One of Qantas' two lounges at Sydney Airport's international terminal, the Qantas Business Lounge proves to be a bit of a mixed bag rather than an out-and-out winner across every category by which business travellers and frequent flyers would judge a lounge.
The lounge is open to passengers travelling in business class on all Qantas flights as well as oneworld partner airlines including British Airways and Cathay Pacific, in addition to Gold members of Qantas Frequent Flyer and oneworld's Sapphire-grade members, regardless of their travel class – as long as you're booked on a oneworld flight.
Location & Impressions
Qantas' international terminal lounges are up an escalator after you pass through the irritatingly unavoidable duty free shop once you're through security at Sydney Airport.
The First Class lounge is a much shorter walk along the mezzanine level once you're up the escalators, while the Business lounge is a little bit of a trek.
The lounge is long, in a narrow rectangular shape, with the entrance in the middle of the long side. Off the main rectangle are small triangular shaped areas that are, variously, seating, food and drink offerings, a family area and a coffee spot.
Passing through the doors, two staff were on greeting duty and checked my boarding pass.
Surprisingly, given that I was flying a partner airline (BA) and definitely sound more British than Australian, no explanation of the lounge layout or facilities was offered.
Staff were sparsely in evidence, even with the peak period of A380 flights to Los Angeles and a 747 to Dallas/Fort Worth ready to depart. Dirty plates and glasses on a table nearby sat for over fifteen minutes before being cleared.
The food options were a little limited in comparison with some other airlines' offerings -- notably Emirates, which lays on an excellent spread in its lounge.
Everything was of a very high quality, though, with the various salads and dip-type spreads particularly good. (Try the lurid pink beetroot salad or the pumpkin and goat cheese spread -- both are fab.)
The wine options are plentiful and well-chosen, with a Seppelt sparkling, three whites and three reds. Since it was only early afternoon, a glass of bubbles and a small taste of Penfold's Koonunga Hill Autumn Riesling (which was exceptionally delicious) was the limit, but both were delicious, well-chilled and offered throughout the lounge.
There are three draught beers and several in bottles as well, and there's a soft drink fountain with Coke drinks. Jugs of juice are also available, though these are long-life UHT from a box rather than upmarket freshly squeezed (or even factory made refrigerated juice you can get in a supermarket).
A bar area with nibbles and multiple wine coolers sits just to the right as you walk in -- perfect to just plop down, grab a glass of something and check your email on a laptop, tablet or smartphone if you've only a short wait before your flight.
Unfortunately, Qantas' proper coffee machine is "unattented" after 9.30am every day.
In the morning rush, barista coffee is available, but Qantas frustratingly closes the proper coffee down at 9.30 in the morning, leaving you with the automatic machines, which aren't nearly as good.
The wireless Internet in the lounge was strangely not marked as Qantas' offering in any way -- the network name is simply "Telstra". That's a little confusing for the first-time traveller, or for someone travelling infrequently with Qantas, who might have forgotten which of the mobile phone telcos' available networks is for the lounge.
In terms of speed, the wifi is absolutely exemplary: over 12 Mbps download speed, perfect for slurping down a hefty movie from iTunes for in-flight viewing in short order.
Power points are intermittently available in the seating areas -- look on the window side of the low polished stone walls, which are your best bet, and don't be afraid to ask if the person sitting there is using the power and whether you can sling your laptop cable over the wall to them to plug in.
On the far right side of the lounge as you walk in is a bank of iMac computers that run both Mac OS and Windows 7. There are helpful laminated instructions at each workstation.
While the seating is far from ergonomic low stools, the computers are fast and the displays excellent. These also have the best view of the runway if watching planes take off is your kind of thing.
Inoffensive muzak played in the background, competing with a relatively loud television showing Sky News. With the long rather than deep shape, there aren't that many places to go for a bit of peace and quiet, especially if the lounge is relatively full.
All in all, in terms of international business class offerings in Sydney and when compared with excellent lounges at the home hubs of Qantas' oneworld partners Cathay Pacific and British Airways, the lounge really only merits an "okay" rating.
It shouldn't be difficult to find somewhere to sit quietly at 2 in the afternoon, and not being able to get a decent cup of coffee is pretty inexcusable.
But the food and wine offerings are good, so if you're travelling with someone else, or you have a coat or scarf to mark out your territory when returning to the bar or buffet, leave it there and return with your food and drink pickings.