Monday, October 31, 2016

Virgin Australia shakes up international airport lounge access

Virgin Australia's business class travellers and Velocity Gold and Platinum frequent flyers are about to be faced with a confusing array of lounges at Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane international airports.

In changes which take effect from November 1 2016, the international airport lounges available to passengers will depend on their destination.

For example, take a Virgin Australia flight from Sydney to Los Angeles and you’ll enjoy access to the Etihad Airways Business and First Class Lounge – complete with a la carte dining and waiter service.

But fly with Virgin Australia from Melbourne to Fiji and you’ll be sent to the Virgin Australia domestic lounge before your flight.

Other Virgin passengers will also be directed to lounges operated by Etihad Airways, Singapore Airlines, SkyTeam and even Plaza Premium.

However, Virgin Australia has confirmed that its business class travellers and Velocity Gold and Platinum members will still be able to use the Star Alliance Lounge at LAX.

A Virgin Australia spokesperson advised Australian Business Traveller that the shake-up follows an internal review of international lounge operations conducted by the airline, adding that “we are excited about the new arrangements and believe our guests will enjoy the new spaces prior to their flights.”

Here’s a breakdown of the new lounge arrangements.
Virgin Australia international lounge access in Sydney

The lounge you’ll have access to at Sydney Airport now varies based on your destination and the airline operating your flight, with lounge access as follows for business class guests, Velocity Platinum and Velocity Gold members:

Los Angeles (Virgin Australia): Moves from Air NZ to the Etihad Airways Business and First Class Lounge (pictured).

Los Angeles (Delta): Switches to the SkyTeam Exclusive Lounge in place of the Air New Zealand lounge.

Apia (Samoa with Virgin Samoa): Another changing from the Air New Zealand lounge to SkyTeam.

Denpasar (Bali), Nadi (Fiji) and Nuku’alofa (Tonga): Virgin Australia guests will now have access to the Singapore Airlines SilverKris business class lounge in place of the Air NZ facility next door.

Honolulu (Hawaiian Airlines): Also moves from Air NZ to the SkyTeam Exclusive Lounge:

Other destinations: There’s no change when flying to Abu Dhabi with Virgin Australia or Etihad (Etihad lounge); for trans-Tasman travellers on Virgin or Air NZ (continue using the Air NZ lounge); or with Singapore Airlines to Jakarta and Singapore (SilverKris business class lounge).
Virgin Australia international lounge access in Melbourne

Nadi (Fiji): Access to the Air NZ lounge is withdrawn for Virgin Australia guests, who will now be directed to the Virgin Australia domestic lounge (pictured, prior to passport control).

Unlike most airports, Melbourne Airport connects its domestic and international terminals all under the same roof, with Virgin Australia’s domestic lounge found prior to domestic security screening and roughly a five-minute walk to the international departures area.

Los Angeles: It’s not yet known which lounge will be used for Virgin Australia’s Melbourne-Los Angeles flights which resume in April 2017, although Australian Business Traveller understands that Virgin is examining lounges in the international terminal – a shortlist which includes the slick new Etihad Airways lounge – to save that domestic trek.

Other destinations: As with Sydney, trans-Tasman flyers of Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand continue to have access to the Air NZ lounge; Singapore Airlines flyers continue to enjoy SQ SilverKris business class lounge access and Etihad passengers continue using the new Etihad lounge.
Virgin Australia international lounge access in Brisbane

Los Angeles: Unwind in the new Singapore Airlines Brisbane SilverKris lounge (below) before your Virgin Australia flight to LAX in place of the Air New Zealand lounge at present.

New Zealand: As in Sydney and Melbourne, travellers continue to have access to the Air New Zealand lounge whenever travelling to New Zealand with Virgin Australia or Air NZ.

All other Virgin Australia destinations: Passengers flying to Apia (Samoa), Denpasar (Bali, Indonesia), Honiara (Solomon Islands), Nadi (Fiji), Port Moresby (Papua New Guinea) and Port Vila (Vanuatu) all move from the Air NZ lounge to the new Plaza Premium Lounge at Brisbane Airport.

Virgin Australia partner airlines: The Singapore Airlines lounge continues to welcome passengers on Singapore Airlines flights to Singapore, while Etihad Airways travellers bound for Abu Dhabi continue to use the Air New Zealand lounge in Brisbane, as Etihad doesn’t have its own Queensland lounge.

However, Velocity Gold and Platinum members travelling to Honolulu with Virgin Australia partner Hawaiian Airlines will not receive lounge access in Brisbane under these changes, as is already the case.
Virgin Australia international lounges: what’s not changing

Despite the exodus of passengers from Air New Zealand’s Australian lounges, a Virgin Australia spokesperson assured us that business class travellers and Velocity Gold members can continue to access the Air NZ-operated Star Alliance Lounge at LAX (below) prior to Virgin Australia flights.

Also retained: access to the separate first class zone of the Star Alliance LAX lounge for Velocity Platinum members booked to fly on Virgin Australia.

There’s also no change to benefits or lounge access for Velocity Gold and Platinum cardholders when travelling with Air New Zealand from any city – so if you’re jetting from Auckland to the USA with Air New Zealand in economy or premium economy, for example, you’re still clear to visit the Air NZ lounge.

Paid-up Virgin Australia lounge members aren’t affected at all by these revisions and can continue visiting Air New Zealand lounges in Australia and New Zealand prior to Virgin Australia trans-Tasman flights.

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