Had we chosen to, we could have called the First Class desk five minutes out from the airport and been met at the curb by a First Host, but we decided to go low-key, and just walked to the all-marble reception area at Counter B. Within five minutes, we were checked in thanks to a waiting First Class Host who welcomed us into the check-in area and did practically everything for us as we were assigned our seat and asked about any special needs. Then he escorted us through customs and security, past the labyrinthine corridors of duty free shopping, and to the entrance hall of the First Class Lounge.
The first thing that caught our eye was the living wall of plants that lined one side of the entrance, providing a sharp contrast, and a literal breath of fresh air, to the standard stark architecture of airports. It runs over 30 meters, and is comprised of over 8,400 plants personally selected by botanist Patrick Blanc. Then we hopped on the escalator up to the second level where the reception desk is, and before we even stepped onto terra firma, we were greeted by name and welcomed to the lounge.
We were taken on a guided tour of the over 20,000 square-foot lounge starting at one end, where travelers can chillax in “The Library” with books, magazines and board games.
The lounge was designed top to bottom by Aussie designer du jour Marc Newson. That means the part of the building it was in was actually architecturally constructed with the lounge design in mind, and with windows overlooking Qantas’s planes and the Sydney skyline in the distance.
The materials are an international who’s who of high-end luxury including Italian marble, Swiss quartzite, and American oak. The red, white and brown Italian-made leather armchairs and sofas are clustered into individual sitting areas around coffee tables and plasma TV’s. The carpet’s blurred honeycomb pattern is meant to make you “uneasy” so that you don’t spend time looking at it, but rather look up and around you to enjoy design features like ventilation fans that look sort of like jet engines and sort of like airplane A/C nozzles. The whole retro look took us back to the glamour days of air travel and made us feel like we were waiting for a Pan Am flight with the Mad Men guys.
A quick walk-through of the lounge
Business With Class
We needed to get at least a little work done, so we signed onto the lounge’s complimentary wifi for a while and surfed the web. Then we moseyed around to test out the other work stations available to passengers. Some are equipped just for internet service, though you can hop on one of the four iMac’s if you need to do something more…graphic.
There are also two private offices that you can reserve. They each contain a desk with a desktop computer with internet and MS Office programs, as well as chairs, a couch, a copier, printer, fax and phone, and a 42-inch plasma TV for presentations…though our little tip to you: they also have Sony PlayStation 3’s so you can watch a movie or play games.
We’ll be honest: we had a lot of time in the lounge, and we got hungry. A couple times. So we ordered a whole lot of food from the menu, which was designed by one of Australia’s culinary luminaries, Neil Perry, who made a name for himself with his Rockpool restaurants in Sydney and Melbourne. Check out the gallery to see a couple of the signature seasonal goodies we tried including a crab, smoked salmon, avocado salad; and chili-caramel glazed pork belly with Asian greens and jasmine rice. Passengers can either sit at tables in the restaurant area, or at the marble bar with a view into the open kitchen.
One of the best features of the First Lounge is its Payot Spa, which sadly only operates from 9:00-5:00pm. The five treatment rooms also feature those living plant walls we like so much.
The spa encourages passengers to call ahead for appointments, or to let the First Host who calls them ahead of their flight to know if they’d like a treatment in the lounge before departing, we managed to sneak in for a treatment at the last minute.
Though a few of the treatments last a standard 50 minutes, like the full-body massage or the intense hydrating facial, most of them are timed at about 20-30 minutes for travelers on the go, and we were treated to an Express Energizing Facial meant to provide us with a freshly moisturized glow just in time for our flight. Like all the treatments, ours used the French Payot brand of biotherapy products that gave us a healthy sheen without making us smell like potpourri.
If you’ve got a little more time, you can shower off and change in your spa treatment room, though there are also reservable all-marble shower suites stocked with Kevin Murphy toiletries in the main lounge with toilets, sinks and changing areas.
When it came time for our flight, we almost didn’t want to leave, but we were gently taken in hand by another First Host and escorted directly to our gate for pre-boarding. Can’t argue with that.
Full disclosure: Eric Rosen was invited into the First Lounge as a guest of Qantas, but all opinions are his own.