The AirAsia inaugural flight takes off from Avalon Airport

000350_airasiaavalon0590_1170.jpgMelbourne Avalon Airport this week saw its first AirAsia X international flight take off. The new flight sees AirAsia X move its twice daily Kuala Lumpur – Melbourne Tullamarine flight as part of a 10 year deal with operator Linfox Airports, which the airline signed early this year.

As part of the deal, a new terminal was built to facilitate international operations (the airport had only previously catered to domestic operation) in partnership with the Commonwealth and Victorian governments. The new terminal features border processing facilities, two duty free stores, tax refund facilities, as well as a bar and cafe spanning across 6,370 square metres. The airport anticipates 500,000 passengers will pass through its newly built international terminal during its first year of operations.

AirAsia X is the only airline currently offering international flights from Avalon. Whilst the move from some in the sector feel that shift to Avalon is risky for AirAsia, the large subsidies from the Victorian Government will ensure that the move from Tullamarine to Avalon is at least cost effect. Combined with Geelong experiencing a large spike in population growth in recent years due to its close proximity to Melbourne and housing options, the move to me seems quite a smart one. I don’t envision that the move will pay dividends instantly but give it one to two years and I believe Avalon will be a viable option for price conscious flyers looking to fly between Melbourne and Asia. 

 

 

Virgin Australia priority boarding announcement for veterans backfires

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After announcing via Twitter they’d be offering priority boarding to veterans in Australia, Virgin Australia has partially backflipped on their decision after strong public backlash. The airline has stated that “over the coming months, we will consult with community groups and our own team members who have served in defence to determine the best way forward. If this process determines that public acknowledgement of their service through optional priority boarding or any announcement is not appropriate, then we will certainly be respectful of that.”

The Virgin Australia announcement was an odd one to begin with. Perhaps they thought the gesture would earn them some good PR but then again Virgin needs to better understand its customer base, and it isn’t America. Having flown internally within the USA many times I find the gesture a little cringeworthy, if not smacks of commercialism. How can we put a price on death and war? Every ANZAC day commercial businesses are criticised if they utilise the dya for profit, so why is it any different here? Moreover if Virgin had done its research it would know that Australian veterans and our service men and women do not seek attention. Australians are more respectful and do not act patriotically around war like America. Whatever the  case Virgin has dug itself in a deep hole and it is dangerous for an airline already on its knees.

What saddens me is that the announcement was done as part of a campaign by NewsCorp, the same lovely folk who brought you the campaign to fire Malcolm Turnbull,. NewsCorp don’t care about people, they care about their agenda and in this case are probably trying to cover their tracks from recent blunders. The organisation’s intent is tokenism at its worst and Virgin sadly fell into its trap.

Here’s hoping Virgin Australia learn from this tough lesson and consult before making surprise announcements.

 

Should Australia be going down the path of the USA and recognise veterans at the airport/ on the plane? Keen to hear your thoughts.

 

QANTAS DOMESTIC BUSINESS LOUNGE MELBOURNE: 2018 REVIEW

Alliance: Oneworld

Location: Melbourne Domestic Airport

Lounge Rating: 4.5 Stars

 

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Qantas has been undertaking a lounge renovation spree over the last couple of years. The lounge renovations were long needed in some destinations more than others and Melbourne was one of those airports that was crying out for an update. Whilst the domestic lounge faired ok over time, the Qantas Club next door was a bit of a design disaster. This year saw the renovation and reopening of the Melbourne Domestic Qantas Club lounge. Now the Domestic Business Lounge has unofficially opened its newly renovated doors to its top tier Qantas FF clientele and Oneworld equivalents. What does this mean?! Well a better lounge experience for starters but the catch is only half of it is open with the other half due to be unveiled to the public in a month’s time. The TAT made a visit to the lounge to see what all the fuss is about.

