Lounge class: First class
Airport: Sydney International Airport
Service with a smile?
There were three staff members at the arrivals desk, which is accessed after passing a living greenery wall with 8,400 plants and alighting an escalator beneath an impressive circular light well. I was greeted warmly by my name and escorted to the dining area where another staff member gave me a choice of dining tables in the 48-seat restaurant for breakfast.
There was classical and lounge music playing in the background. The lounge has a really strong sense of space with plenty of room to settle in with your hand-luggage and not feel too crammed next to other passengers. The lounge overlooks the tarmac with a fantastic view of various aircraft coming and going, including the Flying Kangaroo, thanks to its floor-to-ceiling windows allowing plenty of natural light inside.
Reading materials and entertainment
There are shelves of magazines including the Qantas magazine, Popular Science, The Collective, Crickey etc. Newspapers included The Sydney Morning Herald, Daily Telegraph, The Australian and The Financial Review. Television screens were playing Sky News through a Bose sound system.
If you have to be online, print or have a Skype session, desk stations in the lounge have full-sized MAC desktops, a phone and printers. Around the lounge, there were power points and charging stations at some (but not all) lounge settings. There is also a business centre. Along the length of the window, there is a mix of group and individual seating with side-tables for laptops or food and drinks.
Sharp table service from staff dressed in black adds to the dining experience, with white napkins placed on lap and an automatic offer of still or sparkling water. A menu outlining food and drink selections is provided, including executive chef Neil Perry’s food philosophy, outlining that eggs are free-range and sourced from farms using sustainable methods. I ordered the Signature Breakfast and was also offered fruit on the side – a sweet and refreshing start to the day with a bowl of blueberries, strawberries, rockmelon and pineapple drizzled beneath passionfruit pulp. The fresh flavours continued in the Signature Breakfast – the semi-dried tomatoes were particularly memorable. My only regret was that I was not visiting after 11am, after which time salt and pepper squid is available to order. I’ve heard it’s so popular in the lounge, that Qantas cannot take it off the menu.
Tea comes from T2 and coffee from Cinque Stelle by Vittoria. A selection of cocktails are available, including non-alcoholic; but if a pre-boarding Bloody Mary appeals, you’re in the right place. Several Australian beers are well represented on the list such as James Boag’s, Hahn, Coopers, James Squire and craft brewer, Pipsqueak. Australian wines are a good mix of regions, with selections including Mount Langi Ghiran (Grampians); Abel’s Tempest (Tasmania); Coldstream Hills (Yarra Valley); Wolf Blass (Barossa Valley); and Clonakilla (New South Wales). For me, the trip begins with a glass of champagne. With three on the menu, I chose Perrier Jouet Grand Brut; and there was also Taittinger Brut Reserve and GH Mumm Rosé.
The Aurora Spa, (only available in the first class lounge in Sydney and Melbourne) invites travellers in with another green living wall and the soothing scents of Aspar products, a vase of fresh orchids and herbal tea on arrival. It’s located at the far end of the lounge, in the opposite direction of the business centre. Get a pre-flight pep-me-up with a 20-minute hand or foot treatment; a massage or a facial, catered to men and women. In the general amenities area, bathrooms and shower facilities are in different locations. Bathrooms are spacious with a draw and bench unit to rest bags on; plus Aspar Mandarin and Sandalwood hand wash and hand cream. The roomy shower cubicles featured coat hangers, thick white towels, Aspar shower products, and a make-up and mirror area; plus hairdryer.
Any flight delays and boarding calls were announced over loud speaker. I spotted also two large display screens of flight departure information.
Amenities for families
High chairs are available in the dining area. A baby change room is located near the showers.
Biggest wow factor
Aside from the food, I would have to say the biggest wow factor for me is the design of this lounge. Designed by renowned Australian industrial designer Marc Newson, European oak arced partitions act as segment dividers of the various zones throughout the 2,000sqm lounge, flanked by a marble-tiled bar, kitchen and walkway. With a semi-circular layout, you can also see all the way through to the far end of the lounge with splashes of the Qantas red used throughout in furnishing accents, as planes are moving on the ground just beneath the long stretch of window. For me, it had the effect of feeling like I was on the wing of an aeroplane.