While American Airlines Flagship first class largely means a bigger seat, a soup course, and more stuff in the amenity kit – and little else – departing from Sydney means access to the excellent Qantas First lounge as well.
As an AAdvantage Executive Platinum member I’d be able to use this lounge regardless of what cabin I was flying in, but I wouldn’t be able to bring in two guests. So flying with my wife and my daughter, we relied on our first class boarding passes for entry.
The day began heading over to the terminal from the Rydges Hotel across the street, checking in with American, and then having breakfast in the Qantas first lounge before our flight.
The Night Before Our Flight
We flew back to Sydney from Cairns the night before. We were on separate tickets with all flights sold out and I didn’t want to risk a misconnection. And With American’s flight leaving at 9:20 in the morning, I didn’t want a super early morning including the vagaries of the commute in from the city, so we decided to spend the night at the airport.
I chose the Rydges across from international terminal one at the Sydney airport where I’ve stayed in the past. That way we’d just be able to walk across the street in the morning before our 9:20 a.m. flight. Everything always takes a bit longer at the Sydney airport for international departures than you expect it to, from traversing the large check-in hall (and making it from check-in to passport control) to the lines for immigration even with e-gates and security which processes each passenger slowly.
Still, we didn’t make it an ‘airport hotel night’ we managed to connect with family and still have dinner near the airport. Australia’s premier seafood chef Josh Niland has a casual take away and dine in shop Fish Butchery Waterloo that’s close by and was absolutely outstanding. The tuna burger with smoked cod bacon will change your life. You can see them hanging fish in the window, and in a storage locker.
The property is fine, though rooms are small. What’s spectacular is the airport views. I found a planespotter’s package that offered the same rate as their ‘member rate’ while offering a premium view room, binoculars, and a $50 food and beverage credit.
The property is otherwise fairly non-descript, just extremely convenient to the airport.
Check-in With American Airlines
In the morning we walked out the door and across the street to the terminal. Despite more luggage than I care to admit for the three of us (one bag was full of toys, books, and other entertaining games for our four year old) it was easy to head into the terminal. There are even usually luggage carts for the taking right in front of the hotel, dropped off by passengers who brought them over on arrival at the hotel. So I used one, entered at the nearest entrance to the terminal which is also right at the elevator, and then went up to the departures level.
American’s check-in was at the opposite end of the terminal. We were helped right away by an agent friendly enough that, as first class passengers, she walked us over to oversized baggage drop to deposit our car seat (rather than sending us on our own) and even showed her employee badge there so I wouldn’t have to show a boarding pass to deposit it.
We then proceeded back to the other end of the terminal to go through departure immigration. The lines for this were long, even for people using priority queueing for an e-gate machine. Once through immigration the real wait began for security. It’s not that there were an inordinate number of departing international passengers on a Monday morning as much that screening each one took a couple of minutes rather than just a few seconds.
Entering The Lounge
While we left the hotel with about 2 hours and 40 minutes to departure, check-in and bureaucratic formalities took up half of that – a full 80 minutes. So our lounge time would be limited, but still plenty to stop into the Qantas lounge for breakfast.
Making a left after security deposits you at the entrance to the Qantas lounge complex, and the first class lounge is just one level up. Frequently there’s a staff member at the door (it used to be Louis, if memory serves) checking credentials before heading up to the lounge where they again check credentials. But this morning there was no one there.
I’ve reviewed the Qantas first lounge in Sydney several times in the past. While I’ve flown several airlines out of Sydney over the years, including United and Delta, whenever I’ve flown Qantas or American I’ve always visited the First lounge – I’ve never used any of the other Qantas international lounges here.
This time we’d only spend a brief period here, grabbing breakfast, so visiting the dining tables (and the loo) and not the rest of the lounge.
There’s little doubt that the Qantas first lounge in Sydney is one of the best lounges in the world accessible via elite status, as it is open to all oneworld emerald passengers flying on oneworld airlines (even in economy), as well as first class passengers on oneworld airlines.
This is also arguably the best first class lounge in the world for American Airlines passengers, now that American no longer flies to Hong Kong, although some might prefer Flagship First Dining in Miami?
My executive platinum status would have extended to one guest, but not two, so we were admitted based on our first class boarding passes.
One of my favorite aesthetic features of the lounge is right upon entry, beside the check-in desk. In fact a photo of this old school departures board is actually in the header of my blog.
We walked over to the dining area which, while busy, did have a few tables open and we were seated right away.
Here’s the breakfast menu. I’m normally not a fan of breakfasts as compared to lunch options, but there were great options to choose from.
I started out with an extra strong flat white. It would be my last one while in Oz. And then I had the opportunity to order a number of dishes, because my wife and daughter were there too!
My wife went with a bacon and egg sandwich.
My daughter had the fig yogurt.
I had the smoked salmon benedict, which was excellent.
The three of us also shared some fritters.
During breakfast they made a boarding announcement for our flight, though likely before it was actually boarding. The announcement came at around 8:25 a.m., scheduled boarding wasn’t until 8:30 a.m., and the lounge is a solid 6 or 7 minute walk away from gate 61 which we’d be using that morning. We were in no rush (there’s no reason to board 50 minutes prior to departure) but once we finished up we headed out straight away.
We only had time for a quick meal. 20 minute massages in the spa are something I’ve written about in the past. They’re outstanding, and surprisingly good in such a short time. They are generally available catch as catch can unless you’re a Qantas first passenger in which case I’ve had them ring me in advance and I’ve made a specific booking.
No such opportunity on this trip, however. And there really wasn’t an opportunity to sit and watch the planes, either, from the big windows looking out over airport operations. Fortunately I’d had plenty of opportunity for plane spotting from my hotel room the night before.
The other feature of the lounge I really like is that there’s usually an off-menu wine being decanted at the bar, which is something to ask after, but there wasn’t as early as we were there in the a.m. on this visit.
Overall an excellent dining option, with good food served quickly, and better than what we’d be getting on board by a long stretch.