SkyTeam international business class passengers and top-tier frequent flyers can unwind in the SkyTeam Premium Lounge at Sydney Airport before journeying abroad: the only lounge of its kind in Australia, run by the alliance itself and managed by Plaza Premium on its behalf.
Inside, speedy WiFi and AC power points keep you connected and recharged while natural light is plentiful – although there's certainly room for improvement when it comes to the food and hospitality.
Australian Business Traveller brings you this review following a recent visit to the SkyTeam Premium Lounge.
Location & Impressions
After completing the usual check-in, passport control and security formalities, follow the signs to the SkyTeam lounge near gate 24 – located next door to the American Express lounge. Normally, you'd find staff here to greet you and scan your boarding pass, but when we arrived, the entrance had been left unmanned. After waiting there for several minutes with no employees in sight, we simply wandered inside unchallenged.
(We were entitled to enter the lounge both as a SkyTeam business class passenger and as a SkyTeam Elite Plus frequent flyer, but anybody flying with any airline could have easily admitted themselves without being seen.)
Moving forward, once inside and down the escalators, guests will find a vibrant, well-lit and modern space, mixing both muted colours with those more vibrant such as the bright red seats and the predominantly green living walls along the side. There’s also plenty of natural light to complement the greenery... ... and views out to the tarmac to remind that you're at an airport.
- Business class and first class passengers flying with SkyTeam member airlines including China Airlines, China Eastern*, China Southern, Delta Air Lines, Garuda Indonesia, Korean Air, Vietnam Airlines and XiamenAir.
- SkyTeam Elite Plus frequent flyers when travelling with any of the SkyTeam airlines above.
- Selected SkyTeam Elite frequent flyers prior to flights with the same airline that operates their frequent flyer program, for instance, Vietnam Airlines LotusMiles Gold members flying with Vietnam Airlines only. This varies from program to program at the discretion of each airline, rather than being a blanket SkyTeam alliance rule.
- Virgin Australia business class passengers before flights to Apia only.
- Virgin Australia Velocity Gold and Platinum cardholders travelling to Los Angeles with Delta Air Lines; to Honolulu with Hawaiian Airlines (VA flight numbers only); or to Apia with Virgin Australia or Virgin Samoa.
- DragonPass airport lounge members travelling with any airline who generate a ‘DragonPass PPL voucher’ via the DragonPass app to present on arrival (DragonPass membership card alone not sufficient for entry).
- Travellers not covered by the above can also purchase access at the door, where a two-hour visit sells for $77 and a five-hour stay costs $132.
* China Eastern passengers can access this lounge but may choose to visit the Qantas international business class lounge instead.
For a pre-flight bite, take a hard right immediately after entering the lounge to find the dining zone, complete with tables and a buffet area. When we first arrived there was a good selection of cheese and accompaniments on offer... ... joined by various salads: Yet, within five minutes of that – and before we'd actually had the chance to try anything – a staff member came by to advise that the buffet was now closed, and that everything had been packed away – right at lunch time too, when you'd frankly expect food to be available. Instead, we were told to fetch our meal from the American Express Lounge upstairs. A small pie, garlic bread, stuffed triangle parcel and potato salad were tasty, but other options like a tuna salad and a green leaf salad didn't appeal at the time. An elevator makes roaming between the SkyTeam and AMEX lounges straightforward, at least... ... while later during our stay, the SkyTeam lounge buffet was replenished but then entirely covered in cling wrap so that its contents couldn't be consumed, with travellers still sent upstairs for food. The lounge staff advised that the buffet would usually provide the items above unwrapped and ready for consumption when passengers were expected, but they claimed to be unaware of Vietnam Airlines' new Sydney-Hanoi service (on which we were booked as a guest of Vietnam Airlines), and so had expected the lounge to be empty and not occupied until later in the afternoon.
But even so, packing away the buffet when passengers are clearly still inside the lounge and then keeping it 'closed' after replenishing its contents is far from what we'd expect of a self-described 'premium' lounge, even as a one-off mix-up.
On the more positive side, the lounge features a bar area which remained open and available throughout our entire visit... ... offering a range of self-serve/self-pour beer, wine... ... and spirits, plus the obligatory mixers and snacks on the side like corn chips: Coffee comes machine-made via the nearby espresso machine... ... but we took the chance to order a hand-crafted latte from the barista in the American Express Lounge instead.
Whether sending a quick email or tackling harder tasks on your laptop, there are plenty of places here to get things done.
For an office with a view, perch yourself at one of these bench seats over by the buffet area, offering desk-level AC power points... ... or hold an impromptu boardroom meeting in the business zone, again with in-desk power points for keeping your gadgets recharged: For more casual work or simple surfing on your tablet, pull up one of the cream or red seats which also have power points a'plenty... ... while Apple computers are also available if travelling without your own tech. USB power ports are a much rarer find, although speedy wireless Internet provided download speeds of 20.86Mbps, uploads of 24.22Mbps and ping speeds of just 4ms: more than ample for sending large email attachments, streaming HD video or backing up devices to cloud-based drives.
Unlike some lounges where it's awkward to sit near strangers – such as the opposing seat in a pair of two – SkyTeam's design is very much geared towards solo travellers with individually-positioned seats throughout, but which also cater well to couples, friends and colleagues. Larger groups are accommodated by the semi-circular seats to the sides – but again, a solo traveller wouldn't be out of place here... ... while a range of reading material can be found near the entrance and also in the business zone. You'll also spot a massage chair tucked away in the corner, along with a 'TV room' where passengers can unwind... well, when the lounge staff aren't using this as their own break room and social area, that is, which was unfortunately the case during our entire two-hour visit.
Yes, on-duty staff had set up camp in the TV room and were using it as a space to chat and eat lunch: rendering this area unavailable to the very passengers the lounge exists to cater for.
Although the design of the SkyTeam lounge itself creates an inviting atmosphere, and WiFi speeds were more than acceptable for the business traveller, we couldn't help but feel like an 'inconvenience' to the staff here, who clearly weren't focused on delivering a high standard of hospitality.
It's not that the staff aren't friendly – they're certainly polite when you approach them – but leaving the reception desk unmanned and using the passenger areas of the lounge as a private lunch room doesn't leave a great impression: and nor does closing the buffet when passengers are in the lounge at lunch time and wanting to eat, even if that's not what happens most of the time.
Have you visited the SkyTeam Premium Lounge at Sydney Airport recently? Share your own experience in the comment box below!