Virgin Australia Canberra Airport lounge

Review: Virgin Australia Canberra Airport lounge

Country:
Australia
City:
Canberra
Airport:
Canberra
Cabin Class:
Business
Alliance:
None
Airline:
VA (Virgin Australia)

location:

dining:

work:

overall:

What's Hot

  • A sweeping view of the airfield for all lounge guests
  • Different zones for work and relaxation
  • USB & AC power ports are plentiful

What's Not

  • Buffet selections near-mirrored the Melbourne lounge on the same day

X-Factor

  • Table beverage service when it's quiet

Introduction

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.

Access

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.

Dining

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.

Work

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.

Relax

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!

Summary

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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Chris Chamberlin
Chris Chamberlin is a senior journalist with Australian Business Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!
 

9 comments

  • Peter Loh

    PeterLoh

    15 May, 2014 10:57 am

    Unfortunately the tables by the windows receive spotty wifi reception (though it ironically works perfectly in the gate directly below the lounge).

    Otherwise it's a fantastic lounge!

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  • TheRealBabushka

    TheRealBabushka

    15 May, 2014 11:36 am

    Is clinical and sterile the theme that Virgin is going with?

    The purple lighting effect feels like ultraviolet therapy.

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  • B. Andrew Curran

    Andrew_c

    15 May, 2014 12:17 pm

    I agree, the VA lounges do have a very sterile feel. I think the Sydney lounge is even more sterile than the CBR one.

    I passed through Canberra airport last week, Friday evening. Lounge was deserted by 7.30pm. There was chicken korma and rice at the buffett. It wasn't entirely awful. 

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  • LoveToFly

    LoveToFly

    15 May, 2014 01:45 pm

    I think you are right on the money with the food options. I use virgin lounges sometimes 4 times a week and its always the same disapointing food options. If they can bring that up to speed then i think its a offering to compete with Qantas lounges. But thats just my own opionion

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  • HYorke

    HYorke

    15 May, 2014 05:21 pm

    As the writer noted, the staff wander around asking if you would like another glass of whatever it is you are having. The first time that happened to me I was most surprised as I have not experienced this is any other lounge (Virgin or Qantas) in Australia. The decor of Virgin lounges is a bit post-modern for me, but, that minor quibble aside, the CBR lounge is a very pleasant one.

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  • johnaboxall

    johnaboxall

    15 May, 2014 09:32 pm

    The table service generally happens for me when the lounge is very quiet and the staff need something to do :) Happens in OOL quite often. 

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  • gippsflyer

    gippsflyer

    19 May, 2014 08:02 pm

    They do the same thing occasionally in the Qantas Business Lounge at CBR, when it's quiet. Between the two (CBR Virgin Lounge vs CBR Qantas Business Lounge) I prefer the CBR Virgin Lounge - it has a more lighter, airy feel. Food is not a strong point in either lounge (and in almost all Australian lounges, this is generally the case, with only the MEL/SYD Qantas First lounges really worth it in the food category). When it comes to food, usually the best options are the retail outlets outside the lounges :-)

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  • Glen McDonald

    GlenCBR

    16 May, 2014 12:40 pm

    I wonder if one day (EVER?) these lounges may be shared by passengers waiting for Virgin flight to farther afield. As the author mentions, there a very few flights into/out of Canberra - If virgin would step up to Perth, Darwin, Cairns (and return to Townsville and Hobart) it would make a huge difference. Similarly if VA - or Air New Zealand- were to fly direct to New Zealand. SIA ro Singapore, Cathay to Hong Kong and ANYONE (except United) direct to the USA and Canada, it would certainly make the investment in the airport, and lounges well worthwhile.  Let's hope I get some reply SOME day soon about the impending nature of flights for CBR.

    Back to topic - the VA lounge is great. and much friendlier than QF

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  • Kim Mcardle

    Kimflyaway

    8 Aug, 2016 06:53 pm

    Virgin Lounges are very business orientated. Stark and not very comfortable. Singapore Airlines  Lounges are comfortable, welcoming and restful if one has to spend several hours between flights.  

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Guest

26 May, 2019 03:48 pm

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