Wonder Down Under: Inside Qantas' International Transit Lounge at Perth Airport
Qantas Airways made headlines in March when it launched its nonstop route between Perth (PER) and London Heathrow (LHR). Clocking in at 17 hours, 20 minutes on the outbound and a slightly shorter 16 hours, 45 minutes on the return, the flights rank as two of the longest in the world and the first commercial nonstops between Australia and Europe.
TPG Points & Miles Writer JT Genter reviewed the experience in economy on the inaugural. He also managed to get a quick tour of the all-new international transit lounge that Qantas built at Perth Airport specifically for this flight.
I had a few hours on a recent layover in Perth, so I contacted the airline about getting inside the lounge myself. Luckily, I was there just about the time the flight from London was landing meaning that it was open for business, but not crowded.
Here’s an inside look at the facility, including all the jet-lag-fighting elements the airline included as part of its partnership with the Charles Perkins Centre at the University of Sydney to study and promote passenger wellness.
The lounge is specifically designated for business-class passengers traveling on flights QF 9 from Melbourne (MEL) to London via Perth, or QF 10 in the opposite direction. Passengers joining QF 9 in Perth (i.e., those not starting their journey in Melbourne) can also use the lounge. Qantas Platinum One, Platinum and Gold elites as well as Qantas Club members traveling that day to London on QF 9 or transiting on QF 10 between London and Melbourne are also allowed to access the lounge. So are Emirates Platinum and Gold Skywards members and oneworld Emerald and Sapphire elites on the flights.
Since this lounge caters to very specific flights, its hours are fairly restrictive — it's open daily from 1:00pm to 2:45pm, when the inbound flight from London arrives, and from 4:45pm to 6:50pm, before the return flight from Perth to London departs.
If you don’t have access to the lounge, there is actually an outdoor patio at the end of the terminal, not too far from the gate, where anyone can hang out. It has (somewhat) comfortable outdoor furniture and plenty of natural light.
The Perth Airport has been undergoing a lot of construction lately, partly in preparation for this new service. Because of that, the existing T3/T4 area has been reconfigured in such a way that, during most of the day, it can serve as a domestic terminal, while a section of it can be partitioned off as an international concourse with duty free and added security.
I made my way through that security and then to the lounge entrance, which is across from Gate 19, where the Perth-to-London flight usually departs.
The entrance is dramatic, with a backlit wooden fixture shaped like the latest version of Qantas’s iconic kangaroo (note that it does not have front paws).
The lounge is down a one level from the main concourse, and you can either take the stairs ...
... or this rather glossy elevator.
It lets you off in front of two reception desks and the entrance into the lounge itself.
To the right is a casual seating area with armchairs and banquettes leading to the indoor-outdoor bar.
The main part of the lounge, meanwhile, contains more of the same seating. In all, the lounge can accommodate up to 141 customers. Many of the seats have their own power outlets either under the banquettes or on the side tables between chairs.
I didn’t get to test the Wi-Fi here, but I did use it upstairs in the Qantas business lounge used for other flights, and it worked well. I imagine the quality is similar though.
Australian industrial designer David Caon, who was also the lead designer of Qantas’ Dreamliner cabins, collaborated with Sumu Design on the lounge interior.
Caon consulted with the Charles Perkins Centre to incorporate wellness into various elements. The palette of golds, reds, grays, browns and greens is meant to evoke the Western Australian landscape and its white-sand beaches.
As you walk down the length of the lounge, there are 15 shower suites off to the left.
Like Qantas’ other lounges and its planes, the suites are stocked with Aspar products from Aurora Spa created specifically for Qantas, including botanical hand wash and rose and shea hand cream.
Each suite is spacious and bright with white tiling and blond wood fixtures. Each contains a marble sink with plenty of counter space, a toilet and a walk-in glassed-in shower.
The suites also contain one of the lounge’s most unique features, lighting effects that are meant to help passengers adjust their circadian rhythms to their new time zone.
On the wall next to the door are three switches. One is a dimmer for the general brightness level. One turns the mirror light on or off. The center one, however, is for light therapy.
