Sydney’s new Plaza Premium Lounge had a low profile opening earlier this month. I swung through on a very quiet Wednesday morning to check it out. Being a dedicated lounge lizard I was primed for an a la carte breakfast, some serious lounging and plane watching. Here’s what I found.
Located halfway down Pier B at Sydney’s T1 international terminal, the Plaza Premium occupies the site of the former American Express Lounge. While the Plaza Premium team continues to operate the new American Express Lounge in Sydney (and the SkyTeam Lounge), this space has been given a makeover and has an entirely new look.
How to get in
You can pay for access which starts at USD$23 for three hours via a DragonPass account attached to a free MyRegus account. This is considerably cheaper than the walk-up rate of USD$45 for three hours;
Business class passengers of Hainan Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Malindo Air and Samoa Airways have access.
American Express Platinum Charge Card and Centurion Cardholders have access (there is also an excellent American Express Lounge downstairs);
Virgin Australia Velocity Gold and Platinum members when traveling on Delta using a codeshare VA flight number have access. This isn’t an issue right now as Delta are suspending their flights to Sydney.
Business class passengers traveling on Delta using a VA codeshare flight number also have access. These eligible Virgin Australia passengers also have access to The House Lounge, arguably a superior lounge experience.
Not a big space, but effectively used
As habitues of the former American Express Lounge can attest, this isn’t a large space. There is seating for 70 people. The rectangular room is bright and airy with loads of natural light, but it can fill up quickly. This wasn’t a problem when I arrived at 06:30. I was the only person in the lounge for the first half an hour. An hour later, it began to fill.
As is the airport lounge fashion, the room is split into zones. In reality, the space isn’t large enough to have truly distinct zones. Rather, a main passageway runs up the center of the room from the bar at one end to the food at the other end.
On the tarmac side of the passageway, by the floor to ceiling windows, are pairs of chairs arranged around small side tables. These are fine for one or two people and a couple of coffees. Towards the food bar, a workbench accommodates about 6-8 people, complete with charging ports and space to set up a laptop.
On the other side of the passageway is an area better set up for eating with larger tables and bench seats.
The passageway is flanked by meter high walls topped with greenery. It is an effective way to break up a small space. It also adds interest to a lounge that could slip into blandness as the color palette is otherwise pretty uninspired.
What about the food?
The lounge advertises an a la carte dining service in addition to the usual buffet options. It’s the a la carte option that lifts this lounge from say, its SkyTeam sibling lounge downstairs. When I arrived, the a la carte option was not being advertised. Probably, if I had asked, they could have rustled me up some French Toast. As it was, I was fine with scrambled eggs, bacon and toast from the buffet.
There were also pastries, croissants, cereals, yogurts and fruits; the standard lounge offerings
Things were so quiet to begin with, the kitchen crew came out and sat quietly in a corner of the lounge, watching breakfast TV.
It was a bit early in the day to hit the complimentary bar but a barista makes a perfectly acceptable flat white. Later, I saw a few folks having a post-breakfast sauv blanc. Cheers to them.
Decent service from the initially underemployed staff
For the first half-hour or so, the staff were clearly bored. A couple of attendants circulated, brought me coffee and cleared my plates. One attendant was taking coffee orders for the kitchen staff busying themselves watching TV.
Given how quiet it was, I personally don’t have a problem with staff quietly hiding in a corner of the lounge. I’d question their taste in breakfast TV more. But it does kind of surprise me it is allowed as many people could perceive it as unprofessional.
As the lounge filled, the staff went to work.
The Sydney Plaza Premium lounge has showers and toilets. I showered before I left home so skipped that. The toilet space was fine. It was clean (as it should be when you are the first customer of the day) with liquid handwash. There was no hand sanitizer and no toilet paper. I pointed that out. Two hours later, using the bathroom before I left the lounge, things were more disorderly. The small bin was overflowing and a decent clean was called for.
This is a pretty middle of the road lounge. That’s fine, that’s where Plaza Premium pitches their lounges. The food is okay. I’d probably take advantage of it more if it was later in the day and I was eating my way through the a la carte menu and washing it down with a couple of wines. The lounge gets points for having decent coffee.
The lounge, while not big, is clean, bright and fresh. All in all, the Plaza Premium Sydney is not a bad place to spend an hour or two. The lounge sits comfortably between the workmanlike SkyTeam Lounge and the rather nice The House and is a welcome addition to Sydney Airport and the Plaza Premium network in Australia.
Plaza Premium Sydney is open daily between 06:00 and 22:00.