Qantas expects to cut the ribbon to its new London Heathrow airport lounge in November, giving travellers on the Flying Kangaroo their first dedicated Qantas lounge at the busy UK hub.
“We'll be opening London in the next few weeks,” Qantas Head of Customer Product and Service Phil Capps told Australian Business Traveller on the sidelines of Qantas’ delivery event in Seattle for its first Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.
“The build is nearing the end of its completion, we’re getting daily updates from the builders and from the London team” Capps said of the long-delayed project, which has seen its open date repeatedly pushed back from March to mid-year and most recently October.
Australian Business Traveller understands the setbacks were due to similar construction and contractor issues which also delayed Cathay Pacific's new business class and first class lounges in the same terminal.
But Capps has no doubt that Qantas travellers will find the London lounge was worth the wait.
“It’s looking great,” he says with confidence. “We're really excited about the lounge and we especially like the two-level space.”
In common with Qantas’ other international lounges such as Singapore and Hong Kong, the design of the new London lounge “has strong links back to the Qantas master brand but also a nod to the local clientele and the local market.”
This approach gives each lounge its own sense of place instead of being just another set of walls containing the same identikit furniture and fittings.
At Heathrow, one of those plays is the tended bar on the lounge’s upper level, which the airline will promote as a gin bar – although it will of course also serve other spirits along with a variety of beers and wines (and, we suspect, some champagne kept under the shelf for first class travellers, Chairman’s Lounge members and Platinum One frequent flyers).
"The concept of a gin and tonic is very iconic in the UK, and we have some fantastic artisan distilleries in Australia,” Capps explains. “so we think we can both respect the local market while also bringing a unique sense of Australia into the lounge.”
This cheeky coals-to-Newcastle approach will showcase some of Australia’s unique gins to the UK market, headlined of course by boutique Victorian gin Four Pillars.
There will also be local and seasonal influences on the menu for the lounge’s Rockpool dining room.
“This is the country that's producing some of the best smoked salmon and gravlax in the world so we’ll offer some beautiful sides of locally-sourced salmon but with a unique Rockpool Qantas take on that.”
The lounge will cater for just two Qantas flights: QF2 to Sydney via Dubai (and from the end of March 2018, Singapore) which leaves at 9.45pm; and the new QF10 London-Perth non-stop Boeing 787 service which will be wheels-up at 1.30pm.
The Qantas London Lounge will be open to Qantas first class and business class passengers on those flights as well as their counterparts on Oneworld partner airlines in Heathrow T3 including British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair and American Airlines, along with Emirates.
David Flynn travelled to Seattle as a guest of Qantas
PREVIOUS [February 2016] | Qantas will open a new flagship lounge at London's Heathrow Airport next year as the airline continues to upgrade its international lounge network.
Due to open by March 2017, the Qantas London Lounge at Terminal 3 will follow in the footsteps of its contemporary counterparts at Los Angeles, and to a lesser extent Hong Kong and Singapore, but give the 'Qantas international lounge' model a uniquely British bent.
While all Qantas passengers will share the same lounge it's expected that additional services – such as free clothes pressing, 'off the list' wines and champagne, and first dibs on shower bookings – will be offered to travellers in first class along with members of the exclusive Chairman's Lounge plus Platinum One frequent flyers.
The lounge will boast a "Rockpool menu and dining experience" with a full-service wine and cocktail bar, showers and a children's zone.
Qantas currently runs two daily Airbus A380 flights out of Heathrow, with the Melbourne-bound QF10 departing at noon and Sydney's QF2 at 8.35pm.
In addition to first and business class travellers the lounge will also be open to Gold and Platinum Qantas Frequent Flyers and Qantas Club members as well as eligible flyers on Oneworld airlines departing from T3.
The new lounge will seat 230 people across a split-level facility located on the footprint of the former SAS lounge at Terminal 3, according to a person familiar with the plans who wasn’t authorised to comment publicly.
The Scandinavian airline shuttered its T3 lounge in late 2014 after shifting flights to the Star Alliance hub of T2.
Qantas currently shares the Heathrow Terminal 3 lounge of British Airways, but sees the substantial investment in its own lounge as a marker for the airline's long-term commitment to London and the Kangaroo Route.
"The Kangaroo Route is at the heart of Qantas' identity and London remains one of our most important destinations" said Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce.
"We want the first dedicated Qantas lounge at Heathrow to be something special," adding that it would be "a fresh jewel in the crown".
Joyce – who today reported a record $921 million pre-tax profit for the airline over the six months from July to December 2015 – has previously talked up the possibility of non-stop Boeing 787-9 flights from Perth to London.
That route could see passengers from the east coast cities flying to Perth to make the 14,000km, 18 hour trek to Blighty as an alternative to today's superjumbo stop-overs at Dubai.
Oneworld partner Cathay Pacific is also working on its own new-look London T3 lounge, which will open in June with separate business class and first class zones and take its design cues from the warm residential vibe already seen in CX lounges at Tokyo Haneda, Bangkok, Manila and most recently The Pier First Class at Hong Kong (shown below).
Photos, video: Cathay Pacific opens new The Pier First Class lounge