Cathay Pacific (CX) is one of my favorite airlines in the world, if not the favorite. Growing up speaking Cantonese and transiting through Hong Kong to Guangzhou, China frequently as a kid, theres a certain nostalgic, emotional connection I have to Cathay Pacific. The fact that it consistently ranks among the best airlines in the world helps too.
Since it opened in 1998, the “new” Hong Kong International Airport has also been regarded as one of the best airports in the world, offering passengers a swift experience from curb to gate. The towering ceilings and glass curtain walls create an airy environment that is also warm (possibly owed to the soothing color palate used in furnishings and signage).
Needless to say, the power combo of best airport and best airline makes for an amazing home-port experience (HKG is Cathay Pacific’s hometown and hub). I had the pleasure of experiencing the Cathay Pacific Business Class ground experience earlier this year, and it sure did not disappoint.
So lets take a look at whats on offer to First Class passengers flying Cathay Pacific.
The Pier is one of two dedicated Cathay Pacific First Class lounges at Hong Kong International Airport, the other being The Wing – which also has a separate business class lounge by the same name. The Pier is less than half a year old, having opened over summer 2015, and features Cathay Pacific’s new design philosophy. In a company wide rebranding effort, CX is aiming for a simpler yet more sophisticated look. With regards to the lounges specifically, this means that passengers will see a design that resembles that of an upscale residence or hotel. This new design philosophy beautifully branches off the company’s slogan and recent marketing campaign Life Well Travelled with a focus on exploration, wellness, and relaxation. Have a look at just one of the ads from this new campaign.
Getting back on track, The Pier is located at the far end of the Terminal 1 concourse by gate 63. It is a relatively quick walk after passing through immigration with the help of moving walkways, or an automatic people mover (tram) is available as well. Because it’s located off centered in one of the “wings” of the concourse, the lounge itself is below the concourse level – accessed by escalators.
At the lower landing, an agent came out from behind a single standing-podium to greet me. Forfeiting my lounge invitation, I was welcomed into the lounge.
Simply stated, the lounge is stunning to all senses. The lighting was perfect, the furnishings dark but welcoming, and the smell – CX’s signature scent of lavender, green tea, and jasmine – was present but not overcoming.
Walking towards the main corridor, the “front desk” with two agents (at the time) is located to the right in the hallway between the main entrance and the main corridor.
Stepping into the main corridor running left to right, the space is much better lit than the entrance area, but is still soothing to the eyes. To the left is “The Living room” and “The Pantry”, or the main living space with the iconic horseshoe shaped bar and separate room featuring light bites and drinks. Directly ahead is “The Library”, a secondary seating area and extension of “The Living Room” with large chairs, leather high-back chairs, and reclaimed-wood coffee tables, among other beautiful furnishings.
To the right is “The Bureau”, the spa area (Not sure if there was a branded name for it as it had multiple functions), “The Dining Room”, and the general toilets. On other words, a work area with individual cubicles (some with iMacs), the spa area which consists of massage rooms, showers, and “The Day Suites”, the full service dining area with a bar of its own, and the regular restrooms.
First order of business was to grab some breakfast, so I headed to The Dining Room.
Just like a full service restaurant, there was a maître d’ who greeted me at the entrance, and a server who escorted me to a table. The tables were nicely preset with placemat, napkin, and utensils.
The menu, featured both Chinese and western breakfast items, as well as the drinks on offer – the insignia at the bottom suggested that it was designed and catered by The Peninsula Group (which has had a long lasting relationship with Cathay Pacific).
My selection today was The Eastern Set with dim sum, congee, and noodles and a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice. The orange juice arrived within a few minutes, and the breakfast set arrived soon after.
The dim sum selection included one of each steamed item, har gao (shrimp dumpling), shu mai (ground pork and shrimp dumpling), and a bbq pork bun – which were as good as any dim sum you would find in town. On the other hand, the noodles were very very greasy. I have quite a high tolerance for grease, but these noodled were drenched. So I moved onto the congee, which was quite bland. Other than the fried dough stick, there were no condiments provided (peanuts, dried shredded pork, pickled vegetables). While it may not make sense for CX to provide everyone with a full set of condiments for a small cup (bowl-ish) of congee, the server could ask guests if they would like any condiments to go with the meal.
After finishing everything but the greasy noodles, I headed out to have a shower as I pretty much rolled out of bed and hopped on the bus to the airport that morning. Spa attendants were waiting at the spa reception, and escorted me to an available shower suite. The row of over a dozen showers is sandwiched between the main corridor and the row of day suites.
With (I counted) 14 showers and a relatively quiet lounge, there was no wait. The shower suites were nicely sized but not overly spacious, and were every bit as elegant as other parts of the lounge. There is a luggage rack, chair, toilet, large vanity counter and sink, and of course the shower.
The shower suites were very nicely stocked with high-end Aesop amenities which included bottles of potions that I have never seen offered in showers at airline lounges or hotels alike. There was:
- Hand soap & hand balm (lotion)
- Cotton swabs & cotton pads
- Shower cap
- Dental set
- Facial cleaner, facial toner, and facial lotion
- and, shampoo, conditioner, and body wash
By the way, these Aesop amenities retail for $50USD a bottle!
Another thing I love about the shower facilities is the thoughtful design. Of course for the ladies, we have a large uncluttered vanity with loads of counter space. But also, a double sided make-up mirror and hair dryer. But perhaps my favorite item in the suite was the chair. It not only looked Asian, with its minimal design and dark wood composition, but the backrest was actually a shirt hanger! How thoughtful is that!?!
After a long rejuvenating shower (I love rainforest showers), I raided the amenities (leaving the bottles as they would have been confiscated in the jetbridge while boarding a US bound flight), and found myself a daysuite in the adjacent hallway.
The daysuites are simple, but should be effective enough for any weary transiter.
It pretty much consists of an “L” shaped daybed with built in luggage rack, a coat hangar, mirror, hanging light, reading lamp, power station, motorized window blinds, and most importantly a thick curtain for privacy from the lounge – leaving you to peace and quiet, and some amazing views of the HKG ramp.
While its a small detail, I do love the small wooden tray on the bed which allows you to store all the loose things in your pockets (cell phone, wallet, passport, boarding pass) in a central place. Just another one of those small, but thoughtful things to enhance the travel experience. Do note that CX suggests a maximum stay of 90 minutes – so a solid nap to keep you going rather than a hotel room for the day.
Heading back into the main lounge area, I stopped by the spa reception to inquire about the complimentary 10-minute shoulder and foot massages, but was told that the earliest appointment slot would be in two hours! So my recommendation – until CX hires more massage therapists, is to put your name down as soon as you arrive at The Pier.
Adjacent to the spa towards The Dining Room is The Bureau – an area with cubicles for those that need to catch up on some work. Not much to say, but if I had some work to do I think I’d actually be pretty productive there.
I stopped by The Pantry to grab a snack, some muesli and a cappuccino, before posting up at The Library. There was a large dining table with a visually pleasing breakfast spread of pastries and fruits in beautiful cast-iron pots and wooden bowls, as well as a drink station and fully stocked fridge. Some describe it as a “country style” kitchen spread. I would be interested to see what is on offer hear after breakfast hours.
There is also a really cool modern self-serve coffee/espresso machine with an elevating cup-holder-launch-pad-thing to prevent any unnecessary splatter. Other cool features are the robo-beer dispensers typically found in Japanese airport lounges, as well as a built in hot water station for tea.
The Library was fairly empty with only 3 other passengers occupying the space, so I plopped down on a high-backed madmen style chair to enjoy my spoils from The Pantry.
The Living Room was also quite empty at the time. And the centerpiece bar, as beautiful as it is, remained unoccupied for the entirety of my stay – given it was still only 10 o’clock on a Sunday morning.
At that point, a gate had finally been assigned for my flight to Chicago, and it was located at Gate 19, all the way back at the other end of the concourse. Which meant The Wing was on the way over.
