Melbourne has the 'Mini-Me' of Qantas First Class lounges: smaller but the same. It has most of the same design elements and award-winning features, but everything has been scaled down to suit a much smaller footprint than the Sydney flagship lounge.
Location & Impressions
Unlike most of Melbourne International Airport's lounges, the Qnatas First Class Lounge are located up on Level 3, on the top floor of the airport, rather than down on Level 1.
This means ignoring the Airport Lounge signs, as they'll likely lead you in the wrong direction.
Take the lift to Level 3 – or the escalator near gates 9 and 10 – and you'll find the Qantas First Class Lounge next door to the Emirates Lounge.
Whereas the Sydney First Class lounge grabs you from the very start with the curved 'living wall' of greenery, before you ascend up the escalator and into the open expanse of the lounge proper – Melbourne's smaller First Class lounge is more straightforward and conventional.
What it lacks in that wow factor swings back in the form of a more intimate and even cosy space.
Cleverly, Qantas turned that design challenge on its head to work with the limited space.
For example, Sydney's lounge is one long open sweeping arc that's subtly subdivided into various functional zones by the wooden spars stretching from ceiling to floor.
In Melbourne, with less room and lower ceilings, the furnishings themselves – mainly low divider walls – define each space by deliberately closing them off into a dozen little pockets.
This includes groups of lounges and individual chairs stretching all the way along the outer edge of the lounge facing over the tarmac, which combines with full-height windows to ensure the lounge is flooded with light rather than make travellers feel closed in.
Visitors who are familiar with the Sydney First Class lounge will recognise the interior design, materials and Marc Newson furniture...
... along with the whimsical old-fashioned destination board.
There's also a skylight over the entry foyer to lighten the space and your mood before your journey even begins.
The only issue with the lounge is that being so small there's really nowhere to escape the crowd during peak travel times or if flights are delayed (unless you’ve thought ahead and booked one of the two meeting rooms).
The Qantas International First Lounge is open to all passengers flying first class on Qantas and its oneoworld partners such as British Airways.
Qantas Frequent Flyer Platinum and Platinum One cardholders, and those with the equivalent oneworld Emerald status, can also enjoy the lounge regardless of which class they’re flying in.
The doors open from 6:10am through to the last departing flight.
As with its Sydney sibling, meals at Melbourne's Qantas International First Lounge are truly first-class: the meals, wines and service are what you’d expect from an up-market bistro.
Take a seat at the marble counter and watch your meal being prepared in kitchen...
... or settle down for full table service.
There's also fresh barista-made coffee and a fully-stocked bar.
Breakfast is available through to 11am, along with an all-day dining menus plus daily specials.
AusBT's suggestion: consider skipping the main meal and enjoy a variety of entrees instead, such as the buffalo mozzarella and salt & pepper squid.
None of the mains are super-sized – after all, you don't want to fly feeling full to the gills – so you'll still have room for a small plate of the blue fin tuna sashimi or duck confit.
Add the impressive wine list and you probably won't mind if your flight is delayed...
With super-fast wireless networking now on tap you can perch anywhere in the lounge with your laptop or tablet, or pull up a seat in front of one of the handful of iMacs with run both Apple's Mac OS and Windows 7.
The one thing you won't find is a 'quiet zone' – there simply isn't space for one in the lounge's confined quarters.
Whereas Sydney First Class Lounge has a 'library' located at the far end of the lounge and specifically designated as a quiet zone, Melbourne's equivalent is more like a reading nook.
There are two of these, but they're smack in the middle of the lounge and flanked by a pair of flat-screen TV sets.
Your only escape from noise – and it was quite noisy on the morning we visited, due to several families with kids in tow – is to seek the solace of one of two meeting rooms, both of which were occupied on our visit.
The Payot spa is one area where Melbourne's lounge will, in the eyes of some travellers, one-up its bigger Sydney sibling.
Sure, Sydney has twice as many treatment rooms, but only the rooms at Melbourne's Qantas first class lounge can serve up with a view like this!
As we've noted for the Sydney lounge, the Payot spa offers a range of treatments – facials, massages, even foot and leg wraps – lasting from 30 minutes to 50 minutes, all performed by trained professionals in lush private rooms with their own shower.
And as with the restaurant meals it's all free, even if you're a Qantas Frequent Flyer Platinum cardholder booked on the cheapest economy seat.
Just off from the spa are four marble-lined shower rooms with a supply of travel-friendly toiletries.
If you're a Melbourne-based frequent flyer who's just scored Platinum status, get into the habit of checking in for your Qantas (or oneworld partner) flights as early as you can, so that you can enjoy those pre-flight hours in this great little lounge. But if you've got serious work to do between check-in and wheels-up, book a meeting room.
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.