is so over cooked that it is mush. Disgusting. 

And as for the lounge itself. It is overcrowded and police with rabbit holes everywhere. I use it as it’s much better than sitting waiting at the gate, but it’s not a good experience for frequent flyers. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Oct 2016

Total posts 66

Totally agree regarding both VA and QF leaving their domestic lounges off any upgrade 'roadmaps'. Either each airline know something about the future of the domestic terminals we don't, or there is no impetus to improve the spaces as both airlines know PAX will fly out regardless. So we need should accept the ageing lounges and enjoy VA's pasta or the QC's baked potato offering with a smile. 

There is a lot VA needs to do to improve the lounge but there a couple of quick wins I think they could look at. For example the curved glazed panels, which were probably intended to provide privacy, actually constrain the lounge and make it hard to use in peak times. IMO removing these elements would be a cheap exercise that would go a long way to visually opening up the space, and increasing flexibility to accommodate a range of group sizes.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

01 Apr 2013

Total posts 41

- Improve the food offering, overcooked pasta at dinner time, would rather a $20 terminal voucher than use the zoo.

- activate the beer taps once again

- if Bain does spare some loose change: extend the security contract for the premium entry to be open at pre covid hours, upgrade the contract with spotless to pay staff to fully equip the overflow lounge. 

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 951

And people ask me why I don't like lounges !!!!! 

I always prefer to arrive at an airport, get put on the next possible flight and UpUpandAway, the only problem being limited Business Class seats

21 Jun 2022

Total posts 3

The VA lounge in Sydney is a zoo.  Its starts in the terminal and continues through into a crowded, unkempt and shambles of a lounge.  The space is simply inadequate for the number of people using it.  They either need to cut back on who can get access, or expand the footrprint.  Have often walked in and out owing to the overcrowding.  Also not having basic spirits available is a minus.  The coffee and food are a plus.  

09 Dec 2023

Total posts 2

Fully agree. How about some dress standards? Too many bogans wearing short & thongs and far too many children running loose.

09 Dec 2023

Total posts 2

Bain are squeezing every cent out of Virgin’s running costs to pump the pig for market and it shows. Syd lounge is tired and needs a complete makeover.

Obviously this isn’t going to happen.

09 Jun 2017

Total posts 31

The Sydney VA lounge is not the best in the network. I think Melbourne wins that with ample seating and a huge sweeping view (with no ugly air conditioning ducts like Sydney). The upstairs offering is a mystery to me because I have NEVER seen it open, even in very busy periods.

Thai Airways International - Royal Orchid Plus

15 Jan 2013

Total posts 469

I agree there should be some dress standards but something decent.Nice pants or if you are a woman a dress,hat.nice shirts or a nice tee and some decent shoes.I am not suggesting we do what they do at Qantas and adopt the country club or yacht club/golf club type of appearances for all but at least make some effort.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 687

SYD Premium Entry should be 0500-1000 Platinum & Business Class only, with Goldies from 1001-1200, then shut until 1600.  From 1600-1900 Platinum and Business Class only (Goldies can go the other way).

Upstairs bar should be staffed at per Qantas Business Lounge (i.e. bartender preparing mixed drinks), but with a difference that relies upon new membership cards with a microchip that allows charges ONLY by Virgin (no other merchant) if the holder links to another credit card or bank account.  BUT, Platinum members and J-class showing their boarding pass are charged a flat $0/drink, Goldies $7/drink and anyone else $10/drink. Free drinks available downstairs as currently occurs.  This approach will see upstairs preferred by Platinum and Business Class flyers, with many Goldies preferring downstairs where drinks are free.  Upstairs operating hours should be 0500-1000 and 1600-1900.  

Like anything new, it should be trialled/tested for a few discrete months to see how it works and how popular it is or isn't.  My $0.50 worth for today.


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