JAPAN AIRLINES FIRST CLASS SAKURA LOUNGE TOKYO (HANEDA): REVIEW

Alliance: Oneworld

Location: Haneda (Tokyo) International Airport, Terminal 1

Lounge Rating: 4.5 Stars

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For as far as I can remember I’ve always been fascinated and had respect for Japan Airlines (JAL) as an airline. The airline is synonymous with outstanding customer service, strong product offerings and overall elegance. This extends to their lounges which are well presented and immaculate. I was keen to visit the First Class Lounge in Haneda after friends reported on how wonderful their experience was, including a must visit to the Red Suite. Fortunately I had the opportunity to visit the lounge twice on a recent trip. So how did the lounge stack up in terms of First Class lounges like The Pier in HK or the Concorde Lounge in the UK? I checked into the lounge to find out…

Lounge access options

  • Those travelling in JAL First Class
  • JAL Mileage Bank Diamond, Gold and Silver members
  • Oneworld Emerald members travelling on any Oneworld flight in any cabin of service

Lounge location and opening hours

The JAL First Class Lounge is located after security in the International Terminal on level 4. Located across from gate 112, the lounge can be accessed via an elevator or set of escalators leading up from the gate level. Opening hours for the lounge is from 6am – 2am, with only a closure period of four hours in the wee hours of the early morning.

Ambience

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Upon entering the lounge for the first time you’re greeted by a stunning hallway with gleaming marble floors, Japanese style partitions and artwork. Off the hallway are shower facilities to the left and a phone room and baggage storage to the right. Beyond the hallway are two main seating areas on either side of the dining space, a small business centre, The Red Suite, showers, bathroom, massage area and smoking room. The amount of seating as well as power outlets are generous. The furnishing style is light and elegant, and more importantly very comfortable.

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Speaking of the Red Suite, this by far was the room that most impressed. In a word stunning. I’ve not come across such a gorgeous room (not even in The Pier in HK) in a lounge before. Located at the back of the lounge, this adults only space offers a more relaxed space for those seeking quiet.

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The suite, beautifully decorated in mahogany colours and featuring Japan Airlines memorabilia, is broken up into four spaces. A library, play room, seating room and the all important champagne/sake bar (which comprises of a Laurent-Perrier stocked fridge and top notch sake). There’s also a shoe polishing service for those business flyers looking to spruce up before their next meeting. This was my favourite space in the lounge and found myself often returning to fill up on another sake or Laurent Perrier.

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I didn’t have the opportunity to visit the shower rooms but the restrooms were well appointed with lovely amenities as well as the iconic Japanese Super Toilet or Washlet (Woshuretto) as it’s known, which has all the dazzling and somewhat confusing array of features.

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Bread and butter (food and drink)

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The food selection is mainly self-serve, with a chef available during peak times (breakfast and dinner) to create made to order dishes. The selection is extensive but in comparison to other first lounges I have visited it was a tad underwhelming. Some individual items like the sushi selection was delicious and highly recommended but the salads and bread options looked lacklustre and not well presented. The chef was the highlight of the area and at the time of my visit they were serving the original JAL burger which was quite tasty and went down a treat!

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There are also two self serve drink stations which include liquor, soft drinks, juice, and a beer machine. The selection on offer is decent but nowhere near as impressive as The Red Suite offering.

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Verdict

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The JAL First Class Lounge is definitely up there for me in terms of my all time favourites,  mainly due to the x factor of the Red Suite.  I fell in love with its beautiful interior, tranquil ambience and lovely nod to JALs aviation past. As an aviation geek walking around inspecting the memorabilia with Laurent-Perrier glass in hand has easily become one of my favourite airport lounge experiences.

Whilst the lounge isn’t The Pier in Hong Kong (a difficult task to follow), this lounge has easily become one of my favourites alongside the Qantas, Qatar and British Airways First lounges. I will definitely (and hopefully) be back to enjoy this stunning lounge again sometime in the near future.

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Comments

Have you experienced the JAL First Class Sakura Lounge at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport? Love to hear from you about your time in lounge – did it shine or were you expecting something better?

 

CATHAY PACIFIC BUSINESS LOUNGE MANILA: REVIEW

Alliance: Oneworld

Location: Manila  International Airport, Terminal 3

Lounge Rating: 4 Stars

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Based on my experience with Cathay I’ve found their lounges in general to be impressive, bar the one in Beijing which is in urgent need of attention. The lounges are bold, classy and well presented with the same service and attention to detail, providing visitors with a consistent experience. The lounges in Manila are generally disappointing, which is no surprise considering how bad the airport. However there’s a shining beacon that seems to get consistent praise online; the Cathay Business Lounge. Curious to see if the online hype was spot on, TAT decided to check in the CX Manila lounge to find out.

Lounge access options

  • Those travelling in Cathay business or first class
  • Marco Polo Club Diamond, Gold and Silver members
  • Oneworld Sapphire and Emerald members travelling on any Oneworld flight in any cabin of service

Lounge location and opening hours

The lounge is located at Terminal 3, on level 4 above Gate 114. Once you’ve cleared security and immigration, you will see signage to the lounges in front of you. There’s a lift that’ll take you up to the lounge just by Gate 114.

