The new Qantas lounge at Los Angeles' international airport sets a benchmark for both the airline and the airport.
A threat by Qantas to take its planes elsewhere was the catalyst for Los Angeles World Airports' multi-billion dollar redevelopment of Tom Bradley International Terminal.
Speaking at the launch of Qantas' new Business Lounge in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Los Angeles World Airports executive director Gina Marie Lindsey said LAX was "an airport that hadn't had a major upgrade since the mid '80s, and the world had moved on and passenger expectations had changed."
She said Qantas was "clear that if something didn't happen to LAX; their passengers were becoming increasingly dissatisfied ... they might take big planes elsewhere".
"The mayor listened," she added. "We have delivered this terminal which caused a lot of blood, sweat and tears."
LAX's new international terminal opened to the public in September 2013. It features new Westfield-run retailers, which complements the complete renovation of Terminal 6. Major airfield improvements has also meant the terminal can now accommodate new and larger aircrafts, such as the Qantas A380s from Melbourne and Sydney, now flying into LAX, with a lot more infrastructure works to come.
And on Wednesday, Qantas said thanks, debuting what will be (when finally completed), the biggest of all lounges at the revitalised Tom Bradley International Terminal and one of the biggest in North America.
The new Qantas Business Lounge, which has been in operation for a week, accommodates 400 people. When completed in early 2015, it will fit 600 people. Add in the coming new Qantas First Class Lounge, it will be more than double the size of the former space. It follows the recent openings of Qantas's new business lounges in Singapore and Hong Kong.
The impressive, expensive-looking Woods Bagot-designed facility (the cost of which has not been divulged) is shared with customers of Qantas's One World partners, Cathay Pacific and British Airways. Hospitality will be run by Sofitel, and it will feature a '60s-inspired fire pit and California-cool style elements, such as hip mid-century American furniture.
The chef jokingly dubbed the Neil Perry Rockpool Group menu as "the first Neil Perry restaurant in America" during official launch proceedings. Inspired by LA-multicultural and Mexican street food, it represents a new direction for lounge catering, as food will be served by wandering waiters as well as the existing traditional buffet arrangement.
Given Qantas has late-night flights leaving daily for Australia, the menu will align with the pointy end of the inflight service format of finer dining, offering patrons the option of a full dinner experience in-lounge so they can go straight to sleep after takeoff.
Qantas North America's Senior Vice President Vanessa Hudson described the launch as "a significant moment for Qantas in North America".
Hudson said with Qantas recently celebrating its 60th year of service between the US and Australia, making the airline the longest server of that route, "the US has never been more significant in our network and our presence never been stronger".
Qantas currently runs 40 services a week, from Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne to Los Angeles.
The writer travelled courtesy of Qantas and Visit California.