Sydney's Qantas First Class Lounge (OW Emeralds, too!)

The Qantas Sydney First Class Lounge is, if not the top, among the top, lounges in the OneWorld Alliance today.

Built as a semi-circular structure bolted on to the top of international terminal at Sydney in the mid 2000’s, this lounge has pretty much anything you could ask for, without any pretense.

This lounge is accessible to all OW Emeralds travelling on an international OW itinerary, and anyone departing from Sydney on an OW First Class ticket, regardless of your traveler status.

Entry hall at Qantas First Class Lounge

When you arrive at the lounge, after your credentials are checked visibly by a man (without any computer), you enter through a bright, curving corridor, with a vertical garden on your left and windows on the right.  There is a sitting area in this corridor, though it is not clear who would actually use it.  The corridor leads you to an escalator upward.  When you arrive upstairs, you are greeted by an unusually friendly lounge staff, in a reception area made of expansive tablets of Carrera marble, coupled elegantly with stained oak.  I attribute the friendliness of this reception team (compared to the typical ‘enforcement staff’ at most lounge entrances) due to the fact that most ineligible visitors were turned away downstairs.

Escallator from the vertical garden to the lounge.

The upstairs reception will now electronically check your credentials, and more importantly, will check any coats or hand luggage that you don’t wish to look after while in lounge.  (Take them up on this checking option, because you will be busy in the lounge or busy doing nothing at all – but won’t want to have to feel the need to look after unneeded baggage while you’re there.)

Due to the structure of the lounge, from essentially every seat of the lounge (including the dining areas), you have unobstructed panoramic views of the airport’s principal runway (Runway 16R-34L), the domestic air terminal and Qantas’s main hangars at Sydney.  If you like to look at airports and airplanes (“aeroplanes” in Australia), this is as good as it gets.

In the lounge, you can eat a proper sit-down meal (of varying degrees of formality), enjoy a coffee or a cocktail, read, watch television or use a full function desktop computer.  You can also visit the in-lounge Spa for a massage or use one of their private offices.  Spa slots book up early, so plan to arrive a few hours before departure if you’d like a massage (see below for added benefit for First Class passengers).  I’ve never seen anyone in one of the private offices – but have never inquired about using one myself.  Due to the limited use, I suspect there would be no issue reserving one of these upon arrival at the lounge.

Looking down half the length of the lounge.

They announce flights in a pleasant voice over the public address (not like the typical PA addresses at JFK), and they have a large retro flight information board in the lounge as well.  Qantas is very good about maintaining a separate premium passenger boarding queue, so you can pretty much board at your leisure.  You will be sad to hear your flight called – it’s a great lounge to relax in – and, except if you’re heading to New Zealand, you’re staring down a flight of at least 8 hours when you leave.

If you are traveling in First Class, the lounge offers a few extra benefits than if you were entering purely as an Emerald.  The lounge can send a bellman to meet you curbside (kerbside) upon your arrival at Sydney airport and who will arrange for a full escort from curb, through check in, border formalities and security – straight through to the club.  This is a great service, akin to American’s Five-Star service – and included without surcharge in your First Class ticket.

They will also offer passengers on Qantas in First Class (or AA/BA codeshares flying on Qantas-operated flights) to pre-reserve spa times.  Call two days before your departure and you’ll have no problem securing exactly the time you’d like.

This lounge is one of my favorites.  It’s not quite as fancy as the BA F lounges or Concorde Rooms, nor quite as fun as the Virgin Clubhouses – but it is a nearly perfect compromise between the two for me.

To reach the Qantas First Class lounge (to schedule curbside greeting or a massage), from Australia, dial 13 13 13 and ask to be connected to the lounge.

Here is the link to Qantas's website further describing the SYD (and MEL) First Class Lounges.