Virgin Australia's Melbourne Airport lounge

Review: Virgin Australia's Melbourne Airport lounge

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

location:

dining:

work:

overall:

What's Hot

  • Secluded 'business zone'
  • Boardroom with a view
  • Standing-only areas with AC power for quick visits

What's Not

  • Overly loud boarding calls
  • Located before security

X-Factor

  • New espresso and wine bars

Introduction

After months of renovations and standing at over 100 metres from end to end, the revitalised Virgin Australia Melbourne lounge now boasts space for 608 guests, along with new espresso and wine bars.

With the previous Melbourne lounge having only been renovated in 2011, Virgin Australia CEO John Borghetti told Australian Business Traveller last year that “the problem with Melbourne – and it's a good problem to have – is that when we built it with 80 or 100 percent more seating capacity than the old one, we were expecting it to last us for another two or three years.”

So come in, take a look around!

SuppliedWelcome to the Virgin Australia Melbourne lounge
Supplied

Location & Impressions

Awkwardly positioned in the ‘landside’ space between two departure piers (below), the lounge itself remains before security screening.

However, from July, lounge lizards will gain a new 'Premium Exit' – offering two dedicated screening lanes for passengers bound for gates 1-10 on the northern pier.

When you first enter the lounge, you'll notice its spaciousness – vivid colours and timber finishings avoid the near-'clinical' appearance of its predecessor.

Travellers are catered for at all times and stages of the day – the winding table above has AC and USB power for charging devices and sending those all-important emails, while the stools below (located behind the morning espresso bar) are great for a quick coffee while catching up on the latest news.

Access

Virgin Australia's business class passengers can access the lounge before their flight, while Virgin Australia lounge members are also granted access with a guest in tow.

Velocity Gold and Platinum flyers can enter the lounge before or after a flight with Virgin Australia – Gold-level flyers may bring a guest, while Platinum-grade members can bring three, and in any either case these additional guests don't need to be travelling.

Eligible members of Virgin Australia's partner airline programs can also access the lounge, as follows:

  • Air Berlin: Topbonus Gold and Platinum members, plus one guest
  • Air New Zealand: Koru Club and Gold, plus one guest. Gold Elite members, plus five guests (subject to space)
  • Delta SkyMiles: Gold, Platinum and Diamond Medallion members, plus one guest
  • Etihad Guest: Gold and Gold Elite, plus one guest
  • Singapore Airlines: KrisFlyer Elite Gold, PPS Club and Solitaire PPS Club members, plus one guest
  • Virgin America: Elevate Gold members, plus one guest
  • Virgin Atlantic: Flying Club Gold members, plus one guest

Once you've got your access sorted, you can enter by using the self-service machine (below), or by speaking to one of the friendly staff at the front desk.

As these machines provide no physical barrier to lounge entry, we're told that the staff at reception receive a visual queue when an eligible membership card or boarding pass is scanned.

With that in mind, if you were planning to attempt a sneak in, put your efforts to good use and just pay for entry instead – travellers without lounge access of their own (including guests beyond the published frequent flyer limits) can pay $65 to enter no earlier than two hours prior to departure.

Dining

The new Virgin Australia espresso bar in Melbourne Image: Supplied

Cornerstone to the expanded lounge is a new espresso and wine bar, pumping out an astonishing 1,500 coffees each weekday morning.

Grinders' own Arch Giotopoulos offers a coffee demonstration

Although the barista staff in Melbourne are more than capable of cranking out a cappuccino, here's one crafted by yours truly under the expert guidance of Grinders' Arch Giotopoulos and Shae Macnamara:

Espresso coffee remains available throughout the day, with alcohol service kicking in at 11am.

Selections of red, white and sparking are rotated quarterly, while Peroni Nastro Azzurro and Peroni Leggera (light) are available on tap.

With no espresso machine in the normal buffet area, it's much easier to grab a drink in the afternoons – people aren't constantly bumping into one another, which makes for a nice change in such a busy lounge.

