What it's really like inside the Qantas Chairman's Lounge

What it's really like inside the Qantas Chairman's Lounge

This article is part of our ongoing Business Travel 101 series for newcomers to the world of business travel.

There’s a lot of secrecy surrounding the Qantas Chairman’s Lounge, and rightly so. Membership to this invitation-only club can’t be earned by any amount of flying, and unless you’re a titan of industry, government, or showbusiness, you probably won’t find an invitation coming your way.

But for those on the inside, arguably the best benefit is access to the six private Chairman's Lounge havens at Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra, Adelaide and Perth airports.

You won’t find any signs pointing you in the right direction – if you’re a member, you’ll know which door (either unmarked, or simply labelled 'Private') to approach.

Chairman's Lounge members can also bring guests into the lounges, and over the years I’ve had the privilege of being a ‘+1’ on a number of occasions. So, here’s a taste of what goes on behind those secret doors, and what it’s really like inside the Qantas Chairman’s Lounges.

Qantas Chairman’s Lounge: “How’s the serenity?”

Beyond all the glitz, glamour and mystique, what I’ve always appreciated most about visiting any Chairman’s Lounge is how peaceful and quiet it tends to be.

That's normally a stark difference to the bustling airport terminal outside and even the best of Qantas' public lounges.

The Chairman’s Lounge is designed with solitude in mind: whether you’re in Brisbane, the newest lounge of them all…

... or in Sydney, which has (until Brisbane!) been considered the 'flagship' Chairman's Lounge, with a design drawn from Qantas' international first class lounges and mirrored at the Chairman's Lounges in Canberra and Perth..

… or in Adelaide, which has a much older design with marble walls keeping each section separate.

For starters, there are no boarding announcements in the Chairman's Lounge.

You can work away on your laptop, take meetings or phone calls in one of the private suites, and be uninterrupted: when it’s time to board, a Chairman’s Host comes by to advise you personally, returning the boarding pass that you handed over upon your arrival.

This atmosphere is so central to the Chairman’s Lounge experience that when building Brisbane’s new private lounge, the designers installed additional sound-dampening for the tarmac-facing glass – beyond what was already installed and deemed acceptable for the old Qantas Business Lounge in the same space – so that the noise of turboprops starting up outside wouldn’t impinge on the expected serenity.

Lucas Muro
The Qantas Chairman's Lounge, Brisbane
Lucas Muro

Photos: Inside the new-look Qantas Chairman's Lounge

Dining in the Qantas Chairman’s Lounge

Sitting down to a meal in the Chairman’s Lounge is a bit like dining in Qantas’ international first class lounges in Sydney, Melbourne and Los Angeles – it’s still a Rockpool menu, but one mainly centred on filling favourites rather than fine dining.

There's a buffet spread, of course...

... but most guests make their selection from the à la carte menu.

For example, a recent morning visit provided a choice between an omelette, corn fritters, eggs any style, porridge or a toasted sandwich for breakfast…

… while the all-day menu covering lunch and dinner offered a salad, chicken wings, club sandwich, hot chips, and an Italian dessert with berries and cat tongue (a tasty biscuit, not part of a feline).

When we say favourites, you’d also never be denied a helping of salt and pepper squid…

… or Qantas’ iconic pavlova in a glass:

Each lounge features dedicated dining tables (seen here in Sydney), although it’s possible to order food and drinks from any seat: just ask for a menu.

On the beverage front, the bar is always open – yes, even at 6am! – with some of the lounges offering self-pour drinks, such as in Sydney and Canberra…

… and tended bars found in the newer lounges like Melbourne (below) and Brisbane:

But even without a tended bar, if you do fancy a drink, all you need to do is ask.

Champagne is surprisingly absent from the wine list – or at least, has been every time I’ve stopped by – replaced by Australian sparkling wines such as Wolf Blass Gold Label Pinot Noir Chardonnay.

It’s also worth pointing out, contrary to reports that sometimes appear elsewhere, that the Qantas Chairman’s Lounges do not feature day spas.

Showers, yes, but free pamper treatments, no. That’s a privilege reserved only for the Qantas First Lounges in Sydney and Melbourne, which Chairman’s Lounge members – along with Platinum-grade frequent flyers – can visit when jetting abroad.

Hidden treasures of the Qantas Chairman’s Lounges

Even if you’ve found your way inside these secret lounges, there’s often more to the experience than meets the naked eye.

