The concept of a Jetstar Lounge initially sounds about as appealing as an Aldi Day Spa. But the lounge facility on the Gold Coast is actually not a bad choice if you need to get some work done in transit.
Ever since its founding in 2003, Jetstar's approach has been distinctly no-frills; having an airport lounge was supposed to be the sort of perk reserved for its parent airline Qantas. So why is it running such a facility at the Gold Coast Airport?
The logic goes a little like this. Qantas stopped running flights to the Gold Coast in 2008, which was in line with its policy of using Jetstar for tourist destinations. As a result, it shut its own Qantas Club lounge there.
However, the Gold Coast is effectively Australia's sixth-largest city, which means it also attracts a lot of business visitors. Not having any lounge facility would be an incentive for regular business travellers to consider rival airline Virgin Blue (and would look weird given that ). Hence the Jetstar Lounge.
While the standard airport lounge model involves an annual membership fee, the Jetstar lounge is entirely a pay-as-you-go proposition. It costs $9.99 per person if booked in advance, or $15 if you pay on the day. (Passengers who book Jetstar's more expensive StarClass tickets get free admission.)
For occasional travellers, this is actually a pretty good deal. Virgin charges $35 (or $30 for online booking) for one-off lounge visitors. Qantas and Rex don't offer the option at all.
If you had a single beer and a sausage roll at the airport bars outside, you'd have spent about the same as the lounge admission -- and that's before considering the free Wi-Fi (password-protected so nearby tourists can't leech) and the access to power outlets.
When I visited the lounge on a quiet Thursday afternoon last week, those were the main attractions for me. The actual dedicated "workstation" area is pretty minimal -- a single row of desks with a slightly ominous warning not to put your luggage on them.
I instead sat myself at the benches in the main food area, which have convenient access to power outlets along the wall. Everyone else who came in with a laptop ended up doing the same. There were pretty much the same food options as Qantas and Virgin offer: a selection of hot snacks, a coffee machine, some fresh fruit, and self-service beer and wine.
Kids under six get free admission with their parents, which might present a noise challenge on busy flights. However, there's a separate play area for children, so I don't know that it would be a major problem.
The most obvious omissions are access to printers and the complete absence of showers. (That said, the last time I visited a Virgin lounge, the showers weren't available anyway.) All in all, however, it's a pretty handy facility if you're travelling to the Gold Coast and (like me) can't help but arrive at the airport stupidly early.
Lifehacker Australia editor Angus Kidman knows more about airport lounges than any sane person would consider reasonable. His Road Worrier column, looking at technology and organising tips for travellers, appears each week on Lifehacker.