In its battle with Qantas, Virgin Australia has pulled out all stops from reduced fares to improved lounges around the country.
The latest lounge expansion to be unveiled is in Melbourne, where the airline has introduced an espresso bar with 24-hour barista service, a nod to the city's strong cafe culture.
The espresso bar is a first for Virgin, with 1500 coffees expected to be served by two or three baristas up until 11am most mornings. They will use Grinders Coffee, a roasting company that also has strong Melbourne roots after being established in Lygon Street in 1962.
Another Virgin first in the Melbourne lounge, which has expanded from 300 seats to 604, is a stand-up wine bar separate to the buffet/drinks section. "As far as we know, it is the only wine bar in a domestic lounge," says Virgin Australia's manager of lounges, Howard Mitchell.
It will feature half a dozen wines at any one time that will be changed quarterly. Among the current crop are Kapuka sauvignon blanc, Luella chardonnay and Katnook Founders Block cabernet sauvignon. The lounge also has a strong line-up of about 15 boutique beers, including Fat Yak and Peroni on tap.
A dedicated premium exit is also scheduled to open in July, giving lounge users two time-saving screening lanes so they don't have to go back into the public security points. Mitchell says similar lanes at the airline's Sydney Airport lounge (where renovations were recently completed) provide passengers with an average time of two to three minutes through security.
Virgin Australia will next turn its attention to a renovation of its Brisbane Airport lounge, which will also get an espresso bar.