 

Lounge access options

  • Passengers with an onward Qantas or QantasLink business class flight
  • Travellers connecting to or from an international business or first class flight with Qantas, Emirates or a Oneworld airline, even if the domestic leg is booked in economy
  • Qantas Platinum and Platinum One frequent flyers before or after a same-day Qantas, QantasLink, Emirates, Jetstar* or Oneworld flight
  • Other Oneworld Emerald members when their next onward flight that day is with Qantas or QantasLink and carries a QF or other Oneworld flight number (no access when flying Jetstar)
  • Emirates Skywards Platinum cardholders where their next onward flight that day carries a QF or EK flight number and is operated by Qantas or QantasLink.

 

Lounge location and opening hours

The lounge is located after security on the right of the food court via an escalator on the first floor. The lounge operates from 5am til 10pm daily.

 

Ambience

 

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The lounge is new and as a result quite striking. It has a very Melbourne feel to it (the intention of Qantas’ new lounge design cue to reflect the state where the lounge is located). The tones of black and dark marble give the lounge a very upmarket bar feel. I feel Qantas has really captured well that Italian / trendy Melbourne-esque vibe. The new lounge space takes over the old Qantas Club space (Qantas Club has since been moved to the back of the first floor) and offers a lot of natural lighting with excellent tarmac view.

 

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As part of the refresh the bathrooms have also been given an overhaul with some nice aesthetic touches including individual mirrors as well as new marble benches and gold taps. If I had a home to call my own I would have this as my bathroom. Yes it is pretty darn flash without being too bling like the Emirates lounges.

 

Bread and butter (food and drink)

 

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As you would know by having read some of my other reviews I really love my food (and drink). Qantas really does a great job (especially in their new lounges) in offering cuisine that is carefully curated to reflect the dining experience of where the lounge is located. This is demonstrated in the showpiece of the new business lounge – the centrally located marble drinks bar. Here you can pull up a seat or take away a beer, wine or if you are feeling ambitious a spirit. There’s also barista-pulled coffee on offer as well as a cocktail hour offering between 5pm and 6pm. At the time of when I was in the lounge sangria was being served to passengers in their chairs. The sangria was quite strong but met the brief in terms of refreshing – exactly what a sangria should do!

 

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The new lounge sees a more spacious buffet area for hot and cold dishes. There is an emphasis on Asian dishes including fried rice, noodles and Asian greens. Qantas has also added their signature ‘Quench’ hydration station with hot teas and cool drinks. On today’s menu board there was a vegetable chowder, Mediterranean lamb with roasted potatoes and even scones with cream and jam (this menu item sent me back to times spent in the BA lounges in London). I sampled the lamb dish and scones and both were quite delicious.

It’s also anticipated that the Melbourne business lounge will have its own unique dining option in the form of a Spice Bar serving freshly-made noodles and Asian street food. Sadly I was unable to review this part as it’s part of the final lounge reveal in early November.

 

Verdict

It wasn’t too hard to improve on a product that was well and truly beyond its shelf life. The new Qantas Domestic Business Lounge really does pack a punch in terms of style and flair. The food and drink choices is on par with its gorgeous interiors. For half a product (the rest is set to open early November), this is one exciting preview for top tier Qantas frequent flyers. Qantas has done a great job in making this not only a space that is very Melbourne yet provides genuine warmth and comfort for those fortunate to spend time here waiting for their flight board. I look forward to seeing the rest of the lounge in November if this is a taste of what is to be expected.

 

Comments

Have you experienced the newly renovated Qantas Domestic Business Lounge in Melbourne? Love to hear from you about your time in lounge – did it shine or were you expecting something better?

 

DELTA ‘DELTA ONE’ 777-200LR LOS ANGELES-MELB: REVIEW

Flight: DL41, Los Angeles – Melbourne (27 April 2018)
Loyalty Scheme: Delta Skymiles/ Velocity Frequent Flyer
Frequency: Daily
Duration: STD: 10:25pm (-7) ATD: 10.58pm (-7) Delayed 33 mins, STA: 6:35am (+10)      ATA: 7:00am (+10) Delayed 25mins

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Delta Airlines operates the 777-200LR between Sydney and Los Angeles. On this route the aircraft features the older Delta One product, which is unfortunately the first gen lie flat seat introduced by Delta in Business Class. The plane is laid out identically to the Delta 777-200ERs. It features 37 full flat seats in Delta One (aka Business Class), 36 Delta Comfort+ seats (think economy with an additional 4” of leg room and more recline) as well as 218 seats down the back in economy.

