Qantas Plans Pop-Up Darwin Lounge Ahead Of International Restart

Qantas is making its Darwin stopover as comfortable as possible for premium passengers after opening a lounge in the airport’s international zone. The airline is temporarily taking over the now-shuttered Catalina lounge to cater for passengers flying to and from London on QF1/2.

Qantas is opening a “pop-up” lounge in Darwin to cater for its passengers traveling on QF1 and QF2. Photo: Qantas

A comfortable Darwin rest area for a 90-minute pitstop

After 19 months off the route, Qantas is resuming their London flights in early November. Fully loaded jets don’t have the capacity to safely make it to London from cities like Sydney and Melbourne without a stopover.

Before COVID-19 curtailed flights, Qantas London-bound flights out of Sydney flew via Singapore, and flights out of Melbourne operated via Perth. As Qantas reboots its international network, both cities are dropped as stopover ports in favor of Darwin.

It is 23 and a half hours flying time between Sydney and London on QF1. No matter where you are seated on the plane, that’s a long-haul. The stopover in Darwin might be brief – a 90-minute refueling pitstop, but Qantas knows its passengers will want to get off the plane and stretch their legs.

Qantas’ new Darwin lounge in Catalina Lounge mode. Photo: Lucid Consulting

Minimal changes to the lounge space serving as a short term fix

Qantas also knows its well looked after pointy end and other high-status frequent flyer passengers wouldn’t be impressed with the less than luxe surrounds of Darwin Airport’s international transit zone. Taking over the Catalina Lounge and restyling it as a pop-up lounge is an obvious short-term fix.

“We know that spending time in our lounges is one of the most enjoyable parts of the travel experience. We are excited to work with our friends at Darwin Airport to have our lounge facility ready next week in time to welcome our first international customers in 20 months,” says Qantas Group Chief Customer Officer Stephanie Tully.

“Given the relatively brief transit time of 90 minutes, our focus will be on offering a comfortable space for customers to stretch their legs, enjoy a brunch or light supper, and to refresh before their onward journey.”

The Catalina Lounge is a perfectly pleasant space. However, it isn’t a patch on the Qantas First lounge in Sydney or even the Qantas lounge at Heathrow with its marble cocktail bar. It’s also unlikely Neil Perry will fly in to dole out serves of his fairy floss pav.

However, the 100 seat lounge will have an open bar, lounge and dining areas with a serviced buffet, menus suited to the time of day, and well-maintained bathrooms (we assume that includes shower facilities as the Catalina lounge offered those).

The lounge will be open to business class passengers, oneworld emerald and sapphire members, platinum one, platinum, gold Qantas frequent flyers, and Qantas Club members.

Qantas is promising to offer some signature cocktails and drinks at its new Darwin lounge. Photo: Qantas

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Other airlines’ passengers out in the cold?

Alas, neither QF1 nor QF2 land in Darwin close to the time Jetstar’s soon to commence flights between Darwin and Singapore will depart. Consequently, there will be no access for Qantas frequent flyers who find themselves on that Jetstar flight.

As other international airlines return to Darwin, a question also arises where they will park their premium passengers before departure. The Catalina Lounge was Darwin Airport’s only lounge in the international departures zone and served as a multi-user airline lounge.

Qantas has only scheduled flights to London via Darwin until April, at which point it is eyeing returning to flying via Perth and Singapore. But Darwin is currently finding favor with Qantas, and the airline may stick with the new route in the longer term.

That means the Darwin pop-up lounge may settle into something more permanent. It also raises the question of what other non-Qantas affiliated airlines will do for lounge facilities in Darwin.