Should Qantas open an exclusive first class lounge in Sydney?

By Gary Walter, February 6 2015
Should Qantas open an exclusive first class lounge in Sydney?

TALKING POINT | Qantas has arguably the world's best first class lounge at Sydney Airport's T1 international terminal. But should it go one better and add an exclusive lounge available only to those flying first class?

The question was raised in tangent by AusBT reader petrhsr when commenting on our story about Cathay Pacific's new The Pier First Class lounge at Hong Kong.

Read: Cathay Pacific reveals details of new The Pier First Class lounge

Petrhsr suggested that Cathay Pacific should open a lounge with access restricted to the airline's first class passengers.

No top-tier frequent flyers from the Marco Polo Club or their equivalents on Oneworld partner airlines. Not even first class travellers on other Oneworld members such as British Airways. "Just CX F, and only CX F" he stated.

"I see no reason why airlines shouldn't have facilities that are for the exclusive use of the customers who spend the most for their tickets."

It's not an unheard-of concept. British Airways has its BA First-only Concorde Room at London Heathrow's T5. Singapore Airlines has the SQ First-only haven in The Private Room at its Changi T3 hub.

Lufthansa goes a step further with an entire First Class Terminal at Frankfurt Airport.

(Admittedly it's also open to HON Circle card-holders in the airline's Miles & More frequent flyer scheme, but the need to clock up 600,000 miles in two years flying only business or first class on Lufthansa airlines makes this a very hard card to earn).

Should Qantas join that exclusive club?

There's no doubt that Sydney's flagship Qantas First Lounge gets very busy during peak periods of each day (geared around the airline's morning and afternoon departures), and doubly so during school holidays.

The lounge's award-winning restaurant is a significant drawcard, and there's often a waiting list just to get a table.

But that list can include a traveller paying $7,000 to fly first class to London, as much as a Platinum-grade frequent flyer with Qantas (or any Oneworld) airline holding a $240 ticket to Auckland.

For that matter, even a cheeky $79 fare on one of the Jetstar Boeing 787s which fly from Sydney to Melbourne using each airport's international terminals is enough to get a Platinum card-holder into the Qantas First Lounge.

Is this a reflection of a relatively egalitarian approach, or should Qantas make special allowances for those high-revenue passengers sitting at the pointy end?

This wouldn't need to be a separate space outside of the confines of the Qantas First Lounge.

Perhaps the 'lounge within a lounge' concept would work best, with part of the current lounge being walled off (but with very classy walls, of course) to become a first-only haven with its own restaurant tables, its own seating, a top-shelf bar and a doorman to keep the 'riff-raff' out. (I'm joking about the 'riff-raff').

Nor would this arrangement be in breach of the Oneworld alliance rules.

British Airways' Concorde Room, the arrivals lounges at BA and Cathay Pacific's home ports on Heathrow and Hong Kong, and Qatar Airways Premium Lounge at  London Heathrow T4 are all restricted to passengers booked into their parent airline's first class and business class cabins.

The first-only room within the Qantas First Lounge (should it be called The James Strong Room? The Hudson Fysh Room? Or 'The Red Room', after The Red Roo?) would be no different.

I fly extensively with Qantas and its Oneworld partners, both as a Qantas Frequent Flyer Platinum card-holder booked into business class and sometimes using my points to sit in first class. So sometimes I'd be sitting in that exclusive first-only room, but most of the time I'd be on the other side of the frosted door.

AusBT readers: what's your take on this?

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Gary Walter

Gary Walter is a travel manager for a large Australian company and, in his spare time, an enthusiast of squeezing the most out of frequent flyer programs.


14 Jun 2013

Total posts 353

I'd probably never get to use a first-only lounge but I can see where the author is coming from.

I'm sure Chairman's Lounge members would also be allowed in but I don't think it should include Platinum Ones at all, or maybe it might include them only if they are in business class, the last thing you want to do is create this new first-only lounge and then have P1s doing Jetstar SYD-MEL runs or economy flights crowding into it. If you're going to have an exclusive lounge then keep it exclusive.

Good one Gary!

10 Mar 2011

Total posts 528

With the number of actual First Class seats on Qantas it wouldn't make any commercial sense whatsoever to have a dedicated lounge. The existing lounge works perfectly fine and yes, it does get busy but it is really not that bad.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 May 2012

Total posts 180

Agreed it would make no sense with the small amount of F seats out od Sydney. Plus to get to Platinum with Qantas costs allot of money either be it J flights or allot of Y flghts. F international lounge access is probably the main reason I decided to fly Qantas and get to platinum (this is just my driver which im sure is different for others) Take that away and id probably go back to Virgin to be honest

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

19 Mar 2014

Total posts 569

Considering their entire fleet offers a total of 132 first seats, with say no more than 28 departing Sydney at any one time, I can't see it being feasible.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

01 Aug 2012

Total posts 22

I dont think this idea has much merit. Qantas has three daily flights out of syd with first class offerings, a380's with 14 suites in first. Even with ek f pax gaining access the case is poor. its weak to compare the qf situation to sq, cx or lh as they have multiple first class services out of their hubs every day. 

