With a funky new design and 80% more floor space than its predecessor, Air New Zealand's Melbourne Airport lounge joins the 21st century in catering for today's tech-toting business travellers.
Gone is the 'sports area' and its pool table: instead replaced by new sections catering towards dining, getting work done and relaxing, with AC and USB power outlets plentiful throughout and even wireless charging stations making an appearance in the business areas.
Australian Business Traveller puts the country's newest airport lounge through its paces in this week's review.
Location & Impressions
You'll find AirNZ's lounge exactly where the old one used to be – once you clear security and outbound passport control, make your way to Melbourne Airport's satellite pier, turn right once you reach the second duty-free zone and follow the lounge signage to take the escalator downstairs.
There's a short stay area right in front of reception that's perfect if you only have time for coffee or are waiting for the staff to confirm a seating change or upgrade... ... with the rest of the lounge divided into zones: the appeal of which will depend on how you plan to spend your time.
There's no private lounge tucked away for Elite Priority One cardholders or Star Alliance first class passengers, so everybody shares the same space.
- Business class passengers of Air New Zealand, Air Canada (from December 2017), Air China, Air India, Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways, United Airlines and Virgin Australia (trans-Tasman flights only)
- Air New Zealand Airpoints Gold, Elite and Elite Priority One cardholders
- Star Alliance Gold frequent flyers prior to Star Alliance flights
- Paid lounge members of Koru Club, Air Canada Maple Leaf Club and United Club, plus Virgin Australia lounge members prior to Virgin Australia (and VA codeshare) trans-Tasman flights only
- Virgin Australia Velocity Gold, Platinum and The Club members prior to trans-Tasman flights with Air New Zealand and Virgin Australia
Also note that Singapore Airlines operates its own SilverKris business class lounge in Melbourne which is accessible to many of the same travellers, along with a separate first class lounge for the airline's top-tier frequent flyers and first class passengers.
It's impossible to miss the main dining area (above), with rows of individual tables on the outer edges and communal benches in the middle.
Unlike in AirNZ's Sydney Airport lounge, there's no 'live cooking' station here: all food is self-service and varies throughout the day, with wraps and salads proving tasty during our visit... ... joined by more substantial options including a carrot, pumpkin and split pea soup; rosemary roasted pumpkin... ... sweetcorn, beans and peppers; chicken, tomato and olives; and creamy roasted potatoes: Fresh salads are also at-hand... ... along with a selection of cheeses, crackers and accompaniments. As blue cheese isn't to everybody's taste, we also appreciate that this was plated on its own: preventing unwanted segments from infiltrating the other cheese plates: Rounding out the buffet, small and tasty mini muffins: A separate barista bar takes pride of place in the centre of the lounge – a nod to Melbourne's coffee culture and a significant upgrade to the self-serve, push-button machine in AirNZ's previous lounge...
... where travellers can order their favourite java via the airline's mobile app or a tablet mounted on the countertop... ... both of which advise when your coffee will be ready so that you can make the best use of your time: and when each cup (or mug) comes out, there's no confusion as to who it belongs to: However, while Sydney's coffee counter also doubles as a full-scale cocktail bar, in Melbourne, the only drinks served here are coffee and tea. For anything stronger – or indeed, anything else – you'll have to pour or make it yourself... ... with juices, beer, wine, soft drinks and spirits available... ... plus Dulcét sparkling wine from New Zealand and automated coffee machines if you're short on time: Overall, that's a reasonable offering for a business class lounge with barista coffee a much-welcome improvement, but it's a shame that the 'food theatre' and cocktail bar features of the airline's Sydney lounge weren't extended to Melbourne.
What's great about this lounge – and indeed, all of AirNZ's refurbished lounges – is that AC and USB power is available almost everywhere you look, so even if you've sat down at comfy seat to enjoy a quick drink, you can still top-up your phone, tablet or laptop via outlets built into the cocktail table in front of you: What's more, some benches also feature wireless charging capabilities for compatible phones – so if you've accidentally left your charger at home or simply can't be bothered digging it out of your bag, just whack your phone on top of the charging plate and your battery will begin to be replenished:
Wireless Internet is available throughout the space with download speeds of 5.34-20.61Mbps measured during our two-hour stay, while uploads were clocked at a speedy 14.85-20.37Mbps and ping speeds were 3-6ms.
In simple English, the Internet connection was about as fast as you'd expect at home from a good ADSL2+ or entry-level NBN fibre line, yet with much faster uploads to match those decent download speeds.
But as to getting any work done, the design of the lounge caters more for business travellers making shorter stays than those settling in for a few hours of pre-flight work.
For instance, the business area provides a wireless printer and long working benches with all types of power... ... but with only backless stools to sit on, which never prove comfortable for longer periods. For a real chair and table, you'll instead need to plonk yourself amidst the busy dining room: a space that's considerably noisier, albeit with ample power points.
With the pool table gone, you can instead take a seat and catch up on the day's news, kick back with a glass of wine... ... or can meander over to the 'quiet zone' in the far right – a great place to read, or also to get things done if having a desk or table in front isn't critical...
... with several lounge pods lining the walls nearby, again with power outlets available... ... and reading material not far away: Over by the tarmac-facing windows is a kids area with a range of games and toys to play with – and which keeps the little ones and their noise away from business travellers trying to work...
When it's time to leave, you'll get one last glimpse of New Zealand: before you either arrive there, or someplace further beyond with one of the airline's many Star Alliance partners. Chris Chamberlin travelled to Melbourne as a guest of Air New Zealand.