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Expert tips: make the most of the Qantas first class lounge

By David Flynn     Filed under: qantas, first class, Melbourne airport, Sydney Airport, Qantas First Lounge, airport lounges, Qantas Frequent Flyer Platinum, lounge, oneworld emerald

The Qantas first class lounges at Sydney and Melbourne airport are among the world's best airport lounges, and happily they're not restricted to first class passengers – any traveller with Platinum-grade frequent flyer status is welcome, even if they're travelling in economy.

This updated 2014 edition of our popular guide to the Qantas First Lounge is the ideal starting point for newly-minted Platinums, first-time Qantas first class flyers and anybody else who wants to make the most of these superb lounges.

You'll find insider tips on how the lounge works, the best things to eat and drink, getting a booking at the free day spa  and much more. Think of them as the Seven Habits of First Class Lounge Lizards.

1. Qantas First Lounge access

So exactly who is eligible to glide through those frosted Qantas First Lounge doors?

The list is longer than you may think.

  • Passengers booked into Qantas first class, obviously enough

Want to snare an upgrade to Qantas first class using your frequent flyer points? Our Qantas first class upgrade guide tells all! 

  • Likewise, travellers booked in first class with Emirates or any Oneworld airline
     
  • Qantas Frequent Flyer Platinum or Platinum One members travelling in any class – yes, even the cheapest most discounted economy seat – on a flight with Qantas, Jetstar, Emirates or any Oneworld partner airline (flying out of Sydney and Melbourne this  roster currently includes British Airways, Cathay Pacific, JAL, LAN, Malaysia Airlines and Qatar)
     
  • And not forgetting members of any of those airlines' frequent flyer schemes holding Platinum-equivalent status – that covers Emirates Skywards Platinum card-holders as well as British Airways Executive Club Gold, Cathay Pacific Marco Polo Diamond and other travellers with Oneworld Emerald status
     
  • Finally, even if you're a low-status or no-status flyer, a Platinum-grade frequent flyer can bring you into the Qantas First Lounge as their guest

If you're the Platinum frequent flyer and are travelling with one friend or colleague, you can bring them into the lounge – but technically you're limited to just one guest.

If you're part of a group, just choose which of your workmates and/or family members you like the most.

Okay, we jest – but only slightly! If the lounge is relatively quiet it's been known for the staffers to bend the guest list rules on occasion.

Our advice is to be pleasant about your situation and remember that you're asking a favour, not demanding the God-given right of a 'Don't You Know Who I Am?' type.

And don't rock up with a dozen-strong entourage and expect the whole posse to pass through. But two guests instead of one, in quiet times – it's been known to happen.

2. Get to the airport as early as possible

If it's your first time in the Qantas First Lounge, you'll probably want to see what all the fuss is about. That means getting to the airport earlier than you usually might.

And once you've experienced the lounge, we think you'll want to make a habit of arriving super-early for subsequent trips!

Sydney Airport's T1 international terminal now allows all-day check-in for passengers on Qantas flights. Yes, you can arrive as early as you please – any time from 5am onwards – even if your Qantas flight leaves in the afternoon or evening.

You get to beat the queue, enjoy some great meals, have a drink or two,  plough through your work with free and fast Internet access -- maybe even fit in a spa treatment.

We're not suggesting you spend all day in the Qantas First Lounge, although there are certainly worse places to see the hours tick slowly away. But many travellers find that extra-early checkin works in their favour.

For example, if you have to travel from the other side of Sydney, or even come across from Sydney's northside, all-day check-in means you can you beat the peak hour traffic and minimise the risk of delays.

Spending an hour sitting in the lounge versus an hour sitting in slow-moving traffic? Easy choice!

It sometimes helps to escape the office early and spend more of your pre-flight working day in the lounge, too. The Qantas First Lounge even has private rooms where you can sit and work in peace.

Melbourne Airport doesn't have all-day check-in, so most passengers on international Qantas flights are limited to the standard ' three hours before departure' timeframe.

But there's a little-known perk for Platinum-grade Qantas Frequent Flyers.

If you're travelling with only carry-on baggage, and have no luggage to check through, you can arrive at the airport an astonishing eight hours before your flight, as long as you've used online checkin and printed out your boarding pass (or had that pass printed at another airport before a connecting flight).

3. Use the Qantas First check-in area

Don't forget that as Qantas Platinum, Emirates Platinum or Oneworld Emerald card-holder flying with Qantas, you can skip the queue at the airport's regular check-in desks and use the Qantas First check-in area, even if you're flying economy.

