One of the most eagerly anticipated lounge openings at Singapore Changi Airport in 2019 was the Qantas Singapore First Lounge, the airline’s only such facility in Asia. We attended the launch event in early December 2019, which included an opening ceremony and a guided tour of the brand new space.
Obviously we can’t review a lounge during an opening event, where everything will essentially be perfect, so we returned later in the month to check out the experience from a passenger perspective.
Opening Times: 2.30pm to midnight
Multi-standard Power Sockets: Yes
USB Charging Sockets: Yes
This lounge is available to passengers flying on a Qantas or Emirates flight, or on a oneworld member operated flight:
- in First Class; or
- in Business Class, Premium Economy or Economy Class and holding Qantas Platinum One or Platinum status, Emirates Platinum Skywards status* or oneworld Emerald status**.
* Qantas or Emirates flights only
** Qantas or oneworld flights only
This lounge is also available to passengers flying on a Jetstar flight (coded JQ, 3K or BL):
- holding Qantas Platinum One or Platinum status.
This lounge is also available to passengers flying on Air France or KLM:
- in First Class (Air France); or
- in Business Class, Premium Economy or Economy Class and holding Qantas Platinum One or Platinum status, when flying on a QF codeshare flight number (QF4221 to Paris, QF4234 to Bali and QF4235 to Amsterdam at the time of writing).
The guest entitlement for this lounge depends on how you (as a passenger) gained entry under the rules listed above.
Passengers flying Qantas or Emirates First Class can invite one guest to join them in the lounge. The guest does not need to be travelling in this case. In reality, to access the transit area at Changi your guest will need to be either departing or arriving on a flight.
Passengers flying oneworld First Class (for example on British Airways to Sydney) can invite one guest to join them in the lounge. The guest must be travelling on a oneworld operated flight in this case (for example on Finnair in Economy Class to Helsinki).
Passengers using this lounge on the basis of their Qantas Frequent Flyer status can bring one guest into the lounge with them. The guest must be travelling:
- on a QF or oneworld operated flight, if the member is flying Qantas or oneworld; or
- on the same flight as the member, if the member is flying Emirates or Jetstar.
Passengers using this lounge on the basis of their oneworld status can bring one guest into the lounge with them. The guest must be travelling on a oneworld operated flight.
Passengers using this lounge on the basis of their Emirates Skywards status can bring one guest into the lounge with them. The guest must be travelling on the same flight as the member.
Those used to making a left turn after immigration to reach the Qantas Singapore Business Lounge will now need to rewire and remember to turn right instead, as the Qantas Singapore First Lounge is located towards the ‘D’ gates.
After turning right from immigration, take the first escalator you reach on the left side. The Qantas First and dnata lounges are signposted here.
At the top of the escalator turn right, and you’ll find the entrance before you reach the dnata lounge.
If you’re already in the transit area, for example on a connecting flight or having passed through immigration in another terminal, the lounge is a short walk from the C gates (and the transit SkyTrain from T2), but a slightly longer walk from the D gates (and the transit SkyTrain from T3).
If your flight is departing from a C gate you may need to allow a few more minutes walking time to account for the lounge location. If you’re heading off from a D gate however, you’re all set for a quick getaway.
That said, the difference between this lounge and the Qantas Singapore Business Lounge is only about 5 minutes to any gate in Terminal 1.
On this trip, Eddie was flying First Class on the evening Qantas QF36 Airbus A380 flight to Melbourne. I, on the other hand, didn’t have to be anywhere and wasn’t planning to travel that day at all.
However, given that Eddie had guesting privileges, I booked a flight to Kuala Lumpur so that I could join him in the lounge and assist with the review (and the Champagne and food tasting!).
Due to the strict requirements at Changi to not misuse a boarding card (i.e. access the transit area when having no intention to travel), I bid Eddie farewell and then flew to KL and back again the same evening.
Here’s our short video walkthrough of the lounge, including some key highlights such as the shower suites and dining experience.
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A quartet of ‘orb’ lights linked by a brass fitting hang over the two welcome podiums, themselves in wood with brass-coloured mirror panelling.
Already the modern decor of industrial designer David Caon, common to the airline’s nearby Business Lounge, becomes apparent. White marble walls and flooring, offset with green plants, welcome you into the space.