For example, in the newly-opened Chairman’s Lounge in Brisbane, the wine wall over beside the bar is stocked with reds, but these aren’t just for members to enjoy in the lounge: they’re provided for members to take with them to their destination.

Lucas Muro
The Qantas Chairman's Lounge, Brisbane
Lucas Muro

No, you can’t fill your cabin bag with vino and wander off – but if you were travelling to a birthday function, for example, and forgot to pack a present for the guest of honour, a Chairman’s Host might just ‘suggest’ that a bottle goes with you.

A more practical benefit covers those times you forget to pack your phone or laptop charger for your trip, or you’ve left it at the hotel when checking out: if it’s a popular type of cable, stopping by the reception desk usually fixes the problem.

Frequent-flying Chairman’s Lounge members might also observe that the artwork in each lounge is rotated to keep the space feeling fresh, although in Adelaide, there’s one staple that remains on display: a cricket bat signed by Sir Donald Bradman.

Now, objectively speaking, it’d be fair to say that the Chairman’s Lounges are a step below the excellent Qantas First Lounges, which top the rankings with Champagne, free day spa treatments and more expansive dining menus for international travellers.

But, if you’ve never been inside the Chairman’s Lounge, now you know what you’re missing out on!

Also read: Qantas Chairman's Lounge: the unofficial guide

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!
 

38 comments

  • tomJ

    tomJ

    28 Aug, 2018 08:00 am

    Looks great. Where do I sign up? :P

    On the whole it looks like they're domestified F lounges, which would make sense. I'd be interested to read a similar article for 'the club'.
    No member give thanks

  • petercr

    petercr

    29 Aug, 2018 04:43 pm

    Just get yourself in (hook or crook) at the next Federal Election... 😉😁
    No member give thanks

  • reeves35

    reeves35

    28 Aug, 2018 08:30 am

    I've been in the Chairman's Lounge once with my then boss about 10 years ago. Very subdued and quiet. Hosts are discrete. I loved the way they took your boarding pass upon entry and came back 15 minutes later with the boss' being moved up to Business Class. They apologised that there were no other seats left upfront and gave me back my Y class pass unchanged. Being a good boss, she offered the J class seat to me but I was smart enough to decline.
    No member give thanks

  • john hauser

    talkscheap

    28 Aug, 2018 09:24 am

    Am a member of both and The Club is better than The Chairmans Lounge with I think better food and staff that don't suffer from the sometimes QF staff mood swings. There are equal numbers of private spaces in both, but The Club staff are a longway ahead in their attention to detail.
    Members who gave thanks

    amitchell, PLA

  • Mark

    Mightyreds

    28 Aug, 2018 09:30 am

    Great insight into what's behind those doors. Cheers Chris.
    No member give thanks

  • CBR boy

    CBR boy

    28 Aug, 2018 10:47 am

    The salt and peper squid is such a favourite that I think Qantas would lose every big corporate account it has and have its licences revoked by government if it ever stopped serving the stuff!
    No member give thanks

  • Mrminivee

    Mrminivee

    28 Aug, 2018 01:16 pm

    That brisbane lounge is stunning in its design... can't say the same about that vomit inducing green at Sydney.
    No member give thanks

  • Otto Van De Velde

    OttoV

    28 Aug, 2018 02:19 pm

    Thanks, Chris. Still a bit of a teaser for all FFers who are not CEO’s. Perhaps Alan will send me invite after my next Q flight.

    No member give thanks

  • Peggy Hayes

    Pegasus

    28 Aug, 2018 07:35 pm

    What surprises me is how large they are. There must be more Chairman Club members than I imagined.
    No member give thanks

  • Greg84

    Greg84

    28 Aug, 2018 09:12 pm

    There are quite a few - many federal politicians are on there, celebs & a big chunk of CEO's where their company flies with qantas...I've only been in a couple of times as a guest, but the space is also to provide the relaxed atmosphere. Can't have 12 people packed into a 4x4m room & call it exclusive.
    No member give thanks

  • Blair Coull

    Notso Swift

    28 Aug, 2018 08:32 pm

    I have been once, with a 4 term politician, we were flying BNE MEL on a Friday night and it was a welcome relief from the sea of high vis... those boys hit it hard on the FIFO
    Awkward moment was when I was in Business (points upgrade) and my host had to sit in Row 4!

