Sydney Airport is finally home to an arrivals lounge, huzzah! With so many flights running overnight and touching down first thing in the morning, arrivals lounges like this are a godsend – especially when it’s too early to check-in to your hotel. That’s exactly where the Plaza Premium Lounge (International Arrivals) comes in handy for Sydney-bound flyers.

Featuring private shower suites to revive for the day ahead, you may even qualify for complimentary access with an eligible American Express card. But if you have to pay, it’s currently less than $37 per person – and that includes food and drinks.

However you get through the door, here’s what’s on offer in Plaza Premium’s newest Australian lounge.

Location of the Plaza Premium Lounge (International Arrivals) at Sydney Airport

Once you’re done with Customs and in the public arrivals hall, venture left. Oddly, there are no signs pointing towards ‘Plaza Premium Lounge’ in that arrivals area. Instead, keep your eyes peeled for Aerotel. The lounge is hidden inside.

If it helps get your bearings, the facility is right next to the Virgin Australia domestic transfer counters. It’s also at the opposite end of the arrivals hall from the public train station, the Qantas domestic transfer facility and another popular point, McDonald’s.

As I arrive, there’s a confused traveller trying to check-in at Aerotel when they’d actually booked the Rydges Sydney Airport Hotel. They’re quickly given directions and sent on their way. That freed up the staff to admit me into the lounge.

It’s also worth highlighting that the lounge is in the public section of the terminal. This means it’s open and accessible to anybody at Sydney Airport: not just those arriving on an international flight.

You might choose to stop by before heading upstairs for check-in, using the facility as something of a pre-departures lounge. It’s an option too if you’re a domestic passenger and need somewhere to relax before your flight opens for check-in. Of course, allow plenty of time to get over to the domestic terminal once you’re finished lounging.

Lounge layout and seating

Nestled at the rear of Aerotel, Plaza Premium’s arrivals lounge in Sydney is a relatively small yet functional space. Take your pick from seats at the central work zone, or stake your claim to a dining table in the corner.

If you’re looking for sunlight, perch yourself at a bench along the window, or get comfortable on the padded seat with a TV in view. A fellow guest had made themselves very comfortable here – having turned that entire seat into a bed, with their snoring echoing throughout the lounge. Perhaps he’d have been more comfortable in a room at Aerotel!

I set up on the other side, taking advantage of the power outlets to charge my laptop for a busy day ahead.

After landing on a long international flight, I enjoyed multitasking and reconnecting with all things Australia. That meant checking emails while also watching the ABC News channel on the TV behind. Or at least, until a staff member abruptly began channel surfing and then switched the TV off completely, putting on a music playlist instead. Righto..!

While stationed there, a guest also decides to exit the lounge via the after-hours door leading directly outside. This happens to be right near a smoking area used by airport staff – and when the door swings open, a whiff of that wafts in. I can’t say I was too impressed, but at least the door was closed quickly.

Food and beverage at the Plaza Premium Lounge (International Arrivals) in Sydney

On a more positive note, the food spread in Plaza Premium’s Sydney Airport arrivals lounge is quite reasonable. With the lounge currently opening from 6 am until noon each day, the choices gear more towards breakfast but with a few items catering for an early lunch.

My 8 am visit finds favourites like fruit salad, yoghurt, muesli, cereal (Corn Flakes and Coco Pops) and pastries to get things started. There’s also a range of usually-hot items stored cold, which can be warmed on request.

These included bacon, scrambled eggs and sausages. There’s also bread, and for an early lunch, fruit, green salad, cheese and crackers.

I’d just stepped off a Business Class flight and had eaten a solid meal. Not one to eat ‘just because, I passed on the more substantial options this time. Instead, I was excited by a simple choice – toast with butter and Vegemite.

Like all the other choices, this had to be ordered at the counter. At first, a staff member here advised that the toaster was ‘broken’, and served me cold bread. I asked if they wouldn’t mind trying, and voila, the bread became toast.

The morning essential: coffee

When you’ve been travelling for almost 24 hours and land early in the morning, good coffee is a must-have for an arrivals lounge to be worth the visit. And at Plaza Premium’s arrivals lounge in Sydney, there’s indeed barista-style coffee.

Being a smaller lounge, there isn’t a chunky café-sized machine – but there’s at least a smaller coffee machine on the counter. I order a latte, and the first attempt was passable but not exceptional. The cup had been overfilled, so the staff member took a long sequence of baby steps in bringing it over to me to minimise the amount spilled into the saucer.

Later during the visit, I order a latte again from the same staff member, and it’s much better. There’s crema, and the cup isn’t overly full, so delivery to the table is much easier.

I’m mindful that most staff here are new recruits and are learning on the job. At least this gentleman is learning quickly, as that second coffee was great. And it was pleasing to hear that when the next guest ordered toast as well, there was no hesitation.