A sign directs passengers to the new espresso bar For lunch, it's a choice of salad ingredients and dressings... ... while more substantial options of pasta, rice and sandwich ingredients (along with a toasted sandwich maker) are found in the adjacent buffet. If Peroni's not your thing, you'll find plenty to choose from in the well-stocked bar fridge: Between 3pm and 4:45pm each day, 'pass arounds' are on offer throughout the lounge, with today's option a hearty party pie with tomato sauce.

Work

Tucked away at the far end of the lounge is the business zone, although frequent flyers could be forgiven for confusing the subtle entryway with a staff access door.

Inside, users are greeted by a number of Windows XP computers featuring Microsoft Office software, along with a combined copier/printer.

With Microsoft officially ending its support for the dated operating system on April 8, Howard Mitchell, Virgin Australia's Manager, Lounges, confirmed to Australian Business Traveller that all computers on the airline's national lounge network are slated for operating system upgrades later this year.

Two meeting rooms are available for hire, with the boardroom offering 14 seats at the table and space for 16 more around the room: I've dubbed this room the sanctuary of the Melbourne lounge – once the door is completely closed, the boarding calls and delay announcements disappear completely, making it easy to be super-focussed on the task at hand.

If you were planning to give a presentation, you'll find a connectivity station arising from the centre of the table, with HDMI, VGA and 3.5mm connections available for presentations and video conferencing – while a power point is conveniently located in the middle. In true Australian Business Traveller fashion, we tested that this nifty gizmo actually worked – HDMI output from the laptop was quick to appear on the screen after pressing the 'laptop' key, and audio could easily be adjusted or muted from the same panel. The result: If you're going to call shotgun, we'd definitely suggest a seat directly facing the windows – what a view for a meeting room! Wi-fi is available throughout the lounge, with no noticeable change in speed throughout my day-long visit.

Connectivity-wise, AC and USB power outlets are available throughout the lounge, while a well-designed standing area near the wine bar provides travellers with space for a drink, along with juice on tap for their portable devices:

Relax

Whether it's by the windows with a beer or on the social, winding benches with a nice glass of wine, you'll find it easy to relax here.

My only gripe is that the boarding announcements seemed excessively loud, which meant pausing conversation whenever a flight was called – not ideal if you're having an important yarn with the boss or a client.

If reading material is what you seek, you'll find a good selection of magazines and newspapers available, along with thousands of other titles through the free PressReader app. On the other hand, if you'd prefer to perch yourself close to the buffet (hey, we won't judge!), then you have that option too. You may have noticed the frosted glass behind the stools in the coffee area at the top of this review...

Inside, you'll find a dedicated function space – a first for a Virgin Australia lounge:

Although nothing is currently on the agenda, performances by the Australian Chamber Orchestra, dining events and viewing parties for the FIFA World Cup were all mooted by Mitchell during a recent tour of the newly-extended Melbourne lounge.

The Verdict

With more than double the capacity of the previous space, the lounge expansion is Virgin's latest attempt to pry more of the lucrative corporate travel market from the Red Roo – and they appear to be succeeding.

From a traveller's perspective, you don't feel that you're "missing out" on a better lounge experience as you sometimes can in Qantas Clubs – knowing that there's a better lounge within metres of your table doesn't make anyone feel great!

Travellers at the Gold tier will find a better coffee experience in the Virgin Australia lounges than in the Qantas Clubs... given that the Virgin Australia lounge serves up lattes in glassware and has the new, dedicated espresso bar, it's definitely a cut above the Qantas Club's disposable cup experience.

Seemingly designed as a hybrid of membership and business class lounges, the Melbourne facilities are well-pointed to satisfy business travellers, while still meeting the needs of lounge members jetting off with families down the back of the bus.

Qantas Clubs and its domestic business lounges and have a distinct advantage in the alcohol department, with spirits noticeably absent from Virgin Australia's lounge network.

When quizzed on this aspect of the service, Mitchell revealed that "spirits are always on the radar", although admits that any introduction in the short term would likely be through "(temporary) promotions with spirit houses looking to develop and promote their brand".

