Offering guests a full cocktail bar, power points galore and a 'food theatre' station manned by trained chefs, Air New Zealand's Sydney Airport lounge ticks all of the boxes for the airline's business class passengers.
It's also the new haven for Virgin Australia's own pointy-end travellers, its Velocity Frequent Flyer Gold and Platinum members and also Star Alliance Gold cardholders, so step inside as we reveal what awaits in Sydney Airport's newest lounge.
Location & Impressions
Follow the signs to Gates 50-63 to find Air New Zealand's new lounge – it's one level above the departure concourse and adjacent to the Singapore Airlines SilverKris lounge.
Inside, it can only be described as a vast improvement over both the previous 'full' lounge and the temporary facility that took its place for the past six months. The space is bright, airy and modern, with different zones to suit different needs and moods. Also a standout against the temporary lounge: natural sunlight – well, sometimes – and tarmac views.
Air New Zealand's door list in Sydney is quite extensive – if you're on it, you're in.
Business class and first class passengers of:
- Air New Zealand
- Virgin Australia
- Air Canada
- Air China
- Air India
- Asiana Airlines
- Delta Air Lines
- Hawaiian Airlines
- Philippine Airlines
- Sichuan Airlines
- Singapore Airlines
- Thai Airways
- United Airlines
Elite frequent flyers:
- Air New Zealand Airpoints Gold, Elite and Elite Priority One before Star Alliance and Virgin Australia flights
- Virgin Australia Velocity Gold, Platinum and The Club before Virgin Australia, Air NZ, Delta and Hawaiian Airlines flights
- Other Star Alliance Gold cardholders before Star Alliance flights (excludes Virgin Australia)
- Virgin Australia Velocity Gold and Platinum plus Etihad Guest Silver and Gold prior to Etihad flight EY455 when booked in economy
Paid lounge users:
- Air New Zealand Koru Club guests before Air NZ flights or NZ codeshares on Virgin Australia trans-Tasman flights
- Air New Zealand passengers in economy travelling on a Works Deluxe fare, but only on flights booked before June 17 2015
- Air Canada Maple Leaf Club members prior to any Star Alliance flight
- United Club cardholders ahead of any Star Alliance flight
- Virgin Australia Lounge members before Virgin Australia flights to New Zealand only, but including codeshares on Air NZ
- Single entry passes can be bought for $55 per person for visits under four hours or $85 for longer stays for passengers of any airline
Exceptions and notes:
- SkyTeam frequent flyers in economy on Delta flights can instead use the SkyTeam Lounge
- Passengers on Virgin Australia's Sydney-Abu Dhabi flights instead use the Etihad Sydney Lounge, as can guests on EY451
- Singapore Airlines passengers can also use the adjacent SQ SilverKris lounge
Much like the Qantas Chairman's Lounge and Virgin Australia's The Club Lounge, we expect its biggest drawcard is privacy, followed closely by networking, and peace and quiet when trying to get some work done.
If you were hoping to see the somewhat-iconic hot dog cart in the new lounge, you'll be disappointed – although Air New Zealand staff haven't ruled out its seasonal return from time to time.
Replacing it: food and beverage that transforms what was previously a rather humdrum selection into arguably one of the best of any international business class lounge in Australia.
For starters, the salad bar is both fresh and comprehensive... ... as is the range of mini-treats and grab-and-go items, which we're happy to see are relatively healthy. There's also a good selection of fruits and cheeses along with tasty hot mains such as chicken, beef and rice... ... and chef specials from the nearby 'food theatre' station such as freshly-shucked oysters and both pork and vegetarian dumplings: That all comes together to form quite a scrumptious lunch that's a definite step up from your typical toasted sandwich or soup of the day: Want something to drink? Wander over to the manned cocktail bar... ... offering guests impressive views of the afternoon sunset: There's all-day espresso coffee available, which can be ordered via the supplied iPad or the Air New Zealand app on your own iPhone or Android smartphone... ... and as an advantage for time-poor travellers, the app also gives you an ETA on that cuppa so that you're not standing around waiting when you could be working or grabbing something to eat.
If you return a few minutes after your time, don't stress – your coffee will be waiting at the bar. Then there's the alcohol... forget about pouring your own drinks: here you'll find skilled cocktail bartenders to do that for you.
We asked one at random to mix up an Espresso Martini on what was their first day on the job, and they didn't bat an eyelid – top marks for cocktail knowledge, presentation and taste. As it turns out, the lounge's signature cocktail is a variant on that – a Kiwi Martini, which was also quite good.
You'll too find self-serve spirits and an automated coffee machine over near the 'business end' of the lounge if you're in a rush or you'd prefer to free pour your shots.
Wherever you sit, there's a good chance you'll be able to plug in and recharge your laptop, tablet or smartphone as AC and USB power points are everywhere.
For more serious work, head to the far end of the lounge and its long laptop table... ... or set up camp near the bar and plug in there: For something more casual, look to the chairs with black cocktail tables in between... ... or to the 'quiet zone' – also at the far end of the lounge – which too has power points in between the seats. Fast wireless Internet blankets the lounge, and during our visit we were able to achieve download speeds of around 15mbps, uploads of 12mbps and ping speeds of just 1ms, which beats many home-based Internet connections.
As with any connection, expect that to slow down during peak times – but even speeds of just 1mbps would at the very least be usable for basic tasks such as emailing and web browsing.
Travelling on your own time? Perch yourself in one of the comfy violet-coloured booths where you'll find AC power points – although not USB outlets – in the skirting board underneath... ... or in one of 13 other seating types – most of which come with either a snack table, a foot stool or both: You'll find these all throughout the lounge, so go for a wander to see what's vacant – whether that's the plush chairs aside artwork commemorating Air New Zealand's 75th anniversary... ... or over by the patterned wall, which we're told says "hello" in 44 different languages if you join the dots: Young children can relax in their own treehouse-inspired room which a) has adjacent seating so that parents can keep an eye on their young ones while enjoying some 'me time', and b) has a closing door to limit the noise impact on other travellers. Nice one, Air New Zealand. Also not forgotten: private shower suites with attached bathrooms and mirrors, with towels and amenities provided. With so much on offer from beginning to end, one of the only things absent is an Island Dining-style 'dish of the day' as you'd find in the Qantas Business Lounge or the à la carte service of the Etihad Lounge.
There's also no separate space or service differentiation for Star Alliance first class passengers – but as far as business class lounges go, this one's still worth arriving early for.
Chris Chamberlin was a guest of Air New Zealand.
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