Virgin Australia’s domestic terminal at Melbourne Airport will be dramatically reshaped over the coming years, with the aim of delivering what the airline promises will be a “world class passenger experience.”
“This isn't just a lick of paint,” jokes Virgin Australia Airlines group executive Rob Sharp. “This will transform the look and feel people will have when flying with Virgin Australia.”
One of the key pain points for business travellers and frequent flyers – the need to go through security after leaving the airline’s lounge – will be removed, with the introduction of a Premium Entry facility with its own kerbside access, checkin facility and security lane which will lead straight into the lounge.
Passengers will then be able to leave the lounge and go straight to their boarding gate without having to queue up for security.
The arrangement will mimic the the popular premium entry facilities already in place at Virgin’s Sydney and Brisbane lounges, but add a baggage drop point for checked bags.
Terminal 3’s general security screening will also be relocated to sit before the Virgin Australia lounge – in effect, moving the lounge ‘airside’ – after a new internal walkway is built between T3 and T4.
However, passengers will need to be patient – this lounge entry revamp will likely take place sometime after 2019, as stage two of the multi-million dollar makeover.
The first stage will see the arrivals zone at T3 reshaped along the same lines as Virgin’s Perth terminal with self-service kiosks, automated bag drop points and a generally more spacious and open design.
"Perth is the feel that we want in our terminals, that modern fresh and spacious feeling," Sharp tells Australian Business Traveller. "It's our future vision of what flying is.
Also on the cards are two additional baggage carousels for arriving flights.
Virgin Australia and Melbourne Airport are currently finalising the designs, with work expected to begin in 2018 and stage one up and running – at least in part – by early 2019, Sharp says.
"This first step is really the ‘front of house’ for us because that’ll make the biggest change. The old-style counters with queuing will go, with automated bag drops being installed at the rear of the terminal."
"That will then allow security screening to be relocated. We’ve got several different security screening points in Melbourne, and some very significant chokepoints... we think this redesign will make such a difference to the flow."
"The Premium Entry timeframe will be worked out over the next six months," Sharp explains. "It won’t be the last cab off the rank but it does depend on the timing of some (other) construction work which is needed to facilitate that."