Qantas is counting down the weeks to the opening of its new first class lounge at Los Angeles.
The 200-seat lounge is tipped to open in late December or early January, and as Qantas’ flagship international first class lounge it promises to bring the luxe to LAX.
Although modelled on the airline’s outstanding Sydney and Melbourne first class lounges, the Qantas Los Angeles First Lounge will bring a very contemporary refresh to the 2007 design of its older Aussie siblings.
Vanessa Hudson, Qantas’ Senior Vice President for North America, says the centrepiece will be “America’s first Neil Perry restaurant” – aka, the first class’ dining room.
“Neil has spearheaded the transformation of our inflight and lounge dining” Hudson says, “and the new first class offering here will blow everyone away.”
The superchef himself goes a step further, promising that the new first class lounge “will be one of the best lounges in the world, if not the best” Perry tells Australian Business Traveller.
“I’ll give my children up if it’s not the best lounge in America by a country mile!”
Food, glorious food
Perry is well aware of the culinary restrictions in the current LAX business lounge, which still uses the same small kitchens of the former lounge, which he describes as ‘a shoebox.”
“There’s two ovens in a cupboard, basically, with a walk-in cooler attached to it” Perry reveals. “But what my team are doing out of that is just sensational.”
“And when we get into that kitchen, we’re just going to tear it, it’s going to be awesome” Perry enthuses.
“They’ll be the benchmark first and business class lounge kitchens in the world, there’s no doubt about that, and the sky is the limit on what we’re going to be able to achieve here.”
As with Qantas’ first class lounges in Australia, Perry’s Rockpool team will roll out a seasonal menu for Los Angeles based on fresh US produce.
“It’s really exciting because we will have some incredible stuff” Perry says.
“California is a fruit and vegetable bowl, and if you go to some of the good restaurants and have a beet or carrot salad, you can’t believe how sweet they are. In Australia we really struggle to get the quality of vegetables they have.”
“We’ll also be able to open ourselves up to the interesting seafood that’s around, which is very seasonal. So we’re really looking forward to tapping all that.”
And while the menu of the LAX first class lounge will include frequent flyer favourites like club sandwiches and salt and pepper calamari, Perry is keen to tap into LA’s diverse food scene including Mexican, Japanese and Korean dishes.
“If you go down the streets of LA and you see the food truck culture, it really represents the city’s multicultural nature – like Australia, America is a very multicultural place.”
“And then we want to put on some of those American classics, so when we get the new kitchen we’ll do really awesome burgers, fantastic hot dogs, great fried chicken wings.”
“So you’ll see all the American influences, the multicultural thing with Japanese, Korean and Mexican dishes, and you’ll see our Qantas signatures as well."
Qantas’ US exec Hudson also nominates Sofitel’s role in managing the lounge as a cornerstone to its success.
“A lounge isn’t just about the hard product, it’s not just about the features and the chairs – it’s actually about the experience that you wrap around that” Hudson told Australian Business Traveller during the opening of the LAX business lounge earlier this year.
“Having Sofitel as our service and hospitality provider, they’ll get to know the customers and it all becomes a lot more personable. I definitely think the service experience is an X-factor.”
However, unlike its Sydney and Melbourne counterparts, the new LAX first class lounge won’t include a day spa.
A bigger (and better) business lounge
Concurrent with the ribbon-cutting of the Qantas Los Angeles First Lounge will be an extension to the LAX business lounge.
A new wing will add some 200 seats along with a substantially wider range of meals – including a ‘plate of the day’, similar to what's already seen in the Singapore and Hong Kong lounges – thanks to the new kitchens.
The space will include a dedicated dining room, seven more shower suites (bringing the total to 16), a family zone and a business zone with six desktop PCs.
Combined with the opening of the first class lounge, the enlarged business lounge will alleviate the peak-hour crowding which has seen Qantas Club members turned away from the lounge during busy periods, and instead handed a US$50 voucher for buying food and drinks at any of the terminal's retail outlets.
The Qantas Los Angeles First Lounge will be open to travellers booked into first class on Qantas, British Airways, Cathay Pacific and other Oneworld airlines, along with their respective top-tier frequent flyers – Platinum-grade Qantas Frequent Flyers, BA Executive Club Golds, Cathay Pacific Marco Polo Diamonds and Oneworld Emerald equivalents.
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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.