If you've already checked in for your flight online you should still drop by the First Class check-in lounge to collect your Express Path pass. This lets you scoot through the fast-track Express Path outbound security lane.

Travelling outside peak hours and find there's no long snaking line at security? Consider skipping the Express Path and using one of the regular checkpoints, so you can hang onto your Express Path card and use it on another trip.

Annoyingly, a checkpoint for a secondary 'random' security inspection is located just past the Express Path security lanes – so you've a higher than usual chance of being pulled out, just when you want to head straight up to the lounge.

Our expert tip: play the odds. A casual glance towards the security desk while waiting for your carry-on bag to come through the scanner will show if the staff are waiting to (randomly) pounce or are occupied with other travellers.

If the former, take a little extra time sliding your laptop or tablet back in your bag, putting your coat back on, gathering up your things and such, so that the next person along will be chosen for the 'up close and personal' treatment.

If the latter: be quick in gathering your gear and moving on!

4. Book a spa session

Fancy a massage, facial or some other form of pre-flight pampering?

Both the Sydney and Melbourne lounges have a day spa which is open seven days a week from early in the morning through to late afternoon.

The Sydney and Melbourne lounges have different spa hours to cater for their different flight schedules.

In Sydney the spa opens from 8.30am to 4.30pm; in Melbourne it's 8am to 7pm.

Passengers travelling in first class are telephoned the day before they travel so they can book a spa session in advance. Everyone else is on a first-come, first-served basis.

Spa bookings are made when you check in at the Qantas First Lounge's reception desk, and each treatments lasts for 20 minutes.

In addition to a range of massages, facials and hand and foot treatments, there are also two unique 'signature' treatments, one each for the Sydney and Melbourne spa.

Read: Qantas First Lounge spa: new treatments, more preflight pampering

5. Be smart about the menu

One of the best things about the Qantas First Lounge is the wonderful restaurant and equally wonderful menu, both of which boast the influence of Aussie superchef Neil Perry and his Rockpool restaurant empire. 

Read: Behind the scenes – fine dining at the Qantas First Lounge

If you've taken our advice and headed into the airport very early you can in fact sample a few meals throughout your visit.

There's a breakfast menu through to 11am, after which a more extensive 'all day menu' kicks in until the last flight of the evening.

Tip: Ask for the 'secret' breakfast at the Qantas First Lounge

And don't overlook the daily 'Market Inspiration' specials listed at the bottom left corner of the menu.

The lounge serves up a seasonal menu with a number of dishes changing every three months – but there's a score of reliable standbys which are too good to pass up no matter how many times you travel, such as the famous salt and pepper calamari.

To give you an idea of what's on offer, here are our feature articles on the Qantas First Lounge's seasonal menus for summer 2013-2014, autumn 2014 and winter 2014.

Most travellers will find themselves choosing from the all-day menu, for which we recommend selecting a few of the smaller starter-sized dishes rather than the larger mains.

Find something you really like? There's no rule against asking for second serve before your flight, although we lean towards variety. 

6. Ask what wines are being poured

The staff at the Qantas First Lounge take obvious pride in the champagnes, wines, stickies and spirits served in the lounge.

With a selection of five white wines, six reds, three champagnes and a rosé, the wine list mixes seasonal wines with old favourites. But they're all top notch, and sometimes you'll find a few amazing bottles cracked open and on offer.

For example, the excellent Bollinger, Veuve Clicquot and Taittinger champagnes may be supplemented with Dom Pérignon or the almost honey-like Delamotte.

Champagne, reds, whites and rosés are all on the regular wine list – but ask what else might be available, especially if you're a wine fan.

For example, there's usually a special wine available in the decanter. On a recent visit, the delightful 2010 Rockford Basket Press Shiraz was ready to enjoy...

Only small amounts of these special wines are kept at a time, so you won't find them printed anywhere on the menu.

Read: Qantas First Lounge – behind the wine list

7. Finding some peace and quiet

There's no dedicated quiet zone in these lounges, which can be a bother if you really need to sit down and focus on work or just get away from the cosy chat of your fellow travellers.

However, both the Sydney and Melbourne lounges have two small meeting rooms which can be booked at no cost. These come fully equipped with PCs and printers.

Many a time we've arrived early into the Qantas First Lounge, grabbed breakfast and then settled into a meeting room to get stuck into some work before surfacing for lunch.

