One of the chores associated with flying overseas is the hours spent waiting in airports, and one of the benefits of flying in Business/First Class, or being on a higher frequent flyer status tier, is access to airline lounges where you can relax, have something to eat or drink and/or get some work done before your flight.
Travelling to Hong Kong recently as part of a travel famil hosted by Cathay Pacific, the Hong Kong Tourism Board and the Macau Government Tourist Office, I was keen to check out the Cathay Pacific lounges in both Melbourne and Hong Kong. Unfortunately the lounge in Melbourne was closed for cleaning on the day I flew out to Hong Kong so I wasn’t able to have a look at it, but to my (positive) surprise I was given a A$15 voucher to spend on food and drink in the terminal while I waited for the Qantas lounge to open for the day – an example of Cathay Pacific’s focus on customer satisfaction.
On the return leg I arrived at Hong Kong International Airport (“HKIA”) about five hours before the flight was scheduled to depart so there was plenty of time to explore HKIA. Cathay Pacific has 5 lounges located throughout the terminal so that no matter which gate your flight is leaving from there will be a lounge nearby:
- The Wing – located closest to the immigration checkpoint and Gates 1-4;
- The G16 Lounge – located on the north-east concourse, near Gate 16;
- The Cabin – located on the main concourse near Gate 23;
- The Bridge – located at the fork at the end of the main concourse near Gate 35; and
- The Pier First Class Lounge – Cathay’s most recently renovated lounge located on the northwest concourse near Gate 63.
On this occasion I visited both the Wing and the Pier, taking advantage of my oneworld Emerald status that is (unfortunately) likely to expire in a couple of months. The Wing is Cathay’s flagship lounge at HKIA and has both a First Class and a Business Class section.
The entrance to the First Class area is, as expected, impressive with a semi-opaque glass wall giving an almost-waterfall like impression and immediately behind it a champagne bar where one can grab a glass of bubbles before settling in. If I’m being honest, the 2 sections of the Wing are largely the same with the main benefits of the First Class section being fewer passengers and a dedicated restaurant, the Haven, which provides ala carte dining options.
In addition to the usual couches that provide space to relax and talk to fellow travellers, located throughout the lounge are Cathay’s signature Solus chairs which are designed with the lone traveller in mind, providing privacy via a semi-enclosed space and a small desk and power point to facilitate productive pursuits (or to allow you to watch a movie or two).
The fittings in the main area of the lounge are a mix of white marble bars and reflective black walls and floor tiles. This stark contrast creates a very industrial, ‘airport’ feel which makes sense given that the Wing is effectively an open-air lounge that looks over the departure gates (this differs from the other lounges which are located under the concourse).
As mentioned earlier, the Business Class section has a very similar feel and features to the First Class section and is dominated by the appropriately named ‘Long Bar’ – apparently the longest airport lounge bar in the world – which has a 23 metre long marble top where passengers can sit and enjoy a drink and light snacks while looking out over the departure gates and the runways.
One of the real highlights of the Wing is the Noodle Bar where one can get a range of noodle bowls made to order, including the signature Dan Dan noodles with peanut sauce and wonton soup noodles, as well as sample an array of dim sum (usually including classics such as siu mai and steamed pork buns) that are available buffet-style. Keep an eye out for our upcoming Hong Kong Food Guide to read all about Hong Kong’s food scene and for some great tips on where and what to eat.
Also featured in the Wing First Class lounge are the five cabana suites which provide a private haven for you to relax in while waiting for your flight. Each suite contains a day bed, a full sized bath and an open shower, together with a desk and also ample luggage space. The cabanas are available on a first come, first served basis so if you are keen to try them out I would recommend getting to the airport early – I once spent a five hour layover that followed a flight that landed in Hong Kong at 5am and can confirm that they are worth checking out!. Should they all be taken then there are also 12 shower suites where you can freshen up.
Cathay Pacific’s other dedicated First Class lounge, the Pier, has been under renovation for some time and only just reopened in July 2015 so having missed out during my previous visit I was very keen to check it out this time around. Located under the concourse and designed in conjunction with London-based outfit StudioIsle (which marked a change from Foster + Partners who had been the architects of The Wing), The Pier has a very different look and feel to the other Cathay Pacific lounges at HKIA and really focusses on engaging the senses and passenger wellbeing.
Upon walking into the lounge it feels more like you are walking into someone’s (very decadent) house rather than into an airport lounge – replacing the somewhat clinical marble and black fittings of The Wing are a well thought out mix of wood, carpet and plant-life that create a much warmer and more inviting atmosphere that make you forget that you are actually underneath the main airport concourse. The spacious main lounge area continues this theme, feeling much more like a lounge room that you would like to have in your own home rather than an airport through the use of fabric and wood combined with warm lighting. Cathay Pacific have really created a space that is suitable both for travellers needing to be productive as well as those wanting to kick back and relax before departure – the space was so immersive that I barely noticed that my flight had been delayed by 40 minutes.
Adjacent to the main lounge is a U-shaped bar which is a key feature of The Pier, serving a wide range of wines and spirits from across the globe as well as a specialty cocktail list which has been designed by Cathay Pacific and each of which has a Hong Kong influence/theme. We tried The Pearl of the City which was a blend of gin, whisky, yuzu and tonic water and was both delicious and refreshing.
The other key feature of The Pier is the ala carte dining room that focusses on simpler, accessible food rather than trying to replicate a fine dining experience – I think that this makes a lot of sense because I can’t think of many occasions where I would want to eat a large three course meal before boarding a long flight. The dining room is one of the largest within the Cathay Pacific lounges with capacity for 100 passengers and with a menu that covers a wide range of tastes, including western dishes like a bacon-wrapped chicken breast and this very tasty burger…
… to Asian flavours such as barbecue pork with cai lan on rice and Cathay’s signature Dan Dan Mian.
If you’re flying at this level, then spending time in the airline’s airport lounge is a given and, after seeing what Cathay Pacific has to offer, I must say that I was really impressed. To read about our thoughts on the Cathay Pacific check-in and in-flight experience, check out our write up here.
Cathay Pacific Australia operates over 70 non-stop flights a week from Australia to Hong Kong, including four daily flights from Sydney, three flights a day from Melbourne, daily flights from Brisbane, 10 flights a week from Perth and four flights a week in both Cairns and Adelaide. The airline offers Business, Premium Economy and Economy on all flights aboard Airbus A330s and Boeing 333s (the latter from in Sydney only). Visit the Cathay Pacific website for current details of fares to Hong Kong.