Big changes to Australia's business class lounges every traveller should know

The recent months have seen flurry of changes when it comes to Australia's airport lounges, both domestic and international.

Here's what business travellers need to know about these latest shifts in the loungescape.

Virgin finds a home at The House

After years of relying on a hotch-potch of airline lounges for its overseas flights, Virgin Australia finally has its own lounges – well, sort of.

Etihad's first class and business class lounges at the international terminals of Sydney and Melbourne have been handed over to London-based management company No1 Lounges and rebranded as The House.

It's the latest in a rolling series of cuts made by the Gulf airline, with The House lounges also being selectively shared by other airlines. In the case of Sydney and Melbourne, that's Virgin Australia.

A home like no other

The House is now the first point of call for all business class passengers and Velocity Platinum and Gold members ahead of any of Virgin's international flight.

Visiting The House in Sydney recently, it appeared to have bounced back to the days before Etihad began tightening its belt, with appealing à la carte menus for breakfast and all-day dining plus a decent buffet spread.

Melbourne's The House is easily the more impressive of the two, as this took shape around Etihad's newest lounge design and boasts an eye-catching bar with views across the tarmac.

In the coming weeks No1 Lounges will open another of its branded spaces – this time a compact boutique Virgin Australia lounge in Brisbane dubbed My Lounge.


Australia's best domestic airport lounge?

Qantas has also been busy putting the finishing touches on its Melbourne domestic lounges. The business class lounge now boasts an Asian 'spice bar' serving up freshly-made Asian soups, noodles and street food, ranging from chicken laksa and vegetarian wonton noodle soup to BBQ pork with rice and stir fried choy sum.

This is Melbourne's take on the 'signature dining concept' of its sibling new-look lounges, with Perth now famous for its pizzas while Brisbane is host to a Mexican Cantina.

I'd rate the new Qantas business class lounge at Melbourne as Australia's best domestic lounge, although this has come at a price: the Qantas Club was relocated next door, foregoing its full-height windows with runway views for a small section of windows overlooking the interior of the terminal.

Sydney goes from drab to fab

Up next will be Qantas' lacklustre Sydney international business class lounge, with a multimillion dollar upgrade taking the crowded space from drab to fab by the end of 2019.

The new-look lounge will developed by David Caon – whose recent work for Qantas has included its Boeing 787 Dreamliner cabins, lounges at Singapore and Hong Kong and the elite Brisbane Chairman's Lounge – with what the airline promises will be "a new signature dining experience" from resident chef Neil Perry.

"We want to take Sydney away from being just the 'buffet business class lounge' of the past," Perry says.

"We'll mirror more along the lines of what we're doing in Singapore and Hong Kong, so there will be a couple of dishes of the day."

The lounge is also expected to gain full-service bar with cocktails.

Qantas' Singapore first class lounge

Meanwhile, some eight hours' flying time northwest of Sydney, Qantas is also planning a new first class lounge at Singapore's Changi Airport.

This is in response to continued over-crowding at the Singapore lounge since Qantas reinstated the Red Dot as the hub for its London Airbus A380 flights. Not only has there been no specific lounge for first class passengers and high-value Platinum-grade frequent flyers, but the airline has been turning away Qantas Club card-holders and even some Gold-grade frequent flyers from the lounge during evening peak periods.

Pre-flight bites and dining delights

The Singapore first class lounge will be along the same lines as Qantas' other havens for the well-heeled in Sydney, Melbourne and Los Angeles with luxe shower suites, a cocktail bar and a dining room with à la carte Rockpool menu featuring favourites such as Neil Perry's salt & pepper calamari.

However, the first class lounge won't be located in the same vicinity as the current Qantas Singapore lounge. It will be in Terminal 1's D Gates wing, about a ten minute stroll from the Qantas business lounge in the C Gates precinct.

Due to open by the end of 2019, the first class lounge will also take much of the pressure off the business class lounge.

Few people spend more time on planes, in lounges or mulling over the best ways to use frequent flyer points than David Flynn, the editor of Australian Business Traveller magazine. His unparalleled knowledge of all aspects of business travel connects strongly with the interests of Executive Style readers.

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