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
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- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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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.