Australia’s second-largest carrier has always lagged behind Qantas in lounge access options (and still does) but a recent announcement helps to close the gap. Read on to get the full rundown.
As a key benefit of the American Express Velocity Platinum and Platinum Charge cards, it is worthwhile to look over a number of the different lounge access options the cards offer, as well other ways to gain access to the same lounges using other methods.
In this guide, I run through the lounges in each city, what to expect when you use a lounge, and a quick look at the Virgin Australia paid lounge program and the (few) credit cards that offer Virgin Australia lounge access as a perk.
Virgin Australia is upping its game when it comes to passengers travelling on international services with them or a partner airline.
The biggest news is that the airline will be adding a new lounge called My Lounge in Brisbane to be opened in ‘the next few months’. It will be operated by a third party called No1 Lounges and will seat ~100 guests for Virgin Australia flights to the Pacific, Asia and Los Angeles.
What the new lounge may look like—loft-style elements in a relaxing environment
Currently, some Virgin Australia passengers access the Etihad lounges in Sydney and Melbourne. These are being taken over by the same third-party operator this month, with their name changed to The House. Virgin Australia passengers flying to an increased number of destinations will be directed here instead of other lounges like the Air New Zealand lounges. The Sydney lounge will also be remodelled and its size increased by 50%.
In New Zealand
With Virgin Australia’s partnership with Air New Zealand ending later this month, passengers in Auckland, Christchurch and Queenstown will now access third-party lounges of the Strata or Manaia brands. These are the same lounges that Priority Pass members currently gain entry to, so there may be some space constraints moving forward.
The airline will construct its own lounge in Wellington, which will be its first on foreign soil. It will again open in ‘the next few months’ and will service flights to Sydney and Brisbane.
It seems passengers in Dunedin will not enjoy lounge access—perhaps they will be given a food and beverage voucher instead.
Here is a full rundown of the changes:
Further information regarding locations of Virgin Australia’s international lounges can be found here.
Virgin Australia has been investing heavily in new lounge experiences over the last few years. This is both in terms of upgrades and additions to their existing domestic lounge network.
There are new domestic lounges in all capital cities (except Hobart) along with some at regional airports. In my visits, they have all offered very consistently good experiences.
Here are the current locations:
- Alice Springs
- Gold Coast
- Perth (one each in T1 and T2)
For comparison purposes, Qantas operates 24 Qantas Clubs, with Domestic and International Business and First lounges on top of that.
Most lounges are visually engaging and a nice space to spend some time before your flight. They match the Virgin Australia brand and style, and with common architectural signature elements where Virgin have managed to slot them in.
This lounge occupies two levels in the Virgin Australia domestic terminal, with the upper level offering some good views across the tarmac of Sydney’s domestic and international arrivals.
Premium Entry can be used by passengers with no checked baggage travelling in Business Class, as well as Velocity Gold and Platinum members. Note that the Sydney lounge is the only one that offers Premium Entry access on both weekdays and weekends.
Opened in 2011 and refurbished in 2014, the lounge is unique in being before security and having a ‘premium exit’ with dedicated security processing for passengers with lounge access.
Virgin Australia opened the new Brisbane lounge in late 2015, with Richard Branson himself present. It features a large atrium entry, cafe and, like in Sydney and Melbourne, premium entry for eligible travellers.
The Perth Domestic T1 lounge reopened in late 2015 as part of a $1 billion redevelopment of the airport.
It serves most Virgin Australia flights leaving Perth, although some smaller regional flights depart from the purpose-built T2 Regional Terminal, where Virgin Australia also have a small lounge.
For comparison purposes, it is slightly smaller than the Brisbane lounge.
Virgin Australia has focussed heavily on the use of glass, making this lounge attractive for plane-spotters.
Premium Valet Parking is available at Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth.
Reopened in 2013, this lounge has has a great view over the airport’s operations.
The Cairns lounge is one of the smaller lounges in the network, but again has a great view to take in while you wait for your flight.
Virgin Australia also operates some smaller refurbished lounges at Adelaide (to be re-done by 2021), Darwin, Gold Coast and regional lounges such as at Mackay and Alice Springs.
What to expect when you use a Business Class lounge
All of Virgin Australia’s Business Class lounges offer buffet food, soft drinks, wine and beer but no spirits. All but the smallest lounges have cafe operations with barista coffee available.
Outside of food and drink, you’ll get access to power to charge your devices, seating (unless it is really busy) and, hopefully, a quieter and more restful space to hang out in before you flight and do some work, make some calls, or whatever you prefer.
You’ll get access to free wifi, newspapers and magazines as well.
What do I like most about lounge access? It reduces the stress of travel. Having somewhere defined to go before your flight takes away decisions about where you could grab a snack, minimises exposure to airport retail, and all up makes travel more sane for me.
Through a credit card
Unlike Qantas in recent years, Virgin have kept lounge access from credit cards pretty tight, with only two cards from American Express and two other cards offering any kind of lounge benefit.
The American Express Platinum Charge has unlimited access for you and a guest included as part of its expansive benefits for a high annual fee:
and the following three credit cards giving two lounge passes per year.
By flying Business Class
If you are travelling on a paid or award Business Class ticket, you’ll get access when departing or arriving on a Virgin Australia flight. Unfortunately, you can’t bring any guests in, unlike Qantas Business Class passengers can.
With Velocity Frequent Flyer status
Velocity Gold members (plus one guest) gain access departing on a Virgin Australia flight whilst Platinum (plus three guests).
Silver members get two single-entry passes a year, which cannot be transferred to other passengers but can be used for a guest when you are travelling with them.
With airline partner frequent flyer status
You and at least one guest will gain access to the lounge when departing on a Virgin Australia flight and holding Gold status or above with partners like Delta, Etihad, Singapore Airlines and Virgin Atlantic.
With a Virgin Australia Lounge membership
Virgin sells access to their lounges, either on an annual membership basis or for single-use access.
Virgin Australia Lounge memberships are available for Velocity members. Those at the Red (lowest) level are charged a $330 joining fee + $420 annual membership fee; whilst Silver members have the joining fee waived and are charged a reduced $300 annual membership fee.
Membership allows you to also bring in a guest and two children aged 2-12 years old.
Many employers and professional associations will offer hefty discounts on the joining and annual fees.
There’s also lifetime access available for a chunky $9,750 (or $6,750 if you’re over 60 years old)—and while normally Premium Entry is not included for those with an annual membership, lifetime access has it thrown in.
Using Velocity Points or cash
You can purchase a single-access pass in advance for 10,000 Velocity points or $65 at the door but both can be used at most two hours before your flight—given that, I think using points and cash for a single-access pass is a bad deal.
Access on arrival
The following passengers can step off a Virgin Australia flight and access the lounge in their arrival city, subject to space constraints:
- Business Class passengers (no time limit)
- Velocity Platinum (up to 60 minutes)
- Velocity Gold (up to 60 minutes)
- Virgin Lounge members (up to 60 minutes)
Velocity Silver status holders and those using single-use passes, e.g. from a credit card, are not eligible for access on arrival.
Virgin has completed their refurbishment of the main lounges in its network, and having a credit card that offers you access when you fly can give you more time to relax before your next flight on Virgin Australia.
You may also be interested in reading our definitive guide to Qantas lounges.
Supplementary images courtesy of Virgin Australia and Tonkin Zulaikha Greer for Canberra.