As a key benefit of the American Express Platinum Charge card, it is worthwhile to look over a number of the different lounge access options the card offers, as well other ways to gain access to the same lounges using other methods.
While not ‘officially’ advertised as a benefit, it is known that New Zealand Platinum Charge cardholders can get access to Virgin Australia lounges when travelling domestically in Australia simply by flashing their card at the entry.
In this post, I run through the lounges in each city, what to expect when you use a lounge, and a quick look at the Virgin paid lounge program.
Virgin Australia’s Business Class lounge network
Virgin has been investing heavily in new lounge experiences over the last couple of years, and there are new lounges in all Australian capital cities (except Hobart) along with some at regional airports. In my visits, they have all offered very consistently good experiences.
Virgin operates 11 lounges across Australia at:
- Alice Springs
- Gold Coast
- Perth (one each in T1 and T2)
For comparison purposes, Qantas operates 24 Qantas Clubs, with Domestic and International Business and First lounges on top of that.
Most lounges are visually engaging and a nice space to spend some time before your flight. They match the Virgin Australia brand and style, and with common architectural signature elements where Virgin have managed to slot them in.
This lounge occupies two levels in the Virgin domestic terminal, with the upper level offering some good views across the tarmac of Sydney’s domestic and international arrivals.
Premium Entry can be used by passengers with no checked baggage travelling in Business Class, as well as Velocity Gold and Platinum members. Note that the Sydney lounge is the only one that offers Premium Entry access on both weekdays and weekends.
Opened in 2011 and refurbished in 2014, the lounge is unique in being before security and having a ‘premium exit’ with dedicated security processing for passengers with lounge access.
Virgin opened the new Brisbane lounge in late 2015, with Richard Branson himself present. It features a large atrium entry, cafe and, like in Sydney and Melbourne, premium entry for eligible travellers.
The Perth Domestic T1 lounge reopened in late 2015 as part of a $1 billion redevelopment of the airport.
It serves most Virgin Australia flights leaving Perth, although some smaller regional flights depart from the purpose-built T2 Regional Terminal, where Virgin Australia also have a small lounge.
For comparison purposes, it is slightly smaller than the Brisbane lounge.
Virgin has focussed heavily on the use of glass, making this lounge attractive for plane-spotters.
Premium Valet Parking is available at Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth.
Reopened in 2013, this lounge has has a great view over the airport’s operations.
The Cairns lounge is one of the smaller lounges in the network, but again has a great view to take in while you wait for your flight.
Adelaide was the latest main lounge to be upgraded, in August 2016.
Virgin also operate some smaller refurbished lounges at Darwin, Gold Coast and regional lounges such as at Mackay and Alice Springs.
What to expect when you use a Business Class lounge
All of Virgin’s Business Class lounges offer buffet food, soft drinks, wine and beer, but no spirits. All but the smallest lounges have cafe operations with barista coffee available.
Outside of food and drink, you’ll get access to power to charge your devices, seating (unless it is really busy) and, hopefully, a quieter and more restful space to hang out in before you flight and do some work, make some calls, or whatever you prefer.
You’ll get access to free wifi, newspapers and magazines as well.
What do I like most about lounge access? It reduces the stress of travel. Having somewhere defined to go before you flight takes away decisions about where you could grab a snack, minimises exposure to airport retail, and all up makes travel more sane for me.
Through a credit card
The American Express Platinum Charge has unlimited access for you and a guest included as part of its expansive benefits for a high annual fee:
By flying Business Class
If you are travelling on a paid or award Business Class ticket, you’ll get access when departing or arriving on a Virgin Australia flight. Unfortunately, you can’t bring any guests in, unlike Qantas Business Class passengers can.
With Velocity Frequent Flyer status
Velocity Gold members (plus one guest) gain access departing on a Virgin Australia flight whilst Platinum (plus three guests) get arrival access too.
Silver members get two single-entry passes a year, which cannot be transferred to other passengers but can be used for a guest when you are travelling with them.
With airline partner frequent flyer status
You and at least one guest will gain access to the lounge when departing on a Virgin Australia flight and holding Gold status or above with partners like Delta, Etihad, Singapore Airlines and Virgin Atlantic.
With a Virgin Australia Lounge membership
Virgin sells access to their lounges, either on an annual membership basis or for single-use access.
Virgin Australia Lounge memberships are available for Velocity members. Those at the Red (lowest) level are charged a $330 AUD joining fee + $420 AUD annual membership fee; whilst Silver members have the joining fee waived and are charged a reduced $300 AUD annual membership fee.
Membership allows you to also bring in a guest and two children aged 2-12 years old.
There’s also lifetime access available for a chunky $9,750 AUD (or $6,750 AUD if you’re over 60 years old)—and while normally Premium Entry is not included for those with an annual membership, lifetime access has it thrown in.
Using Velocity points or cash
You can purchase a single-access pass in advance for 10,000 Velocity points or $65 AUD at the door but both can be used at most two hours before your flight—given that, I think using points and cash for a single-access pass is a bad deal.
Virgin has completed their refurbishment of the main lounges in its network, and having an American Express Platinum Charge that offers you access when you fly can give you more time to relax before your next flight on Virgin Australia.
You may also be interested in reading our definitive guide to Qantas lounges.
Supplemntary images courtesy of Virgin Australia and Tonkin Zulaikha Greer for Canberra.