Over the years, many Point Hacks readers will have set foot in the Virgin Australia Lounge at Brisbane Airport. Whether by status, booking class or paid membership, it’s the go-to space for (almost…) all of the airline’s premium passengers. But hidden out of sight is a second Virgin Australia lounge.
If you didn’t know it existed, you wouldn’t know it was even there. Its entrance is nothing more than a plain white door simply marked ‘private’. To the untrained eye, it’s easily mistaken for a boring back office. And when that’s the assumption, you quickly forget all about it. Naturally, that’s the whole idea.
But for those in the know – or should I say, among the invitation-only ranks of Virgin Australia Beyond – a journey through Brisbane Airport looks a whole lot different. Here’s a rare and exclusive look inside.
Clearly, I won’t draw you a map to the private lounge’s equally private entrance. But I can share this.
Between 5 am and 10 am on weekdays, Virgin Australia Premium Entry is ready and waiting. That’s the airline’s fast-track path from kerb to lounge, also available to eligible guests visiting the public lounge. But when you’re bound for Beyond, you’ll take a different path once upstairs.
Passing through at around 8:45 am on a Friday morning, my passage via Premium Entry is swift. But Beyond is all about subtle service that shines. By scanning in at the Premium Entry desk, staff from the Beyond Lounge are on standby upstairs to escort me through its deliberately plain door.
If I hadn’t gone through Premium Entry, I could have taken the other portal into the world of Beyond. Keeping on theme, it’s another plain white door in disguise. But if you need to ask…
For those in the inner sanctum, the Virgin Australia Beyond Lounge opens one hour before the airline’s first domestic flight from Brisbane each day. It closes as the day’s final flight is called for boarding.
Exploring Virgin Australia’s Beyond Lounge in Brisbane
Stepping through into the secret world of Beyond isn’t like wandering into a typical capital city airport lounge. Gone are the usual boarding calls, the queue for barista-made coffee and the buffet for a bite to eat. Here, everything is bespoke.
If your flight is boarding, you’ll be located and personally informed. As for coffee, you can place an order with the staff as you enter – or at any time throughout your stay – and that barista-made brew will find its way to your seat. Fancy a bite to eat? There’s an à la carte menu, with table service wherever you venture.
But before diving into all of that, let’s take a quick stroll. Given the exclusivity of Brisbane’s Beyond Lounge, there are only 44 seats here for Virgin Australia’s highest-tiered travellers.
The flooring swirls its way between premium marble and noise-reducing New Zealand wool carpet. The airline’s signature ‘roof leaf’ pattern zigzags above, cleverly mirrored onto the marble below.
As for the walls, there’s a splash of wood in keeping with the ‘private club’ vibe. But if you look closely, many of the panels are actually leather. Poltrona Frau leather, to be precise – the same as you’d find in Singapore Airlines’ exclusive Suites cabin. It’s premium, and it helps with noise reduction, too.
On the window side, vertical panelling keeps the outdoors visible when you’re looking straight through. But its spacing helps prevent those outside from seeing in – especially when peering on an angle.
For more solitude within the already-private lounge, several secluded pods are wrapped in linen print glass. Here, you can even dim individual ceiling lights at the press of a button to create the perfect atmosphere.
Need I remind you that this isn’t your ordinary airport lounge?
Layout and seating in Virgin Australia’s Beyond Lounge, Brisbane
Brisbane is home to the smallest Beyond Lounge in Virgin Australia’s network. In fact, it’s less than half the size of its counterparts in Sydney and Melbourne. This doesn’t provide an expansive footprint to work with, but what is here works well enough.
The lounge’s rectangular outline finds the quietest nooks to the far left. There’s a small group of armchairs at the very end, and several of those linen-print-wrapped pods for privacy. Their flexible design and sturdy fold-out wings – much like an inflight tray table – make them suitable for working, dining or just kicking back.
Beyond the quiet corner, collections of armchairs fill the rest of the open space.
A small dining section sits adjacent to these seats. And when I say ‘small’, it’s not an exaggeration – this restaurant has only two tables.
You’re probably thinking, that’s not enough! But do the math. In this cosy, 44-seat invitation-only lounge, those two tables (with four chairs) comprise almost 10% of the overall seating. And even then, across multiple visits, I’ve never seen both tables occupied at the same time.
Velocity VIP is a very small club, after all.
Food and beverage in Virgin Australia’s Brisbane Beyond Lounge
Starting your morning with breakfast in Brisbane’s Virgin Australia Beyond Lounge? Be sure to ask what the day’s special juices are. While the watermelon blend certainly sounded appetising, it’s hard to go wrong with orange. The delicious drink that arrived would have been right at home on a solid café menu.
Of course, a strong coffee is also in order, and my skim latte was indeed up to scratch. From there, you can order whatever takes your fancy off the menu, or ‘create your own breakfast’. My guest took the DIY path and had a custom plate of food assembled to order.
I’m still impressed that the waiter remembered everything without writing it down – I struggle just to remember names, sometimes! I took the simple path instead, with the chef’s omelette of the day. Today, it’s a tasty mix of grilled vegetables with parmesan cheese.
If you’re only after a quick bite, there’s a small station set up with croissants and fruit.
Conveniently, there aren’t set times for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The menu is there, and if something takes your fancy, consider it done.
Lunch and dinner in the Virgin Australia Beyond Lounge, Brisbane
For something beyond breakfast, flick to the all-day dining pages of the menu. Whether you feel like a main dish, a lite bite or a multi-course meal is entirely up to you.
Still full from breakfast, I’m content with the haloumi sliders for lunch. Served with hummus, grilled eggplant, rocket and chili tomato relish, they’re a perfectly sized snack. On the side though, it’s hard to go past the lounge’s signature parmesan truffled fries.
