Following an eight-month closure, Virgin Australia has now reopened five of its domestic airport lounges. Virgin’s lounges in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne reopened late last year, while the Gold Coast and Perth lounges opened their doors again from today. The Adelaide and Canberra lounges are yet to reopen, while Virgin’s other former lounges will remain permanently shut.
It’s great to see more of Virgin Australia’s airport lounges open. But as I discovered on two recent visits to the Virgin Australia Lounge in Brisbane, the 2021 lounge experience has changed quite a lot – and not necessarily for the better.
Here’s what you can expect when visiting the Virgin Australia Lounge in January 2021…
|Airport||Brisbane (BNE), Australia|
|Location||Opposite Gate 41|
|Opening hours||Monday-Friday: 05:30 – 19:30
Saturday: 05:30 – 18:00
Sunday: 08:00 – 19:30
Tables and chairs have been moved further apart from each other, to allow for social distancing. But there were still enough seats when I visited on a Monday morning, and when I visited again on a Tuesday evening the lounge was almost deserted.
The seats were comfortable enough, and there were work benches with power outlets available.
Lounge Food, Drinks & Service
The most noticeable changes to the Virgin Australia Lounge experience are with the catering, which is now very limited. Gone are the days of soup, salad bars, fish & chips, toasted sandwiches… or even, well, toast. I overheard a man specifically requesting a slice of toast for breakfast, only to be told this wasn’t available.
Instead of an open buffet, Virgin now has a limited range of pre-packaged snacks and fresh fruit available to eat. Just like in the reopened Qantas lounges, guests need to ask a staff member to pass them any food or drinks.
During breakfast hours, the following food was available:
- Cereal (corn flakes or weet bix) with fresh milk
- Yoplait yoghurt cups
- Plastic-wrapped banana muffins and banana bread
Other AFF members have experienced identical breakfast menus at other reopened Virgin Australia Lounges.
This was on the menu during the afternoon:
- Chicken & spinach or cheese & tomato sandwiches (thankfully the spring onion & cheese sandwiches seem to be off the menu now!)
- Red rock deli chips
- Cheese & crackers
- Shortbread biscuits
There was no hot food, nor any other food available. As you can imagine, I was quite tempted to walk out to the terminal’s food court and buy something more substantial. But for some reason, Virgin Australia is no longer allowing outside food to be brought into its lounges. With such paltry catering provided within the lounge (and very limited catering on board Virgin planes as well), I don’t quite understand the logic of this.
The good news is that the barista station was open and the coffee was excellent. Soft drinks, water and juice were also available all day.
Alcoholic beverages are also available after 12pm (previously 11am), with a limited selection of beer and wine. Virgin no longer has beer on tap, nor that impressive fridge with lots of varieties of beers to choose from. But there were three beers available: Great Northern, Pure Blond & Wayfarer Tropical Pale Ale.
There were two red wines, two white wines and one sparkling wine available as well from the barista station. The sparkling wine was Yarra Social, which seems to sell for under $10/bottle online, although I didn’t mind it.
Wifi is still available in the Virgin Australia Lounge, and the bathrooms remained open and clean – although the showers are not in use. Understandably, no newspapers or magazines were available.
There were few other lounge facilities of note.
Normally, Virgin operates a Premium Entry at its Brisbane lounge which allows Business class passengers and Gold & Platinum Velocity members to bypass the long security queues in the main terminal area. This has not yet reopened, and the staff had no idea if or when this great facility might return. The Virgin Australia Valet service also remains unavailable indefinitely.
The overflow lounge area remains closed and is unlikely to return. Perhaps that space – or the previous location of Virgin’s VIP “The Club” lounge – could become the site of a future Rex Lounge?
The Virgin Australia Lounge is available to Business Class passengers, Velocity Gold & Platinum members, frequent flyers with some of Virgin Australia’s partner airlines, Virgin Australia Lounge members and as a benefit with various credit cards. You would need to have a same-day Virgin Australia boarding pass to access the lounge. (See the Virgin Australia website for details.)
When entering the lounge, you are now required to scan a QR code and fill out a form for COVID-19 contact tracing purposes. (This is no different to entering any other indoor venue in Australia at the moment.)
There haven’t been any recent changes to guest allowances, however lounge access is not currently permitted on arrival. I couldn’t find any reference to this online, but the lounge staff confirmed this.
Virgin Australia Lounge, Brisbane
It’s great to see Virgin Australia finally reopening some of its airport lounges. The lounge remains a comfortable place to wait for a flight; sadly it’s no longer much more than that.
In my opinion, Qantas’ airport lounges are marginally better now than they were before COVID-19. By comparison, Virgin Australia’s lounges have gone backwards. To be clear, the Virgin Australia staff were all excellent and did the best they could with what they had to work with. But there’s no hiding the significant cost-cutting going on at Virgin Australia at the moment. The Virgin Australia lounge catering is particularly underwhelming right now, and the Qantas lounges now offer a far superior experience.
Hopefully the current reduced lounge offering is only temporary. I look forward to seeing what improvements Virgin introduces when it opens its new Adelaide lounge soon.