The move will see New Zealand bookend the popular trans-Tasman corridor between Australia’s east coast and Auckland – which attracts more traffic than any other international route – with premium lounges as the Star Alliance member and Virgin Australia partner continues to battle Qantas for business travellers headed across the pond.
First up at the start of 2016 is the all-new Brisbane International Lounge, which will be significantly larger than the current facility.
“We need a much bigger lounge in Brisbane and we want to build a great lounge there, as there’s a lot of traffic between Brisbane and New Zealand” Air New Zealand CEO Chris Luxon tells Australian Business Traveller.
The lounge, which will mimic Sydney and Auckland in its design, is currently being built in newly-opened airport space.
“We’ve been working with the airport to turn what’s currently landside space into airside space” explains Verity Jade, the airline’s Manager for Global Lounges.
“It’s upstairs and down the opposite end from our current lounge with beautiful views out over the airport and across to Brisbane, and we’re looking to open that very early next year.”
Jade says the lounge will sport almost twice the capacity of today’s lounge, which has come under pressure due to increased passenger numbers.
“Our current space hasn't been able to grow at the same rate, so we had some contract carriers using our space that are not using using the space any more, and that’s helped us free up the space for Air New Zealand customers” Jade says, alluding to a recent decision to exclude China Southern’s business class passengers and top-tier frequent flyers from the lounge.
Jade says this restriction will remain in place when the new Brisbane lounge opens in early 2016, with the space available only to Air New Zealand customers and eligible travellers on Virgin Australia and Star Alliance airlines.
A similar make-over for Melbourne is also on the cards, with that lounge also being relocated to new space within the international terminal.
“We’re currently working with the airport on what that’s going to look like, and the exact timeline will depend on where the space ends up being."
CEO Chris Luxon estimates the airline’s share of the trans-Tasman market to be “about 53 percent” including partner Virgin Australia, with lounges being a key part of the experience.
“I go across to Sydney for a day to do meetings with Virgin Australia, and I go out at 6am and come back at midnight – and there are a lot of other people doing that too” Luxon tells Australian Business Traveller.
“When you think about booking the ticket, doing the trip and getting back home, along that journey there are a lot of opportunities to improve and remove pain points for customers, and lounges are part of that solution.”
“So we’re investing NZ$100 million in our lounge network over the next four years, along with NZ$2.7 billion in our fleet and big investments in technology. We think there are some big opportunities there."
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