Increasingly, airlines see their premium lounges as ancillary revenue sources, offering paid access during slow periods. Several weeks ago, Qantas began a trial run of offering paid access to its London Heathrow business lounge. Well, it appears the trial went successfully, as Qantas’ paid first and business class lounge access program is now set to expand.
Qantas Paid First and Business Class Lounge Access – Eligible Lounges
As reported by OMAAT, the paid access program now includes seven Qantas lounges worldwide:
- Los Angeles first class lounge: $150
- Los Angeles business class lounge: $75
- London Heathrow lounge: £55 (~$71)
- Hong Kong lounge: HK$450 (~$57)
- Auckland business class lounge: NZ$60 (~$39)
- Wellington business class lounge: NZ$55 (~$35)
- Perth T1 international lounge: A$70 (~$48)
Access does not depend on actually flying Qantas; any passenger flying any airline can pay the fee for access. Guests receive access for a maximum of 3 hours. In all cases, Qantas emphasizes that paid access is at the sole discretion of the lounge manager. So, don’t expect to buy your way in during peak periods. That being said, at Los Angeles, for example, Qantas’ one flight departs late evening. Since the lounges open at 6:30 am, I imagine you’ll find plenty of times with space available.
The Value Proposition
I probably spend way too much time dissecting the value proposition of airlines’ ancillary offerings. Blame my day job as an accountant. Obviously, some of these access fees feel more reasonable than others. The only Qantas lounge I have experience with is the Qantas First Lounge in Los Angeles. It’s a nice enough space, with an extensive bar and decent a la carte dining selection.
During my mid-afternoon visit, I saw maybe half a dozen people come and go; so, this seems like an ideal candidate for paid access. But does the lounge warrant paying $150 to spend a few hours? It’s a fine lounge by US standards, but I don’t think it does. I found the execution of the dining hit and miss, with so-so dishes and slow service. In any case, you’d have to eat and drink a LOT to generate even close to $150 of value.
Some of the business class lounges seem more compelling, though. $57 for the Hong Kong business lounge seems alright, for example. I can also see two other situations where paid access makes sense. First, let’s say you’re a Oneworld sapphire with access to the Los Angeles Qantas Business Lounge plus one guest. But you have three members of your party. In that case, maybe $75 is worth it to stick together. (Honestly, though, I’d probably prefer to head to a Priority Pass restaurant in that case. $84 worth of food and drink for a $15 tip strikes me as a much better value proposition.) The second: you’re flying Qantas economy without lounge access, but need help with IRROPS. I’d pay $75 to skip the lines and phone hold times in that case.
For the most part, I’m not enamored with paying for lounge access. Priority Pass is usually good enough for me, honestly. As for Qantas’ new program, I can’t ever see myself paying $150 to access the First Lounge at Los Angeles. Some of the business class lounges are more reasonably priced, though. I’d at least consider those in the right situation.