The 1,000 sq m lounge is laid out in a long rectangular format, with a central corridor running from the reception linking the various sections all the way through to the far dining area at the very back.
That’s not unlike the setup at Cathay’s The Pier First Class lounge in Hong Kong, albeit less enclosed in this case.
The restrooms and shower suites are on the left immediately after entering, while the right side houses the lounge seating.
The first lounge section on the right side is the main seating area, with a variety of options including semi-private solo seats, couches and leather armchairs.
There are also some large flat-screen TVs if you’re looking to catch up on some news or sport.
Other design features that become immediately obvious here are the plush carpet and well considered lighting, neither of which would go out of place in a private apartment.
Tucked away at the back, in close proximity to the lounge entrance, is a relaxation corner featuring a large banquette sofa.
This includes one of the selling points of this lounge – the artificial skylight.
When we first read about this feature we concluded it sounded like a gimmick, but my goodness we were wrong. It’s remarkably realistic and really does give the impression that the sun is beaming natural light into the space.
The skylights are designed to assist those flying between distant time zones to acclimatise more easily, a particularly prevalent issue for those flying all the way from Australia to London or vice versa.
The eight wide and spacious ‘solo’ seats lining the wall close to the relaxation area have partitions between them for semi-privacy, ideal if you’re travelling on your own and potentially beneficial if you have some sensitive work to catch up on.
These were Eddie’s favourite seats in the lounge!
Reading materials are available throughout the lounge, including in the console below the artificial skylight in the relaxation corner near the entrance.
Naturally as with the nearby Qantas Singapore Business Lounge, you’ll find super-fast Wi-Fi in the First Class lounge too.
Joining the network is straightforward, with no password required. Simply select the network and a logon screen should be presented.
We did three speed tests in total during our visit, with the lounge becoming progressively busier each time.
- Average Download: 153 Mbps
- Average Upload: 86 Mbps
Even at the final test, just before we left the lounge at around 7pm when it was at its busiest, the connection speed was still impressive – easily sufficient to support video streaming.
Almost all the seating options in the Qantas Singapore First Lounge have a power outlet, with multi-standard sockets and USB charging ports.
Some of the freestanding chairs don’t have a power source, however the lounge staff will provide you with a portable power bank if required.
In the unlikely event that your plug type is not compatible with one of the charging sockets, the lounge also has adapter plugs available.
Just after you enter the lounge on the right side there is a small working area tucked away in the corner, with a long desk and two chairs partly shielded by wooden screens in keeping with the rest of the lounge design.
There is ample space to spread out your things here, though as it is adjacent to an area of lounge seating it is not completely private.
Between the two workstations is a wireless printer in a recessed section of the desk, which you can use to print documents from your personal devices from anywhere in the lounge.
There are also some pop-out power socket options for each user of the business area, including a multi-standard power outlet and two USB charging ports.
Coupled with the fast Wi-Fi connection we recorded in the lounge, this should provide ample opportunity to get some more serious work done here if the need arises. From this location you are also just a short stroll from the bar for an espresso, or for a bit of professional inspiration perhaps a Calamansi Mojito!
As you head further into the lounge there is also a communal working table with 12 chairs, six on either side, partitioned in the middle with a decorative gold mirrored panel, lamps and greenery.
The gold panel in front of you opens to reveal the same charging options you have at the more formal work desk described above, with multi-standard power and USB charging options.
About halfway into the lounge on the left side you’ll find the tended Cocktail Bar, just as the lounge opens out on the right side with the dining area.
You can order at the bar, but there are tables and chairs in this section if you want to pull up a seat for a pre-dinner drink and the waiter will take your order.
A wide variety of drinks is available, including a professional-grade coffee machine for barista-worthy espressos, cappuccinos and flat whites.
We settled in here for a drink, with Eddie opting for the signature Calamansi Mojito as recommended by the barman. I edged on the slightly more sensible angle for 2.30pm and opted for a flat white.
By far the lion’s share of capacity in this lounge, 157 of the 240 seats available, are set aside for dining.
Singapore has a growing reputation for ‘foodies’, but the concept here also stems from the nature of Qantas operations at Changi, and the needs of their passengers.