Melbourne's Qantas First Lounge has two small 'library' nooks in the middle of the lounge but they're flanked by flat-screen TV sets so don't expect much in the way of peace and quiet.

Sydney's flagship First Lounge does it better: at the opposite end to the spa is a sizeable library area with a fascinating assortment of books if you're up for a read.

Since it's at the other end of the lounge from the bar, restaurant and spa there's no through-traffic.

So pick up a glass of your favourite whatever, settle down into a reclining Marc Newson chair with a book or your iPad, and reflect on how very nice it is to be a Platinum-grade frequent flyer in one of the world's best airport lounges.

Original material by John Walton

Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT

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About David Flynn

David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

 

Have something to say? Post a comment now!

1 on 12/3/12 by spinoza

great article!

i had no idea i could get into the first lounge without even buying an international flight!

2 on 12/3/12 by Noob

It is actually pretty amazing how many Qantas Platinum, Platinum Ones and even Chariman's Lounge members I have met that don't know they have access or that the First Class Lounge even exists!  

1 on 25/7/13 by Tommy__M

To be honest Noob, I somewhat doubt a Chairman's Lounge member could give two kahoots other lounges!

1 3 weeks, 2 days ago by rebekkap

As there's no Chairman's lounge in the international terminals and CL members use the first lounges, I suspect they give at least one Kahoot, as I doubt they want to sit at the gate with the plebs.

1 3 weeks, 2 days ago by rebekkap

PS and the first lounge is distinctly nicer than the CL lounges anyway.

3 on 17/5/12 by infrequentflyer

Thanks to my new favourite brother-in-law I'm off to the First Lounge next Saturday with my complimentary invitation... It's the small things but I am looking forward to my glass of Veuve (or close substitute) and a massage if I'm lucky enough. 

1 3 weeks, 1 day ago by GregXL

How are complimentary invitations obtained for relatives obtained - do you have to be higher status than PL?

2 3 weeks, 1 day ago by GregXL

How are complimentary invitations obtained for relatives obtained - do you have to be higher status than PL?

4 on 21/6/12 by Ian_from_HKG

Delighted to see what discerning palates you have!  Delamotte is my absolute favourite - vastly better than Veuve or the other more commonly known labels.  Just don't tell anyone...

1 on 22/6/12 by John

Thanks Ian -- I'm such a fan of the Delamotte, although I know that the honey notes aren't for everyone. Did you see the interview I did with Malaysia Airlines' Australian Master of Wine? Some very interesting points in there that a fellow wine fan might be interested in.

1 on 22/6/12 by Ian_from_HKG

A couple of years ago I was invited to a wine-tasting evening with two of the three masters of wine that CX use to select their wines.  Interestingly, the top tip one of them gave was to use as large a glass as possible - ironic, given that the glasses they actually use on board are getting smaller and smaller!  Has anyone else noticed that?  Fortunately, though, to the point MH's chap made in your interview, CX do at least manage to get the first glass decently cold (they bring them on board ready-chilled in polystyrene boxes)

For me, the perfect champagne is a mixture of honey and dry toast, and Delamotte captures that wonderfully

5 on 30/10/12 by petrhsr

A CL who isn't aware that they have FCL access?  I find that difficult to believe.

Pax who fly F exclusively generally turn up at T-60 and minimise their time at the airport, no matter how luxurious the lounge.  Champagne, massages, facials... These are the daily grind for paid F pax.  Remember - first class isn't a seat (or a lounge), it's a lifestyle.  All the platinum cards and points upgrades in the world can only give you a little taste unless you're actually living it.

6 on 22/7/13 by AusFlyer

As much as I love the Qantas First Class lounge, I can't say I arrive at the airport hours in advance of my flight just to use it. It is still not as nice as being at home! for that little bit longer.

1 on 22/7/13 by Serg

Yes if you flying from home. But if you going back? I am particularly fond to have proper restaurant style dinner and not eat on the plane. This is exactly what I will do on my route back from London in Concorde room.

1 on 23/7/13 by AusFlyer

Well again... I rather spend more time out of the airport than in it so if I can, I will check out late from the hotel and spend less time at the airport and lounge. If I want to eat in the lounge, which is much nicer than on the plane, then I will allow time... but I prefer to spend less time in an airport and if I'm flying Business then I'm also happy to eat on the plane, which also helps kill a bit of time!

