Executive Traveller exclusive
Covid-safe and quarantine-free bubbles will not only unlock overseas travel, they'll unlock the doors to Qantas' international lounges – and could see the flagship first class lounges become a single shared space for business class passengers and mid-level frequent flyers.
The Australia-New Zealand travel bubble now taking shape is expected to launch in early 2021, followed by the Pacific Islands and selected Asian destinations.
Earlier this week Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed Australia continued to hold discussions with several "low-risk" countries in Asia – including Singapore, Japan, Taiwan and, South Korea – about opening up quarantine-free travel.
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has suggested that Qantas could begin direct flights from Australia to Taipei and Seoul if the opportunity arises.
"We're really excited about the prospect of travel bubbles," Qantas Chief Customer Officer Stephanie Tully tells Executive Traveller.
Qantas shuttered its international lounges in Australia and around the world in late March 2020, when the airline grounded all overseas flights as the coronavirus took hold.
Hopefully, it won't take a full 12 months to pass before some of those lounges roll out the welcome mat.
"We'll reopen our international lounges as soon as there's enough commercial demand, particularly at Sydney and Melbourne, if they're the likely Australian ports" for travel bubbles, Tully says.
As on the domestic front, where in most capital cities the Qantas Business Lounge opened before the Qantas Club and became the single shared lounge for all passengers, "we might open one of the international lounges to start with – and that doesn't mean necessarily the business lounge, it could be the first lounge because the size is smaller."
"It will depend on what the demand looks like. If the commercial demand is not large, because the bubble is more contained, it makes sense to open the more premium lounge."
And once regular flights to Singapore resume, Tully says one of Qantas' Lion City lounges – again, potentially the Singapore first class lounge – would fling open its doors.
"Absolutely," she enthuses. "It breaks my heart, it's such a beautiful lounge and it had such a short life."
Bubbles aside, there's no doubt that Covid-19 will make its presence felt on the first class lounge experience.
"We will obviously be really compliant with the need for distancing and the need for hygiene," Tully affirms, "but I think that you'll still feel like it's the same food, the amazing premium Qantas lounge experience, with all the things we love like the salt and pepper squid."
Tully also expects the day spa would resume its preflight pampering for Platinum-grade passengers.
"We'll obviously be compliant with all the regulations, but these lounges are such a core part of the Qantas proposition that we'll want to bring back all the things that our customers really value."
And while Qantas doesn't expect to resume flights to the USA until at least the end of 2021, Tully suggests the airline's LAX business class lounge will remain under the airline's wing rather than be handed over to the Oneworld alliance, which is planning a network of its own Oneworld-branded lounges.
"We're having lots of discussions around (international) lounges but they're very critical for Qantas," Tully shares.
"Even though we're not clear on when flights to Los Angeles will resume, I think we want Qantas lounges in Los Angeles. That's very important for our customers... at Tom Bradley, we obviously shared a business lounge (with British Airways and Cathay Pacific) but we absolutely want those Los Angeles lounges to remain in our control."