How the Qantas ‘First’ lounge breeds brand loyalty

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‘Totara’ is a guest writer of FlymeFunky and this is his first post with us. Here he explains why he loves Qantas and how the First lounge is instrumental to his loyalty to the airline…

If Qantas were searching for a poster boy who has been completely won over by their marketing tactics they won’t find anyone better than me. I know I’ve been manipulated but I don’t care … I am shamelessly loyal to the Qantas brand.

I have my Qantas credit cards (yes, plural), I drive well out of my way to shop at Woolworths and swipe my Everyday Rewards Card to clock up frequent flyer points after each $30 spend, and I book car hire, travel insurance and sometimes accommodation via www.qantas.com.au

I always fly Qantas on my holidays and if I had my way, I would exclusively fly internationally with them for work. However, their business class fares (particularly to Europe) are often not competitive with other airlines such as Swiss and Lufthansa, and Qantas are very inflexible when it comes to lowering their premium price.

The unfortunate outcome for me is that for many international work trips I am forced to begrudgingly travel with what I consider to be inferior airlines. When boarding these flights, I experience a sinking feeling of disappointment when I catch a glimpse of the flying red kangaroo proudly parked nearby.

On a positive note, I believe that things happen for a reason. Perhaps some higher power makes me endure these airlines and their crappy lounges so I can truly appreciate the superior Qantas service when I’m lucky enough to be on the receiving end.

As a Platinum Frequent Flyer, my Qantas experience begins the moment I walk through the doors of the Qantas First Lounge at Sydney International Airport. This lounge has played a major role in building my brand loyalty and creating an individual who would walk barefoot over shards of glass if it meant securing Platinum Status for another year.

After the doorman confirms that you are acceptable to enter, you walk past the hanging gardens and up the escalator into an exclusive enclave away from the duty free shops, uncontrollable adrenaline-fuelled children and public toilets. The Qantas First Lounge is a very large open space so despite being able to accommodate many passengers it never feels crowded as you might expect during peak times.

Despite having an open-feel it has been cleverly designed with private areas that allow you to hide away from that boss who insists on talking work when all you want to do is chill-out before the long flight ahead.

Apparently there is a library somewhere in the lounge but I’ve never taken the time to find it because I immediately become distracted by the well stocked bar where single travellers can sit, eat and drink. As part of my Lounge routine, I always pass the bar and make a bee-line for the full service restaurant.

Being a creature of habit, I order the eggs Benedict for breakfast or salt and pepper squid if it’s later in the day. Irrespective of the time, either meal is washed down with a glass or two of Tattinger or Veuve Cliquot, just to settle my nerves pre-flight of course !!

The spa is also fantastic, and is a sanctuary within a sanctuary. The friendly staff offer massages and facials using top quality Payot products leaving your skin pampered and ready for the upcoming onslaught of cabin air. To ensure you don’t miss out on the spa experience, arrive well ahead of your flight’s boarding time and go there immediately to check for availability.

Cross your fingers that there is a free slot because First Class passengers are phoned prior to their flight and are allowed to pre-book a treatment. If you have the opportunity to enjoy a spa sojourn and drink a cheeky glass or two of bubbles prior to boarding, I guarantee that you will float to your departure gate.

Within the lounge there are also separate meeting rooms which are often secured for “special guests” who want some privacy pre-flight. Once when the lounge was extremely quiet, a work colleague and I made ourselves at home in one meeting room, only to discover the Black Eyed Peas were the previous occupants.

If you like people-watching and pay enough attention to your fellow lounge guests, on almost every occasion you will spot a local or international film/tv celebrity, athlete, influential businessperson or at worst a politician.

In vast contrast to the Qantas First Lounge, I rate American Airlines lounges so poorly that I would prefer to kill time roaming aimlessly around the terminal than put up with their lack of space, food, drinks and service-with-a-smile.

I’m afraid to say that Thai and Lufthansa Lounges rank low on my list as well. I find the Thai staff try to be so super-attentive they actually become a nuisance and invade personal space. I had a near miss recently when I almost fell over one who was shadowing me around their cramped food bar in Bangkok.

Lufthansa lounges are far from flash, but from my perspective they suffer primarily because of the strong cooked sausage odour which pervades each Lufthansa Lounge, irrespective of the city – vegetarians with sensitive stomachs beware.

For fear of sounding completely Qantas-ified, I must say that I really like the British Airways Lounge at Heathrow and the Cathay Pacific Lounge in Hong Kong.

Today, as I watch the sun rise over the tarmac at Sydney International Airport and I polish off my eggs benedict with a glass of Bollinger (ok, I’m living on the edge this morning and mixing it up a bit) I wanted to share one last story which I think highlights the benchmark set by the Qantas First Lounge that keeps many of us coming back for more of our national airline.

In the last couple of years I have spoilt my slightly-aging mother (she would die if she knew I referred to her as this) on a couple of OS trips and each time she has experienced the Qantas First lounge. This has become the “norm” for her so I thought it was hilarious when during last month’s visit to the Air New Zealand Business Lounge in Auckland, she looked slightly confused and asked “Where do we sit to order our meal”? We’re not in Kansas anymore Toto.

To read more about the upcoming Qantas First lounge experience in Hong Kong, read our exclusive story here.

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