Virgin Australia shakes up international airport lounge access

By Chris Chamberlin, October 27 2016
Virgin Australia shakes up international airport lounge access

EXCLUSIVE | Virgin Australia's business class travellers and Velocity Gold and Platinum frequent flyers are about to be faced with a confusing array of lounges at Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane international airports.

In changes which take effect from November 1 2016, the international airport lounges available to passengers will depend on their destination.

For example, take a Virgin Australia flight from Sydney to Los Angeles and you’ll enjoy access to the Etihad Airways Business and First Class Lounge – complete with a la carte dining and waiter service.

But fly with Virgin Australia from Melbourne to Fiji and you’ll be sent to the Virgin Australia domestic lounge before your flight.

Other Virgin passengers will also be directed to lounges operated by Etihad Airways, Singapore Airlines, SkyTeam and even Plaza Premium.

However, Virgin Australia has confirmed that its business class travellers and Velocity Gold and Platinum members will still be able to use the Star Alliance Lounge at LAX.

A Virgin Australia spokesperson advised Australian Business Traveller that the shake-up follows an internal review of international lounge operations conducted by the airline, adding that “we are excited about the new arrangements and believe our guests will enjoy the new spaces prior to their flights.”

Here’s a breakdown of the new lounge arrangements.

Virgin Australia international lounge access in Sydney

The lounge you’ll have access to at Sydney Airport now varies based on your destination and the airline operating your flight, with lounge access as follows for business class guests, Velocity Platinum and Velocity Gold members:

Los Angeles (Virgin Australia): Moves from Air NZ to the Etihad Airways Business and First Class Lounge (pictured).

Los Angeles (Delta): Switches to the SkyTeam Exclusive Lounge in place of the Air New Zealand lounge.

Apia (Samoa with Virgin Samoa): Another changing from the Air New Zealand lounge to SkyTeam.

Denpasar (Bali), Nadi (Fiji) and Nuku’alofa (Tonga): Virgin Australia guests will now have access to the Singapore Airlines SilverKris business class lounge in place of the Air NZ facility next door.

Honolulu (Hawaiian Airlines): Also moves from Air NZ to the SkyTeam Exclusive Lounge:

Other destinations: There’s no change when flying to Abu Dhabi with Virgin Australia or Etihad (Etihad lounge); for trans-Tasman travellers on Virgin or Air NZ (continue using the Air NZ lounge); or with Singapore Airlines to Jakarta and Singapore (SilverKris business class lounge).

Virgin Australia international lounge access in Melbourne

Nadi (Fiji): Access to the Air NZ lounge is withdrawn for Virgin Australia guests, who will now be directed to the Virgin Australia domestic lounge (pictured, prior to passport control).

Unlike most airports, Melbourne Airport connects its domestic and international terminals all under the same roof, with Virgin Australia’s domestic lounge found prior to domestic security screening and roughly a five-minute walk to the international departures area.

Los Angeles: It’s not yet known which lounge will be used for Virgin Australia’s Melbourne-Los Angeles flights which resume in April 2017, although Australian Business Traveller understands that Virgin is examining lounges in the international terminal – a shortlist which includes the slick new Etihad Airways lounge – to save that domestic trek.

Other destinations: As with Sydney, trans-Tasman flyers of Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand continue to have access to the Air NZ lounge; Singapore Airlines flyers continue to enjoy SQ SilverKris business class lounge access and Etihad passengers continue using the new Etihad lounge.

Virgin Australia international lounge access in Brisbane

Los Angeles: Unwind in the new Singapore Airlines Brisbane SilverKris lounge (below) before your Virgin Australia flight to LAX in place of the Air New Zealand lounge at present.

New Zealand: As in Sydney and Melbourne, travellers continue to have access to the Air New Zealand lounge whenever travelling to New Zealand with Virgin Australia or Air NZ.

All other Virgin Australia destinations: Passengers flying to Apia (Samoa), Denpasar (Bali, Indonesia), Honiara (Solomon Islands), Nadi (Fiji), Port Moresby (Papua New Guinea) and Port Vila (Vanuatu) all move from the Air NZ lounge to the new Plaza Premium Lounge at Brisbane Airport.

Virgin Australia partner airlines: The Singapore Airlines lounge continues to welcome passengers on Singapore Airlines flights to Singapore, while Etihad Airways travellers bound for Abu Dhabi continue to use the Air New Zealand lounge in Brisbane, as Etihad doesn’t have its own Queensland lounge.

