Sky’s the limit as airport hotels become a destination in themselves
THE sophisticated, open-air bar with a procession of delectable canapes and bottomless flutes of Moet and Chandon champagne could be in any cosmopolitan hotel in the world. The exciting view of planes, trains and automobiles and the convivial group of high-flyers and well-seasoned travellers we are sharing it with could be straight out of a Bond film. But we haven’t gathered in Paris, New York, Milan, London or even Sydney. This private rooftop venue is the Sky Lounge of the Ibis Brisbane Airport Hotel. The planespotters among our group are in their element as the domestic terminal “theatre” plays out before our eyes, while others are content to drink in the twinkling fairylights of the Brisbane CBD and suburbs to as far as Moreton Bay. Downstairs, the Cribb Island Beach Club – named after the former Brisbane suburb on which the airport now stands – is bustling with a relaxed vibe like an inner-city restaurant and bar on a Friday night. The difference is that the outdoor terrace is only a fourminute stroll to the domestic airport terminal. The 3.5-star Ibis Brisbane Airport with its 243 guest rooms and 5-star, 132-room Pullman Brisbane Airport – in two adjoining accommodation towers – opened in October last year in the airport precinct, and only 1.6km from Brisbane International Airport. They join with the already established 4.5-star Novotel Brisbane Airport, with its 157 guest rooms, rooftop lap pool with panoramic views and stylish Catalina Restaurant and Bar to make up the Brisbane Airport Hotels Group. The Pullman’s Room 708 – where we lay our heads for the night – is a Deluxe Executive Room with the monstrous air traffic control tower to the left and the Brisbane CBD skyline straight ahead out of our floorto-ceiling wall of windows. And it is every bit as comfortable and roomy as our only other stays in airport hotels in Bangkok (Novotel Suvarnabhumi Airport Hotel) and Dubai (Dubai International Terminal Hotel). For decades, the airport hotels concept only landed custom of convenience. They were mostly nondescript places for businesspeople to crash for the night after a late flight or to get over the jet-lag after a long-haul journey before heading to their regional destination. Today, they have become destinations in themselves for their ability to allow time-poor single travellers, couples and families to rest, refresh and rejuvenate, and allow businesspeople to keep doing business from the comfort of their rooms. As a result, they can’t afford to skimp on the luxury, the comfort, or the “wow factor”. They may boast thermal pools and spa treatments, games rooms, 24-hour business centres and hatted chefs in their acclaimed restaurants. And with Brisbane’s new $1.4 billion parallel runway right next door set to open in 2020, effectively doubling the current capacity, well, the sky’s the limit for the future.
The mesmerising view of trains, planes and automobiles from the Ibis Brisbane Airport’s Sky Lounge. Photo: Shirley Sinclair