After debuting its first Australian airport lounge in 2014, American Express is expanding its lounge footprint beyond Sydney with an all-new American Express Lounge at Melbourne Airport: now welcoming passengers departing from Terminal 2.
Open from 6am until 11pm daily, the space features familiar favourites like barista-made coffee, WiFi and dining facilities, and although the lounge lacks natural light and tarmac views, it doesn’t feel dank and gloomy during the day, as can sometimes be the case.
After an earlier preview, Australian Business Traveller returned to the lounge on the first day it opened to the public to bring you this review.
Location & Impressions
After clearing security and passport control at Melbourne Airport, make your way through the terminal’s Luxury Precinct, continue walking, make a right at Brunetti, and follow the airport lounge signage to take the escalator downstairs, where you’ll see further arrows:
Once inside, you’ll emerge in a dining area with both table and bench seating…
… and as you continue through, you’ll find an array of private seats with Melbourne-themed artwork above…
… and chairs built for relaxing below:
(Regular travellers may recognise that piece from the Cathay Pacific Pier First Class Lounge in Hong Kong, below.)
As Melbourne's lounge is new, it’s naturally very quiet for now – although the staff expect it to become busier over the coming weeks.
It's also larger than American Express’ facility in Sydney, catering to the growing number of travellers toting high-end points-earning plastic.
Have one of the following cards? You’ll enjoy complimentary access year-round with two guests in tow:
- American Express Centurion Card
- American Express Business Centurion Card
- American Express Platinum Charge Card
- American Express Platinum Business Card
- American Express Platinum Corporate Card (excluding Australian cards)
A broader range of more affordable cards offer two visits per calendar year instead, with further visits payable at $55 per entry until the next year begins:
- Qantas American Express Ultimate Card
- American Express Velocity Platinum Card
- American Express Explorer credit card
- American Express Business Explorer credit card
- David Jones American Express Platinum Card
- American Express Platinum Reserve credit card
- American Express Platinum Corporate Cards issued in Australia (two visits as opposed to unlimited access)
- Qantas American Express Corporate Platinum Card
- Commonwealth Bank Diamond Awards American Express card
- AMEX-issued Westpac Altitude Black credit card
- American Express Airpoints Platinum credit cards (issued in New Zealand)
With these cards, each entry uses one of the complimentary visits, which are shared between the American Express lounges in Sydney and Melbourne – you don’t get two visits to Sydney and two visits in Melbourne each year, it's two lounge visits, period. If you bring a guest, that’ll use your second visit.
Altitude Black and Earth Black American Express cards issued directly by Westpac also provide access here until April 4 2018, when these cards are being retired.
AMEX displays a photo of all eligible cards at the door: and note, if you don’t have one of these (or the others mentioned above), there’s no option to buy your way in.
Let’s start with dining, and that all-important morning cuppa – there’s fresh barista-made coffee here throughout the day…
… with hearty breakfast options such as bacon, baked beans, hash browns and sausages…
… along with the expected breads, pastries and a pancake machine:
In the mood for morning tea instead, or just have a sweet tooth? Macarons, buffalo mozzarella sticks and other bites are available at the same time…
… joined by yoghurts and juices:
At around 11am, the buffet transitions to ‘all day dining’ mode, where salads make an appearance…
… as do a new line-up of hot mains, including spicy chicken with rice (which had a nice kick without being too zippy), plus pasta and frittatas:
Cheese and accompaniments join the spread too…
… which you can enjoy at a table – ideal for groups – or at bench seats of varying heights:
The menu here changes every week on a five-week rotation, so passengers who fly out around the same time every month won’t see the same food until the fifth time they return, with the same true for high flyers jetting abroad weekly.
Stop by at the right time and you might also find evening bites being freshly-made before you...
… such as yummy beef sliders on brioche buns:
On the beverage front, the bar is open all day, pouring a range of Australian reds, whites and a sparkling (Seppelt The Drives), plus a selection of beer, and also spirits: including Four Pillars Gin, Canadian Club 12-year Whisky, Belvedere Vodka, Courvoisier VS Cognac, Suntory Whisky, Sauza Tequila, Baileys, and Bundaberg rum, along with a spiced rum in The Original Sailor Jerry Caribbean, and Jim Beam bourbon.
Non-alcoholic drinks are self-served just to the side, with soft drinks both on tap and in cans – whichever you’d prefer – and of course, chilled water.
Overall, that’s a plentiful selection for a credit card lounge, whether you’re simply hopping across to New Zealand or jetting further afield.
Make your visit a productive one by scoping out this private workspace: found at the very back of the lounge, and which is already proving very popular with travellers – seen here during a brief period when it was vacant:
Failing that, the solo suites allow you to work with your laptop on your lap, offering AC power and a cocktail shelf…
– but don’t forget to bring your Australian charger with you on your overseas trip, as these outlets only accept Aussie pins, rather than international chargers as are increasingly common in international lounges around the world. There’s no USB power here either.
For that, you’ll need to snag one of the tables lining the walls in the dining area, where the outlets feature both AC and USB:
You can also plug in along the dining benches – just lift the flap. The side outlets are better for smaller plugs, while the vertical plugs suit larger transformers, such as for the Microsoft Surface, which fits comfortably.
Wireless Internet is available throughout the lounge and is protected by a ‘familiar’ password, with our tests showing consistent upload and download speeds of around 5Mbps.
However, the wireless network appears to be blocking access to IMAP email servers – or the Internet ports used by these services – so as a result, my emails across multiple providers refused to sync, and I had to resort to webmail (or VPN) to access my inbox.
For business travellers about to board international flights (on which inflight WiFi may not be available), missing a crucial email before being incommunicado for an extended period isn’t ideal for a lounge designed with these passengers in mind.
To pass the time until your flight, head to the far end of the lounge…
… including those business-like booths:
However, take caution when standing up – the light fittings here sit directly above you, and if you’re tall like me, your head may crash into them unless you’re careful:
I also found the music in this area to be excessively loud, which unfortunately didn't make the area conducive to either task, but is something that can easily be fixed.
Otherwise, you can grab something to read, and while you’re there, check when your flight is boarding on the information screen, as boarding calls aren’t made here to keep things peaceful: as passengers can be travelling with any airline, which would otherwise mean a constant string of announcements.
Showers are the one thing missing from this lounge, which we’re told are coming in the next 3-6 months – and as the bathrooms here are shared with the Plaza Premium Lounge next door, you won’t find showers there either.
But all things considered, for a lounge welcoming credit card holders travelling with any airline in any class of service, there’s a lot to like: except for the WiFi issues, of course.
Unlike AMEX’s Centurion Lounges abroad, there’s no special treatment here for Centurion cardholders – beyond priority entry during peak periods – but even if the lounge does fill up, AMEX has confirmed that guests will be welcomed into the Plaza Premium Lounge instead.
That’s a much better approach than in Sydney where AMEX cardholders can no longer sneak into the SkyTeam Lounge downstairs, and should help Melbourne flyers work or relax before their international flight.
Chris Chamberlin travelled to Melbourne as a guest of American Express Australia and Plaza Premium Group.