However, Velocity Gold and Platinum members travelling to Honolulu with Virgin Australia partner Hawaiian Airlines will not receive lounge access in Brisbane under these changes, as is already the case.

Virgin Australia international lounges: what’s not changing

Despite the exodus of passengers from Air New Zealand’s Australian lounges, a Virgin Australia spokesperson assured us that business class travellers and Velocity Gold members can continue to access the Air NZ-operated Star Alliance Lounge at LAX (below) prior to Virgin Australia flights.

Also retained: access to the separate first class zone of the Star Alliance LAX lounge for Velocity Platinum members booked to fly on Virgin Australia.

There’s also no change to benefits or lounge access for Velocity Gold and Platinum cardholders when travelling with Air New Zealand from any city – so if you’re jetting from Auckland to the USA with Air New Zealand in economy or premium economy, for example, you’re still clear to visit the Air NZ lounge.

Paid-up Virgin Australia lounge members aren’t affected at all by these revisions and can continue visiting Air New Zealand lounges in Australia and New Zealand prior to Virgin Australia trans-Tasman flights.

Join other AusBT readers talking about Virgin Australia in our dedicated Virgin Australia discussion group

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!

05 Jan 2014

Total posts 26

wtf. #confucious

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Nov 2012

Total posts 23

Obviously the niceties between Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand are over, most likely due to the Luxton/Borghetti stoush earlier this year. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Jan 2013

Total posts 246

Good point. Don't AirNZ still have an equity stake in them though? So they still own a piece of them, but are cutting back on the goodies. 

So what does that make them 'frenemies with benefits'? So confusing. 

Mal
Mal

14 Jun 2013

Total posts 360

No, AirNZ has fully sold its stake in VA. But this sounds like VA was behind the decision, not AirNZ.

30 Aug 2013

Total posts 448

Well I'm confused.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Oct 2013

Total posts 714

Let's hope all those MEL-NAN pax get an express pass and are given enough time to clear security later.

It also means that you can't have both the GST refund and lounge access as the refund processing won't occur close to  your flight time.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 May 2012

Total posts 582

I would opt for the choice of the F&B voucher anyway as there are better bar and meal options in the international terminal compared to the VA lounge.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Feb 2015

Total posts 275

They should allow paid up members to have use of lounges for destinations other than just NZ.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

12 Jun 2011

Total posts 111

Confused.com 

I didn't think Velocity could get messier. Then VA proved me wrong. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

08 Aug 2016

Total posts 59

another reason virgin need to join an alliance. at least qantas lounge policy is straight foward

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

28 Jan 2016

Total posts 9

Yes, this makes things more complex. Looks like they are distancing themselves from NZ. Funny, Air NZ are notoriously parsimonious though even with their Star alliance partners. The EY lounges are streets ahead of NZ...

Unfortunately the agreement with AirNZ wasn't consistent either and a bit annoying,  you were able to use the NZ lounge (and also collect points) if you were flying to NZ, but not if you were travelling to PPT or any Pacific islands etc. 


29 Aug 2013

Total posts 60

I do agree this makes it more complex, I'm confused just reading Chris' article to be honest and he's done a stellar job noting whats happened, but note that under the JSA that VA and NZ have for Trans-Tasman partnership there were some restrictions placed on pacific island flights. Hence why you can't earn status credits on the NZ SYD-RAR services for example, nor NZ pacific island flights ex New Zealand ports. PPT was also impacted by this. 

VA are just a mess now for anyone with status. 

Jetstar Airways - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Oct 2016

Total posts 1

About time for some VA international lounges...

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 336

hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

07 Dec 2014

Total posts 132

So in Sydney, for someone that has some experience in both lounges, how does the Etihad lounge compare with the new Air NZ lounge?
Mal
Mal

14 Jun 2013

Total posts 360

Easy answer, the Etihad lounge beats the AirNZ lounge hands down. Mainly for the food and drinks, because the Etihad lounge has a la carte dining which is more like what you would get at the Qantas First Lounge!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

30 May 2013

Total posts 305

Virgin have got to stop making things so confusing for their customers. Their transition to full service has been a struggle - from which flights offer "food" and now which lounge you have access too. There seems to be change after change.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Oct 2016

Total posts 40

What about the Perth to Abu Dabhi flights? SilverKris or Domestic?