    No member give thanks

  • Flying Fish

    AWA2602

    29 Aug, 2018 12:21 am

    My husband is a QF Chairman's Lounge member so a complementary CL card is in my travel wallet, the service and atmosphere in these lounges are what makes them so valuable and pleasant.
    No member give thanks

  • gjspectre

    gjspectre

    29 Aug, 2018 01:00 am

    I've been into Virgins "The Club" in Perth as a +1 and it does have a slightly more prestigious feel, however that soon fades when you are ushered to the gate to your awaiting equivalent of the Cessna 172 for your flight to Sydney
    Member who gave thanks

    Mjudd

  • Miguel

    simiguelito47

    29 Aug, 2018 09:34 am

    Can't help but see the departure board ... is the SYD lounge in the domestic terminal? I thought from previous articles that it was in the International
    No member give thanks

  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    29 Aug, 2018 09:38 am

    All Chairman's Lounges are domestic lounges (although in airports like Adelaide and Canberra, their location makes them accessible before international flights). When flying out of Sydney and Melbourne internationally, Chairman's Lounge members can access the Qantas First Lounges instead, as can Qantas Platinum and Platinum One frequent flyers.

    No member give thanks

  • zoomzoom

    zoomzoom

    29 Aug, 2018 02:50 pm

    Just a benefit handed out to Pollies and others who don't pay for their own travel. a perk just like a snout in the trough. Sad that its paid for by ordinary travelers in the very cramped Y seats eating the lousy QF catering.
    Member who gave thanks

    P

  • Traveller14

    Traveller14

    23 Dec, 2018 12:10 pm

    I've been in these CLs a few years ago in CBR, MEL and SYD.

    I found them underwhelming. Deathly quiet, although the pavlova was great.

    I'd prefer that these not exist, so that politicians could share the frustration of "ordinary" travellers.

    For instance, why don't Federal pollies plan and fund high speed trains between Brisbane, Gold Coast, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne? That would make a huge difference to our lives.

    These lounges are "paid for" in more ways than one.
    No member give thanks

  • draper

    draper

    29 Aug, 2018 05:00 pm

    Chris; Is the membership / invitation for life? or is it offered / renewed each year?
    My Taxes "at work" in a lot of cases no doubt.
    Choppergate at an Industrial Level.
    No member give thanks

  • Chris Chamberlin

    ChrisCh

    29 Aug, 2018 05:22 pm

    My understanding is that most CL memberships are offered for two years at a time and renewal is at Qantas' discretion. I'm sure there are a handful of members with Lifetime CL for various reasons, but for the majority of members, the card is valid for two years at a time.
    No member give thanks

  • Merry

    Merry

    29 Aug, 2018 05:39 pm

    That is it? Yes, have been there, no difference, it is simply 'all the same' Do not know why it exists except to give insecure egos a massage.

    No member give thanks

  • Jimbo007

    Tonkatough

    29 Aug, 2018 07:12 pm

    Looks great but always empty.
    Apart from politicians, can we have some examples (names) of who gets in?
    No member give thanks

  • Greg84

    Greg84

    23 Dec, 2018 01:39 pm

    Won’t share names, but both of the companies I’ve worked for in the last three years were members. Both companies had travel agreements with Qantas.
    No member give thanks

  • Ladtsmt

    Ladtsmt

    29 Aug, 2018 08:01 pm

    Prime minister, premiers and cabinet members, OK for CL entry, but for the rest of the crowd, in any of the parliaments, they're not entitled by just being a parliamentarian.
    No member give thanks

  • PK

    PK

    21 Dec, 2018 11:50 am

    All Federal MPs, even first term backbenchers, and all Federal Court judges are in. It is more selective when you get to State MPs and judges.
    No member give thanks

  • tomJ

    tomJ

    25 Dec, 2018 04:13 pm

    Speaking to someone in Canberra who's a CL member, senior advisors (at least for cabinet ministers) get CL too.
    No member give thanks

  • Traveller14

    Traveller14

    23 Dec, 2018 12:12 pm

    That's not true. Some State MPs also seem to get it, as do (as pointed out) Federal backbenchers: MPs and Senators. A motley crowd.
    No member give thanks

  • PK

    PK

    23 Dec, 2018 06:10 pm

    Yes, as I wrote, it is more selective when it comes to State MPs and judges. Which means some get it, and some do not, unlike the Federal sphere, where it is universal. Hence, my statement was true.
    No member give thanks

