Hotel Review: Rydges Sydney Airport is more than just a location

No one’s ever boasted about staying in what’s widely referred to as an “Airport Hotel” before. The very idea evokes sighs of “well, if I have to” and images of frugality far from what one would expect from a night’s stay in a hotel that isn’t exactly budget. Sure, that’s true for some properties which conveniently lay next to an airport and get by on their location alone, though there are plenty of exceptions.

I had my foot in both camps at one point; I wasn’t quick to write off an airport hotel but I wasn’t going to avoid one either, especially after I once had a perfectly comfortable stay at Auckland’s Novotel, which is opposite the city’s international airport. It seems Sydney’s iteration of an “Airport Hotel” has much to offer as well, that being one of the three Rydges properties that can be found across the city.

This one here is much more than its location. Through quite a few years standing almost directly opposite the entrance to Kingsford Smith, Rydges and its affable staff have evidently become a well-oiled machine, a warm and welcoming hospitality experience with teeth that have been cut on the constant last-minute business that all hotels opposite a major airport can expect.

“By evening we’ll be at around 90% capacity”, a friendly receptionist told me when I asked her just how many walk-in guests they receive through each day. That’s not bad for a hotel that has an enormous turn-over, one I’d imagine is unexpected and offers a great variety of people to deal with day in and day out thanks to flight delays, cancellations and the like. The experience has resulted in incredibly efficient, personable service where any lesser hotel staff would fall into the trappings of apathy and a rushed sense of hospitality.

The high-ceiling lobby has obviously been shaped with its location in mind. To the left of reception is a set-up not unlike your typical airport convenience store, offering all a guest would need before a flight should they want to head straight to their gate with no stops.

Open and spacious but a tad dull, there’s plenty of seating in the lobby and it’s all infinitely more comfortable then hanging by airport check-in. Discovering the lounge area and its nearby spacious sports bar feels like an untapped secret for those stuck hanging out at the airport due to extended layovers. For those wondering, yes there’s also a screen for live flight departure info.

Up to a deluxe king room and the space may be surprising for guests. The property’s mid-range rooms are very spacious, and though rather plain in design it’s all lit up by a large window on the furtherest wall that almost functions as looking-glass, peering through to the runway which is only a couple of hundred metres away. Herein lies a big point of difference for Rydges and the staff certainly use it to their advantage, offering a package which includes a set of binoculars – lacking power but fit for the job – and a handy guide for any budding aviation expert who would rather track mechanical birds than real ones.

Me? I’d never given much thought to watching these vessels take-off and land but having a perfect panorama of a fully functioning airport runway with binoculars on hand quickly made me realise how fascinating it can be watching it all come to life. Said handy guide maps out the best vantage points from where you can watch planes – and maybe even spot rare vessels – but most of them would be best accessed by car.

Like the lobby, the design of the hotel room itself isn’t anything special; whites, greys, browns, it’s all fairly neutral and plays it safe knowing full well that you won’t mind because the size really does make up for any aesthetic shortcomings. The king sized bed too, signature to the Rydges brand, is very comfortable and though not as fluffy and soft as somewhere higher up the scale, makes for a good night’s sleep.

A moderately sized flat-screen is wall-mounted directly opposite the bed, there’s a working desk right by the window with all the standard connectivity; a chair and foot-rest sit in a corner, and preceding the open-plan bathroom is a large mirror with the standard mini-bar and bar fridge in front. The mini bar slightly borrows from the playfulness of sister brands QT Hotels & Resorts and Art Series Hotels by including some cheeky little family games like pick-up-sticks.

Another important aspect of an “Airport Hotel” would be how well insulated it is. I didn’t hear a sound; even with planes coming and going and constant activity on the runway. Yes, planes stop at around 11pm each night, but even edging into evening I could have tucked in and not heard a thing from outside; the biggest risk of noise would be out in the hallway, particularly coming from guests who must have early flights.

A well equipped 24 hour gym for all guests. Image supplied.

A 24 hour gym is a must for any Airport Hotel and fortunately Rydges don’t just include their fitness centre as an afterthought. It’s well-planned and stocked full of free weights and machines.

Chicken Liver Pate at Blackwattle Grill.

Perhaps the most valuable amenity for Rydges Sydney Airport is its restaurant. The Blackwattle Grill is a welcome pop of colourful design that features leather banquettes and tables by large windows. The dinner service is fantastic, though I could do without being asked if everything’s to my satisfaction every few minutes. Perhaps I didn’t look like I was enjoying my chicken liver paté (which is served with thick and fluffy brioche as well as red onion jam and an apple & hazelnut salad) and main of gnocchi with an enormous salad mixed through, but I truly was, especially the menu’s modest but discerning list of red wines.

Strawberry Cheesecake at Blackwattle Grill

While dinner is above and beyond the “Airport Hotel” category – who needs overpriced airport restaurants when there’s a perfectly fine one outside – breakfast is a bit closer to the standard continental buffet offering. It’s generous, well spread and even has a nice selection of cheese and charcuterie, but it won’t be changing your mind on hotel breakfasts anytime soon.

Both a hotel of necessity and great comfort, Rydges Sydney Airport successfully flip any low expectations, going beyond their purpose to provide guests with an experience that, although not exactly memorable – unless you’re an avid plane-watcher – is fantastic value for those looking to ease the pain of a cancellation or long layover without having to trek back and forth from the city.

Rates at Rydges Sydney Airport start from around $234 per night.

Rydges Sydney Airport

Address: 8 Arrival Court, Sydney International Airport NSW 2020
Contact: +61 2 9313 2500
Website: www.rydges.com

The writer stayed in a Deluxe Airport View King Room as a guest of Rydges Sydney Airport.