The Role of Status?
I’ve been a Bronze Frequent Flyer (the base level of the program) with Qantas for close to 20 years, but after a couple of overseas trips in the past year, I’m for the first time approaching Silver status. For the uninitiated, ‘status’ is earned separately to your frequent flyer points, and once you get to a certain number of status points each year you move up to the next status tier which gives you some extra perks, such as a faster rate of earning points, extra availability of reward flights and access to restricted seats.
I’ve previously written about how I’d never used the Qantas Club before (nor felt the need to), but Silver status level also gives you a single complimentary Qantas Club lounge pass per year. So when I got an invite to purchase a lounge pass prior to an interstate trip I figured it’d be worth the $39 just to see what it was like. If I was going to use my free pass at some point in the future I’d want to make sure it was well spent.
I arrived at Adelaide Airport at about 8:30am on a Wednesday morning with a full hour ahead of me and made my way to The Qantas Club which is adjacent to Gate 21. The staff were friendly, reviewed my credentials and waved me through.
Walking from the dining area of the Qantas club, through the business lounge, and then back passing by the link to the western lounge.
The first thing you notice is how quiet it is, at least it was at that time of day. It did fill up a bit more as time went by.
Immediately to the left as you walk in (west end) is the entrance to the Chairman’s Lounge (good luck getting in there!). The front part of the lounge is all business seating – there’s a range of semi-private pods with wired Cisco IP phones and presumably power and data. Along each side are long benches with power and data and comfortable stools to perch on. At the time I was there there was lots of vacant seating in this area.
Moving on, there is a corridor to another open area with a lot of open casual seating space, while at the northern end of the main lounge is the eating area – there are regular tables and chairs, stools at higher tables, and some casual coffee table seating up against the northern window (overlooking, as it seemed, a fairly bland service part of the airport). So no shortage of space to do whatever you want to do, be it reading, eating, work or business discussions.
There are plenty of newspapers and magazines available, lots of seating and nice lighting.
I spent my time in the northern eating area, keen to get a good breakfast. The food is similar to a hotel buffet breakfast. There was boiled eggs, baked beans, cold cereals, yoghurt, toast, pancakes and so on, although I did think it was a little light on compared to some hotels I’ve been in – I couldn’t see any hot bacon, sausages or scrambled eggs for example, but it’s possible some of these are made to order.
There are a couple of drink bars scattered around the lounge with coffee from superautomatic machines, tea, orange and apple juice, as well as a barista in the western wing. I got a coffee from the superauto before I found the barista and they were surprisingly comparable – the superauto coffee was only about half full in the Vittoria takeaway cup and the milk was typical superauto midifoam. But the flavour was quite acceptable. The barista made coffee had much better milk, but wasn’t quite so smooth and a little too hot.
Overall Impressions – ahhhhh.
Probably the best thing about the Qantas Club compared to the rest of the airport, is that it feels very calm. It’s quiet, no music, and no sound from the TV’s playing the news. As you can hear in the accompanying video, the main noise is the murmur of conversation, some clinking of cutlery and crockery and the slight clatter of keys on laptop keyboards. The staff move quietly around clearing tables but it’s all subtle. It was almost like a library. There are periodic announcements for boardings, but given this is a Qantas club you don’t get announcements for Virgin, Rex and the others so they’re much less regular than out in the main part of the airport. Compared to the main part of the airport, which can feel very busy and rushed, you can sit down and relax in the Qantas Club.
The other good thing is that because it’s not free-for-all access, I felt pretty safe leaving my carry-on and laptop at my table while I went to get a coffee. I’m not sure if this is the right thing to do or not, but I felt that those who could access the Qantas Club are probably not the sort to nick peoples’ things or stuff their bag full of nefarious inclusions!
The toilets were amply sized and relatively clean, although one of the cisterns kept running. Apparently they have showers there too.
Having said all of that…
I’m not quite sure what my expectations were, but subconsciously I was a little underwhelmed. It was nice, but I also felt a bit of ‘is that all it is?’. Perhaps it’s like the thought of utopia you get from pictures of gorgeous tropical beaches, only to find when you’re there it’s just sand and water like everywhere else, and the sandflies are a bit annoying. I’m sure I wasn’t expecting a personal valet, 30 minute massage and lavish food, but it also wasn’t significantly more than simply a quiet hotel restaurant.
For me there were three main benefits: the ‘free’ food (if you call it that, having paid $39 to get in), the calm atmosphere and the ample seating. Without a doubt, it was nicer in the Qantas Club than sitting out in the airport… but was it worth $39?
For me, I think the answer is: no, unless I was going to be there for a few hours.
It’s probably quibbling over a few dollars, but if I was in the same situation again I think could have gotten a similar meal out in the main part of the airport (or at the hotel) for about ~$20-$25 (of course if I hadn’t been going to the lounge I would have just had breakfast at home for about $2!). For the rest of my wait, I could have happily sat at the gate as I have at other times in relatively comfortable seating and had an extra $15-$35 in my pocket. 30-60 minutes in an airport chair is hardly the end of the world. But that’s just me, and I’m sure for frequent travellers it’s handy to have a quiet private place you can sit in quiet security with most of the comforts you’d need.
When my Silver membership rolls around, I will be saving my solitary complimentary lounge pass for a long layover.