As this new First Lounge was being envisaged, the CEO of Qantas International told the media earlier this year that “Qantas customers like to dine in the lounge to maximise sleep onboard”.
That’s understandable. Qantas departures to Australia are all overnight, after a significant number of lounge guests will have spent a busy day working in Singapore. A quick shower and a nice meal are perfectly called for, in order to bed down on board for what is (at best) a 7-8 hour overnight journey back home.
Many of those heading to Europe on QF1 to London have started their journey in Australia and are in transit at Changi, so equally dinner in the lounge before the midnight departure is a popular option before a long rest on board then breakfast before touching down at Heathrow.
There are three primary dining sections on the right hand side with the lighter brown and beige furniture alongside the slatted windows overlooking the immigration hall.
Tables are laid out mostly for couples, with many of these of course serving solo travellers. There are also some four-person options.
Between these sections and at the far end of the dining area facing the open kitchen are a series of bar stool counter seating sections, ideal for solo travellers.
The far dining section including the bar counter seating at the open kitchen is informally reserved for those flying Qantas First Class and for the airline’s Platinum One status holders, who will be escorted there by the lounge team should they wish to dine.
There are a total of 60 seats in this final section; 22 to the left side in the olive green colours, 32 in the beige tones on the right and six further counter top seats at the open kitchen.
This ensures a dining option for those guests even when the lounge is at its busiest, vital for those passengers flying QF1 from Sydney through to London who only have a 1 hour 50 minute transit opportunity in Changi.
On the left side of the lounge as you walk from the entrance, the final two sections have a contrasting dining area in darker tones. Here olive green banquettes and black chairs are offset with the same white tables.
The tables are all laid immaculately from the minute the lounge opens, with perfect place settings including a napkin, wine and water glasses and individual pepper dispenser and salt dish.
The Qantas Singapore First Lounge is focused on à la carte dining and table service, and when we say that it’s exactly what we mean.
There is, quite deliberately, almost no provision for self-serve food and drink items in this lounge. The experience instead is designed around tended bar and waiter service, and a large restaurant.
There is however a small provision of self-serve items to the right of the cocktail bar.
Here you can pick up some light snacks, fruit and soft drinks for yourself without having to ask one of the staff members.
It’s a limited selection, but don’t let that cloud your judgment of this lounge. Like we said, and as you’ll see from the next part of this review, the focus is on the made to order food and beverage options, with an abundance of staff to assist.
With dining such a significant focus in this lounge, we had deliberately skipped lunch before our visit so that we could enjoy some food in the dining section.
We were shown to a table for two and presented with the extensive menu.
(click to enlarge)
(click to enlarge)
There is also a children’s menu available, with the Qantas First Lounge staple salt and pepper squid swapped out for salt and pepper chicken bites with tomato sauce and chips. It was tempting to try this but we resisted!
We were offered a drink and decided it was time for a glass of Champagne. Eddie went for the Joseph Perrier Brut and I chose the Tattinger Brut Reserve.
These were promptly poured and served alongside a cold towel each and a bowl of marinated olives to share.
To start I ordered the grilled skate, while Eddie simply had to try the infamous salt and pepper squid.
Skate is an acquired taste, and you’ll find it served (as stingray) at many hawker stalls in Singapore. This one had the characteristically strong flavour, served on a bed of greens ands beautifully offset by the capers and calamansi.
The sambal butter glazed the fish perfectly.
The salt and pepper squid has almost institutional fame in Qantas First lounges, but this was actually our first time trying it. The batter was crisp and perfectly seasoned and the squid inside was firm but not chewy. The green chilli sauce and freshly sliced red chilli on top added a good dose of heat. If chilli is not your thing, the garlic aioli was also a triumph. Perfect.
For the main course, Eddie went local with the laksa. Typically served with chicken or prawn in Singapore, this version boasts the more extravagant crayfish as its accompaniment.
We had sampled the chicken Laksa in our review of the Qantas Singapore Business Lounge earlier this year, so it was essential to test how this one compared. The broth has a more complex flavour and slightly thicker consistency than its Business lounge sister-dish.
The crayfish was fresh and moist but Eddie thought its delicate taste was perhaps a little lost amongst the other strong spices. Nevertheless, this is Singaporean cuisine at its best.
