Tested: Virgin Australia 'fast track' check-in, security channel and lounge access at Sydney Airport

By John Walton, May 15 2011
Tested: Virgin Australia 'fast track' check-in, security channel and lounge access at Sydney Airport

From kerb to lounge in under two minutes? That's the promise of Virgin Australia's 'Premium Entry' facility at Sydney airport – a first for Australian airlines, providing express arrivals for the airline's premium passengers. 

After being dropped off by taxi at the direct kerbside entry – or leaving your car with the Virgin Australia concierge for valet parking – travellers are whisked upstairs.

You'll bypass the regular Virgin Australia check-in counters and the airport's crowded main security area, and head straight to a private check-in and dedicated security screening gate reserved for premium Virgin Australia passengers.

If there's a queue at the desk and you'd like to speed things up, you can also use the self-service kiosks and entry machines:

Then it's straight through the sliding glass doors into The Lounge. We clocked the journey during our visit this morning and it took just under two minutes.

Virgin Australia believes the convenience of the new service to be a significant drawcard for business travellers.

"For our guests who choose to use the premium entrance and valet service, the trip from their car to the lounge will be very quick and simple" says Martin Daley, Virgin Australia's Head of Product & Guest Services. "Stress is taken away and time is given back to the business traveller".

That certainly rings true in our experience today.

The entire process was envisioned by Virgin Australia's in-house design team and the airline expects around one-third of the lounge's 1,500 daily visitors use the kerbside direct access.

Who it's for

The new services are available for passengers in business class, plus Gold and Platinum tier members of Virgin Australia's Velocity Frequent Flyer.

Gold-grade flyers of Virgin Australia's partner airlines are also welcome, as are members with lifetime lounge membership. Passengers with an annual (paid) lounge membership are required to use the regular lounge access – found after security.

Prices for valet parking start at $40 for an hour and go up to $77 for a calendar day, while an overnight business trip will set you back $134. Here's the full table of charges:

(By comparison, the cheapest overnight parking at Sydney Airport is $32, as we discovered in our full analysis of the best parking options for Sydney Airport.) 

The premium lounge entry and valet parking is open from 45 minutes before the first departure until the last flight is called for boarding, seven days a week.

Have bags to check?

The special fast-track security screening is also limited to passengers with carry-on hand luggage, as there's no facility to check your larger bags.

If you're bringing checked baggage with you, Virgin Australia says that you can use the valet parking service, but you'll have to lug your bags down to the main check-in counters.

However, one Virgin Australia insider suggests that even if you have luggage to check, you can still take advantage of the fast-track system "if, after check-in, the security line looks a bit too feral".

"Pop outside and walk along to the kerbside entry where the queue will be non-existant and just tell the Lounge angels you have already checked in - flash your boarding pass or card." That sounds like a top tip to us!

Coming to an airport near you?

Next in line for a Premium Entry facility is Brisbane, scheduled to open in 2015 alongside an expanded domestic lounge.

There's also good news for business travellers flying out of Melbourne Airport: a new 'Premium Exit' facility is coming in July, providing a private screening point and similar fast track facilities for passengers departing from the northern pier (that's gates 1-10).

Photography by Chris Chamberlin, updated in May 2014.

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John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.


24 Oct 2010

Total posts 177

That is quite odd that they only offer it during the week, not the weekend. It reduces the 'reliability' of the service (for want of a better word) for business travellers.

Only the valet service is not available for the weekend. The kerb-side access is open every day.

03 Jan 2011

Total posts 665

Thanks for your comment! The Virgin Blue information we have says the whole Premium Entry system is only open during the week. I asked Virgin Blue to clarify earlier this afternoon when I read your comment to double check, and I'll let you know what their response is.

03 Jan 2011

Total posts 665

Righto, so after a couple of rounds by email and phone with Virgin Blue to confirm, here's their final answer: kerbside services, including valet, are Monday-Friday only (including public holidays), but the security gate is open all the time.


05 Apr 2011

Total posts 2

Hi thanks for your great review, however one correction Business Class on Virgin Blue's Sydney to Perth service has not launched yet, it will be available from 26 May 2011

03 Jan 2011

Total posts 665

You're welcome! Glad you found the information useful.

The first Perth flight date information is already at the bottom of the article (third bullet point), but of course tickets have been on sale since 4 April.

Starting fares for Business class are $1399, compared with $139 for Economy.

10 Mar 2011

Total posts 526

Wow... Did the Virgin Blue spokesperson really refer to it as the "zoo"? Therefore by implication the Virgin Blue passengers are animals? How unprofessional.

I used it yesterday, the service was fantastic. As suggested above I dropped my bags off at the fast line for Gold Members, walked back outside the terminal and straignt into the lounge. It did take just two minutes.

The security people helped me put my computer in the scanner's tray and actually smiled and greeted me.

16 May 2011

Total posts 1

So we get fast tracked to the gate to then be told that our flight has been cancelled. Virgin Australia has just been reported as the worst offender of flight cancellations- they cancelled 6 flights a day every day last year. They should work on fixing that if they want to attract business travelers, not rolling out red carpets.

05 May 2011

Total posts 17

great stats! and you know this how? i think there might be a slight exaggeration to this... I can however, probably count nearly as many QF near disasters just the same =)

17 Jun 2011

Total posts 1

I have used this new Sydney kerbside entrance each week since it opened. I found the security there very tedious and difficult compared to outside. The sensors are set to high sensitivity always (unlike outside) so belts, etc must come off. My shaving creme cannister whichhas gone through outside security every week for 4 years now effortlessly now gets picked up every time so I need to dig this out. For me this is a big turnoff......what is more the security staff now recognise me and we do our routine every time.

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