Review: Qantas First Class Lounge, Sydney

Must-read Earlier Installments:

I got a call from Qantas the day before my flight home. I’d be traveling Sydney – Los Angeles in first class on a Qantas Airbus A380. Make sure you have a phone number in your booking, Qantas will ring you:

  • Welcome you to flying first class with them
  • Make sure you’re happy with your seat assignments
  • Organize having you let them know of your arrival so that they can meet you out front of the terminal to assist with baggage
  • Schedule a spa booking in the lounge.

Qantas lets first class passengers schedule spa treatments the day before departure. Everyone else in the lounge (and since this is oneworld, all top tier members of Qantas and alliance frequent flyer programs ahve access to the first class lounge, regardless of cabin) can only take whatever treatments are available when they arrive.

And since there’s no first class check-in zone, they’ll give you their phone number and instructions to call them when you’re about 10 minutes out from arriving. The person who picks up the phone will meet you curbside along with porters for your bags. They’ll escort you inside to first class check-in.

I was on flight QF11, a 3pm departure, so I made a 1:30pm spa appointment. They do just 20 minute treatments, so I figured this would leave me plenty of time afterward to still enjoy the lounge and I wouldn’t feel rushed for my treatment.

I arrived at the airport around noon. I rang up Qantas first class, probably 5 minutes out. They asked what car I’d be arriving in (I had Ubered) and I let them know the type of vehicle and color. They were easy to spot and the driver pulled right up to them.

We walked inside and got bags checked. They were checked all the way through, inclduing my domestic connecting flight on a separate ticket (and they even managed to issue boarding passes for the connecting American Airlines flight).

Just beyond the first class checkin area is security and immigration, which took just a few minutes. And then it was up to the first class lounge.

We were greeted at the desk and shown to the lounge. They invited us in for dining but I said we’d explore the lounge for a bit first. The attendant asked if we’d like to be collected when it was time to board and I accepted, so she kept my boarding pass.

I walked around and found comfortable seating by the window, and opened my laptop for a last bit of work before the flight.

Overall I like the design of the lounge. It’s open and with plenty of seating areas. It’s actually quite huge, which it needs to be to give the feeling of spaciousness and not get overcrowded because so many people do have access.

There are some modest snacks around the lounge, a bar area, and a sit down dining room in addition to the spa.

There’s not much service to speak of outside of the dining room and bar area, there weren’t servers finding you at your seat to bring you something to drink or snacks.

After a little while I decided it would be a good idea to sit down and try the dining room before it was time for my massage. I walked into the dining room and to a table and a server came right over with the menu. Meals are cooked-to-order, and dishes are designed by Neil Pery’s Rockpool.

Here’s the menu from our visit, it was the first day they were offering this new menu:

The shiraz on the menu was a St Hallett “Butcher’s Cart” Shiraz. I asked what they were decanting that day, and our server said they had a St. Hallett 2009 reserve opening up, so I decided to have some of that.

It’s always a good idea to ask what they may be decanting that’s off-menu, they tend to have a fairly good wine on menu that isn’t listed.

My wife wasn’t hungry and tried the mozzarella, tomato and basil. I ordered the salt and pepper squid and the spaghettini with Morton Bay bugs.

I have to say, the squid with green chili dipping sauce has to be the single most delicious dish I’ve ever tried in a lounge. I liked it even more than the wiener schnitzel in Lufthansa’s first class terminal.

The spaghettini was good, I can’t ever say no to ‘bugs’. I’ve always been fascinated that the shrimp in Australia is huge while the lobsters are tiny, sort of the opposite of at home.

As soon as we wrapped up the meal it was time to head over to the spa. We were asked to fill out the standard consent forms, as though a massage might kill me and they needed legal cover. Besides this is Australia after all, where if you do something stupid you’re the one at fault (and they assume that you’re American).

The spa is fantastic. There are several small, individual treatment rooms that are gorgeous and relaxing. I was brought to one of them, then the treatment specialist excused herself while I took my shirt off and laid down on the table. She came back in and gave me the most amazing 20 minute neck, shoulder, and back massage.

It was only a 20 minute service but I have to say it was incredibly skilled, and perhaps 3/4ths as good as the 50 minute treatments I’ve had in the Thai Airways spa in Bangkok. That’s saying something.

Afterwords I was incredibly relaxed, and headed to the far end of the lounge to take in the view of the tarmac until it was time to head out to my boarding gate.

On the far end of the lounge, opposite side from where the spa is located, are a couple of private rooms. There was a group in one of them, and a little kid approached and got his photo taken with them. I have no idea who it was.

When it was time that I had expected to board, no one had come to fetch me. I walked over to the departures board – the lounge has the most awesome and fascinating old-time boards — and my flight was showing on-time. Apparently the system hadn’t provided an update yet, but lounge agents knew that the flight was briefly delayed. They suggested I go have another cocktail and assured that they would come fetch me at the appropriate time.

I went back into the restaurant to have dessert.

Once finished it was finally time to leave and head over to the Qantas A380 that would take me home to the States.

Bottom-line on the Qantas first class lounge is that it has probably my favorite dining, and among my favorite spas.. probably my second favorite. I think they could offer more personalized service, like checking on you and bringing drinks to your seat while you’re working, but unquestionably it’s an impressive contribution up there with the better first class lounges in the world.


About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community Milepoint.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »

Comments

  1. I’d rank Qantas, LH FCT, and then CX’s The Wing in terms of lounge dining, but JL and NH are truly beyond compare when it comes to onboard dining.