I went for the club sandwich as a main course, and while I was tempted to also order a bowl of chips on the side decided not to.
That turned out to be a good choice as the sandwich was large enough as a lunch main course. It was served on wholegrain bread, perfectly prepared and very tasty. The perfect lunch option.
Later we retired to the lounge area to relax before our flights, but having had time to digest the first two courses of lunch we decided to have a dessert each.
We asked for a recommendation and the staff promptly brought us a Torta di Verona, which resembles a Tiramisu, and a mango sorbet.
The Torta di Verona was a nice contrast of textures with crunchy and warm through to soft and cold. Light yet satisfying, a really good dish.
The sorbet is similar to a frozen cheesecake but lighter. The biscuit base had a nice crunch. Fundamentally, both dishes refrained from being overly sweet which is exactly how we like them.
It also helps mitigate some of the usual post-dessert guilt factor!
We couldn’t sample any more food during our review visit, however we did try some other dishes during the launch event earlier the same month. These were equally excellent, albeit with the caveat that with Neil Perry himself in attendance, that was bound to be the case.
Here are some photos for reference.
Wine and Champagne
No First Class lounge is complete without an extensive selection of wine and Champagne. Qantas is serving no fewer than 13 options in this lounge.
(click to enlarge)
That’s more than double the range available in the nearby Qantas Singapore Business Lounge, where a sparking plus five wines are offered.
As always, we check on the Vivino scores out of five for all the Champagnes and wines on offer.
Let’s start with the Champagne. First thing to note is the Qantas is pouring three varieties in this lounge, a great selection which matches the Cathay First Lounges in Hong Kong and indeed Qantas’ own First Lounge in Sydney.
The second point though is that none are vintage Champagnes – not essential in a First Class lounge but relatively widely offered.
For example last time we passed through the Cathay First Class lounges in Hong Kong a Louis Roderer 2012 vintage was included in the lineup. At British Airways’ Galleries First lounge in Heathrow a vintage Tattinger 2006 is offered, while at Singapore Airlines’ SilverKris First lounge they are consistently pouring Piper-Heidsieck Rare Millesime 2002.
A vintage option would certainly have been a nice inclusion here, though we thoroughly enjoyed our Joseph Perrier and Tattinger during our lunch. It would be remiss of us not to point out, however, that Joseph Perrier is being served in the nearby British Airways Singapore Lounge (a Business Class facility)!
As far as the wines are concerned it’s an all-Aussie selection, with the exception of a single Rioja from Spain. Scores come out comfortably above the Qantas Singapore Business Lounge, as you would expect, and rank closely with our experience at Cathay’s Hong Kong The Pier First Class lounge.
The Wolf Blass Barossa Shiraz is not specifically mentioned as the ‘Grey Label’ variety on the menu, so we were pleasantly surprised to see this one being served in the lounge (a Mainly Miles favourite).
An unusual omission is a rosé wine option, especially given that one is included in the airline’s Singapore Business Lounge. Perhaps since a rosé Champagne is offered, Qantas decided there was no need to offer a still variety.
Spirits and cocktails
The lounge has a wide selection of spirits behind the bar, so while you can choose one of the signature cocktails from the menu you can equally enjoy a glass of whiskey or a gin and tonic with a variety of brands available to choose from.
The bar tenders will also happily go ‘off-piste’ if you have a specific cocktail in mind, such as an espresso martini.
All the toilets in the Qantas Singapore First Lounge are arranged in private cubicle format. In the mens toilets there are six private cubicles. We assume the ladies’ toilets have a similar provision.
Each toilet cubicle also has a private sink and hand soap.
On the back of the cubicle door is the essential full-length mirror, to ensure you’re heading back into the lounge in good shape.
Finally there is a large accessible toilet, also equipped with baby changing space.
There are nine shower suites in the Qantas Singapore First Lounge (reports of 10 are exaggerated, we counted them ourselves!). While that’s not the 20 offered in the larger Qantas Singapore Business Lounge, it’s quite a considerable number and should satisfy demand even when the lounge is at its busiest around 7pm.
Toiletries are by LaGaia Unedited, the new provider for Qantas’ First Class amenity kits, First Lounges and the Sydney and Melbourne Spas launched concurrently with the airline’s new A380 cabin products in November 2019.
