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I’ve been thinking a lot about gifts lately, mostly because my birthday is coming up soon and I like to have ideas prepared when people ask, “What would you like for your birthday?”
I say it’s coming soon; it’s actually in June, but like a small child who cites their age as five and three-quarters, I obsessively count down until the day arrives.
Anyway, for my birthday last year, my father gave me a $50 Bunnings voucher (that’s fine) and a card that made it quite clear he had initially written my brother’s name, then halfway through remembered whose birthday it was, crossed the first name out and written mine (hilarious, but also fine).
The Airport lounge is the promised land that mere mortals can only fantasise about.Credit: Stephen Kiprillis
But you know what I really would’ve loved, cherished and treasured forever? Access to the Qantas Chairman’s Lounge.
For those who don’t have Google alerts for the “Qantas Lounge” set-up, a quick refresher.
Earlier this month, it was reported by Joe Aston in The Australian Financial Review’s Rear Window column that Anthony Albanese’s 23-year-old son Nathan has been granted access to Qantas’ exclusive Chairman’s Lounge.
Naturally, this raised eyebrows in some corners, given that the Chairman’s Lounge membership is typically reserved for celebrities, business executives and big-name politicians, and visitors are reportedly personally selected by the chief executive officer, Alan Joyce.
Alan Joyce and Anthony Albanese discuss how good the chicken drummies are in the Chairman’s Lounge (probably).Credit: Louie Douvis
In fact, Joyce once described it as “probably the most exclusive club in the country,” a stark contrast to the Bunnings Loyalty Club, which I once described as “probably not worth the effort.”
Given our obsession with anything to do with power and privilege, this story had all the ingredients to capture public interest; the heat refused to go away, resulting in Albanese addressing the issue at a press conference on Monday.
The prime minister was asked about his son’s membership, responding: “I completely comply with all the requirements of the register.”
All federal MPs are given Chairman’s Lounge membership and many of their spouses have memberships. There is no obligation to disclose an adult child’s interest and Nathan’s name was not disclosed on the register of members’ interests.
The response to this story has typically gone in two directions: concern that Albanese used his political influence to ensure his son travels in style and disbelief that young Nathan is kicking it in the Chairman’s lounge, a promised land that we mere mortals can only fantasise about.
But as someone who has spent a lifetime obsessing over airport lounges – how to get into them, what happens when you do? – I don’t begrudge a 23-year-old university student gaining access.
As with most normal people, I have only experienced the benefits of lounge access a handful of times. Once, when I had a seven-hour layover at Kuala Lumpur, I decided to pay for entry, and once as a guest.
On both occasions, I made the grave mistake of being too excited, surrounding myself with plates of free food, saying things like “can you believe this is free?” to other guests, and taking photos of all the free food.
In between giving myself indigestion ahead of a long-haul flight, I was struck by how much the airport lounge is one of the last great hierarchical dividers. We hate what it represents, but not as much as we hate being excluded from it.
It goes without saying that this culture of favours is dangerous; however, in this particular instance, we should all be doing anything we can to claim the ivory tower.
Consider this a call to arms for all the kids with rich and powerful parents; let’s flood the lounges with people who probably don’t belong there.
The son of the prime minister waltzing into the Chairman’s Lounge is hardly shattering the class ceiling, but it’s a step in the right direction. Who next? Perhaps a humble journalist who is more than happy to be a plus-one.
Ultimately, it’s easy to judge when you’re on the outside looking in. Still, if my father offered me a VIP experience instead of a DIY gift card, I would be too busy ordering an omelette to stop and consider if I object on moral grounds.
Find more of the author’s work here. Email him at [email protected] or follow him on Instagram at @thomasalexandermitchell and on Twitter @_thmitchell.
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