We’ve previously reviewed the Qantas First lounge in Melbourne, the Qantas Hong Kong lounge, as well as reported on a Qantas First flight from Dallas to Sydney. Continuing our tour of Qantas’ flagship global offerings, we report on the Qantas First lounge in Sydney.
Entering the lounge, one first passes a (very friendly) bouncer, before walking past a living wall and large area of space which could probably have been used more productively.
Once up the escalators pictured above, guests stop at the front desk, where boarding passes are inspected once again. Access is granted to first class passengers on oneworld carriers and Emirates, as well as those with oneworld emerald status or Emirates Platinum, flying on those carriers in any class.
As we said in our review of the Qantas First lounge in Melbourne, this is a double edged sword. On the one hand, frequent travellers get to enjoy these lounges far more often than the narrow network of destinations with first class service would ordinarily allow. On the other hand, it does mean that these first lounges can get busy at times. That comment particularly applies to the Sydney lounge.
It also means we’ve found the helpfulness of the staff here depends a lot on class of travel and airline.
Once inside, guests can admire the Marc Newson architecture. We find it simply stunning. It very cleverly divides up the lounge so it doesn’t seem like one big long space and also makes the most of the tarmac views and natural light.
The lounge has a few old-fashioned style flip board departures screens.
A quick stop at the bar is essential. Qantas tend to stock at least three champagnes – over a number of visits these have included Tattinger, Bollinger, Veuve Clicquot, Delamotte, Moët & Chandon and G.H. Mumm. There are a number of still wines on rotation, although there is also sometimes a rather better wine open in a decanter.
When it comes to spirits, there are a number of choices, but the selection is neither as extensive nor as high end as what Lufthansa offer in its first class terminal.
When its time to dine, there are a number of options. There is a bar counter looking at the kitchen – which seems to be designed for solo travellers, but who likes sitting on a high stool to eat, particularly when lugging carry-on luggage? This is an airport lounge after all.
There are also two dining areas with tables. The larger tables have reserved signs on them, seemingly purely to keep small groups away from them.
In a pointless gimmick, the menu here changes with the seasons. Like almost everything these days Rockpool’s Neil Perry has his name all over this.
We find the service here (done by Accor) to be highly variable, and we find this deeply regrettable.
Whilst on previous occasions the food has been generally excellent, this was not the case during this visit. The toast was too hard to eat, the bacon was cold and and poached eggs ordered ‘hard’ were excessively runny. The singular hash brown was however quite tasty.
It is worth noting that there are also self-serve areas for snacks at both ends of the lounge. You would only bother with those when the service is otherwise poor.
Down one end of the lounge is a library area, which is often quieter than the rest of the lounge. There are a nice selection of books to page through should you not have anything else to rest your mind with.
There are plenty of iMacs (running both OS X and Windows) at various points around the lounge should you want to get some work done.
There are two office suites too. In addition to the usual business fixtures, these also contain a television and a sofa. These office suites make for a splendid place to get a little work done or just to enjoy solitude within the confines of the extremely busy Sydney First lounge.
The spa is down the other end of the lounge. In mid-2014 Qantas reduced the length of spa appointments down to 20 minutes. Qantas also switched the branding of the spa to Aurora.
Qantas is supposed to telephone first class passengers to make a spa appointment the day before their flight. On one occasion we found they did not, despite the telephone number being in the booking. When we telephoned the lounge on (02) 9691 2172 to ask what was what, we encountered an exceptionally rude gentleman who must have not been listening when we clearly started off saying we were in first class and tried to tell us to go away. With some persistence (including the use of the phrase first class about ten times) we were eventually promised a call back.
Separately the lounge has 8 shower rooms. More than once, we have found them all dirty, with no cleaning staff to be found.
While an exceptionally well designed lounge – certainly aesthetically pleasing – and by far the best lounge at Sydney’s airport from that perspective, the service in the Sydney First lounge compares unfavorably with that in Qantas’ Melbourne First lounge. Indeed, we find the service does not compare favourably with other airlines’ flagship offerings around the world. On occasion, we find it has even been edged out in the service stakes by Singapore Airlines’ Sydney First lounge offering.