From kerb to lounge in under two minutes? That's the promise of the new Virgin Australia 'fast track' lounge at Sydney airport, a first for Australian airlines, which promises express arrivals for the airline's premium passengers.
After being dropped off by taxi at the direct kerbside entry, or leaving your car with the Virgin Australia concierge for valet parking, travellers are fast-tracked upstairs.
There's even a red carpet for its most valued customers.
You'll bypass the regular Virgin Australia check-in counters and the airport's crowded main security area, and head straight to a private check-in and dedicated security screening gate reserved for premium Virgin Australia passengers.
Then it's straight through the sliding glass doors into The Lounge. We clocked the journey during our visit this morning and it took just under two minutes.
Virgin Australia expects the convenience of the new service to be a significant drawcard for business travellers.
"For our guests who choose to use the premium entrance and valet service, the trip from their car to The Lounge will be very quick and simple" says Martin Daley, Virgin Australia's Head of Product & Guest Services. "Stress is taken away and time is given back to the business traveller".
That certainly rings true in our experience today.
The entire process was envisioned by Virgin Australia's in-house design team and the airline expects around one-third of The Lounge's 1,500 daily visitors will use the kerbside direct access.
Who it's for
The new services are available for passengers in Premium Economy and Business Class, plus Gold tier members of Virgin Australia's Velocity Rewards program.
Virgin Australia is only offering Business Class on the SYD-PER route at the moment, and until the end of July will also be offering free limousine transfers for passengers on this route.
Prices for valet parking start at $27 for an hour and go up to $70 for a calendar day, while an overnight business trip will set you back $140. Here's the full table of charges:
(By comparison, the cheapest overnight parking at Sydney Airport is $32, as we discovered in our full analysis of the best parking options at SYD.)
The premium lounge entry and valet parking is open from 5.15am to 9.15pm every day, including weekends.
Got bags to check?
The special fast-track security screening is also limited to passengers with carry-on hand luggage, as there's no facility to check your larger bags.
If you're bringing checked baggage with you, Virgin Australia says that you can use the valet parking service, but you'll have to lug your bags down to the main check-in counters.
However, one Virgin Australia insider suggests that even if you have luggage to check, you can still take advantage of the fast-track system "if, after check-in, the security line looks a bit too feral".
"Pop outside and walk along to the kerbside entry where the queue will be non-existant and just tell the Lounge angels you have already checked in - flash your boarding pass or card." That sounds like a top tip to us!
Coming to an airport near you?
No other Australian airports are in line for a similar direct access service. Martin Daley told Australian Business Traveller that part of the reasoning behind this is that while Virgin's lounge at Sydney Domestic Airport is very close to the road, other airports may not offer similar access.
However, there's other good news for business travellers flying out of other Australian airports: Virgin Australia will be revamping its Perth, Melbourne and Brisbane lounges, while building a completely new lounge in Coolangatta. Lounges at two other Australian airports are yet to be announced.
Daley reckons the design for the revamped lounges will be a "surprise" to business travellers, and we sincerely hope he means that these lounges will be getting more of a Virgin Altantic 'Clubhouse' feel.
And for what it's worth, the nameplates and branding on the new services look easily changeable -- all ready for a corporate renaming as part of the Virgin Game Change strategy that CEO John Borghetti is masterminding, which includes:
- a rebranding which will drop the 'Blue' and likely adopt Virgin Australia as the airline's new name
- Australia's first Boeing 737-800 with the futuristic Sky Interior
- new flights between Sydney and Perth starting May 26
- new seats in business class with large video screens and 62 inches of space
- a big revamp of Velocity Rewards, which includes a partnership with Coles' FlyBuys
- a lounge and fast-track system at Sydney Airport, plus upgrades for lounges at Brisbane and Melbourne, and new-build lounges at three other Australian airports
- new red, silver and purple uniforms for Virgin Blue flight attendants, and smart new suits for pilots too
- new meals on the plane from celebrity chef Luke Mangan
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.