Im all for raising the qualification requirements for platinum, but I don't see what amenities this new lounge could offer which the first lounge doesnt already. A lounge for perhaps 60 pax a day is pretty silly. When I fly qf first im happy with a pre-booked spa appt and restaurant reservation. 

Sorry in advance for spelling and punctuation I'm hammering this out on my phone. Have a good weekend everyone. 


11 Sep 2012

Total posts 21

It's a nice idea, but I can't see it being viable given the limited amount of seats in F that Qantas actually operate. It makes sense for CX/BA seeing as though they have much bigger fleet of aircraft with F.

In SYD you'd get the max 8 people from QF1 QF7 QF11 and the occasional QF128, but the rest of the day it would be empty.

It'd be even more grim in Melbourne with max. 8 people in the morning QF93 and then nothing until QF9 later in the evening. 

Perhaps some special perks for F travellers using the lounge instead?

17 Jun 2011

Total posts 65

I assume QF also gets compensated by other airline PAX that use the First Lounge? A dedicated lounge would not get this revenue.


14 Jun 2013

Total posts 353

I don't think it needs to be a physically separate lounge. As Gary suggests it could be a zone within the F lounge. Maybe they should take the library and the 'business zone' which are both chronically underused, put up a wall and turn this into a first-only space. Food would still be served from the restaurant but you could have a dozen tables in there plus plenty of casual seating. Alleviates crowding in the main lounge and also gives F passengers their own tables and space, which they're paying for much more than a Platinum in economy.

12 Jun 2013

Total posts 738

More likely, they'd keep the existing first class lounge as a first class lounge, and kick all the oneworld emeralds to a little "exclusive" corner of the Qantas Club. 

Be careful what you wish for.

Couldn't agree more. Beware of the unintended consequences of this folly. 

Let's tackle the problem and address the real issue of capacity. Lounge entry rules are there for a reason. Let's modify these rules during peak time, like in all other instances. If it gets packed during the school holidays then by all means consider limits to family sizes or enforce the Oneworld standard of member and 1 guest. 

The Qantas First lounge is now part of the Qantas value proposition. If you start tempering with that it may hit you in unexpected ways. Let's put things in perspective so we don't throw the baby out with the bath water.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jan 2013

Total posts 699

Qantas would never throw Platinum and P1 members out of the existing First lounge to the Qantas Business Lounge, the fallout would just not ever justify such a move (plus the existing First Lounge is just too big for a F pax only lounge, and such a partioning for a seperate uber lounge just seems very unlikely indeed). Most likely, the status quo will remain or if Qantas is really keen, it'll just be added benefits for F pax in the existing lounge (expanded from the current benefits).

After all, this is navel gazing of AusBT readers, Qantas has given no indication or shown any interest in changing the existing arrangements for Qantas First Lounges.

Very wise indeed! 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Feb 2015

Total posts 1

The Sydney First class lounge is certainly top 10 in the world. The size of it is grandiose and its view definitely a plane spotters haven with the city in its background on a clear day. I doubt a smaller exclusive First class lounge will provide similar feel.

With few First seats in Qantas fleet, perhaps it is a matter of 'allocation of resources'. A reservation for a table at the First lounge can be made when First class passengers are at check in. I'm sure one would feel welcomed when the staff at the front desk of the lounge is expecting one's arrival with a table reserved. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

31 Aug 2012

Total posts 214

If it is too busy maybe there could be some restrictions as to eligibility entry starting at closing perceived 'loophole' entry. Also partner airlines could have restrictions imposed to mirror how they treat QF flyers in their lounges.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jan 2013

Total posts 699

I can see the merits of treating those paying the highest margin fares (Airlines make more revenue off First paying pax than any other class) with special benefits, but it doesn't make sense to do this and then confuse the issue by adding certain non-First paying pax to the mix (P1, CL, etc).

As a concept, it works better as priority over all services (and additional benefits) in the existing lounge rather than walling off a lounge within a lounge or making a new lounge. This is, after all, how P1s and CLs are recognised now in Qantas International (combined J/F) lounges overseas.

Basically, these people go to front of the queue for seating at restaurant, for a shower, or spa appointment (much like they do in certain ways now), and maybe have a reserved seating area during peak lounge occupancy. Top that off with personal boarding call/escort, maybe a special drink/meal treat just for them. Lots of personal small touches without requiring extensive expenditure or mucking around. There is an argument/choice that this only applies for paid F fares, not point or op-upgrade pax, because then we are only talking about a very small number of people (especially if you take short haul New Zealand flights in EK F off the list). Small number of people with these special benefits means less disruption to the other elite FFs and others not on paid F fare (and less chance of putting noses out of joint).

