Low-Powered: A Review of the Qantas International First Lounge in Auckland
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To The Point
The Qantas First Lounge in Auckland is worth showing up a little early for but can’t compare to the airlines other First lounges in Sydney, Melbourne and Los Angeles. Pros: high-quality food, decent self-serve alcohol selection and attention to detail by staff. Cons: few power outlets and limited food selection.
Update 3/7/2019: Qantas has plans to combine its business- and first-class lounges in Auckland into one, completely renovated space. No opening date has been announced yet, though the project should be complete sometime this year.
Qantas’ first-class lounges in Los Angeles (LAX) as well as those in Sydney (SYD) and Melbourne (MEL) in the carrier’s home country Australia all offer passengers large, luxurious spaces with excellent sit-down dining options. So, my expectations were high when I decided to visit at the Qantas International First Lounge in Auckland, New Zealand (AKL). However, it proved to be a mixed bag — here’s why.
The Qantas International First Lounge is located airside in the international departures area of AKL. After passing through security checks and immigration, I followed the signs for the premium lounges. This lounge, which is open daily from 4am until “the last Qantas or Emirates Service,” is on the left side of the terminal, at the top of an escalator.
First-class passengers and Emerald elite passengers departing internationally on any marketed and operated Oneworld flight have access to the lounge.
This lounge shares a check-in desk with its business-class counterpart — Since I have Oneworld Emerald status, I got to turn left and headed into the first-class lounge.
The space itself is relatively small — right inside the entrance there’s a shelving unit where you can store your luggage while visiting the lounge.
On the left was the business center, which was about as basic as it gets with several workstations and printers.
Three of the four workstations had computers, which felt a little odd.
There are also two small rooms with desks and doors that you can close. These were great for taking calls or working in quiet.
Down a short hall is the main dining area, which also had a buffet. There weren’t any proper dining tables in this lounge, just small coffee tables near most of the chairs, which didn’t scream “first class.”
The seating area was set off by two frosted dividers and low dividers. This made the seating in the relatively small room feel less crowded.
On the side of the main seating area near the business center was a television area that was showing an international version of CNN. The TV wasn’t audible in the main seating area, though.
There was a selection of magazines available in the TV area, including ones targeted at corporate and family travelers.
Power outlets were extremely scarce in the main lounge area — I couldn’t find a single unoccupied seat that had access to a power outlet. There were, however, outlets at each workstation in the business center, though. Still, if you are trying to relax while charging your devices before a long flight, you’ll likely be out of luck.
The women’s bathroom had two toilet rooms, a double vanity and a hairdryer.
One of the two showers was closed during my visit, but the front-desk agent said that we could use the showers in the business-class lounge.
The only working first-class shower happened to be open when I was ready to shower, so I used that. Towels and toiletries were available at the front desk. The plastic-wrapped towel packet I received included a decent towel (not overly plush or large), a floor towel and a washcloth. Inside the bathroom, large bottles of Aspar hand wash and body cream were near the sink, while body cleanser, shampoo and conditioner were inside the shower. The room itself was rather small and dark and didn’t contain anyplace besides the luggage rack to sit.
The Wi-Fi was easy to access and tested well at 5 ms ping, 39.65 Mbps download and 34.78 Mbps upload.
Food and Beverage
The buffet selection was limited, but the quality of the food was good. During lunch, the hot options included quiches, pastries, leek-and-potato mash, pinot noir-braised beef brisket and sweet-potato soup. The beef was tender and well-seasoned, the quiches were savory and flaky, and the soup smelled wonderful.
There were several bowls of cold salads as well as a fruit plate.
During our time in the lounge, three different types of sandwiches were brought out to the buffet. The sandwiches looked homemade — in a good way — and were certainly a cut above your average ham and cheese or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Breads, cheeses, fruits and a banana cake were available at the counter. The banana cake tasted like a lighter banana bread, and was covered in chocolate icing. Gluten-free items were on a shelf above the counter.
Next to the banana cake was a self-serve selection of three red wines from Australia and New Zealand and an assortment of midtier liquors. A two-door refrigerator at the end of the buffet bar contained fruit juice, sodas, four types of beer, two types of cider, three types of red wine from Australia and New Zealand and sparkling wine. The Champagne, Lanson Black Label Brut, got a Wine Spectator score of 91 and normally sells for around $40 a bottle.
On the other end of the buffet bar was a coffee machine and eight different types of loose-leaf tea, though I didn’t see any teapots or a source of hot water. A freezer on a nearby table contained two types of ice cream from a New Zealand company, Kapiti: green-apple crumble and hokey pokey (Kiwi and Aussie for ice cream with toffee bits). The ice cream was light and fluffy and the flavors were original.
If you come to this lounge expecting an experience similar to what you’d find at the airline’s first-class lounges at SYD, MEL or LAX, you’ll be disappointed. Highlights of the lounge include high-quality food and attentive lounge agents who frequently tidy up the food bar and remove used service items. It’s a good place to get food or drinks before your flight, especially if you aren’t a picky eater. But I wouldn’t plan on staying in the lounge too long because it’s small and has limited power sources.
If you have a Priority Pass membership through a card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Platinum Card® from American Express or the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, you might want to use your Priority Pass to visit the nearby Strata Lounge. The quality of food in the Qantas lounge is superior but limited in variety. If you have access to both lounges, I’d recommend visiting the Qantas lounge to dine and then moving to the Strata Lounge to relax, work and perhaps eat additional food if the selections at the Qantas lounge aren’t appealing.
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