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What happened at the Qantas Singapore First Lounge launch event?

Alan Joyce

Australian carrier Qantas has formally cut the ribbon on its newest dedicated First Lounge at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 1. Mainly Miles was invited by the airline to preview the facility at a media event, prior to official opening at 2.30pm on Monday.

Singapore joins Sydney, Melbourne and Los Angeles as the fourth city on the airline’s network to feature a dedicated Qantas First Lounge.

As many of our readers will know the lounge had a ‘soft opening’ on 18th November 2019, with staff perfecting the service for selected guests over the first couple of weeks, however Monday was the official launch led by Qantas CEO Alan Joyce and his team.

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Arrival

We arrived at Terminal 1 and were escorted to the lounge, which is a short walk from the Qantas check-in desks at row 8, through immigration control and to the lounge escalator on the right, towards the D gates.

That’s the opposite side of the terminal to the airline’s existing Business Lounge (read our review), which is located towards the C gates.

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(Photo: MainlyMiles)

Welcome drinks

On arrival we were offered a selection of Champagne, wine, cocktails and soft drinks by the lounge staff, who are from Accor-Sofitel. That’s not a one-off for the lounge opening event, in fact luxury hotel brand Sofitel already manage the airline’s Business Lounge at Changi, plus their three other First Lounges in Sydney, Melbourne and Los Angeles.

It’s a winning formula in our opinion – if airlines are good at hospitality in the air, then hotels are good at hospitality on the ground. We find the team at the Qantas Singapore Business Lounge very friendly and engaging, and we already recognised a few of their faces as we stepped into the new First Lounge on Monday.

After picking up a welcome drink we took the opportunity to take a look around the lounge.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce and his team had already arrived and were mingling with guests.

The layout is very linear. From the entrance a long corridor links the various lounge sections. There is no view to speak of, instead this lounge overlooks the Terminal 1 C gates immigration hall.

If you’ve visited the British Airways Singapore Lounge, this one is effectively the mirror image, with that facility overlooking the D gates immigration hall in an almost identical fashion.

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Wood panelling and Qantas’ signature lounge Carerra marble, offset with greenery. Understated but elegant. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

With no external view from this lounge, designer David Caon instead incorporated wooden shutters along the windows across the length of the lounge to instil a feeling of exclusivity and privacy.

These still allow some natural light from the immigration hall to filter through during the day.

Around halfway down the lounge on the left side is the cocktail bar, a perfect place to pick up a drink and then find a comfortable place to sit, assuming you’re not heading straight to the restaurant section.

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As more guests arrived the event got into full swing, with the crowd enjoying the drinks and canapés while admiring the space.

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Opening ceremony

Shortly after the event started there was the traditional lion dance, a common performance for new business openings in Asia to bring good luck and fortune.

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This really set a fantastic energetic tone for the official opening, even if some of the Qantas bosses looked slightly confused about exactly what was happening!

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Some amusement as Alan Joyce asks Changi Airport CEO Lee Seow Hiang what he’s supposed to do next! (Photo: MainlyMiles)

Speeches

After the traditional lion dance ceremony, it was time for some speeches from the Qantas management and lounge design teams.

A podium and platform was set up at the far end of the lounge, where the dining area and open kitchen is located.

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(Photo: MainlyMiles)

Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce was up first, followed by the CEO of Changi Airport Lee Seow Hiang, then Qantas International CEO Tino La Spina.

Here are the key highlights from the speeches:

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Alan Joyce, CEO Qantas Group

  • Qantas has an “amazing history” in Singapore, dating back to 1935, making it the longest international operation on the airline’s network.
  • It’s a reflection of the airline’s “commitment and belief” in Singapore that it is now bigger at Changi than it has ever been.
  • The Singapore First Lounge represents a “major investment” for Qantas in Singapore.
  • Traffic for the group is up more than 50% since 2017 at Changi, including “a massive growth in premium traffic”, justifying this lounge expansion.
  • Jetstar Asia provides a significant feeder service to Qantas long-haul flights in Singapore.
  • The lounge is a result of collaboration with experts like David Caon and Neil Perry, and a unique service partnership with Accor-Sofitel.

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Lee Seow Hiang, CEO Changi Airport

  • This impressive new lounge marks a milestone for the airport.
  • Qantas has been flying for 83 years in Singapore, a relationship Changi Airport Group (CAG) “treasures immensely”.
  • Despite Qantas potentially breaking new boundaries with non-stop Project Sunrise flights, CAG believes strongly in Singapore remaining “a relevant and interesting destination” for Qantas passengers.