This particular seat is in a herringbone arrangement and is split into two cabins of 26 between the first two doors with an additional 11 seats behind door two, in front of Comfort+. I was sat located in the second cabin in 11A. Delta recently announced plans to refresh their 777 fleet which will see introduced to the planes the new Delta One Suites currently found on the A350.

The Airport

Delta operates out of Terminal 3 and 2 from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). The Sky Club in T2 used to be Air Canada’s Maple Leaf Lounge in a previous life and with some minor updates by Delta after the great LAX move. That said it still feels relatively modern and fresh. Arriving from a connecting US domestic flight, I found the showers and freshened up before getting a small bite to eat and some tea prior to boarding the long journey home.

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There was no wait for a shower and afterwards, plenty of available seating despite it being peak hour for flights. There were a variety of chairs grouped in 2 and 4,  solo chairs and bench seating. Snacks, salads and a small selection of hot foods were available as well as self-pour wines and spirits. The selection was sadly not outstanding, but then again on US standards it was fairly good.

The Seat

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I had originally assigned myself 2A in the forward cabin, however my seat assignment didn’t stick and I was bumped out to 11A. Whilst it was not a big deal, I did prefer to be in the forward cabin as the location of the second cabin is directly in front of Comfort+ which can attract some noise. In all honesty though, the setup of a herringbone seat means you face inwards into the aisles and the sidewalls of the seats aren’t particularly high. This meant that whenever I turned my head slightly to the right, I could see at least 5-6 people in my line of sight. The light coming from Comfort+ would also shine into the Delta One cabin as their meal service timing differed from ours and could prove a problem for those who are light sensitive when sleeping.

Waiting at my seat were Westin Heavenly bedding a pillows, a Tumi amenity kit featuring Kiehls moisturises. Noise cancelling headphones were also found at my seat, but I used my own Beats Studios instead during the flight. During the boarding process, I ordered a glass of champagne. I was also provided menus and pyjamas shortly before push back.

As mentioned, the seat is quite exposed and while in the upright position, I am able to see a number of passengers (and vice versa). In bed mode though, it is quite comfortable owing to the fact that it is exposed. You can see most of the passenger across from the aisle, but others are limited by the shield around your seat. A combination of exhaustion and comfortable bedding ensured I slept well over 8 hours. Sadly there is no turn down service (unlike Qantas or Virgin Australia trans-pacific).

Entertain me

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Being one of the oldest Delta One products out there, the age is really starting to show. The screen at my seat was slow, low resolution and small. Indeed, there was limited content found with roughly 20-30 movies and similar number of TV show episodes available. Music was even more limited, so I ended up listening to music from my iPhone. BYO entertainment if you don’t want to be bored during the 13+hour flights between SYD and LAX. I was not impressed and didn’t bother to show anything other than the moving maps as there was genuinely nothing that appealed to me or that I hadn’t watched.

Wifi streaming is available along with internet. As with all Delta flights, messaging is free on board (limited to certain apps and excludes pictures and videos), while doing anything else requires payment. From what I could ascertain, there were patches along the route where the internet would cut out or become incredibly slow (which makes sense as coverage along the pacific can be patchy).

The Bread and Butter (food and drink)

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Once in the air, there was a short wait before the dinner service began. The late evening departure means that many passengers choose to sleep rather than eat. Whilst I had been up very early that morning (and on East Coast time too!), the flight allowed for plenty of time to sleep so I pushed through and had dinner. US airlines aren’t particularly well known for their service, but I have often found that while the flight attendants can be very casual and relaxed about the service, being nice and engaging them in conversation often does wonders in creating a positive experience. Indeed, chatting to the flight attendant working my aisle, she became very animated and ensured I had everything I needed throughout the flight. Top marks to her.