  2. looking forward to it next month! i even get a chauffeur because i am flying F to Dubai. so i guess they know they will be expecting me. hehe

    but i cannot help but wonder… why can’t we do it like this in the US? why? 🙁

  3. Did you try to get a free chauffeur transfer to the airport (on what I am assuming is an award ticket)?

  4. Gary, have you ever eaten in the Emirates F Lounge in Dubai? I would love to get your comparison b/w the menu items there and in this lounge. Honestly, it’s hard for me to believe that there could be better lounge food anywhere than in Dubai.

  5. Gary,

    How does the breakfast in the F lounge in MEL compare? The LAX departure is in the morning, so presumably no lunch service.

  6. Lantean: because fewer American carriers have their level of paid long haul F traffic.

    Dan: Very similar experience between SYD and MEL, though the MEL space is a bit less dramatic.

    Gary: I’ve had service at my seat with no problem here many times. Sometimes I have to ask first, but then the waiter keeps looking after me.

  7. No worries review, Gary – looks like a great lounge. Is it only available for international departures or is it for domestic too? (I know it’s nowhere near as impressive but the BA F Lounge at Galleries South in LHR T5 is available for domestic pax too).

  8. @Alan – international departures only. (The UK, like Canada and the US, has no departing passport control, except of course in Canada there’s US immigration preclearance :). The same lounges in the US are used for international and for domestic..)

  9. NO, not only international departures!

    There is a splattering of international JETSTAR (Qantas low cost carrier) flights, which have domestic sectors between SYD and MEL. Thus a OneWorld Emerald/QF Platinum can buy a very cheap SYD-MEL or MEL-SYD with JQ and make merry with Bollinger and Neil Perry food…

    DON’T EXPECT THE SPA after office hours – it closes! Thus if on SYD-HNL evening flight, forget it.

    Menu varies according to time of day….and season…

    Personally I believe it is ridiculous that certain wines admen items are ONLY available for those savvy enough to ask off the menu. What nonsense!

    Caveats excepted…QF first SYD lounge is world class and the jewel in the crown for the airline…

  10. I was expecting it would be as Gary had said but you’ve given me hope, Andrew 😀 Domestic SYD-MEL would be ideal! Was going to use Avios on QF but looks like it might be worth buying a cheap SYD-MEL Jetstar ticket to get into the lounge! I wasn’t sure they’d honour the OW Emerald benefits for Jetstar but it sounds like they do.

  11. I know, Gary – that was my interpretation too, Andrew seemed to be implying differently though and I wondered if he had personal experienc of a different policy. Given the very low taxes on redemptions and good availability I’ll probably just be using Avios on QF anyway unless I hear different.

  12. Gary,

    For arrivals on First Class from the US (or One World Emerald), are we permitted to use this lounge?

    Mark

  13. Gary,
    I have visited the said lounge when it opened more than 15 years ago and it was at least twice as better than now, but those were the years. It is still the best lounge in the world I think. Awesome report.

  14. @Mark the Shark it’s not an arrivals lounge, you won’t be able to access the lounge if you are simply arriving in Sydney and not flying on out of the international terminal.

  15. Just to clarify – yes, you would need to be QF Platinum (thereby a OneWorld Emerald) to access the SYD or MEL QF First lounge, if booked on a JQ “domestic” flight. Sorry if I inadvertently misled or raised false hope.

    Being a OneWorld Emerald on another airline won’t get you in by the rules for the JQ “domestic” SYD/MEL/SYD sectors from the international terminals.

    One way to sample the lounge (if not doing an intercontinental OneWorld sector or lacking Qf Platinum for the JQ trick) is to take a first class paid or redemption seat on the Emirates A380: these fly between SYD and AKL, and MEL and AKL, and BNE and AKL, with a 777 from SYD to CHC.

    Cost is around $1,200 each way or about 50,000 QF points each way, etc

    It is even theoretically possible to go, say from, SYD to MEL (or BNE) by taking the outgoing morning flight to AKL and returning that late afternoon/evening.

    If purchasing a ticket, better value is to include an additional sector – by way example, say you wanted to visit AKL, SYD and CNS, you can buy a “first class” seat from AKL to SYD (in F), thence a stopover and thence a SYD to CNS in (J). Note the QF booking engine isn’t smart enough for this, so you’d have to compile an itinerary by phone booking, although this should only be $35 fee given a trans Tasman flight (NZ to Australia).

  16. Thanks for clarifying, Andrew – that makes more sense! Will content myself with the domestic lounges for the timebeing but will keep an eye on any potential international itins from SYD that I could then use my BA Gold to access it 😛

  17. So after reading a variety of travel posts from Gary (and others), I was really looking forward to my recent First Class International flights and access to Asiana’s 1st lounge in Seoul and ANA’s in Tokyo..particularly the concept of a sit-down dining area where one can order from a menu. I was completely surprised to find that there was nothing like that being offered. ANA does have the ‘noodle bar’ where you can order a variety of noodle soups, but after seeing what other airlines are doing (e.g. Lufthansa, Qantas, middle-east carriers, Thai?), how is it that these two airlines offer a 1st class lounge product that isn’t really different or better than their (regular) business class lounge? Both had just a very small buffet option.

  18. @matthewsf – sorry you were taken by surprise, I’ve reviewed both of those lounges before and indeed I agree that they disappoint in some ways. Although I find the food *good* in Seoul, and the showers excellent in Narita 🙂 Hope your flights were good!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *