The Qantas Club – Jetset or Jolimont? (Part IV)
by The Editor
Sydney – 0615 Friday
Usually one is grateful when a tailwind results in early arrival at the desired destination. In this case, I felt hard done by, an early arrival meaning denial of an extra twenty minutes sleep on the flight from Darwin and being forced to add that time to my Sydney stopover. Disembarking the Qantas Club is almost directly opposite the gate from which I have just emerged. Without any hesitation I make my way towards the large, frameless glass sliding doors and scoot up the escalators in pre-dawn silence.
This is one of Qantas’ flagship lounges, situated as it is in the air transport hub of Australia. A world city with visitors from all points of the compass, the international reputation of the company must exude from every pore of the space they occupy in Terminal 3. One imagines, from a branding point of view, this is the place where Qantas must invest a lot of energy.
There’s a dull glow of the impending sunrise infiltrating the cavernous space of the Sydney Qantas Club. It feels so very different to any of the three lounges I have visited over the last twenty-four hours. High ceilings, some six or seven metres above the main floor soar overhead. The large windows look towards the engineering hangers, where even at this time large jets are towed in an out of the giant garages. In the lounge itself though, things are only warming up. Airspace over Sydney has been open for barely twenty minutes.
What is obvious is this is a very comfortable space in which to spend time. With a focus on tiles, marble and white walls, there’s a more clinical feel than that of the Canberra renovation. What this achieves is an openness reflecting the warm and sunny Sydney climate. There are very few wood accents, only around the perimeter of the club. Also, the dramatic lighting accents so prevalent in the previous clubs seem to be present only in the computer area. Unfortunately this space, the design highlight of the lounge, is corrupted by what must be a 100-inch television, at the time featuring Terry Willesee’s head at a scale that capable of keeping a small child awake for weeks.
I approach the breakfast bar, feeling quite hungry and ready to dig into a morning feast. As I approach I see it – front and centre. A mother and her daughter are standing around the large silver object on the bench, talking to each other with concerned tones. On approach, my greatest fears are realised. Yes indeed, here in Qantas’ flagship Lounge in the busiest airport in Australia is this:
Overwhelmed they eventually settle for cereal. In the interests of journalism and wanting to rise to the challenge issued by Qantas’ Twitter account I grab a plate and hit the one button available. The machine whirs into life and my pancakes are on the way.
Just in time I work out where they are to emerge – a couple of rollers on the right hand side indicate the location of the most action. I place my plate underneath just as the simple LCD display indicates the first is almost done. Over the next two minutes they emerge, flopping out of the machine and onto the plate like a pair of newborn foals. I stare, horrified at the floury discs lying limp in the early morning light. The gaudy signage on the machine declares the pancakes as FRESH!!! FAT FREE!!! DELICIOUS!!! However the bowl of maple syrup sitting in the open air may have an argument to mount as to the health benefits of this snack. This is simply awful. I take the plate back to my chair by the window, and squint, chewing as early morning rays bounce off an older woman decked out head to toe in blue velour as she walks past. After a few minutes the twin horrors of the pancakes and tracksuit are behind me, and it’s time to grab a coffee.
The machine looks the best so far. A giant, groupless Vittoria machine with selections amenable to every modern coffee preference. With good practice I place a cup under the dispenser and hit ‘latte’. Fresh beans, (Vittoria Oro) grind their way into my cup. Pleasantly, there seems to be actual milk contained within my cup, courtesy of a large tank situated off to the right. If I was partial to dad-jokes, I might suggest this is the crème-de-la-crème of airport coffee machines.
Examining the latte it looks decidedly dark. On the first sip, my palate is assaulted by a blast of coffee flavour. Not bitter, but far too strong for this time of the morning. It seems only a short step away from a straight espresso. I continue to sip, wondering if I will be able to sleep between now and Monday.
Making my way toward the bottom of the cup I look up to see a head of curly black hair make it’s way past reception an into the lounge only ten metres from where I sit. This woman attracts the attention of a few of the others in the now busy lounge, and I watch her bright orange ‘leather’ jacket make her way towards a chair to deposit her handbag. She’s wearing jeans and a zebra-patterned blouse, and moves in a way not making eye-contact with those who have detected her presence.
It’s Julie Goodwin. The original winner of the television juggernaut that is Masterchef must be on her way to some sort of guest appearance. I watch her as she moves away from me, towards the breakfast bar. I shake my head with laughter watching as she approaches the breakfast bar and, you guessed it….
So, what was the verdict? To be honest, the Qantas Club brand is nowhere near as consistent as it might be. It also smacks of becoming some sort of executive carousel, where customers can wait patiently for their request to be delivered by some sort of machine rather than the warm service that can only result from human interaction. All in all that is the greatest fault at the Qantas Club. Less a personal touch than a herding yard for the jetset. Oh for the days of olde…