Virgin Australia has opened the doors of its slick new lounge in Melbourne Airport – and if you want proof that this is a very different airline to the old Virgin Blue, look no further.
The Lounge features a contemporary, light and airy design created by Australian architectural firm Tonkin Zulaikha Greer.
The mood strikes us as modern, fresh and funky, with just a dash of design DNA from the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at Heathrow without losing the sense of being a space for premium passengers.
It's as if Qantas' flagship domestic business lounges have overnight aged and become, well, just another airport lounge.
Australian Business Traveller visited The Lounge this morning for an exclusive sneak peek before the public opening.
But we know you don't want to just read about The Lounge, you want to see it – so here's a gallery of exclusive first look photos!
The Virgin Australia 'lounge angels' bid you welcome to Melbourne's all-new The Lounge.
Right away you get a sense of the focus on making this a light bright and open space.
Here's a close-up of 'the flying maiden' curtain behind the reception desk.
And here is The Lounge you've been waiting for, during months of renovation.
Don't just gawk at the open space, check out the amazing detail on the ceiling - which starts as a dark wood over the entrance and then shifts to clean white across the main area of The Lounge.
The flowing space is divided into several nooks including several 'quiet zones' for impromptu meetings plus a dedicated 'quiet library' retreat area, balanced by a high bar where guests can "socialise and celebrate", says Virgin Australia.
At the very front of The Lounge is a desk for customer service.
Across from this, the first of many discrete spaces where travellers can relax.
The Lounge designer Tim Greer tells us this is intended as a 'short stay' area – close to the entrance, the service desk and the food & drink area, for passengers who only have a short period of time before their flight.
The dining area boasts the new food menu from Luke Mangan.
That violet glow you're seeing at the front of the bench comes from a grid of LED lights inside the fixture. The colour can be changed to suit different times of the day and reflect the different 'moods' of passengers, such as brighter for the morning and more soothing for the end of the day.
And if it's a drop of wine that you're wanting, well...
Virgin Australia's barista service is open whenever the lounge is (unlike Qantas, which limits its fresh-brew service to 11am in the Qantas Business Lounge and 9.30am in The Qantas Club).
Glasses of bubbly to greet the handful of media invited for today's pre-opening tour of The Lounge.
Having enjoyed our bubbly, it's time for more photos.
Further along from the lounge eatery is a raised area where curvy workbenches can be found.
At first glance the pop-up AC powerpoints looked like too tight a fit for laptop power cables, and especially the 'power brickette' of Apple MacBook laptops.
But there's a bit of 'wiggle room' in the fixture, so the Apple adaptor just slides snugly in.
The last of the workbenches sits across from the funky 'high bar', which is designed as more of a stand-up zone for socialising at the end of a long day.
The bar snakes along The Lounge and is something right out of a chic inner-city wine bar.
A ramp leading upwards from the workbenches and the bar opens onto 'the verandah', which overlooks the tarmac.
This is more of a mixed-use space designed for solo travellers and groups alike, whether you want to catch up on some last-minute email or just wind down.
Back on the lower level and at the far end of The Lounge is 'the library' – a softer zone which Virgin Australia says will be a mobile phone-free area (although we feel the signage attesting to such needs to be larger and more noticeable). Drapes around the windows and carpet on the floor helps deaden the sound.
(Ironically, the library area is situated where the original lounge had the noisier pool table and cinema.)
Those with an eye for design will appreciate the high-end furniture, including these plush Walter Knoll chairs.
Even the bathrooms are impressive. Note the George Nelson Platform bench to lounge around on.
They're also well-appointed, with two retractable shaving mirrors...
... and locally-made organic skincare products from Grown.
There's also a shower stall so you can freshen up before your flight.
If you need to get down to some work, away from the bustle of the lounge and the bar, head back to the reception desk at the front of The Lounge.
Just across from this are two meeting rooms – one small and one large.
While just outside sit eight workstation cubicles with six of the latest Windows desktops, a printer and fax/copier.
Check back tomorrow for our chat with The Lounge designer Tim Greer from TZG Architects, and Virgin Australia's Martin Daley, Group Executive for Product & Guest Services.
In the meantime, you can check out our review of the new 'fast track' check-in at Virgin Australia's Sydney Airport lounge, which will take you from kerb to couch inside of two minutes; and our photo tour of Virgin Australia's new Boeing 737 with the futuristic first-in-Australia 'Sky Interior'.
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.