  • Austin Taylor

    Austin

    25 Oct, 2018 10:17 pm

    I travel a lot and Chair a few things, so with Chutzpah I wrote to The Chairman suggesting he must have inadvertently overlooked me.. I got a wonderful reply, Thanking me for my loyalty and lifetime of QF Flights, but invitations were only available to High profile public figures who need privacy and a personal space and folk who control large travel budgets.
    No member give thanks

  • Ross Davy

    TomHi

    21 Dec, 2018 09:35 am

    That green truly is awful!! The Brisbane lounge and even Adelaide look much better.
    No member give thanks

  • bl812

    bl812

    21 Dec, 2018 12:31 pm

    so what is the purpose of this article? To make the rest of us who will never have access to jealous or what?
    this serves the "elite" and 'honest tycoons and politicians" so who cares!!!-really! was a waste of space....
    No member give thanks

  • john hauser

    talkscheap

    21 Dec, 2018 12:47 pm

    I am a member of The Club at Virgin and also Qantas Chairman's Lounge. There is no doubt both are exceptional, but Virgin The Club is much more personal and the staff never forget who you are and what you like to eat and drink. Their call centre is also a step above Qantas Chairman's Club. That's not to say that Qantas is inferior, its just that so many times the service inside and in the call centre is so variable, and occassionally they lapse back into the old Qantas public service attitudes. The new Brisbane Lounge is superb, but it still looks a little bit like a second rung private club.
    Glad to be a member of both, but if I had to chose then it would be Virgin The Club.
    No member give thanks

  • aritraveller

    aritraveller

    21 Dec, 2018 02:09 pm

    Wow that looks amazing. I think The Club is not that far behind. I've been invited by a member several times in The Club in Brisbane and Sydney. Food and service are superb, and I like that they serve Antipodes water. Interior is very pleasing, with brown leather chairs and white frosted glass cubicles for privacy. In Brisbane, they have a self serve wine tasting bar behind the grazing table. It is so serene that sometimes I forget I was in an airport. The dream is interrupted when the The Club host calmly tell us our flight is departing soon and escorts us all the way to the gate.
    No member give thanks

  • Flying mermaid

    Flying mermaid

    21 Dec, 2018 02:12 pm

    As far as I know all public servants at the deputy secretary/ Sec level get CL membership - there would be a pretty hefty number of them. Health for e.g. would have 6 at least. Smaller departments have fewer.
    No member give thanks

  • VV

    Valerio

    21 Dec, 2018 06:52 pm

    I'd say the key here is discretion - high-profile or celebrity guests who have somewhere to go without being eyeballed by everyone else in the lounge.
    No member give thanks

  • lafleche

    lafleche

    22 Dec, 2018 02:31 am

    My boss once guested me - we walked in, the host greeted him immediately by name. He asked her to "look after my guest" and he left to run to a different flight - he was there for all of 20 seconds! I spent a wonderful hour and a bit in peace and tranquility (Melb). enjoying some fine red wine. I was not treated any differently to the other 3 visitors, despite not being CL myself. The only downside is the lack of people - I do enjoy a bit of people watching and with only 3 others in the lounge, that didn't take long.
    No member give thanks

  • Jason

    cooper81

    22 Dec, 2018 05:25 am

    It's odd that here in oz we only have two airlines full service airlines and both offer these incredible 'invitation only' lounges. Are there any other airlines throughout the world that offer something similar? I mean I know BA for example have an invitation only tier for their frequent flyer program (Premier) but they are still relegated to the same lounges. And i'd imagine airlines like BA or those in the USA would carry a far greater amount of 'high profile' people in an exceptional need of privacy.

    I'm curious whether people say in the USA would find it 'political lobbying' to automatically give certain levels of government access to an exclusive invitation only lounge?
    No member give thanks

  • Traveller14

    Traveller14

    23 Dec, 2018 12:13 pm

    Many Australians would think it's political lobbying.

    It's one reason why we lack the wonderful high speed train networks that so many other nations have built or are building.
    No member give thanks

  • Michael63

    Metoo

    26 Dec, 2018 08:26 pm

    A room full of pollies and no champagne, no thanks. Qantas First Lounge is great. Fly Sinagpore Airline First and go to the Private Room in Changi, now thats quiet and real class.
    No member give thanks

Guest

19 Jul, 2019 08:48 pm

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