When the dinner/supper service did begin, it started with another glass of champagne and with some nuts as the table was set. Shortly after, my salad, appetiser and soup were all served on one tray. The only choice for dinner was the mains. I ended up going with the chicken (baked with a crust and served with asparagus). The salad and soup dish was taken away after I was done and the main dish replacing them on the same tray. As my appetiser dish and bread dish were left on the tray, general display of food looked tardy but I appreciate it was done so that the meal service could be completed earlier. The meal was finished with the option of cake, cheese or ice cream sundae. I went with the ice cream topped off with caramel sauce and nuts.

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I had some chips and banana as a snack two hours prior to breakfast from the assorted snacks laid out in the galley, but did not order anything from the snack menu.

Just over an hour prior to landing, the breakfast service began. Options ranged from French toast and omelette to muesli and yoghurt. I went with the French toast which sounded much better on the menu that it looked. Whilst fine, I found the portion small and rather uninspired. It was served with some sad looking pieces of mandarin and grapefruit. Flight attendants came around with croissant, bread and carrot cake muffins. I went with the muffins and they were seriously delicious. Overall I found the food offerings rather small in serving and lacklustre in appearance/taste.

Verdict

Delta has a reputation of being the best US based airline. Certainly there were lots of things that have brought it on par with its international competitors. However I couldn’t help but feel that everything was a decade behind. The seats had seen better days, the entertainment system a couple of generations old and the food and beverage service was hardly delightful.

I got a great sleep during the flight for about half the flight and for business class, that’s one factor you’re paying the privilege for. It’s a shame that the other half of the flight was completely unmemorable/ slightly disappointing.

I believe that once the new seat is installed, it would provide a welcome upgrade  in terms of experience for the business class passenger. I can only hope that this flows onto their food and beverage service too. Combined, Delta will truly once and for all shake off that daggy American stereotype (as long as the competition hasn’t moved on again in the meantime).

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About the writer

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I’m a well travelled 30 something who blames it all on his father (though really, I’ve taken it to the next level). Travelling from a young age and continuing to do so independently from the end of high school, I am happy to step on a plane headed anywhere. Indeed my colleagues at work don’t ask me if I’m going away in holidays, but where I’ll be headed. They don’t even bat an eyelid when I pop down to Melbourne for the weeknight just to see some show that takes my fancy.

All of my travel is self funded. Through a mixture of great fares and frequent flyer points I’ve developed a penchant for sitting at the front of the plane. However let’s be honest; I’ll just about sit anywhere if it means I get to fly somewhere.

VIRGIN AUSTRALIA BUSINESS CLASS 777-300ER MELB-LOS ANGELES: REVIEW

Flight: VA23, Melbourne – Los Angeles (15 April 2018)
Loyalty Scheme: Velocity Frequent Flyer
Frequency: 5 flights weekly
Duration: STD: 11:35am (+10) ATD: 11.35am (+10) On time, STA: 9:00am (-7) ATA: 9:08am (-7) Delayed 9mins

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Virgin Australia operates five Boeing 777-300ER aircraft exclusively for their long-haul fleet, with that type of aircraft predominantly flying from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to Los Angeles. All five aircraft have an identical three class configuration which features 37 of Virgin’s medium/long-haul business class product dubbed ‘The Business’, a 24 seat Premium Economy product and 278 Economy seats (75 of those are dubbed ‘Economy X’ which feature an additional 2” of legroom). ‘The Business’ features the B/E Aerospace Super Diamond reverse herringbone seat which is my personal favourite when it comes to Business Class seats.

 

The Airport

Melbourne Airport’s international terminal was recently refurbished last year. It’s bright, modern and airy terminal and is by far the nicest terminal at Melbourne. I was connecting from Auckland so passed through international to international transfer which was fast and painless.

Virgin Australia has a myriad of lounge access rules depending on which class, airline and frequent flyer status. As they rely heavily on partners for international flights, it can be hard to keep up. Luckily they do have a webpage which allows you to select the way you are eligible to access a lounge (status or class), and then scroll down to your departing airport.