For those so inclined, the lounge also serves a range of beer, wine and spirits. But with the current noon closing time and my early arrival, these weren’t of interest this time.

Lounge amenities

Sure, there’s food and coffee to greet your arrival. But the most appealing aspect of Plaza Premium’s arrivals lounge in Sydney would have to be the shower suites. And after a very long journey, that’s certainly what I was looking forward to the most.

All the showers were occupied when I first arrived, but within 15 minutes, I had a key. This opened the door to a freshly-cleaned suite, complete with towels and basic amenities.

The room is quite small, making it a little difficult to open my suitcases and retrieve a fresh set of clothing – but I got there in the end.

It was odd to see a nice shampoo and shower gel stocked in the shower but no conditioner. Fortunately, I’d collected some of the miniature amenities from a hotel along the journey, which had me covered. There was also no face washer – but again, I came prepared and had a disposable cloth to bridge the gap.

I would have appreciated more lighting around the mirror, too. That would have made shaving for the day ahead an easier task.

But still, I entered the lounge perhaps looking a little dishevelled and emerged like a brand new person. In fact, I looked so revived that the staff didn’t even recognise me at first and tried to sign me into the lounge as a new customer! Clearly, the shower suite had done the trick.

On another note, the Wi-Fi is also fast and usable. You’ll find both AC and USB power outlets throughout the lounge too. But if you’ve packed for your overseas journey, remember to bring your Australian power plugs along for the ride as well. You’ll need them for the AC ports, which aren’t international-style.

Accessing the Plaza Premium Lounge (International Arrivals) in Sydney

As before, Plaza Premium’s arrivals lounge at Sydney Airport isn’t strictly for ‘arriving’ passengers. Travellers can use the space on arrival or before their departure if so inclined. And in fact, those purchasing access don’t need to travel at all.

Here are the various ways you can get inside:

  • By one-off paid access: Purchase entry for precisely AU$36.43 online for a two-hour visit, or AU$40.50 for a stay of up to five hours. These rates are correct at the time of writing but can vary slightly over time in line with foreign currency movements. You can also pay at the door.
  • By multi-visit paid access: You can buy several Plaza Premium Lounge visits together, but at the asking price, you’re better off paying per visit at this location. Still, if one single transaction is easier for you, it costs US$349 (AU$527.10) for 10 visits across Plaza Premium’s global lounge network. This may offer savings at other locations where the one-off visit rate is higher, and you can purchase these passes online.
  • By eligible American Express card: Access is complimentary with an American Express Platinum Card, Business Platinum Card, Corporate Platinum Card or Centurion Card. Australian cardholders can bring two gratis guests into the lounge.
  • By using reward points: Members of Plaza Premium’s Smart Traveller loyalty program can use their points for a complimentary visit. One visit for one passenger currently costs 2,800 reward points when redeemed online.

It doesn’t matter which airline you’re flying with given Plaza Premium is an independent lounge. If you’re happy to pay, you don’t even need to be flying. For instance, you might decide to visit while waiting for a friend to arrive. For eligible American Express Card Members, you’ll either need a same-day boarding pass or a same-day travel itinerary to or from Sydney Airport.

Summing up

It’s great to finally have an arrivals lounge at Sydney Airport. It’s been in the works for some time, and was even built and ready to open in early 2022 – but passenger numbers weren’t yet strong enough to support it.

While there are still some lessons to be learned by staff, they appear to be progressing quickly. I’ve also heard the lounge has plans to remain open throughout the day, once everything has been bedded down. That’ll be great for travellers arriving on an international flight with a very long domestic connection, as there’ll be no rush to change terminals.

For now, though, the staff could do with a refresher on Plaza Premium’s in-house loyalty program, Smart Traveller. On arrival, I had my membership barcode ready to scan to earn points for the visit. Despite this, it wasn’t processed correctly.

In my experience, Smart Traveller points always appear instantly after entering the lounge – and this visit should have earned 100 points. Staff instead merely took a photo of my membership barcode and said they would add the points ‘later’. At the time of writing, I’m still waiting for them.

Frustrations like this aren’t the greatest way to begin a lounge visit. But at least the staff actually knew Plaza Premium had a loyalty program, which wasn’t the case on my most recent visit to Plaza’s Brisbane lounge!

But, there are showers – and when you’ve spent almost an entire day travelling across the globe, that’s what matters above all else. For that, I would happily return.

Also reviewed: Plaza Premium Lounge (International Departures), Sydney Airport

Photography by Chris Chamberlin, who accessed the lounge as a regular guest while travelling at Point Hacks’ expense.

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Plaza Premium Lounge (International Arrivals), Sydney was last modified: September 26th, 2022 by Chris Chamberlin