Qantas open new First Lounge at Changi Airport, Singapore

Singapore's Changi Airport may serve more than 100 airlines and 65.6 million passengers annually. But Qantas has just become the only airline other than the national carrier, Singapore Airlines, to have a first class lounge in the Asian mega-hub.

Australia sits in Changi Airport's top five passenger traffic markets, while Qantas flights between Australia and Singapore have increased by about 50 per cent since 2017.  In the last year, Qantas carried nearly a million passengers in and out of Singapore, a 100 per cent increase over five years. 

A good deal of that growth can be attributed to the fact that Qantas changed hubs for its A380 services from Dubai to Singapore in early 2018.  However, speaking at the launch of the new Singapore First Lounge, Qantas International CEO Tino La Spina said, "The increase comes from strong demand from our premium customers."

It's a testament to Qantas's importance to Changi that the airport found 1000 square metres in its already tight-for-space T1 for the Australian airline to drop an undisclosed but by their own admission hefty spend in creating a gleaming new ultra-premium 240-seat facility that services eligible QF and Oneworld customers (first class passengers and top-tier frequent flyers). Working alongside the recently expanded Terminal 1 Qantas Business Lounge, all up, Qantas has now increased lounge capacity in its Singapore hub by 60 per cent and can seat 800 customers at a time.

Likewise, Qantas's commitment at Changi is indicative of Singapore's importance to the airline – Singapore is the fourth First Lounge in Qantas' network, and the second outside Australia – Los Angeles being the other host airport. Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said the time was ripe for the airline to position itself to be able to exploit the huge projected growth in Asian air travel. 

"Jetstar has 18 aircraft based here. We've seen a 75 per cent growth in connecting passengers last year. This year we've seen another 50 per cent growth. We think in the next 20 years, the growth in air transportation is going to double in this region and so having a presence in Singapore for us is going to be really good in taking advantage of that."

Mr Joyce also was buoyant on the business of lounges in their own right. 

"Typically we have spent tens of millions of dollars on airline lounges like this," he said. "Lounges can in their own right be a bit of a profit centre. We have a lot of airlines that seek to use these as well. If you do them really well, which Qantas does, you can generate a lot of demand – from oneworld, and partner airlines. We look at it as a facility primarily for our own customers, but also as a business opportunity." 

Designed by Qantas long-time collaborator David Caon of Caon Studio and hospitality designer Kelvin Ho of Akin Atelier, the Singapore First Lounge is a long space, with classic and bespoke furnishings and art works referencing both Australian and Singaporean design elements. Seamlessly flowing zones, delineated by rattan screens invite work and relaxation. 


It's a deceptively simple work of design, with unique elements adding subtle points of interest, such as a custom terrazzo tile throughout and clever daylight-simulating "skylights" in the shower cabins as well as at one end of the facility.

But a dominant element of the lounge is dining (and drinking), with around 60 per cent of  available space dedicated to it, the biggest dining space in the Qantas First Lounge network.

"What we've started finding in the lounges we already had and this is all part of the learning experience, is that a lot of people want to have something to eat before they get on the aircraft," said Alan Joyce. "And in Sydney we've now gradually increased over time the amount of dining space. We've just opened a new dining bay because that demand was there."

In Singapore, Qantas believes the demand may be even greater. 

"The timings on some of these flights as well, particularly here in Singapore, people want to get on the aircraft and sleep," Mr Joyce said. "Particularly coming on the leg down to Australia, having a meal before they get on board, having the experience here, and then going straight to sleep on the aircraft – we think there' a big demand for that."

Qantas Creative Director of Food, Beverage and Service Neil Perry has created a menu that reflects the legendary Singapore food scene (including a showstopper lobster laksa), the Qantas DNA, customer favourites and the unique nature of hub dining. 

"Customers visit the First Lounge at different stages of their trip," says Mr Perry, "so we included items like poached eggs with mushrooms and salsa verde on sourdough and First Lounge classics like the chicken club sandwich with salt and pepper squid, intended to cater to our customer and their taste buds regardless of where they are on their journey."

See also: Inside the secret, invitation-only Qantas lounge for high flyers

See also: Hour by hour: My epic non-stop Qantas flight from London

Julietta Jameson travelled to Singapore as a guest of Qantas.