When you press it, it illuminates the mirror light with special white and blue wavelengths meant to promote wakefulness, increase alertness and combat jet lag. It stays on for 15 minutes.
Next door, in the bathroom area, there are separate facilities for men and women. Between the two, however, is an area with stations stocked with even more Aspar products.
Passengers can give themselves a skin treatment to relax and refresh before or between flights by following instructions on strategically placed placards.
The products include a purifying cleanser, a hydrating facial mist and hydrating facial moisturizer.
Qantas partnered with a spa group from Perth called Bodhi J Wellness Spa Retreats to open a space within the lounge. Passengers can stop in to stretch, meditate and practice breathing exercises either on their own or in 15-minute sessions before each departing flight. The exercises are guided by a yoga teacher from Bodhi J.
The classes before outbound flights are for calming and grounding with breathing exercises, while those offered to passengers arriving from London focus on stretching and loosening the muscles.
The space itself is beautiful, with wooden flooring and walls, padded benches and floor cushions and poufs to sit on during the sessions.
Food and Beverage
Qantas has long placed an emphasis on its dining, partnering with Australian celebrity chef Neil Perry of the Rockpool Group. Though Perry’s team focuses on serving fresh, local fare at each of the lounges in the Qantas network, at this one he consulted with the Charles Perkins Centre scientists on offerings that would promote wellness.
There is just a small buffet of fresh food, but there is a lot packed in. In one corner is a hydration station called Quench with lemon and pink-grapefruit syrup to mix into water, and water infused with lemon myrtle, parsley and lemon as well as a tap dispensing cold flat and sparkling water.
Next to that is a station for DIY tisanes using Rockpool’s signature blend of rosella, lemon myrtle and orange.
Among the cold food items being served the day I was there were vegetable crudités with red-pepper dip; green salad with sunflower seeds, almond, cashews, pepitas and boiled egg; quinoa with tea-soaked raisins, almonds, red capsicum and sumac dressing; seasonal fruit platters and whole fruit.
The hot buffet included barbecue corn with chipotle butter, pea soup with ham and various paninis you could grill yourself, such as one with free-range ham, Gruyere and tomato; and another with grilled zucchini, eggplant, feta and balsamic onion jam.
There were plates heaped high with the signature dessert, lamingtons sprinkled with coconut.
There is a small indoor dining area with café-style tables. However, the most remarkable part of the dining area of the lounge is the open-air patio.
The lounge staff can close and open blinds under the skylight to let in natural light, thus helping passengers adjust to the time in Perth.
The seating is casual, like a private garden, and there are planters along the walls for a touch of natural green.
There is also an outdoor barbecue with chefs cooking gourmet sausages to order from a local butcher in Perth, plus veggies like mushrooms and corn on the cob. The one I tried was pork and fennel with caramelized onions and barbecue sauce on a soft bun, which was delicious and filling.
At the far end (back toward the lounge entrance) is the outdoor section of the lounge’s main bar.
Here customers can order barista-made coffee drinks.
It also had a selection of wine and beers mainly from Western Australia, including Little Creatures Pale Ale from Fremantle, and wines by Vasse Felix and Voyager Estate in the Margaret River.
The new Qantas international transit lounge in Perth both lives up to the standards found in other Qantas lounges around the world but also seems quite special in a number of ways.
The design elements are familiar to anyone who has been through Qantas’ other premium lounges, with streamlined seating, plenty of power outlets and a stylish bar area.
The open-air patio is an attractive space in which to reacclimate to the new time zone before or after a long flight, and the fact that Qantas partnered with a local spa to incorporate a stretching and meditation studio is impressive.
The shower suites here are downright gorgeous, though I’d be curious to test out the light therapy for myself after the long flight from London and see if it helped me adjust to the time change more quickly.
Thanks to the exclusivity of access to people on the London–Perth–London circuit, the lounge is unlikely to be full — or even busy — at any time, which also lends it an ambience of quietude and relaxation that some of the airline’s busier airport lounges lack. Overall, I was impressed with the facility and would look forward to using it at one end or the other of the ultra-long-haul flight to Europe.