Since Chek Lap Kok’s opening, The Wing has been the flagship lounge for Cathay Pacific. It was renovated not too long ago and provides guests with some interesting amenities and airport panoramas. The lounge is located immediately to the left after completing Hong Kong exit immigration.
The entranceway to The Wing is essentially a long balcony overlooking the concourse level and gates below. A service counter running perpendicular to the entranceway marks the start of the lounge area. There, several agents greeted me and checked by credentials before welcoming me in.
The first space after entering the lounge is The Champagne Room featuring two seating areas with velvet colored tufted leather chairs and of course a champagne bar with Veuve Clicquot, Moet Rose, and Peninsula Brut. I thought it was funny being the first space a guest sees after entering – it remained unoccupied, but fully stocked during my stay.
Moving further into the lounge I passed a magazine wall and two of Cathay’s signature “Solus chairs” which are designed to be individual working spaces – these seemed oddly out of place.
The main living area featured more leather couches and black marble. There were some people lounging around and it seemed spacious enough; I certainly would not want to be here when it is fully occupied. The seating layout is not the best suited to accommodate a large number of guests (probably businessmen) that do not know each other. At most, there would probably be two people on a couch (who wants the middle seat?).
Continuing deeper into the long lounge, the showers and cabanas are located to the left through a doorway. While I did not need to use a cabana or shower, I had a quick look.
It is a large space, with a separate water closet, sink and counter, separate vanity, a daybed, and both a shower and soaking tub. Interestingly, the amenities provided at The Wing are not from Aesop (as they were at The Pier), but rather from Jurlique. They were the same types of amenities, but just a completely different brand. Perhaps CX was trying to relinquish the remaining inventory, and doing so at an older lounge.
There is quite a lot of space for an individual at the cabanas, and may be attractive to someone who has a long transit (not sure if there is a time limit), or a mother traveling with several children. For most travelers, I can see where separating the showers and the daybeds (a la The Pier) makes a lot more sense from a real estate utilization standpoint, and just pure practicality.
Back into the lounge area, and moving down the main corridor, the end of it splits to the left and right. To the left, is the main dining area called The Haven. It is features both a buffet and a la carte dining.
Aside from one of the cabanas, this is probably the most calming part of the lounge, tucked away from the noise of the terminal.
If you made at right at the end of that corridor, the deepest part of The Wing’s First Class lounge is The Atrium. The space resembles an Milanese coffee bar, and shares many of the characteristics found at The Coffee Loft in the Business Class side of The Wing. The space is probably meant to be utilized as an informal workspace.
Speaking of, Business Class, the back of The Atrium actually leads into the business class side of The Wing, and is only separated by a queue divider and lounge agents enforcing the divide. The signage below refers to all the facilities in the Business Class lounge.
A long with a nice selection of pastries in The Atrium, there is also a barista that will make your perfect caffeinated beverage from coffee to espresso to a range of Chinese teas.
Just off The Atrium is a small “business area” with two iMacs, phones, printers, and a large desk.
I am a big fan of Cathay Pacific, and always have been. The airline continues to make improvements to its brand and facilities, evolving with the demands of today’s traveler.
The Pier is a stunning space, and anyone who is a sucker for great design should definitely make an effort to pay a visit. It took me a while to realize that the design at The Pier reminded me of the timeless retro design found at The Park Hyatt Tokyo and the warm modern residential design found at The Andaz Tokyo. I could easily have spent several more hours relaxing at The Pier.
As for The Wing, its quite easy to see the contrast from The Pier. While it is still a beautiful space, the environment is a little more cold with the dark marble and leather seating. As Toby Smith, Cathay’s General Manager of Product, puts it “(they are) better able to control the environment (at The Bridge and The Pier)”, but The Wing is exposed to the greater airport with an open ceiling. Even the music selection was a little odd with R&B playing.
Thinking about it now, The Bridge (business class lounge) is more than just a name, but actually a bridge of design between the old and the new Cathay. There are features of both The Wing and The Pier present in that design.
Overall, the Cathay Pacific First Class lounges are top notch, and I am excited to see where it goes in the coming years with the new brand philosophy and unannounced but surely imminent renovations to the rest of the lounges.