7 on 23/7/13 by gippsflyer

The Qantas First Lounges in Sydney and Melbourne are some of the nicest airport lounges around, but I agree with AusFlyer - they aren't anything you couldn't enjoy elsewhere, and indeed you can have better wines, food, etc at home or at a good restaurant, same with the Spa treatments. Considering the outlay to reach Platinum or fly First with Qantas, you'd be a mad hatter to do either of these things just to experience the Lounge.

That said, if work pays for that First ticket or enough flights for you to gain Platinum, then it might convince you to go to the airport a little earlier - if you have the time. Given the hassle of taking domestic flights from the International Terminal, you'd want to be super keen to just wangle entry to the Lounge - I wouldn't consider it worth the bother, but some people feel cheated if they don't maximise their consumption so I can understand the mindset. 

I'd be surprised though if eligible people didn't know about First Lounge - check-in staff at the First Counter always extend an invite. And CL'ers get a host/agent, so they'll definately know.

8 3 weeks, 2 days ago by Broderick

If you go to either Gumtree or eBay, some QFF members sell their First Class Lounge passes online. I purchased two of them last year for $140 (combined). I was only flying Economy with QF SYD - LHR, well worth the money. Checked in 4 hours before the flight left and went straight to the lounge. Incredible!

9 3 weeks, 2 days ago by Jared

Does anyone know if qantas still has all day checkin for international flights at sydney? Would like to try both menus if possible, but would require checking in 5 hours before the flight.

1 3 weeks, 2 days ago by watson374

Just earlier today, I was able to complete OLCI bag drop and proceed airside before 9:00am for a flight leaving around 3:00pm, so yes, five hours early is perfectly possible, especially given QF check-in desks are manned throughout most of the day.

1 3 weeks, 2 days ago by Jared

Perfect. Beats sitting around the office waiting for a flight. Thanks.

1 3 weeks, 2 days ago by watson374

Cheers, no worries! Enjoy the two menus - you can download them on AusBT to zero in on your selections (or froth at the mouth while still in the office).

10 3 weeks, 2 days ago by derekdixon

Well I've been booted out of the First Class Lounge, not many people can say they have had that done to them. My wife and 2 kids booked in at the First Class counter (great service), was then told all 4 of us had access to the First Class Lounge were we were allowed in, 5 minutes later the lounge manager booted us out stating that kids over 18 years of age aren't allowed in with parents......... Good Old Qantas

1 3 weeks, 2 days ago by undertheradar

did your  'kids' (which are actually ADULTS at age 18), satisfy one of the entry requirements?..eg travelling F/C, P/P1 or equivalent OW status etc

1 3 weeks, 2 days ago by derekdixon

No the kids are bronze, the problem from my end was the staff at the First Class check in knew there ages (over 18) when we checked in (Passports), the check in staff advised us to go to the First Class Lounge. You would think the staff at the First Class counter would know who can get in????????  I've heard stories about region Qantas Lounge staff kicking out Platinum Flyers for bring in 2 guests rather than just 1 lol.

1 3 weeks, 2 days ago by watson374

So did you and your wife actually have guesting priveliges for your adult children, or are you just trying to shift blame onto the poor sod at check-in because you're sore you tried to get into the F lounge but failed because you didn't have the right status/cabin?

1 3 weeks, 2 days ago by derekdixon

I'm just pointing out that Qantas needs to have all staff aware of the rules rather than a mixed message from different employees, to be honest I really don't care if I get in or out of a lounge. I spend to much time at airports now without going earlier to spend time in a lounge.

2 3 weeks, 2 days ago by undertheradar

appears the First Class checkin person buggered it up (either by not checking the ages OR telling you it was fine knowing they were over 18)...either 'reason' created a problem for the Lounge Manager...I'm guessing the Lounge Manager would have provided 'feedback' to the Checkin staff afterwards ;-)

1 3 weeks, 2 days ago by Propofol88

Even though the QF F lounge has the right to remove you from the lounge, it just isn't a good customer relations move IMO. I'm guessing Derek has paid a good sum for a F or J class ticket (+ fare for family) and/or is a loyal P/P1 member. To have the F check-in staff wrongly say you have access and have the F lounge staff wrongly grant initial access into the lounge, then to be told after you've settled down to leave is not the best customer service. I reckon they should've exercise a bit more discretion by kindly informing Derek that they'll grant access as a one off, and remind F check-in/lounge staff of access policy to the lounge.

1 3 weeks, 2 days ago by derekdixon

I agree total, the first class counter told us we could go to the first class lounge, the staff at the door let us into the lounge, the staff behind the counter told us to proceed through and enjoy ourselves. Then we get booted out and she was very vocal about it infront of all the other passengers??? It's a good story to tell over the dinner table with friends and family to their shock and horror.

