The Absence of Third-Party Airport Lounges in Australia

For frequent flyers, airport lounges become a part of the travel experience that is almost as important as the flights themselves. Gold and Platinum Qantas & Virgin Australia flyers – and their equivalent in other frequent flyer programs – gain unlimited access to their airline’s lounges whenever they fly.

But not everyone flies enough to reach the dizzying heights of elite airline status. And even flyers with elite status may find themselves without access from time to time. This could be due to flying on a competitor airline, or perhaps the airline doesn’t operate a lounge in certain airports.

This is where third-party “pay-per-use” airport lounges play a significant role. These lounges can generally be accessed for a one-time fee on the day, or as part of a “lounge network” membership. The main benefit for flyers is that you don’t have to have any elite status – or be flying a particular airline – to gain entry. Priority Pass is probably the largest independent lounge access provider, but Diners Club, American Express and various other credit card providers also offer access to airport lounges around the world.

There is an abundance of third-party airport lounges – both in major, and in smaller regional airports – across Asia, Europe, the Americas and some parts of Africa. But there are currently just two non-airline lounges in Australian airports: The Amex Lounge in Sydney and the “Reef Lounge” in the international terminal of Cairns Airport (of all places?!). New Zealand has three independent lounges; in Auckland, Christchurch and Queenstown.

This week one member wanted to know why the third-party lounge providers have largely abandoned the Australian market.

Just wondered if anyone had some industry knowledge as to why almost none of the lounges in Oz accept Priority Pass or Veloce. Is it size? —— Bristol (population 500k) has a lounge! Ditto many other UK cities so that argument doesn’t hold up. Have the Priority Pass people tried hard enough with our big two. Is there enough volume for an independent lounge to open in say MEL or SYD?

The main reason suggested by our members is that Qantas & Virgin Australia already have the domestic market well-covered. Qantas operates Qantas Club lounges in 24 Australian airports, while Virgin Australia operates 11 Australian lounges. Both airlines also sell annual lounge memberships, meaning passengers can purchase access if they wish. Virgin even sells one-time lounge access for $65 per visit.

One member suggests that the fact these airlines lease or own many Australian airport terminals could also be a factor restricting market entry to third-party lounge operators.

I presume that you can’t put a 3rd party lounge into a terminal that is leased/owned by an individual airline.

Thankfully, there is some good news on the horizon! We can expect to see some new lounges open in the near future. A Plaza Premium lounge is due to open in Brisbane in the coming months.

They’re about to open a new pay-per-use lounge at BNE International (FINALLY!!!!). Will be awesome for those VA BNE-LAX flights where you can’t get Air NZ lounge access.

One member also speculates that a Priority Pass lounge will soon open its doors in Melbourne’s international terminal.

The old EK lounge in MEL is due to be a Priority Pass lounge.

Join the discussion HERE.


Related Articles

Recommended by the Australian Frequent Flyer

Buy Wine Online | Vinomofo Australia Vinomofo is the best wine deals site on the planet. Good wines, real people and epic deals, without all the bowties and bs.
Earn Cash from everyday purchases Get paid up to 25% in real cash from your everyday purchases from leading companies such as Virgin Australia,, Coles, Apple, Microsoft and much more. Free to join and no catches!

AFF Supporters can Login Now to remove all advertisements

Be the Frequent Flyer Expert!
Subscribe below to The Frequent Flyer Gazette to receive free updates in your inbox every Monday & Thursday morning.

We respect your privacy and never spam. Unsubscribe anytime.

Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]