Location: The newly rebranded Virgin Australia lounge is located in the older part of the Canberra Terminal while construction continues on the western half of the terminal redevelopment. After check in clear security and turn left past the Qantas lounges, Hudson’s coffee and turn right at the end of the new terminal into the original terminal. Within the terminal take another right and the lounge is down a short ramp and past the two virgin gates that use jetways.
Entry: Access to the Virgin Australia lounge depends on a number of factors, but generally domestic passengers with boarding passes who are members of the Virgin Australia Lounge, Velocity Gold or Platinum members have access. Lounge and Gold members able to bring in 1 guest while platinum’s can bring in 3. Additionally Gold and Platinum members each have anytime access (subject to capacity constraints).
Those traveling in Business or Premium Economy cabins also have access to the lounge as do some corporate and whole of government airfares when traveling on flexible economy tickets on some routes. If you don’t fit into one of the general entry buckets (like velocity elites or lounge members) check with your corporate travel provider to see if the fare includes lounge access. If you don’t fit into any of those categories and desperately want access to the lounge you can cough up $65 and get a single entry pass – although I’m not convinced that you would get value for your money for the short wait for any flight in Canberra.
Space & Comfort: The lounge is the smallest lounge in Canberra being in the old terminal but still provides a decent amount of space, although I’ve only been there in off peak periods so haven’t tested it on a Friday afternoon during the mass exodus of public servants from Canberra. There are TV’s with Sky news and a selection of magazines and newspapers around the lounge, which you can watch or read from the many pairs of standard airline lounge armchairs. The decor is comfortable with Christmas decorations in Virgin colors providing a bit of atmosphere over Christmas noticeably missing in the New Year. Overall pretty comfortable for a short wait and given Canberra is never going to be a connection point resulting in long layovers; the lounge serves its purpose very well.
Food & Beverages: Virgin Australia describes the food offerings as a Luke Mangan designed buffet menu which in real terms is the pretty standard offering as far as Australian domestic lounges go, with very similar offerings to the Qantas club’s such as cold meats, cheeses, biscuits, slices, breads, soup etc. The lemon slice is really nice but is kept way too close to the toasting machine making it very squishy and requiring a fork to eat. One factor that regular travelers differentiate the Virgin Lounge from the Qantas lounge by is the sandwich toaster machine available to make your own toasted sandwich.
The bar opens after 11am with complimentary beer and wine available although I didn’t notice (nor do Virgin advertise) spirits. There is a self serve soft drink machine with juices also available in the morning and, in a move that beats even the Qantas Business Lounges, all day barista coffee.
Staff & Service: The entry staff were pleasant scanning my card and happy to provide the anytime access on each of my visits and there seem to be plenty of staff in the small food area including the barista. My friends checked in at the counter pretty easily and the staff on my second visit (where the lounge was all but empty) were extremely chatty and friendly. Overall the staff were effective and friendly with no complaints.
Airport Views: The lounge has great views of the airport runways and ironically the Qantas tarmac operations and there is a decent amount of window seating available. If you are looking to see virgin operations the closest gate is visible but the rest will need you to leave the lounge. I’m presuming that once the new terminal is completed the new lounge will be upstairs like Qantas, hopefully offering good airport views but the current eye level views will be missed.
Amenities: There are clean although small toilets within the lounge which are fit for propose but nothing special. There are no shower facilities but I doubt Canberra really needs them anyway.
Business Facilities: There is a small business centre near the restrooms with a few PC’s available and a meeting room near the entry which you can rent from $50 an hour, although on each visit these were all unused. Free wifi Internet is available within the lounge which is relatively fast and doesn’t require a password. I wouldn’t be surprised if you could access the wifi from the gate boarding area directly outside the lounge if you didn’t have lounge privileges.
Overall the Virgin Australia lounge in Canberra is comfortable, the staff friendly and the food and drink offerings what you would expect at any domestic lounge in Australia. If you’re a coffee fan the all day barista trumps Qantas but the overall lounge size could make it a little crowded if more people jump ship from Qantas. Being a Qantas man myself, I was pleasantly surprised with how far the attitudes of Virgin Australia has developed from its original Virgin Blue days as they attempt to grow their corporate market share.
For more information on Virgin Australia’s Lounges and for up to date information on access check out www.virginaustralia.com.au