Earlier this week, British airport lounge operator No1 Lounges launched its latest airport lounge together with airline partner Virgin Australia at Brisbane Airport’s International Terminal. Essentials spoke to No1 Lounges COO John Upton about their concept in airport lounging and how the new Brisbane offering is a game changer for the Australian market.
Inside the Lounge
My Lounge is a fresh take on the regular flight lounge model. With a clean and free-flowing appeal it includes areas ranging from a relaxed cafe style communal table through to more club like relaxation spaces. There’s also a kids space with PS4, sofa and an arcade soccer table game, plus window view couples dining tables and a range of designer arm chairs situated throughout.
‘The lounge design is totally unique to Australia’, explains COO John Upton. ‘We developed this concept in Gatwick (UK) – there are only three of its kind in the world. A lot of airport lounges are similar to a hotel atrium in feel, this being rather formal – perhaps with a fine dining kind of feel. My Lounge is sociable, relaxed and designed for both business professionals and families – there are blend of offers within our concept. For example I could happily go in there with my three boys who are aged from three to six. We’ve got a communal table, we’ve got a Play Station 4 in there, and there’s a club room area at the back for those who need some quiet time. My Lounge offers something for the business traveller or the leisure traveller; and if you’re a dad who goes in there with three little boys, you’ve got a chance!’
On the Virgin Australia partnership
‘No1 Lounges has partnered with Virgin Australia in order to service their eligible passengers within My Lounge going forward. As they’re an important partner, My Lounge is branded Home of Virgin Australia – it is therefore their dedicated lounge. There are a lot of Virgin flights in the mornings so it will be a Virgin Australia dominated lounge, however at other times of the day we will open the lounge to other passengers travelling with airlines that we partner with.’
Food & Drink Offering
’In terms of our menu design, there are influences from around the world and the food menus will rotate seasonally. It’s a quality grazing menu. My Lounge is a concept based on… imagine you have a really cool friend, who might have a loft apartment for example – it’s the food that they’ve prepared and left for you to enjoy. It’s a really simple yet varied offer which people are enjoying’, explains John.
Australian Executive Chef Dan Kennedy (formerly of Victoria’s Macedon Wine Room) has put together a flavoursome no fuss selection. Guests to the lounge might enjoy some Tuscan meatballs or ribollita, perhaps some mac and cheese or Texan chilli with coleslaw and mixed salad leaves, or a locally-baked gourmet pie. Asian flavours might include a chicken san choy bow, char siu BBQ Pork or an aromatic vegetarian laksa. Breakfast choices features award-winning Otway Pork (Victoria) bacon, sautéed potatoes and field mushrooms, house baked beans, plus cereals, bircher muesli, fruit salad and a range of pastries. ‘The concept is to keep the whole experience really light, fun ]and friendly; as if you were going over to a friends apartment for a social night in,’ explains Dan.
As standard are barista-made coffees, Brisbane’s Newstead Brewing range of beers and cider, a range of quality Australian wines plus a DIY cocktails station where guests can mix up a signature Virgin Australia Flamingo from the stylish island bar – we assume inspired by Sir Richard Branson’s the Neckar Island’s waterbird wildlife refuge.
The future of No1 Lounges in Australia
‘I say this as a positive statement – the UK is probably five or ten years ahead of the Australian market when it comes to lounging. When you look back five to ten years ago in the UK, there were mostly carrier lounges (airline owned), but in recent times the pay-to-use model has become increasing popular. The big thing that we’re trying to do is democratise access to lounging. Before I got involved with No1 Lounges I always thought you had to turn left on a plane (enter business or first class) to get into a lounge. And I think we realised that the lounge opportunity should exist for everybody; as it can be surprisingly convenient but also much more affordable than many might think. In Australia we have an opportunity to lead the pay-to-use market.’
John explains the scenario of comparing a $60 My Lounge internet booking with buying some food, a coffee and a few drinks at an airport; and how this often not far away from a $60 spend. ‘The value equation in your mind quickly adds up.’
My Lounge – Home of Virgin Australia also offers flyers showers, unlimited WiFi, a range of glossy magazines, quality newspapers, and charging points as standard.
Complimentary and guaranteed access to the lounge will be available to all eligible Virgin Australia Business Class guests, and Platinum and Gold members of the Velocity Frequent Flyer Program, as well as Virgin Australia Lounge Members travelling to New Zealand. Checked-in passengers from other airlines will also be permitted to use the lounge on a pay-per-use basis. Guests can pre-book access online or in-person on the day of travel, for $60 and $70 respectively.
My Lounge – Home of Virgin Australia
Brisbane International Airport (next to Gate 77)