Virgin Australia has begun to reopen its airport lounges after they were shuttered for eight months. But around half of Virgin’s existing lounges will remain closed permanently.
Like Qantas, Virgin Australia was forced to close its airport lounges in March 2020 due to government restrictions that were introduced to suppress the spread of COVID-19. But all of Virgin’s lounges had remained closed ever since, despite the relaxation of government restrictions in most states which allowed Qantas to reopen many of its domestic airport lounges in July.
Which lounges are reopening?
Following a soft relaunch yesterday, Virgin Australia’s Brisbane domestic lounge is now fully operational again as of today. It comes as Virgin Australia finally exited voluntary administration yesterday after seven months.
Virgin Australia plans to gradually reopen a further five domestic airport lounges over the coming months “as government-imposed travel restrictions ease and travel demand resumes”. These will be lounges “at airports where high volumes of frequent flyers travel”, and include:
- Perth (Terminal 1)
- Gold Coast
A Virgin Australia spokesperson would not provide a timeline for these lounges to reopen, other than saying the Adelaide lounge will reopen early next year.
Half of Virgin’s existing lounges will never reopen
But around half of Virgin Australia’s lounges will remain closed permanently “due to low visitation”.
Virgin Australia had already announced plans to axe its lounges in Alice Springs, Perth (Terminal 2) and its only overseas lounge in Wellington, New Zealand. Today, Virgin revealed it will get rid of its lounges in Cairns, Darwin and Mackay as well as it seeks to further reduce costs.
A Virgin spokesperson also told us that its Canberra lounge remained “under review” as the airline “assesses the response of the corporate market in the post-pandemic environment”.
Frankly, this is staggering given the significance of the Canberra market and strong public service and corporate traffic to the nation’s capital. Closing this lounge would seem like a huge own-goal in favour of Qantas, which operates a Qantas Club, Business Lounge and Chairman’s Lounge at Canberra Airport. The corporate market will eventually return – especially to the national capital – but Virgin won’t be getting much of it if they don’t even have a lounge there!
If the Canberra lounge closes as well, this would mean only 6 of Virgin’s 13 airport lounges will ever reopen. That’s a loss of more than 50% of Virgin’s lounge network! Yet, at the time of writing, Virgin Australia Lounge membership prices had not been reduced.
Virgin’s VIP “The Club” lounges are closing as well, in line with Virgin’s shift away from targeting premium corporate customers.
A “reimangined” Virgin Australia lounge experience
Initially, Virgin Australia’s airport lounges will have a reduced service offering when they reopen. Instead of the usual buffet, there will be an “interim food and beverage menu” that is designed to “adhere to COVID-safe protocols”.
The menu “will include fresh and pre-made food, including sweet and savoury snacks, sandwiches and fruit, along with barista-made coffee, juices and premium sparkling, wine and beer,” Virgin Australia says.
But in the long term, Virgin plans to upgrade the surving lounges in its network and roll out a “reimagined” lounge experience. The newly-refurbished Adelaide lounge, which was supposed to reopen in April 2020 but will now open in the first quarter of 2021, is a prototype for the future network-wide lounge design.
According to Virgin, the new lounge design “will provide customers with an experience and aesthetic more aligned to the Virgin brand they know and love”.
Virgin Australia Lounge memberships to be extended
Virgin Australia says any Lounge memberships that were due to expire between April and 18 November 2020 will be extended by 12 months.
But it seems other Lounge members will only receive the six-month extension originally offered in April – despite Virgin’s entire lounge network remaining closed for eight months, and only one lounge having now reopened.
Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Any Update on VA Lounges? [Yes, reopening from Mid November]