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For my flight to Los Angeles in Business, I was entitled to use the Etihad First and Business Class lounge. Breakfast was currently being serviced with a range of hot and cold options. My goal was to get a shower before my long flight. I found the shower well-appointed but was slightly disappointed by the water pressure which could have been improved.

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Other amenities that I enjoyed during my brief stay was the wifi which was fast, plus not to mention the nice views of the tarmac, with single seats line up along the windows.

 

The Seat

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I assigned myself 2A in the forward cabin. There are two cabins, the main forward one with roughly 7 rows (24 seats) and smaller rear cabin (13 seats). I was greeted by the Flight Attendant working my aisle shortly after boarding and I ordered a glass of the Champagne Ayala Millésimé 2007 Vintage. This was served with the menu of the meals for later in the flight.

The seat itself was set up with two pillows which would later be used when set up as a bed, noise cancelling head phones and a bottle of water. I found it to be pretty lacking in storage with shallow or narrow spaces rather than a usable large space. The tray table pops out from under the entertainment screen but wasn’t intrusive or impeded on my knees which can sometimes happen on other business class seats.

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Later in the flight, there was turn down service available with some padding placed over the seat and pillow cases put over the seat pillows. The finishes are beautiful and the shell provides just the right amount of privacy without being claustrophobic. Pyjamas were also offered before take-off along with an amenity kit containing little goodies like moisturisers from Hunter Lab. The medium pyjamas that were provided sat pretty large on me and the amenity kit was mostly forgettable.

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Entertain me

Inflight entertainment was offered on this flight courtesy of a beautiful HD screen. Fixed to the shell of the seat in front, I did not experience any issues seeing the screen in any reclined position. The surface of the screen was quite shiny, however with window blinds down, it was bright and clear. Content was reasonable with a fair number of new releases and some classics. Other than that there was not particularly a lot of choice, particularly when it came to TV shows and Music. I had a number of shows downloaded on my laptop (usual power points and USB ports available) so I can imagine I would have been a bit short of choice had I not had brought my own content to watch.

Wifi is not currently available on Virgin Australia international flights, however there are plans to equip these planes with wifi soon.

 

The Bread and Butter (food and drink)

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Virgin Australia isn’t particularly well known for its food when it comes to those down the back (I have a running joke with some friends about domestic economy catering – think tiny muesli bars, Lindt balls or protein balls). One area I can’t fault them however, is that they consistently do Business class meals very, very well.

Lunch and breakfast were offered on this flight. Service began roughly an hour into take off with tables set, drinks and some nibbles (olives and cheesy biscuits). I had a smoked duck starter followed by pan seared salmon on a bed of soba noodles and finished off the meal with both the burnt butter caramel ice cream and churros (oops!). The meal was well paced, with only the churros taking longer to serve than the rest. Overall, I really enjoyed the meal and cleaned it up too quickly that I forgot to take a photo of the main!

During the flight, I was hungry after about a six hour nap and asked for a snack. I was offered the prawn toast with corn salsa and jalapeno mayonnaise. It offering was delicious.

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About an hour and a half before landing, breakfast was served. Virgin Australia has guests fill out a breakfast form around take off with the breakfast card, including drinks and all food, which means that the flight attendants don’t need to wake you up prematurely before the meal if you are asleep. I had chosen the smoked salmon, scrambled eggs, mushrooms, baby spinach and goats fetta. This was served with a croissant, some fresh fruit and a fruit smoothie. Again, top marks for presentation and freshness of the food.

 

Verdict

Virgin Australia really gets it right when it comes to ‘The Business’. The seat is well designed, comfortable and private. The food is on point – being fresh, tasty and well presented. Service was casual yet attentive and the whole flight was relaxed and enjoyable. A far bigger inflight entertainment selection and more useable storage would be welcome improvements in what was an overly enjoyable flight experience. It is a shame their international network is so small, as they a formidable force when it comes to international business class.