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Tino La Spina, CEO Qantas International

  • Pointed out that Qantas is now the only foreign airline to operate a First Class lounge in Singapore.
  • It’s the airline’s inaugural First Lounge in Asia.
  • Three of the carrier’s Airbus A380s will have the new cabin products by end of 2019. All will be completed by the end of 2020.
  • Loyal frequent flyers were closely involved in the design of the facility.
  • The concept was for premium international travel, with touches of home.
  • The team at Accor-Sofitel will go beyond what you see in the hard product by providing fantastic service to customers.
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Design

The layout and finish of the new Qantas Singapore First Lounge was led by industrial designer David Caon, in collaboration with Kelvin Ho from Sydney-based architects Akin Atelier.

It’s the first time Caon has been in charge of the design at a Qantas First lounge, with the airline’s other three such facilities in Sydney, Melbourne and Los Angeles at the hands of Marc Newson.

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David Caon and Akin Atelier have pulled off a stunning design for Qantas. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

David Caon was at the event and took to the podium after Tino La Spina to describe the design concept used when creating this lounge space. Here’s a summary of what he had to say.

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David Caon, Creative Director at Caon Studio

  • Design of the lounge is unique and in keeping with its location.
  • Reminders of Singapore mixed with those of Australia, including familiar touches like Carrara marble seen in other Qantas lounges.
  • Wellness was a key aspect, helping passengers adjust their body clocks using simulated daylight through virtual skylights, to prepare for their journey ahead.
  • This is especially important for QF1/2 passengers travelling all the way to or from Europe.
  • A key concept was to invoke a sense of calm, relaxation and enjoyment.
  • The lounge incorporates ceramics and artwork from Australia.

We took a few photos around the lounge and both the design and finish is of an exceptionally high standard, up there with the finest lounges we’ve experienced like Cathay Pacific’s The Pier First Class in Hong Kong.

There are three seating options in the large dining area. Tables mostly set out for two or four diners in lighter pastel colours are located at one side near the shutters, plus bar style seats in a couple of locations then an area in olive green with banquette style seating against the wall.

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Dining. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

While there is a large dedicated restaurant area, guests will be able to drink and dine anywhere they like in the lounge, with waiter service provided throughout.

There are also eight large solo seats with high wing sides for privacy, and you could easily take a light meal here too while getting on with some work.

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High wing chairs. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

Alan Joyce made a few references to the (presumably high) cost of these chairs, so if you visit the lounge make sure you spend some time in one so that Qantas is getting its money’s worth!

The nine shower suites are impressive, featuring an interesting tiling pattern, an artificial skylight which can be adjusted to three different settings based on your body clock, and LaGaia Unedited toiletries.

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Shower Suite. (Photo: MainlyMiles)
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LaGaia Unedited toiletries now feature in Qantas First Class lounges and amenity kits. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

Here’s how the adjustable lighting in the shower suites looks:

Food and drink

Qantas lounges are all about the dining experience, and like many others before it the menu here at the Singapore First Lounge is overseen by celebrity chef Neil Perry. Qantas claim its partnership with Perry, which also extends to in-flight catering, is the longest of its kind in aviation history.

During the speeches, Neil spoke about the concepts he used here in Singapore.

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Neil Perry, Creative Director of Food, Beverage and Service at Qantas

  • This is the biggest Qantas First Lounge on the network in terms of dining space.
  • Incorporation of local flavours in the menu, like pepper beef and laksa.
  • Qantas staples like salt and pepper squid are incorporated.
  • A “culinary marriage of both places” is the overall aim.

With lounge opening hours of 2.30pm to midnight, Qantas is offering an All Day Dining concept. Mr Perry told us the menu will cycle every three months or so, with new seasonal dishes offered providing some variety to regular lounge visitors.

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A selection of canapés were offered for the media to enjoy during the launch event. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

There are no fewer than 11 main dishes on the à la carte menu, including the signature Qantas First Lounge salt and pepper squid with green chilli dipping sauce and aioli.

Asian tastes are catered for with dishes such as crayfish laksa with rice noodles, bean spouts and egg, and stir fried black pepper beef, served with onion, red capsicum and jasmine rice.

Here’s how the full menu looks, both from a dining and drinks perspective:

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Dining Menu
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Drinks Menu
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The lounge promises “premium dining inspired by Singapore’s vibrant culture”. We were fortunate to be invited to remain in the lounge after the opening event finished, when it became available to regular passengers from 2.30pm, so we took the opportunity to try some of the dishes on offer.

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Tea smoked duck breast with pickled cabbage and Chinese mustard. (Photo: MainlyMiles)
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Poached eggs with mushrooms and salsa verde on sourdough. (Photo: MainlyMiles)
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Chicken with crispy eggplant salad, mustard greens, sesame and shallot oil. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

All three dishes, plus the canapés we had enjoyed earlier, were outstanding. True restaurant quality, as you’d expect at a launch party with Neil Perry himself in attendance.

We look forward to checking whether the standard is being maintained w