When we know, you'll know: but for now, it's TBA. :)

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jan 2015

Total posts 56

I had such high hopes for VA but it's stuff like this over the last few months has pushed me back to the Roo. I gained Platinum through a status match 3 or so years ago and have held it flying Virgin ever since but no more. It's just too hard

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards Plantium

19 Jun 2013

Total posts 120

Thanks for the article Chris.  Would be interested in your thoughts as to what the end game plan is with Virgin.  Long time Platinum flyer and all the changes in the last 6+ months, I only see side stepping, no improvements at all.  When will Virgin actually show the "promise" made in your ABT article on October 11 and I quote Velocity CEO Karl Schuster "I can't give anything away right now but we're always working at ways to improve our Platinum proposition". Something better happen very soon otherwise I can see even more people jumping ship

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

30 Oct 2015

Total posts 46

Here here AnthonyvB! Though for someone in Brisbane, moving to the Kris lounge means a step backwards instead of sideways - 1990's internet speed! Where is the incentive to remain platinum with Virgin?

Hi Anthony, this isn't a comment I can make: that's the sort of thing the airline would need to comment on directly. :)

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

11 Nov 2014

Total posts 34

This is disappointing. Too confusing, however I have used the Etihad Lounge in Sydney and it is lightyears ahead of Air NZ so that is a bonus. I think if VA wants to be a full service airline, it should have its own international lounge in its home ports!

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 741

What total confusion. Soon you will need to carry a little book of rules and regulations with you as a VA passenger. E.g. when to expect a free drink, which lounge to use, etc. Working out what you're eligible for as a passenger shouldn't require so much thought and research. Someone needs to hit the 'reset' button on VA, then join Star Alliance. 

Zac
Zac

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

23 May 2014

Total posts 128

For me this is all good... Etihad and SilverKris in Sydney ahead of LAX and NAN - two excellent lounges. Just a good thing we have AusBT to help make sense of it all

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Jan 2013

Total posts 246

Think I am starting to see what's happening at VA headquarters with this and the weirdly complex new fares. Somewhere along the line they must've had a 'role creeper staffer'.

A 'role creeper' is a staffer who is hired without having a specific enough role, whose manager take the approach of 'here's some stuff that works pretty well. Try to make it better.' 

To ensure they look busy and enhance their job security, the role creeper turns it into a complex mess.

Just my 80 cents worth.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

26 Feb 2016

Total posts 101

A shorter answer: Air NZ dumpped VA and asked her to move out.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

04 Jun 2013

Total posts 1

Agree ... The Krislounge is not any better than the OLD ANZ lounge.... Big step backwards.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 May 2015

Total posts 43

I cant help but feel sorry for the lounge door dragons - " oooh im sorry but yes you are a VA Gold member but as you are flying to xxxxx you need to use yyyyyy lounge but if your were flying to zzzzz you would use kkkkkk lounge but here you use the domestic lounge , or would you like a voucher instead, unless you are a paid up lounge access member then thats all different"

I can see confusing reigning from passengers and lounge staff alike

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Nov 2011

Total posts 329

What a mess. VA is simply an LCC with Dissociative Identity Disorder

18 Apr 2015

Total posts 68

Thank God Borghetti didn't take over Qantas

13 May 2016

Total posts 32

What the...? I hope Virgin update their website to make these confusing changes easier to navigate.

I had a feeling something like this would happen after Air NZ pulled the pin.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

03 Jul 2011

Total posts 180

The VA webpage has the new changes listed. Love the fact they say the Skyteam lounge is 20 minutes walk to flights, but nothing about the possible 60 minutes delay getting from T3 through security and immigration to T1 flights if you happen to be stuck in the old Ansett lounge :-)

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 May 2015

Total posts 43

I cant help but feel sorry for the lounge door dragons - " oooh im sorry but yes you are a VA Gold member but as you are flying to xxxxx you need to use yyyyyy lounge but if your were flying to zzzzz you would use kkkkkk lounge but here you use the domestic lounge , or would you like a voucher instead, unless you are a paid up lounge access member then thats all different"

I can see confusing reigning from passengers and lounge staff alike

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

11 Nov 2014

Total posts 34

It is going to be such a mess. I have already been caught out myself with the confusion of the VA international benefits. I flew Singapore Airlines from London to Singapore and expected the Status credits and points that went with it. Unfortunately I bought it as a Air NZ codeshare and didn't get diddley squat. My own fault, but frustrating as I chose both those airlines because they were 'partnered' ish with VA.

