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What really goes on in Sydney's Qantas International First lounge?

Ever wondered what goes on up in the Qantas International First Lounge in Sydney? I managed to blag my way in on the grounds of 'research' to find out.

Ever wondered what goes on up in the Qantas International First Lounge in Sydney? I managed to blag my way in on the grounds of ‘research’ to find out.

On a recent Qantas flight to London I got the lucky chance to check in to the lounge everyone wants to be in and see what all the fuss was about.

Making sure I got in there early enough to sample all of the delights on offer, I floated back out some hours later to board my flight with a smug look on my face. Here’s why.


First impressions last


The living Garden wall is designed to relax you on your way in

Walking through those hallowed doors takes you past a huge vertical garden and up the escalators into the status sanctuary that awaits. I’m welcomed at reception by a charming host named Petriu who firstly asks me if I’d like to book a Spa treatment before accompanying me to a dining table. Nice.

Once you’re in you’ll find yourself looking out onto a runway full of Qantas tail wings below and planes coming and going framed by the Sydney CBD in the background. The lounge features an award winning Aurora day spa, 48 seat dining and bar area, well stocked library, business centre, concierge service and plenty of quiet seating zones.

It’s vast but has plenty of space for everyone and retains its privacy thanks to the beautiful American Oak partitions that break up each area.

At first glance it’s an absolute stunner and a true wow moment as you walk in. Even if you’ve experienced the Qantas domestic or International Business Lounges before, this already feels like a whole other level of stylish decadence.


This lounge is officially uber cool


Take a seat at the bar and watch all the action

The vibe here is perhaps not what you might expect. The dining area in particular feels more like a funky brasserie in New York than an airport.

The sounds of sizzling pan frying, popping champagne corks and clinking of glasses, light chat and jazz at just the right volume gives it a very cool feel unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in other lounges.

It doesn’t feel at all stuffy either, with a diverse crowd of solo travellers relaxing and quietly minding their own business (literally) as well as couples, small groups and families of all ages sitting together ready to depart on their travels.


The view from my table in the dining area

Renowned Australian designer Marc Newson was the main man responsible for designing the overall concept in 2007 and it’s already proven to be a timeless icon. The spaciousness, level of detail and blend of natural and modern finishes brings a level of sophistication that isn’t in the slightest bit gaudy like some lounges can be. It’s just super stylish and a place you feel great about being in.


It’s designed for spoiling yourself


The signature minute steak and fries with Shallot butter

Try as you might, it’s going to be near impossible to resist the abundance of naughty goodness on offer here. Whatever you feel like, there’ll be something for you.

You can choose to sit down and be waited on from an extensive a la carté Rockpool created menu, take a pew at the bar and enjoy a quicker, more brasserie style experience or just flop down on a comfy seat anywhere in the lounge and order on a whim.

All of the food and beverages have been seasonally selected and sourced and use the freshest market available ingredients. Having recently visited a Rockpool Menu launch at the Qantas Centre of Excellence I got an insiders viewpoint of the level of detail that goes into creating food for the greatest ‘Restaurant in the sky’ and it really is quite the operation.


Starting with the calamari

I choose the a la carté option, sitting down to graze purely for the purposes of research of course.

Starting with the delicious signature Calamari and a glass of Tattinger Champagne, followed by a lightly crumbed Japanese fish burger and crunchy greens with a glass of Rosé and then another crowd pleaser – the minute steak with shallot butter and fries which was one of the most amazing dishes I’ve ever had. I help the steak go down with a glass of Pinto Noir and by now my head is spinning a bit. I’m sure I’m not the first person to have this heavenly reaction.

But soldier on I do… Crossing the finish line with the delicious trifle and lychee granata and a glass of the delectable De Bortoli Dessert wine.


It plays in its own league


And here’s my host… Petriu

The service in the lounge is exceptional. Every staff member I interact with is incredibly attentive and professional, again without any stuffiness you may expect for this pinnacle place of status seeking. Like all good service, you hardly notice it given the slick and understated delivery.

Many Frequent Flyers rate the lounge as the best in the world with the level of loyalty shown to it a testament to its quality. I tried to find some maybe less so amazing points in the lounge to balance this story out and I seriously couldn’t.


The Aurora Spa is insanely good


One of the stunning treatment rooms

This was the ultimate for me. You can take your pick from ten treatments including massage, facial treatments and hand and foot therapies, all a very convenient twenty minutes long. I book the men’s purifying facial in a vain bid to help make me look younger again.

The actual spa rooms are all covered with plant walls that ensure you can’t help feeling relaxed the second you walk in. It’s a bit like what i’d imagine being in the movie Avatar would feel like. With soothing music and the scent of essential oils helping me get my zen on I think I may have fallen asleep. There may have even been some snoring.

I’ll never know because thankfully Christie my therapist is far too professional to tell me and so I float out glowing and ready to face my fourteen and a half hour flight to Dubai.


Unfortunately, all flights do have to leave


Here comes my ride

Sadly it was eventually time to board and I cruised out of the lounge feeling refreshed and energised for my flight ahead to Dubai. I’m not sure if I looked any younger (Petriu on reception claimed I did but I think he was just humouring me) but I certainly had a spring in my step and a (less wrinkled?) smile on my face.

Who wouldn’t want to travel like this all of the time? I asked myself. Certainly not me.

The Qantas International First Lounge at the Sydney International terminal is available to anyone flying First on any Qantas/One World Sector or any Platinum One, Platiunum Frequent Flyer or oneworld Emerald member. It’s open 7 days a week from 6am until 11pm. Qantas also has First lounges in Melbourne, Brisbane and Auckland.

Have you experienced the Qantas International First Lounge in Sydney? Share your thoughts below.