Ditch the busy public waiting areas of Sydney’s international airport for free high-speed Wi-Fi, comfy seats and delicious food at the Amex Lounge.
Want to know whether it’s worth applying for a card with access to the American Express Lounge in Sydney? Airport lounges can be a great credit card perk, but not every lounge is going to meet your expectations.
To make sure this one does, I visited the American Express Lounge, located next to Gate 24 at the International Terminal 1 departures at Sydney International Airport, enjoying (and reviewing) two hours of it before a Virgin flight to Bali.
The American Express Lounge is open to select American Express cardholders, including some bank-issued Amex cards. I was able to use my American Express Platinum Velocity card to enter the lounge with a guest. Not that we needed to make use of it, but complimentary access is also available for card members’ children between the ages of 2 and 17.
Unlike some business class airline lounges, you can visit the Amex Lounge regardless of which airline or cabin you’re flying in so long as you’re an eligible cardholder with a pass. This worked out well for us because, while my Amex card also gives us two complimentary Virgin Australia lounge passes, there is no Virgin lounge in the Sydney International Airport.
The American Express Lounge is open from 6am until 11pm every day. We arrived at 8:15am for an 11:15am flight. While we got easy access to the lounge and even managed to get seats by the window, the lounge was full about an hour later. When we left at 10am there was quite a line to get in, so make sure to plan your arrival.
Food and beverages
When you visit the lounge, you can eat and drink your fill before the flight thanks to complimentary dining, snacks and beverages.
I took full advantage of the breakfast buffet and bar. The buffet, which was continuously restocked, had a generous selection of bacon, sausages, eggs, muffins, toast and other breakfast items. For those looking for a more luxurious breakfast, a selection of cheeses and biscuits was also available.
All soft drink, cocktails, wine and beer were complimentary and could be ordered at the bar. I sampled a bloody mary, purely for the benefit of this review, and found it to be very enjoyable. My fellow traveller, a hard-to-please coffee drinker, found his barista-made flat white acceptable.
Depending on how busy the bar was, they either made your drink in front of you or offered to deliver it to your seat. You could also help yourself to bottled water for your flight.
Seating and amenities
The lounge was well serviced in terms of amenities but suffered due to its size. While we did get window seats, we marvelled at our luck and most other people sat at a long, bench-style table in the centre of the room. Behind this shared table were lounges placed at the back of the room.
Larger groups or families may struggle to find seats together but solo travellers will have more luck.
Amenities such as chargers were well-placed and easily accessible and the Wi-Fi was quick and reliable. There was no need to try and wrangle a password out of a lounge attendant either; instead, the code was placed on notecards on each table.
The large windows that spanned the length of the room presented a great view of planes leaving and arriving and there were a few TVs to watch as well.
However, one thing business travellers will want to note is that the tables by the windows are almost too small for even a plate and a drink, so will do little to support a laptop.
While the lounge is limited in terms of capacity, I was also surprised to find only one toilet for ladies and one for men.
The Amex Lounge attendants provided excellent customer service and were very professional. They were able to fulfil all food and beverage requests and tables were cleared quickly.
This isn’t a comment on customer service, but the lounge does not offer flight updates. This is easily remedied these days using a smartphone but it’s something to keep in mind – it can be easy to lose track of time, watching planes depart while sipping on a bloody mary.
All in all we had an enjoyable experience in the lounge. The food and beverage selection was above my expectation and the service was professional. While the lounge was small, the limited capacity meant this did not affect the guests inside. That being said, if you’re waiting for access it will be a different story so make sure you plan your visit accordingly.
Although the American Express Lounge is only useful to cardholders flying out of Sydney International Airport, Amex does have plans to introduce a new lounge at Melbourne International Airport this year.
Compare credit cards with complimentary access to American Express lounges
Images: American Express and Elizabeth Barry