Overall, the lounge now feels much more spacious and inviting, and should serve the airline well for at least a few years (or so John Borghetti would hope!).

Chris Chamberlin travelled to Melbourne as a guest of Virgin Australia.

Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT

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!
 

8 comments

  • reeves35

    reeves35

    16 Apr, 2014 11:27 am

    I have visited the new MEL lounge twice in the past month and it is very good.  THe coffees are great and the expanded toilets much better.  You'd hardly recogtnise it as the old Golden Wing Lounge.  

    As a Qantas Club Life Member, I can only hope that Qantas now plan some works on its MEL Lounge which is tired and overcrowded and, as you say, you always feel you are second class when you see Platinums heading into the Business Lounge which surely isn't the same "zoo" experience.

    No member give thanks

  • spacecadet

    spacecadet

    16 Apr, 2014 01:30 pm

    Tonkin Zulaikha Greer Architects did a great job with this project. I love the twisting bar, concealed purple lighting and timber (veneer) details. The space flows nicely and generally feels light and airy. I'm also glad you no longer hear the televisions everywhere you sit.

    I think the dining setup could be further refined, but overall it really is a world class facility with great ammenity and well considered design - which I think has added considerable brand value to the Virgin experience.

    No member give thanks

  • spacecadet

    spacecadet

    16 Apr, 2014 02:08 pm

    I probably should add that I am an architect who appreciates quality design - and that I do not work for TZG, nor any airline.

    No member give thanks

  • Nathan Jordan

    nathanjordan

    16 Apr, 2014 02:26 pm

    Funny to think how far the space has come since it used to be a Golden Wing Club!

    No member give thanks

  • Hugo

    Hugo

    16 Apr, 2014 06:35 pm

    3pm to 4:45pm is an odd time window to serve the vaguely meal-like food of the day. It's not a mealtime and you'd think the lounge would be fairly empty.

    I haven't yet seen the new new addition (I'll see it tomorrow arvo!), but the coffee bar addition of a few months ago was a great enhancement. I think it still lags the Qantas lounge in terms of food, but that's the only real downside. Well, that and being on the wrong side of security, but it never takes more than a minute or two to get through security there in my experience anyway. 

    No member give thanks

  • Hugo

    Hugo

    19 Apr, 2014 09:38 am

    Updating my observations now I've seen the new extension: yep, it's pretty great! The wine bar itself was closed when I was there (oddly, flying on Good Friday is chaos outside the lounge but nearly empty inside, because everybody is flying except the people who usually fly) but it looks pretty snazzy. 

    What I didn't like: they had a Yamaha Disklavier being demoed, which would be fine, except that they had it stuck on a mode where it plays the first fifteen seconds of one song, then the first fifteen seconds of another, which gets pretty aggravating pretty quickly (though I tend to be more sensitive to annoying music than most people). 

    A year ago, the lounge's biggest weakness was that it was long and thin. But now the renovations have finished, that's its biggest strength, because now there's windows all down one side, so you're never too far from natural light and a view. 

    Oh, and the hot food item was little mini samosas.

    No member give thanks

  • readosunnycoast

    readosunnycoast

    17 Apr, 2014 09:21 am

    As a regular Monday or Tuesday morning user I offer the following observations. Yes the new expanded lounge is a vast improvement.  The WiFi is generally top notch.  The breakfast offering is pretty average and the service for coffees is a bit ordinary.  How about a touch screen ordering system that you could place your order then return when it is "up on the screen". On a busy morning you have people hanging around not sure if they are in the line (or lines). Overall,  great offering for which Virgin are to be congratulated.

    No member give thanks

  • ozboy62

    ozboy62

    25 May, 2014 02:16 pm

    "my only gripe was the loud annoucements made for departing flights" if you are taking/meeting you clients here at the Virgin Lounge for a meeting then you are a bit of a cheapskate and I as a client would be taking my business eleswhere.

    No member give thanks

Guest

27 May, 2019 11:44 am

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