While such an arrangement will have some people complaining of lack of egalitarianism, that cat is already out of the bag with segmented lounges, and for arguments about affronts to elite FFers - well you can get to P1 flying Discount Economy if you are prepared to grind the year out and while you fly lots, you add little to Qantas' profit line because discount economy margins are so thin they are anorexic (not that should mean you shouldn't make P1, just that you aren't a huge source of profit for Qantas, compared even to someone who took just one long haul F flight that year). The only reason for these types to be given anything more than the other lounge users is because they are fat profit contributors.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Oct 2014

Total posts 32

Sounds awesome, but the by-product is a lounge for QFF Platinum members only who aren't paying top dollar for their fair. I can imagine the airline would find that hard to justify. 


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Sep 2012

Total posts 386

I have to agree with most comments, the idea of a dedicated F lounge is a wonderful idea, but the reality is that QF just doesn't have the F network to support it. I also note a comment made about what extra benefit would it offer? I think the current QF F lounge is excellent and if there was a change to be made I'd extend the restaurant area with more seating that can get busy at times. Offering the current F lounge to P & P1 is possibly one of the key reasons I love to fly (and keep flying) on QF and value it as a P member.

I think QF should consider offering the Chairman's Lounge to P1 members when flying domestic, now that would be a real benefit.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jan 2013

Total posts 699

Hi Adam, P1 access to Chairman's Lounge tends to pop up intermittently as a request (especially given a significant number of CL's would not meet P1 membership requirements, if they were standard FFs), but hell would freeze over first judging from senior executive commentary within Qantas.

As it has been told to me, Qantas doesn't consider FFers and CL members as from the same groupings. One is based on your flying history, the other on the value of your strategic influence that may be of benefit to Qantas (hence plenty of Ministers, elite public servants, senior judiciary, big corporate C-office executives, A list celebs, and so on). You can fly once in a blue moon, but if you have significant standing, you are in for a chance of CL (but the reverse is not true, and Qantas' seems loathe to change that).

However, nothing stopping you being friendly with a known CL and asking them to invite you to join them :-) It's how I used to get regularly behind the frosted glass lol.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jan 2013

Total posts 699

Having dropped into the First Lounge across a range of times/days, the only time I've seen it beyond capacity is during school holidays (where it seems guest limits go out the window, I'm guessing it's not worth the drama of refusing a family member). It's the only time I've seen a snaking line for restaurant seating and almost no seats left (was a bit of a shock, as it's normally rather calm in the Lounge, but stress was clearly visible this day).

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Feb 2015

Total posts 9

Before stopping QFF Platinum members (and 1 guest only) they should stop a Platinum members with his wife (okay) and five (5) children (not okay) into the first class lounge at Sydney, who were flying economy to South Africa.  They also need to get rid of the play/chidren area by the PC's in the First class lounge.  IF children want to travel I have no ssue, but go to the business class lounge.  Qantas have very few First class routes now, II was going to Singapore, no QF first class. 

American Airlines - AAdvantage

15 Feb 2013

Total posts 45

Yes agreed. I have a huge issue with kids in the f lounge. They take up space during busy times and destroy the whole f lounge experience. Easily solved by a rule of no kids under 12 allowed and anyone over 12 is a guest.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

08 Jun 2014

Total posts 168

Rubbish. If I fly my kids in f then they should have access. However only one guest per cardholder would stop the problem of the hangers on in y and j with the whole family.  As for the lounge why not follow the BA T3 example at LHR. First lounge for all, exclusive dining for f passengers, buffet for the rest?


06 Nov 2012

Total posts 46

Qantas lounge? It would be nice to see some Qantas international flights! But this is Perth, which is definitely off their radar and increasingly well served by foreign carriers.

BA Gold

01 Apr 2012

Total posts 185

I don't think it's a bad idea per se.

I use the BA First Class lounge (as opposed to the Concorde Room) regularly at LHR as I am a OW Emerald but rarely travel First.  The lounge is not a patch on the QF F lounge.  

But the reality of the BA F lounge is - noone in there is actually travelling F!  The 'bonda fida' F passengers are in the far superior Concorde Room.  So in reality, the BA First Class lounge is really a 'Oneworld Emerald lounge for those not travelling in F' and the venue is vastly inferior to the Concorde Room.

So I guess that would be the negative aspect of QF launching a F lounge just for F passengers.  You can guarantee that the current F facility which I guess would still exist for OWE would see a very significant downgrade.

So as a genuine First Class passenger that wants peace and tranquility - great idea!

