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.
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.
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!