Virgin Australia's new Gold Coast lounge is now open, providing travellers with a welcome sanctuary in the busy airport which to date has had only one pay-per-entry lounge for Jetstar passengers.
In fact, it's like a compact version of Virgin's Brisbane lounge. The open space balances a sense of flow and easy movement with the creation of subtle zones for working, socialising or relaxing.
“The space is very true to the lounge DNA we have developed" Alison Chalmer, Virgin Australia’s General Manager for Product, told Australian Business Traveller at today's official opening.
"That's especially so in terms of the organic nature of the space, the way you can walk in and be guided naturally to explore the lounge. But there are distinct zones that make sense for people travelling at different times and for different reasons.”
It’s also noteworthy and commendably that of the four areas where travellers can relax, two of them don’t sport the all-too-commonly-seen TV sets blaring away.
Inside Virgin Australia's Gold Coast lounge
The Gold Coast lounge is perched upstairs on the airport's 'mezzanine level', with the entrance adjacent to gates 1 and 2.
The lounge is open to all business class travellers on Virgin Australia plus Gold and Platinum members of Virgin's Velocity frequent flyer program.
Virgin also offers 'anytime access' to its lounges, which means that Velocity Gold and Platinum cardholders can use the lounge even when they're not booked on a flight with Virgin Australia or partners such as Air New Zealand.
Regular Virgin flyers to or from Brisbane will recognise the friendly face of Annette Viljoen (below, right) who oversees the airline’s Queensland lounges.
Other familiar notes include the comfortable designer seating and the food on offer.
Of course, what's an airport lounge without a well-stocked bar?
Like other Virgin lounges, there's also an all-day barista service.
Three long curved desks with AC power sockets within easy reach snake along the far side of the lounge, with four Windows PCs and a printer situated at the side wall.
Guests can also book a private meeting room with a whiteboard, conference call facility and seating for eight people.
And while the wireless internet is fast and free, it's password-protected – as is now the case with all Virgin lounges.
Chalmer said she was unaware of people parking themselves outside the airline’s lounges to take advantage of the free wifi, telling Australian Business Traveller the decision to apply a network password at all Virgin lounges “is all about ensuring we can deliver the right product to the guests and control it.”
The Gold Coast buttons up for business
“The importance of the Gold Coast as a business destination cannot be understated" Chalmer says.
"The local council is driving infrastructure to support business and helping lure companies such as IBM, the National Broadband Network and Vizy.”
“Our ‘game change’ program is around diversifying our market and in addition to growing the corporate market here, the Gold Coast is also a premium leisure destination.”
Chalmer says that Virgin Australia "carries more than 2.1 million people each year in and out of the Gold Coast, a figure which has grown 4.1% in the past 12 months.”
“We also have a number of guests who live on the Gold Coast and work in Sydney, and they commute on a weekly basis.”
Up next: a flagship lounge for Sydney
Next on Chalmer's lounge list is the rebirth of Virgin's Sydney lounge as a two-level 'flagship lounge' by year's end.
As first revealed by Australian Business Traveller last year, this well-worn lounge will be transformed into a sleek double-storey space designed by Sydney-based architectural firm Tonkin Zulaikha Greer.
“The (current) main lounge is on the lower level, there’s another mezzanine level upstairs which the airport have been using for functions" TGZ’s Tim Greer told Australian Business Traveller. “We’ll take over that space and have a two storey lounge.”
The upper floor will boast "sweeping views of Botany Bay" with total capacity for up to 560 passengers – 250 more than today.
Renovations are already underway on the upstairs level, which is expected to open mid-year so that the refurb can continue on the lower level for a late 2012 opening.
The upstairs level is tipped to set aside space for a 'premium' lounge as part of Virgin's own version of the Qantas Chairman's Lounge, currently dubbed Invite+.
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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.