08 Apr 2011

Total posts 25

This is totally confusing! I remember when Virgin launched international flights, and they talked about the possibility of opening a Virgin international lounge. Well that never happened. So why not just buy permanent space in the Etihad lounge? 
Mal
Mal

14 Jun 2013

Total posts 360

This is all another reason why so many of us regular travellers are keen for Virgin to join Star Alliance and end this sort of confusion and inconsistency.

17 Jun 2016

Total posts 7

Out of interest when did lounge access (Air NZ I recall??) for Hawaiian customers out of Brisbane cease?

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

10 Aug 2016

Total posts 3

Confused isn't the word !

I think I need a drink !!!

And on that note... I recently got off a delayed & long Business class VA flight from LAX in Brisbane... My 'Body clock' said it was time for a good drink...However the bar wasn't open for another 20 minutes at 11am.!

By which time I needed to be at the gate for the onward connection !

The to Air New Zealand lounge staff laughted when I told them about it.

Their response was..."Sir, we're Kiwis   The bar's open around the clock".

And the Bar outside lounge is open all day & night !

I need to give up drinking or reassess who I fly (and drink) with !

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Oct 2016

Total posts 9

Have read that twice and will need to read again to fully get it. Thanks for the article thought Chris.

12 Sep 2014

Total posts 28

Can someone from VA explain to me why I should renew my Lounge membership? I can't see any reason.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

09 Aug 2016

Total posts 16

goodness me.  Far too confusing.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer - Chairmans Lounge

01 Sep 2011

Total posts 365

What a joke! Glad I don't fly with them.
Zac
Zac

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

23 May 2014

Total posts 128

Not trying to be the dissenting voice here... but if VA were to have a consistent lounge policy wouldn't it have to be the lowest common denominator?Ie SkyTeam for everyone even before LAX in J? Differentiating by route is a pain but at least you get better lounges ahead of higher value flights (LAX etc).

Or even better, differentiate by tier - Platinum gets best lounge available (Etihad/SilverKris) regardless of where they are going...

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

21 Jan 2016

Total posts 164

I think the VA international lounge shake up is partly driven by the Chinese (HNA Group and Nanshan Group) between them holding 34.5% of VA shareholding. EY and HU/HX are not part of any airline alliance and leaving SQ the only shareholder belonging to an airline alliance.

With the upgrading of NZ owned international lounges, NZ has been streamlining its partners that can have access to its owned international lounges, so in the mean time VA are using a mixture of shareholders lounges backed up with Plaza Premium lounges which seems to have a strong presence in Asia and Middle East. Once the shareholding dust settles, VA will probably have dedicated VA branded international lounges in Australia and use EY/SQ, partner airlines and Plaza Premium lounges outside Australia

I am not sure how's lounges HU/HX uses in Asia for J Class passengers?

At this stage I do not see VA joining any airline alliance. If it does, then it would properly be SkyTeam.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Nov 2016

Total posts 3

Hi guys, I know they just changed lounge access but its needs a review again. I am flying to LA from Sydney and am a Platinum member so have access to Etihad Business & First Lounge. This is the only lounge i have ever been to in Australia in a major aiport that you cant have a barista made coffee...??? The ironinc thing is they have trained staff and a full coffee machine in the bar and becasue the lounge is open for VA flights only due to no Etihad flights "virgin" guests are then directed to the automatic coffee machine. Long story short, i left the lounge and used my velocity amex card to gain free access into the American Express Lounge where they will happily serve barista made coffee. Not serving barista coffee at 9am in the morning in sydney international is poor for both Virgin and the Etihad brands who are typically known for their high service standard.

Hi Neil, that's interesting feedback - I'd encourage you to send it directly to both Virgin Australia and Etihad as well, as it seems like something easily fixed. :)

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Nov 2016

Total posts 3

when I queried the front counter Etihad staff he explained to me that this was the arrangement with Virgin, that Virgin weren't prepared to pay for the additional staff member that would be required to make coffees.  I have already advised virgin and they are looking into it internally.  I'm sure they will fix this and was a case of the person/s negotiating the terms of use of the lounge not being a ff
mnc
mnc

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Aug 2017

Total posts 4

I am flying virgin NAN-SYD in business. Is there a lounge in Nadi I will be able to access?

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