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Yay! Qantas lounges bring back self-service food and drinks


First class lounges for international travellers are also reopening this month.

I got a pleasant surprise when I hit the Melbourne Qantas lounge over the weekend: Self-service food and beverages are back.

Help yourself! Qantas salads and sandwich ingredients.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Qantas lounges have adopted staff service only for food and drink. No more making your own toast or pouring your own pinot gris.

Given the health risks, that approach was totally understandable. But it did mean both a more limited selection and (at times) longer queues waiting for food.

The toasted sandwich machine has returned.

Now that policy has been largely reversed. You can put together your own toasted sandwich, or pour yourself a glass of wine. The food choices are also more extensive than during the "lockdown" phase.

A selection of wines from Qantas.

You'll still need to queue for a barista to brew you a coffee, or if you want to order a cooked meal in the Business Lounge. But normal service does seem to be slowly resuming.

That change hasn't yet happened at Virgin, incidentally. I was in the Sydney Virgin lounge on Sunday, and it was still operating staff-only service. Virgin's food offerings have never been as extensive as Qantas, so switching back might make less difference, but I would expect it eventually.

For both airlines, it's a handy cost saving. That's especially the case at smaller Qantas regional lounges. During the pandemic, Qantas had to have staff policing the lounge entrances to ensure that distancing requirements were maintained.

Now it can go back to giving eligible passengers a PIN for entry and letting them pick their own food, with a minimal staff presence. I saw that in operation over the weekend too (yes, there was a lot of flying going on).

Food selection in a regional lounge

Qantas has also announced that its First Class lounges in Sydney and Melbourne will be reopening from 27 March 2022, coinciding with the return of First services on A380 aircraft.

While Qantas international flights resumed last November, a combo lounge for both Business/Qantas Club and First passengers was operated in those First lounges. Now First will be reserved again purely for First, Platinum and Platinum One passengers, with an a la carte menu and a beauty spa.

A selection of Qantas first meals

That announcement ties in nicely with Qantas' recent status extension.

Flying still isn't (quite) what it was. But it's getting there, and I'm grateful.

Gin in a Qantas First lounge.

Want to keep your frequent flyer points balance growing? Check out the latest credit card sign-up deals.

Angus Kidman's Findings column looks at new developments and research that help you save money, make wise decisions and enjoy your life more.

Pictures: Angus Kidman, Qantas

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