SkyTeam to open first airport lounge in Australia at Sydney Airport

Airline alliance SkyTeam, which includes China Southern and Garuda Indonesia among its members, has set a firm December opening date for its first lounge at Sydney Airport.

The lounge was initially slated to open by the end of 2013, but the date has been pushed back at least three times.

Edward Hollo, SkyTeam's Amsterdam-based manager of specialty and agency sales cited delays in construction and need for all 20 member airlines to agree on the design and features as the reasons why the lounge had yet to open.

He hosted an event for travel agents and other industry partners to learn more about the lounge in Sydney on Tuesday evening.

Seven SkyTeam members fly to Sydney Airport, including China Southern, Garuda, China Eastern, Delta Air Lines, Vietnam Airlines, Korean Air and Taiwan's China Airlines. The lounge will be open to business class passengers and elite members of the airlines' respective frequent flyer programs.

The Sydney lounge - the third SkyTeam lounge globally after London Heathrow and Istanbul - will have a total area of 784 square metres and seating capacity for more than 150.

It will feature three showers, four full-body massage chairs, a green botanical wall, complimentary food and beverage, a champagne and wine bar and wi-fi connectivity.

The SkyTeam lounge opening comes after Etihad Airways opened its first lounge in Sydney Airport earlier this year and Singapore Airlines last year completed a major renovation of its lounge at the airport. Air New Zealand has flagged plans for a renovation of its lounge as well.

The opening of the SkyTeam lounge should relieve crowding pressure on the Air New Zealand and Qantas Airways lounges, as some of the alliance's airlines have been paying for their members to access those facilities.

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Qantas is a member of the oneworld alliance, while Air New Zealand is a Star Alliance member. Virgin is not a member of any of the three major global airline alliances but its major partners include Delta, Air New Zealand, Singapore Airlines and Etihad.

The SkyTeam alliance, which was formed in 2000, offers 1052 destinations and access to 516 lounges. The 13 members that do not currently fly to Australia include KLM, Air France, Alitalia, Russia's Aeroflot, Aerolineas Argentinas, AeroMexico, Spain's AirEuropa, Czech Airlines, Kenya Airways, Lebanon's MEA, Saudia, Romania's Tarom and China's Xiamen Air.

In June, SkyTeam chief executive Michael Wisbrun said SkyTeam was focused on building lounges in major hub cities where it did not have home carriers. He said a SkyTeam Melbourne lounge might be considered in future if passenger volumes among airline members justified the investment.

SkyTeam is poised to open its fourth lounge in Dubai next year.

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