Qantas will remove the buffet, toastie and pancake maker from its lounges when 11 reopen on 1 July – but has come up with a host of innovative solutions to make them COVID-safe.
An all-day ‘snacking station’ will replace the traditional buffet, and customers will also be able to choose from individually plated meals such as kale and cheese tarts, roast field mushrooms and carrot and pecan cakes.
The airline first closed its domestic and international lounges on 23 March as lockdowns and restrictions were put in place nationwide.
Under the new plans, 11 of the rooms will reopen from 1 July including the newly refurbished Alice Springs lounge, which now features fresh furniture and wallpaper designed by Indigenous artist Jimmy Pike.
All lounges will cap the number of guests who can enter to comply with state-based restrictions, provide disposable cups and soap stations.
Initially, customers will be invited to visit the lounge subject to capacity, with plans to reopen Qantas Clubs and Chairman’s Lounges soon.
A new ‘personalised tray around’ service will allow passengers to order ‘bespoke dishes’, while they will also be able to order coffee, fresh-squeezed juice, beer and wine from the barperson or barista.
Qantas chief customer officer Stephanie 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.”
Most Australian airports are observing social distancing policies, however, in May, Qantas and Virgin reversed an earlier pledge to practice social distancing on board, instead introducing measures such as providing masks and wipes to passengers. Rex has made a similar move, but made masks mandatory and asked customers to bring their own.
The move has been supported by the government, with new guidance advising only “passenger separation where possible” but “physically-distanced boarding”.
Australia’s chief medical officer, Brendan Murphy, has also repeatedly reiterated his support for filling the middle seat on flights, claiming short-haul airlines present “quite a low risk of transmission”.
In New Zealand, most social distancing restrictions have been lifted after the country all but declared victory on eradicating COVID-19.
Lounges opening from 1 July include:
Capital city lounges
- Sydney Domestic Business Lounge
- Perth Domestic Business Lounge
- Adelaide Qantas Club
- Canberra Business Lounge
- Alice Springs Regional Lounge
- Kalgoorlie Regional Lounge
- Tamworth Regional Lounge
- Coffs Harbour Regional Lounge
- Broome Regional Lounge
- Karratha Regional Lounge
- Launceston Regional Lounge
- Queensland and Victoria lounges are scheduled for progressive reopening from 10 July as current gathering restrictions are eased.
- Chairman’s Lounges are scheduled to open in August.
- All Qantas Lounges at international airports both in Australia and overseas remain closed.
- Qantas has automatically extended Qantas Club membership for six months for those eligible paid Qantas Club members with a membership anniversary between 23 March 2020 and February 2024. Qantas Frequent Flyer also extended member tier status for 12 months.