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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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