Qantas airport lounges will begin reopening, despite the airline announcing just last week it was sacking 6000 of its staff.
Eleven of 35 domestic lounges will start welcoming back passengers from July 1, in line with state-based restrictions, with more to follow on July 10.
However, they won’t necessarily be the Qantas lounges that travellers are familiar with.
Gone will be the self-serve buffet and pancake maker, replaced instead with table service and a snacking station.
There will also be a cap on the number of people allowed in the lounges, so as flight services ramp up, it will be first in, first served.
What’s interesting about Qantas’ announcement, Monash University aviation expert Greg Bamber said, was that its lounges would be adhering to social distancing practices but its planes would not.
“Unlike some international airlines, Qantas hopes to fill its planes completely with a maximum number of passengers,” said Professor Bamber, co-author of Up in the Air.
“Perhaps it is paradoxical, then, that Qantas lounges will maintain social distancing.”
The Flying Kangaroo also last week announced that it would ground 100-plus aircraft for 12 months, as it attempts to claw back $15 billion in costs over the next three years.
One of the ways Qantas makes its mark in the aviation industry, Professor Bamber told The New Daily, was through loyalty from its corporate customers.
These corporate flyers are among the most lucrative market segment – and they love the lounges, Professor Bamber said.
“Qantas has put a lot of effort into reopening its lounges to adhere to COVID safety precautions, while trying to keep a luxury experience for travellers,” he said.
“The lounges may not return to their former style until after we have a vaccine or after the pandemic has passed.”
Virgin Australia told TND on Tuesday it does not have a timeframe for when its lounges will reopen.
Qantas’ international lounges remain closed.
Qantas chief customer officer Stephanie Tully said the move was the result of weeks of planning to ensure the lounge experience complies with state regulations while providing customers with a positive and relaxing experience.
“We’re really pleased to welcome our Frequent Flyers back to our lounges across the country and get more of our people back to work,” Ms Tully said.
“Some initiatives will become the norm, while others such as capacity restrictions will ease as time goes on.
“We haven’t ruled out a return of the buffet, toastie and pancake maker in the future or the reintroduction of self-serve beverage stations when restrictions ease.
“In the meantime, we are hopeful Qantas customers will enjoy the extra personalised offering.”