As with the relaxation area in the lounge seating area, each shower suite has an artificial skylight, which can be adjusted through four settings:
Again we thought these would be a gimmick, but they are surprisingly realistic and effective. This could genuinely help with your circadian rhythm while freshening up in transit between London and Sydney, for example.
In case you’re confused by the ‘Off’ setting, this is effectively equivalent to ‘Night’, with only the shower room’s ambient lighting remaining active.
One of the nine shower suites is a large accessible one, providing wheelchair access and baby changing facilities.
This one is similarly equipped to the other eight shower rooms, but is obviously much more spacious.
A fold out baby change table is located to the left of the sink area.
We understand a handful of the shower suites are held aside for Qantas First Class and Platinum One guests, particularly during the short QF1/2 transit since many will be keen to freshen up at this stage of their 24-hour long journey to or from London.
The Qantas Singapore First Lounge, in common with the airline’s nearby Business Lounge, is managed and operated by Sofitel, with the luxury hotel brand’s staff ‘running the show’.
That’s a formula which has proved very successful for the airline, also employed at its First Class facilities in Sydney and Melbourne.
As with our recent experience at the Singapore Business Lounge, we found the staff to be warm and engaging, and willing to assist wherever possible.
Drinks were regularly offered or replenished so there’s really no need to leave your seat, even food items can be brought to you wherever you choose to sit.
One of the staff even recognised us after we’d chatted during our review of the Business Lounge, where she had previously been working. She took a special effort to talk to us again and ask our opinions about the new lounge. That’s the sort of personal touch you don’t often get in an airline lounge without being a very regular traveller.
The lounge design and finish was at the hands of Australian industrial designer David Caon, in collaboration with Kelvin Ho from Sydney-based architects Akin Atelier.
This one is like no other on the network at present, representing a new look for the airline.
Caon told us at the launch event that local influence was married with familiar Qantas and Australian design, combining Singapore’s greenery (and love for food!) with the more typical geometric shapes and Carrara marble found at other Qantas lounges.
Throughout the lounge there are also decorative ceramics and artworks by Australian artists.
How busy did it get?
With only 42 actual Qantas First Class seats departing Changi each evening to Sydney, Melbourne and London, the vast majority of guests using this lounge aren’t actually flying First Class at all.
Sure there are some Emirates and British Airways First Class travellers also eligible, but the vast majority of visitors are Qantas Platinum members, supplemented by some oneworld Emerald status holders.
That’s a lot of passengers on the Singapore routes, and the lounge therefore does get busy as the evening departure peak approaches, particularly with the first two Qantas A380 departures to Sydney and Melbourne at 7.15pm and 7.40pm each night.
We arrived at the lounge when it opened at 2.30pm and it was generally very quiet throughout the afternoon. It began to start getting busier at approximately 5pm.
On the evening of our visit the Sydney A380 flight was delayed until 8pm, making the occupancy situation even worse as the usual pattern, with those passengers leaving for the boarding gate by 6.45pm, didn’t happen.
Nonetheless it never got so busy that there was nowhere to sit either for dining or relaxing, and the lounge staff (who seemed to be everywhere) remained attentive clearing tables and offering drinks.
We noticed that First Class and Platinum One guests were still being personally escorted to a specific section of the dining room as they entered the lounge, an impressive touch to still be able to offer this kind of service even during peak period.
Flying Cathay Pacific?
Even though Cathay Pacific has its own lounge in Terminal 4 (see our review), many of our readers with oneworld Emerald status flying on a Cathay Pacific flight will be keen to use this new Qantas lounge prior to departure.
In order to do this passengers will need to either:
- Check in at T4 up to 24 hours prior to departure between 4.30am and 00.30am, clear immigration and security, then take the airside transit bus to T2, followed by the SkyTrain to T1. The T1 SkyTrain station at the D gates is a short walk from the Qantas Singapore First Lounge; or
- Use the early check-in facility in Jewel between 3 and 24 hours prior to departure between 6am and midnight, then proceed through T1 immigration the usual way to reach the Qantas lounge. You will need a physical boarding card, or one printed from home and also stamped by the airline at the check-in desk, in order to do this.
