Qantas has opened its all-new Melbourne Domestic Business Lounge, with business class passengers and Platinum-grade frequent flyers set to enjoy a smart and spacious upgrade to the previously tired and cramped quarters.
The lounge is styled as a 'supper club' with Qantas citing dark tones and sophisticated finishes – including Nero Marquina marble from Northern Spain, natural timber floors, brass and black metal fittings and custom brass lighting – "to symbolise the chic, urban feel of Melbourne."
A focal point of the new business lounge is a centrally-located bar serving beer wine and spirits along with barista-pulled coffee, with a cocktail hour between 5pm and 6pm.
This has a sophisticated Italian vibe which is perfectly in keeping with that trendy Melbourne-esque feeling, and it's easy to imagine how popular and buzzing this will be of a Friday evening.
As with its siblings in Brisbane and Perth, the Melbourne business lounge will have its own unique dining option in the form of a Spice Bar serving freshly-made noodles and Asian street food – although that won't open until the lounge overhaul is completed in early November. (Qantas' Perth business lounge has become famous for its pizzas, which Brisbane has a Mexican Cantina).
The Spice Bar will serve up the likes of sichuan eggplant with rice and stir fried gai lan, beef brisket noodle soup with salted chili and bok choy, and char sui pork with rice and stir fried choy sum.
The refit also sees a more spacious buffet area for hot and cold dishes, also with an emphasis on Asian dishes including fried rice, noodles and Asian greens. A more open design makes it easier to browse and plate up the dishes, with plenty of areas to sit and enjoy your meal
As with the other new-look domestic business lounges there's also a 'Quench' hydration station with hot teas and cool drinks.
We're pleased to report there are plenty of AC and USB sockets within easy reach of most fixed furniture and along parts of the walls for charging laptops, tablets and smartphones.
The new Melbourne Business Lounge occupies the entire northern span of Qantas' domestic lounge precinct, taking over the space, full-height windows and views previously allocated to the Qantas Club.
The windows add to the sense of a light airy design which opens up the lounge compared to the old space, a large part of which was located away from the windows.
That's enhanced by the a skylight which used to be within the footprint of the former Qantas Club but now lets light flood down into the centre of the business lounge.
There are several of these circular benches which create a communal seating arrangement, with a hub-and-spoke design where travellers resting on the padded bench can chat to those sitting either side or across the small coffee tables.
We also liked these workstations, which have a higher bench on one side and – not seen from this angle – a lower bench on the other side.
And at long last, the business lounge finally gets its own dedicated entry, with passengers turning left when they reach the top of the escalators instead of being routed through the middle of the Qantas Club.
This is still the first stage of the lounge's redevelopment, with more seating to be added by early November.
A larger Qantas Club is also on the way
This will not only reduce through-traffic and congestion at the Qantas Club but allow the Qantas Club to expand into part of the former business lounge.
That's expected to lift Qantas Club capacity to around 530 seats – 10% more than the old Qantas Club – and alleviate the current over-crowding which has seen Gold-grade frequent flyers and Qantas Club members unable to guest fellow travellers into the lounge during peak hours (5am-9am and 3pm-7pm).
Those guest access restrictions remain in place until November.
At the same time, the wall adjacent to the Qantas Club bar will pushed back to reveal windows facing into the terminal.
This work is expected to be finished in November, marking the completion of the Qantas Club and Business Lounge make-over.
Up next on Qantas' lounge to-do list is a Cinderella-like transformation of its Sydney International Business Lounge, which will be designed by David Caon and feature a Rockpool 'dining concept'