But as a guy that usually flies J yet gets the perk of the F lounges via frequent flyer status - keep it as it is! :-)

10 Sep 2012

Total posts 149

You've been voted down badly, Jason, because if there's one thing that frequent flyers hate, it's the feeling that they're missing-out.  Golds are by far the worst, but you see it with the black card and the white card members too.

Personally it would make no difference to me if there was an F-only lounge at SYD.  I'd much prefer a Cathay version at HKG.  Your observations about the Concord Rooms are correct - they are where the BA F pax hang-out; the OWEs are the people in the non-CR lounges at LHR and JFK.  I'd very much like an F-only lounge at HKG, outside the OneWorld lounge network and for CX F pax only.


BA Gold

01 Apr 2012

Total posts 185

Just one small correction to the story as well re the BA arrivals lounge - BA Gold card holders can use it regardless of class traveller (though it has to be a long haul flight). 


30 Aug 2013

Total posts 441

The crowding in the Flounges in both SYD and MEL is largely because most of QF's international flights depart between 8 and 10am. In SYD I think there are something like 8 flights in an hour.

I've been in both lounges early afternoon and it is much quieter. If you want a quiet Flounge, fly out when there's less flights departing. Its pretty simple.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Oct 2014

Total posts 14

I must say i agree with most above here, QF doesnt have enough flights with P/C to make it viable.  

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1379

Agree with most of the above - just not the number of F seats to justify it.

And actual F pax already get benefits

- called the day before so they can get the massage booking

- chauffer drive

- during busy times generally the host will reserve a table so they can sit down immediately after having a masage

04 Dec 2013

Total posts 155

Can see the reason for a separate lounge, but a hybrid concept seems a little contrived - was in the BA first lounge in PHL and the LH senator lounge in EWR recently and both had dining areas which were for actual first class travellers only.  It didn't really add any amenity for first class travellers, and just looked like a bit of a snub to the rest of the lounge guests.

10 Feb 2015

Total posts 2

I find it interesting that Qantas would entertain prioritising first class passengers who may pay $10K-$15K for a single ticket during the course of a year above Platinum and P1 passengers spending many tens to possibly hundreds of thousands with Qantas in a year.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

08 Aug 2014

Total posts 5

As a regular user - often on JQ to MEL, once in F with BA and never with anything more glamorous than cattle class on QF - the key lies in an extra level of service for true Fs.

Yes it gets busy but hey.

Definitely needs a limit on children.  A while back a table of children were left unsupervised by any adults in the MEL lounge and were loud and intrusive for most other guests.  The adults sat at a separate table - not even the next one!  And it was school holidays shoulder.

I was miffed a couple of weeks ago when flying out of LAX with three mates all on my booking and we were all denied access to the F lounge but diverted to the One World J Lounge.  I would suggest that this is the solution to overcrowding during school holidays. Send non F pax with children beyond plus one and/or over 12 years of age to the Qantas Club.

Ive been Platinum for 2 years and only ever book cheap cattle class seats ie I fly a lot. Regardless of who I'm flying with or what I've paid for the ticket I see the F lounges as a treat for spending days of my life flying in the blunt end with QF.  I would hope that QF has the same view of non Fs when looking at lounge access.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Sep 2011

Total posts 24

Building an entire new lounge for so few wouldn't make a lot of sense.  Sure offer exclusive booking and even maybe a seperate roped off section (where the diners could look down their noses at the peasants) but upgrading the existing lounges around the country should take priority.  

23 Aug 2012

Total posts 29

Just a side note: BA's Concorde Room is open to Gold Plus members, i.e. those that clock up approx. 3500 tier points a year, somewhat similar to QF's Plat One. 

However a part of the lounge concept is to treat loyal customers to something special: Hardly any platinum flyer got his card for commuting between SYD and MEL on a 787 for $79... So they've spent a lot as well, on other flights may be.

Lufthansa's concept is quite odd: Booked on a say TG flight via BKK to SYD in first class on an LH flight number would not get you into the FCT / FCL, since it's a code share not op'ed by LH. To me this is misleading customers on services since code shares are sold as LH First, seemingly including all the benefits. 

This is what I liked about Qantas: They sell what they advertised, if on a codeshare flight, you'd earn points according to the flight number, not worrying about whose metall it is, you'd get lounge access according to status / class of travel, not matter who one is actually flying with etc. 

As I customer I expect simple, easy to understand rules. And I got used to be treated well for my loyality. That's why I am a loyal customer. 

Therefore I suggest rather than adding some extra inside walls move those outer walls further out, increase the lounge space and accomodate all. It's probably as expensive for the airline. 

Especially since the new lounge patrons aren't coming from nowhere but were invited by decision of the airline: New OneWorld partners were introduced, lately US Airways, with much cheering by the airlines. Or other partners, such as Emirates added. When doing so, the airline should not pretend to be surprised by seeing more visitors to their lounges.

So accomodate them: It was Qantas seeking new customers. Not the customers flocking in in bigger groups.

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