Review: Qantas International First Lounge, Sydney, Australia


This post is one chapter on our trip to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, Melbourne with The Great Ocean Road, exploring The Yarra Valley and the beaches of The Gold Coast via Qantas First Class. This trip was booked using Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

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Review: Qantas International First Class Lounge, Sydney Kingford Smith, Sydney, Australia

“The Qantas First Class Lounge at Sydney Kingford Smith is one of the world’s most uniquely decorated lounges. The Mark Newson contemporary design will be seared into your memory forever”

We self drove ourselves to the Sydney International Airport. On Sunday morning, there was a major traffic jam on the approach to the terminal. It seems that all the international flights were leaving at around the same time causing major car traffic pile ups. It was less than 5 km/h for about 10 minutes.

We returned the car to a compact International Hertz Rental return. The area was full of Chinese families with kids running around in the traffic lanes, mom’s not really paying much attention and dad’s smoking cigarettes in and between everyone. We didn’t get a charged a drop fee for dropping at the International wing, despite having rented from Sydney Domestic wing. I tried to figure this out in advance, but couldn’t find anything on line about this; despite it being two wholly different sides of the airport. After we returned the car, we headed over to the Qantas first class check in.

Checking into Qantas First Class in Sydney:

Unlike some other more impressive facilities around the world, the Qantas First Class check in has a pretty pedestrian and boring space in the D finger. There was a short wait of about 3 parties ahead of us. We were able to get our boarding cards for SYD-DFW and DFW-SEA on Alaska, but not SEA-YVR. We were given instructions to the first lounge immediately after security and up the escalators to the left. Cutting into the lounge time, we didn’t make it out of the first check in zone before we had an irritating “security questionnaire” full of non sensical profiling questions from a civilian security guard who eventually applied a sticker to our passport.

We joined the masses and went through passport exit controls (which were now wholly automated). I got thrown into secondary screening at the immigration exit for some reason here but a quick glance at the passport by the Australian Border Force and I was on my way.

Security was a massive endeavor with several lanes open. I made it through the fracas but MrsWT73 got pulled into secondary for bag swabbing just as she was re-assembling her bags into a rolling carry on pyramid of convenience.

We entered into the duty free mayhem world of Sydney Airport. The prices were not actually any better than street side. Despite this, I couldn’t resist at picking up some specialty T2 tea that was priced at $18 AUD despite the grocery store selling it in Surfers for $15 AUD. It was a last little bit of Australia to take home.

Accessing the Qantas First Class Lounge:

We were a bit pressed for time since we had pre-booked 9 AM spa appointments which were coming up fast so we headed straight for the escalators and up to the Qantas First class lounge.

At the check in, we self identified to the reception at the top of the escalators and were walked down to the back of the room for our treatments. It was a good thing that we had booked in advance as I doubt there would have been availability had we walked in expecting a spa booking.

Accessing the Qantas Spa:

I went for a scalp neck and shoulder massage. All the treatments were only 20 minutes long and the time went way too fast.

Inside the Qantas First Class Lounge:

After we got out of the spa, I had an opportunity to look around. My first impression of the lounge as we walked past was how busy it was; there must have been over 300 people in the lounge. You won’t ever confuse this place with the BA Concorde Room or the Lufthansa First Class Lounge as both of those places are pretty quiet sanctuaries compared to here.

After the treatments, we sat down for breakfast along the glass windows. The sun was pouring in and it was a bit of a hot experience temperature wise. Despite the windows, there doesn’t seem to be any blinds and the lounge catches the full morning sun as it rises.

Food and Beverage in the Lounge, including a la carte First Class Dining:

“It’s a unique privilege to be offered a full sit down breakfast paired with champagne before any flight”

MrsWT73 was happy to see that the international departure terminal was a local liquor law free zone meaning that champagne was available to be served prior to 12 PM, unlike all our other Australian domestic lounge experiences. We both settled on a Perrier Jouet champagne. I had my last smoked salmon benny of the trip with sourdough toast with marmalade and MrsWT73 went for an egg white omelet with parsley, capsicum and mushroom. It was such a privilege and pleasure to eat in a quality first class lounge prior to getting on the flight.

After breakfast, we took a little explore of the crescent that is the Qantas Sydney First Class Lounge. The lounge was designed by Mark Newson who assisted also with designing the Qantas First Class cabins. Although the First Class lounge opened in 2007, the design still looks contemporary and ever so cool in it’s vibe. The lounge is split in its lounging versus restaurant table areas intermittently, so there is a nice blend of functions throughout most of the lounge. The lounge is evidence of how money spent on designing a lounge can have a lasting impression on a visit. I don’t think I’ve ever been as impressed at lounge architecture anywhere in the world in comparison to this space.

Watching the Qantas Split Flap Displays:

I was also over the moon and being able to watch some of the split flap displays that grace the entry and the two ends of the Sydney Lounge. It’s one of the two split flap display locations in Australia, with the other being at the Melbourne First Class Lounge. It’s rare to see these types of displays left in aviation. I have vivid memories of stepping off the plane as a 9 near old at Kai Tak Airport in Hong Kong and seeing one of these rotating displays for the first time and wondering what it all meant.

We settled into some loungers by the windows while we passed the time. The restaurant menu changed over from breakfast to lunch at 11 AM. MrsWT73 commented on how good lunch looked but we didn’t opt for a second serving of food. MrsWT73 opted for Pommery Champagne for the next round which wasn’t as good as the Perrier Jouet. Eventually the 300 or so people that were in the lounge when we arrived seem to filter down to a more comfortable 150. It was designed in a low density manner so that despite all the people, it did not feel super crowded.

I snapped some lunch menu photographs, although we didn’t actually enjoy any of it since we didn’t order any lunch.

Enjoying Beautiful Airside Views:

We had some stellar airside views thanks to the large windows in this lounge. Most of the aircraft were of the One World variety, but there were some odd ones around that were passing by every now and then.

We eventually saw our Sydney to Dallas A380 being towed in off stand…

The Qantas First Class Lounge Sydney summarized:

I was really happy to have visited. The lounge is a busy place but overall a pleasant option prior to any flight. The best part was that MrsWT73 enjoyed her experience, which is all the more than I could ask for.


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