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Expert tips to make the most of the Qantas First Class Lounge

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

After plenty of business travel you've finally reached Platinum status in the Qantas Frequent Flyer scheme! Now it's time to make the most of one of the best first class lounges in the world.

The Qantas First Lounge in Sydney and Melbourne international airports is leagues ahead of the Qantas Business Lounge experience for Gold members and business class travellers.

We've put together these insider tips on how the lounge works, when you can get in, the best things to eat and drink -- and much more. Think of them as the Seven Habits of First Class Lounge Lizards.

First up: you can glide through those frosted Qantas First Lounge doors if you hold Emerald status with any oneworld partner airline (such as Qantas Platinum, Cathay Pacific Marco Polo Diamond and British Airways Executive Club Gold) and are flying with Qantas or a oneworld airline.

Top tip: several Jetstar flights shuttle between the Sydney and Melbourne international terminals, meaning that Qantas Platinums can also enjoy the Qantas First Lounge without flying overseas – click here for the details

1. 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 would.

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

Most passengers can check in for international flights three hours before departure.

Qantas makes an exception for Airbus A380 services to Los Angeles: check-in opens four hours before the flight, to help get all 450 passengers on board in quick time.

But Qantas Platinum cardholders travelling with carry-on baggage only can arrive at the airport an astonishing eight hours before their flight provided they've used online checkin and printed out their boarding pass (or have had their passes printed at another airport before a connecting flight).

Eight hours might be a little much for any other lounge, but if you've a late flight and are leaving your hotel at regular check-out time, there are many worse places to spend the day.

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.

2. Use the Qantas First check-in area

Don't forget that as Platinum or oneworld Emerald you can now skip the Business Class line in favour of the Qantas First check-in area, even if you're flying economy.

If you've already checked in for your flight online, 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.

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. 

3. Travelling with a friend or colleague?

Technically you're allowed one lounge guest as a Qantas Platinum. If you're travelling with one friend or colleague then treat them! If you're in 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.

This is very much not a hard and fast rule, and our only advice is to be exceedingly pleasant about your situation.

4. Book your spa session

Fancy a massage, facial or other spa treatment? Your first stop should be the Payot spa, which opens at 9am.

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

So if you want a little pre-flight pampering, make a beeline for the spa as soon as you get into the lounge and check what (if any) sessions are available.

Read: Pre-flight bliss – our review of the Qantas First Lounge Spa

5. 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. 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 -- even more lovely in our book -- 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.

And if you don't yet have a favourite among the Bolly, Veuve or Taittinger the staff are happy to help you discover a new fave for your fizz.

6. Be smart about the menu

One of the best things about the First Lounge is the wonderful restaurant and equally wonderful menu.

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

It's a seasonal menu, with a number of items 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.

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

There's a breakfast menu through to 11am, while then a more extensive 'all day menu' kicks in until the last flight out in the evening.

And from lunch onwards we recommend picking your way through a few of the smaller, starter-sized dishes rather than the larger plates.

On recent visits we've been loving the veal carpaccio, the buffalo mozzarella, and (as seen above) the yellowfin sashimi and the organic egg with crab and silken tofu.

The salt and pepper squid (above) is a perennial favourite, and don't miss the daily specials at the bottom of the menu.

If your hunger just won't be sated, though, the minute steak (minute in speed rather than in quantity -- it's currently a 300g tenderloin) is always a good bet.

Take a behind-the-scenes look at how this fantastic food makes its way onto your table at the Qantas First Lounge, and discover how the lounge's unique seasonal menus are crafted.

7. Finding some peace and quiet

There isn't a 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.

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.

Otherwise, in Melbourne's Qantas First there isn't much choice. There are 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 Payot spa, past the computers, is a sizeable library area complete 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 nice it is to be a Platinum-grade frequent flyer!

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


About John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.


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!

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. 

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.


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