Cathay Pacific Lounge, Hong Kong
I've slept at airports, freshened up with baby wipes and on one unfortunate occasion, flown in day-old clothing without a toothbrush. Flying is not glamorous (at least, not the kind I do) and no amount of hot towels from stewards, mid-flight underwear changes or hand sanitiser is going to avoid that grimy post-flight feeling. That sensation is only compounded if you've got a connecting flight.
Airport lounges are the perfect antidote to the polluted plane feeling. Hot showers, free-flowing alcohol and food choices beyond "chicken or vegetarian pasta?" - it's heavenly. My boyfriend and I flew from Perth, Australia to London last month with a total flying time of 22 hours. We had a four hour layover in Hong Kong and were keen to access Cathay Pacific's lounges. What a treat it turned out to be!
If you're flying First or Business class with Cathay, you're in! Cathay's Marco Polo Club members with Silver, Gold or Diamond status can also access lounges. OneWorld Emerald and Sapphire members are also eligible and can bring a guest. The OneWorld alliance includes Qantas, British Airways, American Airlines and Malaysia Airlines - so if you have regular lounge access with one of these airlines, you should be fine. We had access through my boyfriend's Qantas Gold membership. View full admittance details on Cathay Pacific's website here.
'The Pier' lounge
Hong Kong International Airport is huge and there are multiple Cathay lounges among its 80+ gates. A friend recommended The Pier lounge, near Gate 65. We discovered it was the newest of Cathay's lounges, with renovations completed in 2016. It was by far the biggest too.
There are multiple areas to base yourself, all connected by a single walkway. I'll start with the most important thing:
This is self explanatory, but my personal highlight of any lounge. The staff were opening a bottle of champagne as I approached which I took as a good sign. I had three glasses of Moët, while my boyfriend enjoyed a few Jameson Whiskeys and the new Betsy Beer, brewed especially to be consumed at 35,000 feet. Granted, he was drinking it at ground level. But it tasted good!
Cathay's shower suites put my own bathroom to shame. The basin had a full line-up of Aesop products including cleanser, toner, facial moisturiser, hand wash and lotion along with shampoo, conditioner and body wash in the shower. There was a hairdryer, cotton buds and a shower cap, but the real treat was soft, soothing music. The rainfall showerhead was sensational and I made a note for future home renovations.
After a shower and champagne, the Noodle Bar was my next stop. It's a large space with diner-style seating, offering three noodle dishes and three dim sum, each with a vegetarian option. I ordered vegetarian rice noodles and vegetarian dumplings, and added some Szechuan peppercorn oil I'd spotted among the condiments. Wow! It made my lips tingle! Also on offer was self-service congee, fried rice and stir-fried vegetables.
This area serves Western foods including a variety of breads, paninis, salads and cold cuts. We were there at 9am so there were also hot breakfast items like baked beans and hash browns. I was full from my noodles and dumplings so didn't sample anything, but it all looked good.
Fancy an exquisite tea brewed to a precise recipe? The Tea House is your place. Order from the extensive and descriptive menu and collect when your buzzer goes off. I had Pu-erh (fermented Chinese tea) served in a heavy, dark teapot. There were also invigorating juices, pastries, Earl Grey cookies and red bean paste dumplings. This venue could've stood alone in a capital city and done a roaring trade.
This area is at the very end of the lounge. It's essentially a place to sleep, with long chaise lounges and dimmed lighting. It was very quiet and I wasn't sleepy, so I tiptoed out back to the bar.
By 10am, I was showered, champagned and full of carbohydrates. There was nothing to do but sit, relax and wait for my connecting flight. There's an area adjacent to the bar where you can snuggle into large leather lounges and look out directly onto the runway. There are USB ports built into the side tables so you can stay connected too. I wrote most of this blog post sitting in this area, stopping occasionally to watch a plane take off.
On the return leg, we went to The Wing lounge (near Gate 3) as we had less time and it was closest to our gate. It was much smaller by comparison but still offered runway views, spring rolls and champagne.
In both lounges, the spaces were clean and staff were polite and helpful. The Pier especially seemed immaculate, perhaps due to the renovations. I felt as fresh as could be expected in transit. Next time I'm travelling through Hong Kong, I'll be sure to stop visit The Pier again. Whether you want whiskey, wellness or wi-fi, it's set a new standard for meeting travellers' needs.
QUESTION: What's the best airport lounge you've experienced?