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.
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.
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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