Having lounge access is always a nice perk when travelling, and can really set your journey off on a great note – but what if you can’t get in? Maybe you don’t have a high enough airline status or (like many of us) are travelling economy class. This doesn’t mean you have to rough it, thanks to No. 1 Lounges.
Set up in 2006 by British theatre producer-turned-travel entrepreneur Phil Cameron, it started with a lounge at New York’s JFK airport (which is now defunct) and has grown into a network of 12 airport lounges located largely in the UK (London, Edinburgh and Birmingham) and now Australia, with lounges at Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney airports that all opened in 2019.
The concept? Luxurious pre-flight lounges and services (including chauffeur pick up, spa services and pod bedrooms) that are unaffiliated to any particular airline and available to anyone for a fee.
(There is plenty of lounge seating available to visitors in Sydney's The House airport lounge. Image: Ali Lalak)
The company offers four different types of lounges across their various locations: their signature No. 1 Lounge, the high end Clubroom, My Lounges and The House, and the fees and amenities vary by location. They all offer a premium atmosphere and have a smart casual dress code for entry, plus strict rules about conduct (which means you won’t get stuck sitting next to a rowdy group of drunk blokes in fancy dress celebrating a bucks weekend).
The lounge in Sydney international airport is a branch of The House, located on the same site that previously housed Etihad’s business and first class lounge, and it’s well worth considering next time you fly out on a long haul trip.
(A cheeky selfie of Ali, happily settled into The House before an international flight. Image: Ali Lalak)
The fee is $80 (for access up to three hours prior to your flight) if you book online or $90 if you pay at the door. It's a bit on the pricey end, when it comes to paid access to airport lounges, but it’s possible to get discounted or even free access through your airline (we enjoyed a small discount thanks to our Virgin Velocity membership on our recent visit) so it's worth doing some research and booking in advance. Extra hours can be purchased for an additional fee.
Although a little tricky to find (the entrance is tucked around a corner on Pier C near gates 51 – 63, and the signage to get you there isn’t particularly helpful), the warm greeting when you arrive makes it all worthwhile and sets the (very positive) tone of the experience. Indeed, every staff member we interacted with during our visit was exceptionally friendly and welcoming, which really helped to counteract some of the stress that always seems to accompany long haul travel (even if you think you’re super organised).
There is a nice selection of both lounge-style seating and café table seating to choose from, with 120 seats in total, and the atmosphere is bright and cheerful, although not too noisy. Once you’ve selected a seat, hopefully with a view of planes waiting at the nearby departure gates, it’s time to think about refreshments.
(The food selection in The House, both a la carte and at the buffet, is universally excellent. Images: Ali Lalak)
There’s waiter service and a small but tempting a la carte menu (our picks on this were the grilled haloumi salad and truffle burger), or you can choose from the hot/cold buffet. Again, the selection is small but fresh and tasty and had a bit of a middle eastern flavour, with options including little plates of dip, falafel balls in a spicy tomato sauce and a surprisingly delicious dish of cauliflower rice. To go with, there is a full service bar with everything included plus all the usual juices, soft drinks and flavoured waters.
For entertainment, there’s a wide selection of magazines and newspapers, plus the high speed wifi and ample charging options that you would expect at an airport lounge. Showers too, should you happen to need them.
All in all, it was a superb experience and one we would thoroughly recommend, providing you have the time to enjoy it. And is it worth paying for? Of course, this depends a lot on your circumstances but we think this is one of those little add-ons (much like our Signature packs!) that are an affordable luxury and really help to make your whole travel experience more enjoyable, especially if you’re not flying in one of the premium classes.
One final note - they don’t make boarding announcements, which adds to the tranquil atmosphere but also means you really need to keep an eye on the clock (or set a gentle alarm on your phone) because it would be all too easy to while away a little too much time in The House…
Find out more about No. 1 Lounges: https://no1lounges.com/
Our visit to The House at Sydney International Airport was fully paid for by Cloud Nine Global.