With plenty of natural light, restaurant table service, a Champagne menu and even a day spa with complimentary treatments, the Qantas international first class lounge at Melbourne Airport is a great place to await your flight.
Not only does it welcome the Roo's first class passengers – and those of its partners Emirates and Qatar Airways – Qantas Platinum, Platinum One and Chairman's Lounge frequent flyers are also on the guest list, as are other Oneworld Emerald frequent flyers including American Airlines Executive Platinum and ConciergeKey, and Cathay Pacific Marco Polo Club Diamond, Diamond Plus and Diamond Invitation guests.
Australian Business Traveller stopped by before Qantas' inaugural international Boeing 787 flight to Los Angeles to bring you this review.
Location & Impressions
After clearing security, passport control and Melbourne Airport's ever-growing duty-free maze, follow the signs to the departure gates, and veer right and up the escalator near gates 9 and 11 to find the Qantas lounge:
It's a scaled-down version of the airline's first class lounge in Sydney – there's no large entry lobby or internal escalators here – but reception features a small 'living wall' and a skylight bringing in plenty of natural light: noticeably missing from Qantas' international business class lounge at the same airport.
Inside, a rectangular space is divided into a variety of zones primarily centred on relaxing, with some seats by the windows...
... others tailored to small groups and those keeping up with the latest news on TV...
... and some seats better-suited to duos and solo travellers, plus a timeless airport departure board:
Also inside is a restaurant, day spa, private suites and an office space, but more on those later.
- First class passengers of Qantas, Emirates and Qatar Airways
- Qantas Platinum and Platinum One frequent flyers travelling on a Qantas, Emirates, China Eastern, Jetstar or Oneworld flight, including Qantas codeshare flights operated by non-Oneworld partners such as Fiji Airways
- Qantas Chairman’s Lounge members prior to any flight with any airline until February 18 2018. From February 19, these members must be flying with Qantas or one of its partner airlines for access.
- Other Oneworld Emerald frequent flyers prior to Qantas and Oneworld flights (currently, that's Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, LATAM, Malaysia Airlines, Qatar Airways and SriLankan Airlines from Melbourne)
- Emirates Skywards Platinum cardholders prior to Qantas and Emirates flights with a QF or EK flight number on their ticket, except when travelling to North and South America
- Holders of a single-use Qantas first class lounge pass, such as issued to Platinum One frequent flyers which can be shared with friends and family
If you're in a rush, there's a small counter in the centre of the lounge offering machine-made espresso coffee and tea...
... plus quick bites like fruit, yoghurt and pastries:
But hopefully, you've arrived several hours before your flight to take advantage of everything the lounge has to offer.
On the dining front, there's full table service and à la carte dining throughout the space, whether you take a seat in the dining room itself...
... pull up a perch at the bar...
... are enjoying the airside view from behind any of the floor-to-ceiling windows...
... or are tucked away in one of the private office suites, even if just for a glass of Champagne:
Speaking of Champagne, travellers are spoiled for choice with not one, but four bubbles on the menu – the Taittinger being my personal favourite from the list, followed by the PJ – although I've never rated the Pommery very highly and wouldn't recommend it.
I paired my Taittinger to the buttermilk pancakes with macadamia cream and Qantas raw honey for a tasty Champagne breakfast...
... before moving on to lunch later in the day, which began with a gin-based 'Great Southern Land' cocktail, served in celebration of the airline's Boeing 787-9 taking its inaugural international passenger flight, from Melbourne to Los Angeles.
After two tasty amuse-bouches...
... I went straight for the salt and pepper squid, a favourite among frequent flyers – currently served with green chilli dipping sauce and aioli:
... and for the main, chose the crispy beef salad:
It arrived beautifully-presented with a great balance of textures and of sweet and savoury flavours, and went well with a glass of Grosset Gaia 2014 from the decanter:
When you see the decanter in the lounge, it's usually a hint that there's something on offer other than what's printed on the wine list, so ask and ye shall receive.
Of course, no visit to the Qantas First Lounge is complete without the signature pavlova in a glass, which changes seasonally:
Barista coffee, beers, cocktails and dessert wines are available too, plus an extensive range of spirits, with the dining menu itself varying every three months, and some dishes changing from week to week under the menu's 'market inspirations' heading to keep things interesting for regular flyers.
If there's work to do before your flight, you'll find a few desks over in the corner where you can set up your own books or laptop, or can make use of the supplied iMac computers and printing facilities:
Travellers working with sensitive or confidential information will appreciate that some of these desks offer added privacy...
... and for even more seclusion, the lounge offers two private suites as well, which can be booked via reception on a first-come, first-served basis:
Inside are many of the same facilities, joined by TVs and extra furniture should you wish to host a pre-flight team meeting: also useful for high-profile travellers seeking even more privacy than the rest of the lounge affords.
I managed to secure the smaller of the two suites during my visit – the other, larger suite with airside views had already been booked – but found the air conditioning inside to be rather poor, and had to keep the door open to avoid overheating:
Outside this area though, there isn't anywhere great for working on a laptop – sure, you could use one of the dining tables, but the dining room can get quite busy, and can feel like you're 'in the way' if you're not there for a meal.
Power points are also scarce throughout the lounge – you'll find them against the walls...
... but from many seats, they're out of reach. USB power is absent, too, unless you plug in and charge at one of the desktop computers.
However, the overall design of the lounge does help to avoid distractions while you're working, as each section is divided into smaller nooks – which means more walls with power points – rather than the lounge being one open rectangle.
Wireless Internet is available throughout, with the connection being one of the fastest I've ever encountered in an airport lounge, offering download speeds of 156Mbps, uploads of 139Mbps, and ping speeds of 3ms.
When you consider that Netflix HD takes up about 5Mbps of bandwidth, there's enough juice there for over 30 lounge guests to be streaming high definition video at the same time without their viewing being impacted – which also means that sending and receiving large files such as email attachments is a breeze.
Most of the lounge is rightly given over to relaxing and unwinding before your flight, whether that's in one of the comfy chairs while watching TV...
... reading a newspaper or magazine...
... or indeed a book from the in-lounge library:
Again, the design of the space avoids it feeling too 'big', so whether you're here by yourself or are part of a group, it's easy to feel like you're the only ones in the lounge – except during school holidays when the lounge can get busy:
There are some great views to be had by the windows, with the seats here also reclining and offering a leg rest for added comfort...
... with private shower suites at hand too (and yes, you can most certainly close that door to the public hallway!):
The most relaxing part of the lounge, however, is the Aurora day spa, offering a range of 20-minute treatments, again with views of the airfield – normally with a blind over the window for privacy:
Even though it'd been a couple of years since my last visit to this lounge, I was impressed that my massage preferences were still on file – including my preferred treatment and level of pressure – which meant I could simply walk in and relax, without any questions asked or paperwork to complete.
Overall, I spent about four hours here, and even when my flight was called for boarding, I still didn't want to leave: but, as some gates at Melbourne Airport can be a 5-10-minute walk from the lounge, when that announcement comes or your smartphone lights up, it's best to get moving:
And really, that's the measure of a great airport lounge: when you can spend the better part of a day there and still not want to leave – however, more places to work on a laptop, better access to power points and the addition of USB power would all be welcome improvements for high-flying business travellers.
Chris Chamberlin was travelling as a guest of Qantas.