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About the writer

26853377_10159979448035061_1168249417_o.jpg

I’m a well travelled 30 something who blames it all on his father (though really, I’ve taken it to the next level). Travelling from a young age and continuing to do so independently from the end of high school, I am happy to step on a plane headed anywhere. Indeed my colleagues at work don’t ask me if I’m going away in holidays, but where I’ll be headed. They don’t even bat an eyelid when I pop down to Melbourne for the weeknight just to see some show that takes my fancy.

All of my travel is self funded. Through a mixture of great fares and frequent flyer points I’ve developed a penchant for sitting at the front of the plane. However let’s be honest; I’ll just about sit anywhere if it means I get to fly somewhere.

QANTAS MELBOURNE DOMESTIC BUSINESS LOUNGE: REVIEW

Lounge: Qantas Domestic Business Lounge

Alliance: Oneworld

Location: Melbourne Tullamarine Airport

Lounge Rating: 4/5 Stars

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The Qantas Domestic Business Lounge is a hub where Qantas’ top end and affiliated Oneworld equivalents as well as domestic business class travelers can whittle away the time whilst enjoying views of a few plane tails making their tracks in and out of the airport. For an avgeek this spot is fantastic and coupled with a drink and good food, the place is a airport sanctuary.

The Australian Traveler checked in to find out if the lounge stacked up on its ‘premium’ experience.

 

Lounge access options

  • Qantas Platinum and Platinum One members
  • First and Business class passengers (travelling on Qantas Domestic Business class or connecting to/from a Qantas or Emirates international flight)
  • Oneworld Emerald and Sapphire members (travelling on flights marketed and operated by Qantas or a Oneworld airline)
  • Emirates Platinum Skyward Members
  • Platinum Eastern Miles Members when travelling on a Qantas operated domestic flight

Lounge location & opening hours

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Finding this lounge can be a tad tricky as its location is hidden away within the Qantas Club lounge. Once you have cleared security in Qantas’ T1 domestic terminal, head right until you come across the combined lounge entrance. Enter the Qantas Club and keep walking towards the back of the lounge to some doors marked ‘Business’. The Qantas Domestic Business Lounge is open daily from 5am – 11pm.

 

Ambience

The lounge was fairly quiet when I first arrived but quickly picked up in people traffic within half an hour of me being there.

First impressions were generally good. Compared to the Perth and Brisbane Business Class lounges, the lounge was starting to show its age but when compared to the Qantas Club next door it still felt premium in quality. Break out areas and plenty of natural lighting helped give the lounge a sense of harmony.

The bathrooms were a step up from the Qantas Club with quality handtowels and ASPAR skincare products provided rather than the typical generic dispenser variety.

Wifi worked well in the lounge which is great for business types wanting to get a bit of extra work in before their flight.

 

Bread and butter (food and drink)

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This is where the lounge shines. My flight was in the morning and aptly a breakfast buffet selection was served. The buffet had a decent variety of hot and cold dishes from eggs and bacon to salads and fruit bowls. Old faithful the pancake machine was my go to and as usual they were a delight.

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Qantas has an excellent barista service on hand and the almond latte I ordered was quite smooth in quality. If you don’t want barista made or are in a hurry there are two coffee and tea stations available.

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The drinks selection was also strong with a number of wine, beer and spirits on display. Considering the time of the day I did not get to sample any but the juice station where one can make their own juice was a nice touch for those wanting a healthy alternative.

 

Verdict

The lounge despite showing its age did not lack in quality. The space is tranquil, quiet and a great spot to either get some work done or a chance to unwind from a long day at work.

Food and drink offerings are extensive and of good quality. The bonus of a proper barista at hand serving coffee unlike the machine only option in US lounges gives the lounge x-factor.

With the lounge set to undergo a complete overhaul this year I will be keen to see what new added extras the new lounge will offer premium flyers . Until then the current lounge is more than ample to meet the needs of even the most discerning frequent flyer.

 

Comments

Have you experienced the Qantas Domestic Business Lounge in Melbourne? Love to hear from you about your time in lounge – was it outstanding or did the lounge fail to take off on your expectations?