“Friends With Benefits” @ Qantas First Class Lounge, Sydney Airport

Date of Visit: August 23 2013

It is not what you know, but rather who you know, when it comes to getting a leg up in the world, notwithstanding some little creature comforts in air travel amongst other things in life!

As a business class traveler, I am getting rather tired of the facilities at Qantas Business Class Lounge that Cathay Pacific co-shares at Sydney airport. So it was with elation that I got an upgrade to hang-around a First Class Lounge this trip to Hong Kong as a guest of my travel companion who holds a Marco Polo Diamond card.

My oh my, Qantas First Class Lounge is definitely a class above.

After getting past the first check-point whereby you have to show the attendant your eligibility to enter the glass enclosure, you meet an interesting and  eye-catching vertical garden created by French botanist Patrick Blanc.


Feature wall of living plants by Patrick Blanc

Walk round the wall plants, then one hops on the escalator and is transported to the upper floor where the Lounge proper is.  The ride up the circular ‘hole in the ground’ to an all-white marble interior reminds me of the Jetsons family (cartoon) circa 60s where white was a lá mode.


Central Escalator

With one other check-in with the reception at the desk, one is finally welcomed into the Lounge and allowed to enjoy the facilities.

The designer of the Lounge is Marc Newson and his work is attractive – “Dramatic wooden ceiling spars cambered like the inside of an airplane wing subtly yet naturally divide the lounge’s sweeping space into almost a dozen semi-contained functional areas, all bathed in an abundance of natural light.

High-end furnishings are used.  The leather lounge chairs and sofas are from Paltrona Frau in Italy and the carpets are custom-designs from Tai Ping in Hong Kong.


The spars compartmentise the sitting areas well, giving privacy and personal spaces.


A typical lounge zone

It is a streamlined design in polished wood, matched with black and white marbles and quartz surfaces – a bit monochromatic, but timeless.  The spars also make interesting sweeping curved vistas.


Wide corridor

The old-style flipper boards which track flight departures add touches of whimsy, bringing back the air travel from yesteryears. (Do you realise now that passengers used to dress UP for air travel, but now they dress DOWN in the name of ‘comfort’?  Ugh!)


Old-style flipper boards

In the First Class Lounge, there is a restaurant with a proper sit-down area. The menu is designed by Neil Perry of Rockpool fame, manned by staffs trained by Sofitel.  This is to justify the cost of first-class travels and to give the  guest a polished five-star hotel experience rather than the generic airport lounge.   With a busy restaurant, I noticed that the staffs were not really efficient, so it came as a suprise to find that the staffs were trained by Sofitel.


Service area (Bar)


Restaurant bar sitting: A better shot I pinched somewhere online but couldn’t locate its source


Restaurant area

Cutleries were from Alessi, but time for a change because I got a bent knife (?!)


Alessi cutlery in leather pockets

We ordered omelettes and poached eggs. The poached eggs were very ordinary – one was runny, the other was cooked!  I believe any cafe in Surry Hills can do a better job, then again Rockpool is a fine-dining establishment… and cooking eggs is a skill. (As an aside, to qualify as a Chinese chef, the candidate has to fry the perfect egg!)


Egg white omelette with ricotta and mushrooms


Eggs Benedict with Salmon

However, what impresses me most about the restaurant is the Wine List.  They have sourced terrific wines from both Australia and New Zealand.  They also serve 4 types of non-vintage champagne by the glass, when most other lounges only offer one.   I chose a glass of Bollinger over  Taittinger, Vueve Cliquout and Delamotte.


A glass of Bollinger before catching my flight to Hong Kong

I  realised later that Payot facials and massages are also offered.  One can either pre-book or come on a first-come-first-served basis.  If I had known earlier, I would have gone to try my luck to jostle for a massage or a facial.

Never mind, I can revisit the First Class Lounge again by booking  the domestic Sydney-Melbourne segment which uses the international terminals. – and make sure to read “Expert tips to make the most of the Qantas First Class Lounge”, here!


Views toward the tarmac and the City skyline beyond

Before boarding, I managed to pick up a bottle of d’Arenberg’s “The Swinging Malaysian Single Vineyard Shiraz 2010 ” from  McLaren Vale.  Clever labelling always catches my eye.  Anyway, the reason it was named “The Swinging Malaysian” was because they had to remove all timber posts they imported from Malaysia in the 1970s.  I am thinking they used the wrong timber, should have used Belian wood instead (my 2-cents) *wink*


Look! ‘Malaysian’ Shiraz!