Virgin Australia's lounge at Canberra Airport graces the airport's 'west wing', with more of the contemporary design we've seen across Virgin's lounge network (except for some older lounges such as Perth and Adelaide).
Unlike Qantas, which operates both a Qantas Club and Qantas Business Lounge at Canberra, Virgin Australia's single lounge has to cater for a wider audience – so how does it stack up?
Location & Impressions
Well-signed, located past security and opposite from gate 7 in Canberra Airport, the airy and spacious lounge takes its design cues from Virgin Australia's other leading lounges.
With a consistent and modern design across the airline's renovated lounge network – and despite it being my first visit to Canberra with Virgin Australia – I felt familiar with the space and 'at home' before I'd even set my things down.
Once inside, guests are treated to a sweeping view of the airfield.
While it's a similar view to that of the Canberra Qantas Club, it's leaps and bounds ahead of the Qantas business class lounge in the nation's capital, which has no discernible view to speak of.
It's also quite a pretty view of a night, if you’re on one of the half-dozen Virgin flights which leave through the evening.
Business class passengers are invited to ascend the lounge escalators in Canberra, while Gold and Platinum members of Velocity and paid lounge members can enter with a guest in tow.
Eligible members of Virgin Australia's international airline partners and those willing to pay $65 per visit may also use the lounge, as we've previously detailed.
An all-day buffet featuring salads, cold meats, fresh fruit, breads and snacks is on offer, with a sandwich press kept at the ready for the airline's signature ham, cheese and tomato toasted sandwich (or your own creation).
While there's certainly a great deal of variety for all hunger levels, the selections were near-identical to those found in the Virgin Australia Melbourne lounge that afternoon and evening – so travellers heading off on a day trip are largely greeted by the same food choices for both lunch and dinner.
The similarities work to your advantage when it comes to coffee – like Melbourne, the baristas here can pump out a delicious Grinders coffee, with latte art to boot:
Other beverages available include juice, iced water, soft drinks, and after 11am, a choice of white, red and sparkling wine, cider and beer – including the Italian Peroni Nastro Azzurro on tap, along with the lighter Peroni Leggera.
As it was a quiet afternoon in Canberra, the food & beverage staff would occasionally wander through the lounge and offer to refresh everybody's drinks, which was a nice touch.
With ample seating, USB and AC power points scattered along the winding benches and tables, there's heaps of room to get some work done before you depart.
Although the surface area looks relatively limited on the higher tables, I had plenty of space to fully open my 15-inch laptop, with sufficient room for USB sticks, charging cables and adaptors behind it.
With a privacy divider spanning the length of the benches, they're also great if you'd rather keep to yourself than indulge in conversation.
If you're leaning towards a spot near the windows, you'll find laptop power tucked away in the corners of the purple and white benches (below), while wi-fi is fast and strong throughout the lounge.
With the benches and tables located in the middle of the space, they don't do much for privacy. If you're working on something that's commercially sensitive, we'd suggest setting up camp in the relatively small business centre.
Our top pick would be one of the two seats facing the door – the corridor behind takes lounge guests to and from the restrooms and shower facilities, so you'll avoid stickybeaks by having your laptop screen out of public view.
Here, two Windows XP computers provide both internet access and Microsoft Office functionality, while a printer and photocopier can be found in the main lounge space.
With the dated operating system having been released some 13 years ago, we've been told that all computers on the airline's national lounge network are slated for operating system upgrades later this year.
Homeward bound after a long day? Head to the plush chairs on the far right of the lounge, or grab a seat alongside the window to take in the view.
In either case, there are tables for your drinks and nibbles, while a TV is kept at a reasonable volume and can be seen from most of the seats – although it's a little small to enjoy from further away:
A good selection of magazines and newspapers are available, as are thousands of other titles through the free PressReader app.
Once the lounge gets a little full, more seats can be found near the entry:
With an angled and short seatback, I didn't find these particularly comfortable – instead, the few chairs found in the lounge's 'short stay' area are much more relaxing, yet feel quite exposed:
When sitting here, you tend to feel a little excluded from the goings-on in the lounge – particularly as you're segregated from the other travellers.
If anything, I'd liken these to the waiting area of a doctor's office, which isn't an ideal setting for a pre-flight stay – avoid them unless the lounge is packed to the rafters!
Despite hosting flights to just a handful of destinations – all of which are within two hours' flying time of Canberra Airport – it's great to see that the Virgin Australia Canberra lounge doesn't have a remotely 'regional' feel.
Furthermore, its modern yet familiar design could easily be mistaken for its better-connected counterparts in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, making it rather fitting in the nation's capital city airport.
However, with corporate travellers a key focus of the new-age airline, it was bemusing to find the identical buffet items in both the Canberra and Melbourne lounges on the same day – particularly when a sizeable chunk of the business travel market involves interstate day trips.
Consistency is always a strong point when it comes to air travel, but when dining options are mirrored across lounges to such a microscopic extent, it's easy for frequent travel to become monotonous.
Given that most travellers will only sample a few of the snack foods on each visit, rotating through these isn't really needed. Instead, providing different mains in each lounge would create a little variety and keep things interesting – well, as interesting as lunch or dinner in a lounge can be!
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