No, there’s no salt and pepper squid – signature snack of the rival Qantas Chairman’s Lounge. But if you’re in a seafood mood, the Beyond Lounge still has you covered. The pan-fried market fish (barramundi, on this visit) comes with wattleseed-roasted greens and a macadamia purée. Oh, and it’s topped with finger lime caviar… sorry to tease.
Separately, a seasonal staple of Brisbane’s Beyond Lounge menu is fresh spaghetti. When I’d last visited, this dish was tastily based around grilled calamari. This time, the protein is chicken, served with caramelised butternut pumpkin, garlic, chilli, goat’s cheese, spinach and herb pesto. It’s as scrumptious as it is eye-catching.
If you’re in a rush, meals can also be prepared in takeaway containers. A fellow guest orders the steak sandwich to go, before zipping off to his awaiting flight. Mental note for next time.
Drinks in the Beyond Lounge
On the beverage side, the bar opens each day at 10:30 am. Unlike Virgin Australia’s public lounges, Brisbane’s Beyond Lounge pleasingly offers spirits, too.
I’m normally a gin drinker, although a standard Tanqueray London Dry is the only option this time. It’s a respectable gin, but it’s one I have at home. Today, I’m looking for something more exciting: and I quickly find it. My preference quickly switches to rum – the Ron Zacapa Centenario 23yr Solera Gran Reserva, to be precise.
Some prefer to drink aged rums straight. Personally, I prefer my rum with a diet cola – particularly this one, as the cola helps elevate the rum’s own hints of caramel and vanilla.
If you’re in the mood for wine, don’t overlook the Arras Brut Elite Cuvée sparkling. My guest also enjoyed a glass of the Hardys Heritage Reserve Bin Chardonnay – and when they requested a top-up, it was interesting to see how they’d go about it, given the wine bottles are kept in a dispenser.
Instead of the wine glass disappearing, the waiter fetched a carafe in which to extract a pour, before using that to top up the glass at the table. Nicely played.
Think you’ve seen everything now? Think again. Virgin Australia’s Beyond Lounge may have only 44 seats here in Brisbane, but there’s one more room tucked away. And in fact, it has 20 seats of its own. Let’s take a peek at the well-equipped boardroom.
Complete with AV facilities, a whiteboard, laptop power and natural light, it even has a call bell should you need a refill on your coffee during a meeting. It’s available to all Beyond Lounge guests on a first-come, first-served basis, and can be reserved via reception. If you’re planning a meeting ahead of time, you can also book in advance of your next visit.
It’s fantastic to have such a quiet and private space within an already-private lounge. But what I really appreciate is the X-factor that the staff bring to the service – and by extension, this very space.
When I’d arrived at the lounge, I initially declined to dine and just ordered a coffee to start. I casually mentioned to the waiter that I’d hold off on breakfast until after I’d attended a video meeting. This passing detail was conveyed to a Beyond Lounge host, who came and proactively offered to reserve the boardroom for that meeting. Thank you, Queenie!
Just when you thought we were done, there’s still more to explore. Visiting on leisure rather than business? Peruse a collection of reading material to pass the time, or challenge a fellow lounge guest to a game of chess.
Restrooms are also on-site, and as is common of other VIP lounges, each is a separate suite. Shower facilities are available too – just ask one of the hosts to prepare the room with amenities and towels.
Accessing Virgin Australia’s Brisbane Beyond Lounge
Hoping to find yourself upgraded from Brisbane’s regular Virgin Australia Lounge to the world that lies Beyond? Unfortunately, there’s no ticket you can buy or membership you can purchase. Even surpassing the regular requirements of Velocity Platinum status won’t necessarily get you through the door.
Virgin Australia Beyond is strictly by invitation only.
You’ll need to be personally invited by Virgin Australia CEO Jayne Hrdlicka, or one of the airline’s other senior executives. Without that bump into Virgin’s private club, the white door marked ‘private’ stays firmly locked.
Even having VIP status with one of Virgin Australia’s partner airlines doesn’t get you inside. Those among the by-invitation ranks of Etihad Guest Exclusive, United Global Services and Virgin Atlantic UNIQ are still sent to the public lounge, just like everybody else.
But if you’re the CEO or Chair of a company that spends big on travel, you just might be in luck. It wouldn’t hurt to raise the subject during your next corporate travel contract negotiation. Or if you don’t want to wait (and I wouldn’t blame you…), reach out to your Virgin Australia account manager or corporate travel manager.
Now, if you don’t have an account manager, a corporate travel contract or a corporate travel manager, that’s a clue that you might need to step things up before you’re ready to go Beyond.
But there are other paths to membership. Virgin Australia does say that ‘key individuals from the worlds of travel, politics, sport, music, entertainment and society’ could make the cut, after all.
Sadly though, the more conventional ‘private club rules’ – where two existing members can jointly sponsor a new member – don’t apply. Well, unless those members were Jayne Hrdlicka and Nick Rohrlach, perhaps. With the two CEOs backing you, I’d say you’d have a fair chance.
Virgin Australia’s Beyond Lounge goes well beyond what most would expect of a typical airport lounge. But then again, this lounge isn’t for the general public, so that wouldn’t be a fair comparison. It’s not even for those who necessarily fly all the time – that’s what Velocity Platinum is for.
It’s instead a space where people in the public eye can relax and be themselves. A place where those who always have to be ‘on’ can switch ‘off’ for an hour or two. It could even be the only place outside their own home where they can do so. And when you’re that type of traveller, the subtlety of a detour through Premium Entry is all the more appreciated.
Okay, you’ve officially had the grand tour. Unless you’re on the list, I think it’s time to depart.
All photography by Chris Chamberlin.
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