1 3 weeks, 2 days ago by Propofol88

Depending on your status with QF, try sending customer relations an email about your F lounge experience. A senior colleage at work who is a lifetime Gold member and current Platinum member recently returned from London in F class. In spite his bags clearly tagged as "First/Priority" and having the Platinum Q-Tags, his bags came out last at the carrossel in Adelaide. He sent a strongly worded email to QF about this, and they sent him an apology basket with fruit and wine! :)

1 3 weeks, 2 days ago by derekdixon

To be honest, I couldn't be bothered not even emailing Joyce direct, I don't need Penny organising freebies like fruit or wine I'm fat enough. 

11 3 weeks, 2 days ago by njmal

Can those flying EK first class use the QF First Class Check in area? I am on a QF codeshare flight 

1 3 weeks, 2 days ago by Fiona

No, you will check in with the carrier whose metal you are flying on

12 2 weeks, 6 days ago by Dale

I purchased a flight with Qantas points to Vanuatu. I am a platinum member. I was refused entry at Sydney First Lounge. 

1 2 weeks, 6 days ago by Joshua

I've never given bad feedback ever but in this case I would be making a stern call to qantas premium

2 2 weeks, 3 days ago by curly

Flights booked with points to Port Vila will usually go under an "NF" code not "QF" so hence no access.

13 2 weeks, 5 days ago by Robert

Derek, I agree QF is a F UP when it comes to lounges access rules.As a plat i travel mostly on my own and at times with my wife and 2 kids.On entry..well we don't do that is what they say at the door.Yet they are most never busy and always let us in.But they will let Watson in the Bus lounge for six hours plus.P lounges are the bastion of elite and Derek enjoy all the P lounge offerings.

14 2 weeks, 5 days ago by Rusty1

So, in Melbourne my family and I who are booked First Class to LHR on QF9 which departs at 10:55 pm can only check in at 7:55 pm and the spa closes at 7 pm.  As I'm paying a lot of money for these tickets I feel ripped off.  So much for Qantas looking after its Platinum flyers who are also self-paying First Class passengers.

15 2 weeks, 2 days ago by Dale

Hi Curly - you are absolutely right. The reason given was the NF booking. I was still disappointed becuse I booked the flights through the Qantas site with Qantas points. I assumed it was a Qantas flight (or code share). This is one of those rules that are part of the "dark arts" of travel; like ticket codes. The customers dont understnad them and are simply bewildered when they are excrcised by staff. The lack of transparency in these transactions gives airlines a bad name. I have has similar experiences booking Qantas flights with points, realising at the airport it is actually Jetstar. Then when there were problems with the flight and I contacted Qantas I was given the old "who is Jetstar - we have never heard of them". I purchased the flights from the Qantas website with Qantas points. As a dumb consumer I expect that I am a Qantas customer still. 

1 2 weeks, 2 days ago by derekdixon

An Australian airport manager once told me a story about a British widower who brought a BA first class ticket around the world, BA put her on a QF flight then QF put her on a Jetstar flight with all the perks of Jetstar first class.......... Atleast Virgin domestic you can fly to all ports rather then being put on a Jetstar flight with the perks of Jetstar

2 2 weeks, 2 days ago by curly

Hey Dale

The only reason to assign another airlines code would be to restrict lounge access would it not as you don't get status or points on "Classic Awards" anyway? You've stumbled on a dark art for sure and it is disappointing for a traveller that has clearly shown loyalty.

I noticed it the other day when booking an award flight that I am given an EK code. I am pretty sure I am still permitted in the first lounge and since I am only gold and seldom fly from SYD, I am kinda excited to check it out for the first time.

: )

16 2 weeks, 2 days ago by Dale

I should ad however - in Qantas's defence - BA are much worse with their enforcing of lounge access rules. As a Platinum flier, they refused ny wife and two kids entry at LHR - enforcing their one guest rule. They also only serve hot food to BA guests and only allow Spa access to BA guests. When you go to the Oneworld website you see these are the actual rules, but BA are the only airline that really enforces them. It cost them a frequent flier. I was also advised by their staff that they only upgrade BA FF's - apparently the list is sent directly from London for each upgrade. I was just about to join them and decided I didnt want to be a part of suh a miserly group.

17 2 weeks, 2 days ago by Dale

Well have fun Curly. It really is an excellent lounge and one of the best in the world.

 

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