Virgin Australia is gearing up for a major revamp of its Sydney Airport facilities, including the opening of a two-level 'flagship lounge' by year's end and a significant upgrade to its space at Sydney's T2 terminal.
As first revealed by Australian Business Traveller last year, Virgin's well-worn lounge will be transformed into a sleek double-storey space designed by Sydney-based architectural firm Tonkin Zulaikha Greer.
“The (current) main lounge is on the lower level, there’s another mezzanine level upstairs which the airport have been using for functions" TGZ’s Tim Greer told Australian Business Traveller. “We’ll take over that space and have a two storey lounge.”
The upper floor will boast "sweeping views of Botany Bay" with total capacity for up to 560 passengers – 250 more than today.
Renovations are already underway on the upstairs level, which is expected to open mid-year so that the make-over can continue on the lower level for a late 2012 opening.
The upstairs level is tipped to set aside space for a 'premium' lounge as part of Virgin's own version of the Qantas Chairman's Lounge, currently dubbed Invite+.
Airport upgrades for Sydney, Melbourne
Virgin Australia’s 'pier' where aircraft dock at Sydney Domestic Terminal 2 will be refurbished and expanded to accommodate up to four Airbus A330s, of which Virgin now has four in the fleet with a fifth due by year's end and a sixth in early 2013.
This will include the daily Sydney-Perth 'Coast to Coast' service and new Sydney-Melbourne shuttle services on the A330, while Virgin Australia chief John Borghetti has also raised the possibility of international A330 flights within Asia.
The current lounges at each gate will be refurbished and additional seating installed, although the moving walkways within the concourse will be removed.
In May 2012 work will begin on "a major refurbishment of the interiors of our Melbourne domestic terminal", Borghetti promises.
"The refresh will include new flooring, seating and washroom facilities and is designed to create more space and bring the Melbourne terminal in line with Virgin Australia's contemporary look and feel."
The shape of Virgin's new Sydney lounge
Virgin Australia's Sydney Airport lounge will be modelled along the same clean, contemporary lines as its swish Melbourne and Brisbane lounges and will also contain the same set of features and 'zones' as Melbourne lounge, TGZ's Greer says, "but configured for a different space.”
"We’ll have have a suite of lounges based on the same ideas, with a visual connection but subtle differences. But they’ll all have a library space, a bar space, a hub space, a verandah space and a quick stay space because those are the spaces we’ve identified that people really want.”
Here's how those spaces look and work in the world of Virgin Australia.
The short stay or quick stay area is intended for passengers who arrive in the lounge with only a short period of time before their flight.
At the Melbourne lounge, shown above, a thin translucent screen helps define this space.
The quick stay zone is sensibly located close to the Lounge's entrance, as well as being near the food & drink area (above) and the service desk (below).
This is the primary workspace and gathering space for guests.
It's located further into the lounge, near the food & drink area (and also the all-important bar).
Greer chose these curved workbenches instead of long squared desks; each workstation includes several handy pop-up AC outlets.
What's an airport lounge without a bar? And Virgin's got perhaps the funkiest bar of its kind.
Snaking along the lounge like a chic inner-city wine bar, it also doubles as a stand-up zone for socialising at the end of a long day.
That violet glow you're seeing at the front of the bench comes from a grid of LED lights inside the fixture.
The colour can even changed to suit different times of the day and reflect the different 'moods' of passengers, such as brighter for the morning and more soothing for the end of the day.
Situated well away from the bar is a softer zone which Virgin Australia intends as a mobile phone-free area (although in both the Melbourne and Brisbane lounges the signage attesting to this needs to be much larger and more noticeable).
Drapes around the windows and carpet on the floor helps deaden the sound.
The verandah overlooks the airport's tarmac, gates and runways, and even though it's not outdoors it makes the best use of the lounge's natural light and open space.
It's a mixed-use space designed for solo travellers and groups alike, whether you want to catch up on some last-minute email or just wind down.
If you're a regular visitor to Virgin Australia's Melbourne and Brisbane lounges, what's your feedback to Tim Greer and John Borghetti in terms of shaping the new Sydney lounge?