In either case, you will have to allow time to return to Terminal 4 via the airside transit bus, running at 20-minute intervals from gate F51 in Terminal 2. We would recommend allowing no less than 1 hour 30 minutes between leaving the Qantas lounge and your Cathay Pacific flight departure.
Do note the Qantas Singapore First Lounge opening hours of 2.30pm to midnight when considering whether to try it out before your Cathay Pacific flight.
Singapore Airlines comparison
Almost immediately, and perhaps naturally, this new lounge has been compared with the local competition. That means facilities operated by dominant carrier Singapore Airlines.
In our view, that’s both fair and unfair in equal measure.
Fair because of the “here and now” factor. A customer booking First Class to Sydney, or indeed a oneworld Emerald status holder flying in any cabin on that route, can now choose to fly Qantas and experience what we agree is a superior ground experience here at Changi, compared with the competition.
Eddie actually flew Qantas A380 First Class to Melbourne immediately following our lounge visit for this review, and though the cabin was showing its age (that’s being fixed), it remains a great experience in a uniquely designed (and in our view under-rated) ‘semi-private’ suite with a 1-1-1 layout.
Where does the unfair come in then? Well Singapore Airlines is in the midst of a significant revamp of its SilverKris lounges at Changi’s Terminal 3, now over a decade old, including its exclusive sanctuary for First Class passengers – The Private Room.
At this stage it’s unfair to judge what the national carrier will produce before it’s even been given the chance to do so.
SIA can see what competitors are doing around the region, especially Cathay Pacific with its outstanding ‘The Pier’ First Class lounge in Hong Kong being just one example.
With another oneworld competitor, Qatar Airways, opening its own Premium Lounge at Changi in January 2020, the national carrier simply can’t rest on its laurels.
We are hopeful they will come up with a refreshed lounge complex that stands the test of the next decade, prior to the big move to Terminal 5 in the early 2030s.
Qantas has certainly laid down the gauntlet in the First Class lounge stakes.
If you’re eligible to use this lounge and are passing through Changi during its opening hours there’s no question here – pay a visit and you won’t be disappointed.
We thoroughly enjoyed our five hours here, the highlight of course being the excellent food – a true restaurant quality experience.
We really enjoyed the food, overseen by chef Neil Perry, at the opening event in early December. Obviously it was always going to be good that day, but it’s good to see that the high standards haven’t dropped in the meantime.
There’s no doubt the focus at the Qantas First Lounge is on dining, and it’s done superbly based on our recent visit.
The design is also beautifully executed, very much like a high-end apartment in places. To that end it reminds us most closely of another of our favourites – Cathay’s The Pier First Class lounge in Hong Kong.
One omission compared with the airline’s First Lounges in Sydney and Melbourne is a spa – you won’t find one here. Having said that the airline’s only other First Lounge outside Australia, in Los Angeles, also doesn’t include this feature.
With a world-class dual-lounge setup now in operation at Changi, it’s quite remarkable how far national carrier SIA’s oneworld rival Qantas has pulled ahead in terms of the pre-flight ground experience.
The lounge opening is also good news for regulars at the nearby Qantas Singapore Business Lounge (see our review), which had been starting to suffer from overcrowding at peak times since the airline began routing its London flights back through Singapore in 2018, while also increasing capacity with A380 services to Melbourne.
That lounge was extended for a capacity of 600 in August 2019, and reports we’re hearing suggest it is now much quieter at the peak 7-8pm period, since this First Lounge opening.
There’s no doubt this lounge has a significant edge over the Singapore Airlines SilverKris First Class options at Changi, with the exception of that premium Champagne – a vintage variety is missing at the Qantas facility.
In our opinion this new lounge also outshines Singapore Airlines’ stale, outdated The Private Room in Terminal 3, which we identified last year was long overdue a refresh (fair play to SIA – it’s getting one).
One thing this lounge doesn’t have, from around 5pm onwards, is the serenity of The Private Room.
|Review:||Qantas Singapore First Lounge|
|Summary:||With a high-end elegant finish and a restaurant quality food and beverage selection, the Qantas Singapore First Lounge clearly sits among Changi’s finest.|
|Among airline-operated First Class lounges:|
4.5 out of 5
(Cover Photo: MainlyMiles)