Ambience

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Upon entering the lounge you’re instantly hit with that signature Cathay lounge style; from the luxurious wooden walled interiors to the lovely greenery break out spaces that create a sense of both tranquillity and privacy. The space is a far cry from the manic surrounds of Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

The lounge is divided into different zones for working, dining and relaxing, yet at the same time is open enough that you never feel enclosed.

For those keen to work away there’s an abundance of power and USB outlets throughout the lounge. If you don’t have your laptop on hand there’s also a small business area with three desktop computers for those wanting to punch out some work before they board.

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On the flip side the bathrooms were a tad disappointing due to a lack of showers (odd considering how hot Manila Airport is generally) and poor amenities compared to their usual Aesop range in other lounges.

Bread and butter (food and drink)

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Whilst it may not be on par with The Pier (my favourite Cathay lounge), it still serves a decent meal thanks to its signature Noodle Bar. The bar serves a variety of fresh made to order Hong Kong inspired street fare dishes. My visit offered an enticing wonton noodle soup and beef rice dish (both of which I ordered). When ordering you’ll be issued a buzzer which illuminates when your order is ready for collection.  The food served was delicious and well presented. There’s also a small self service snack area nearby the noodle bar which has a coffee machine and some light bites.

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I followed my meal up with a visit to the bar and ordered a negroni which was well mixed (bar staff here know their drinks quite well here). Also on offer was a wide range of cocktails and wines. Sadly champagne wasn’t on the menu (usually Cathay stocks a decent Moët & Chandon in their HK lounges) but instead an Australian sparkling which I decided to pass on. If something alcoholic doesn’t tickle your fancy you can also order a decent barista made coffee. Unfortunately if you are lactose intolerant or don’t want milk with your coffee, then you will be hard up for options.

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Verdict

The Cathay Business Lounge in Manila is a solid offering and by far one of the best satellite ones I have visited in Asia outside of Hong Kong. The space is sparse and peaceful and the food and drinks offering is solid. It would’ve been nice to have had a champagne option rather than the cheaper Australian sparkling and some showers for those wishing to feel fresh after coming in from the sticky heat of Manila. That said, overall it’s a good lounge to whittle away the time until one boards.

Comments

Have you experienced the Cathay Pacific Business Lounge in Manila? Love to hear from you about your time in lounge – did it shine or were you expecting something better?

 

Qantas eyes off Haneda flight expansion

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It’s been reported that Qantas is considering adding new flights to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport after released two new airport slot pairs to Australian airlines.

The recent expansion of Haneda Airport has created four new daytime slots for flights to and from Australia. Two of these slot pairs have already been allocated to ANA and Japan Airlines, with two remaining and available for Australian airline use.

Bids for the landing and takeoff slots at Haneda Airport slot will close 31 October 2019 and become available for use from 29 March 2020. It’s expected Qantas will take up the slots as Jetstar’s Tokyo hub is based out of Narita and Virgin is currently in a state of reassessing its entire network.

Qantas currently flies the Boeing 747 daily from Sydney to Haneda Airport. If the airline were to take up these slots it would empower their business and leisure travellers with greater options in terms of landing and departures

Additional Haneda Airport slots would be a win for any Australian airline as its closer proximity and transport options to Tokyo makes it the preferred choice for business travellers.

Time will tell if Qantas takes flight with the new Tokyo Haneda options. Considering Haneda slots are as rare as hens teeth Qantas would be foolish to pass this unique opportunity up.

Qantas to fly B787 daily on Sydney-Santiago route

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It’s always sad to hear when another B747 route bites the dust, replaced by something newer, shinier and in this current aviation space smaller. This was the case when Qantas announced this week it would be replacing its 4 x weekly B747 Sydney-Santiago flights from late June 2020 to a daily Boeing 787-9 flight.

Business class passengers are the big winners here with the B787 fitted with Qantas’ newest business class seat, which transforms into a fully-flat bed and offers direct aisle access. This removed the awkward hop over of the B747s 2-3-2 business cabin, which features the classic Skybed.

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The announcement comes as part of a wider initiative by Qantas to retire its older B747 by the end of 2020. Obviously a newer, fresher plane is always welcomed and flying long distance in a B787 does have its health and sleep benefits but there’s no denying that B747 is where the fun in flying is. If you are keen to fly the Queen before her retirement to Santiago, I would hop onto it now before mid 2020.

Are you excited or disappointed by the Qantas announcement? Will you be booking a B747 flight to Santiago before its retired mid 2020? Keen to hear your thoughts. 

 

American Airlines Flagship Lounge JFK – NYC: Review

Alliance: Oneworld

Location: John F. Kennedy International Airport, Terminal 8

Lounge Rating: 4.5 Stars

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I have this love/ hate relationship with AA. Sometimes their lounges, service and aircraft are on point and other times it’s frankly dismal. Some of AA’s lounges are tired and the food/ drink quality is sometimes better in the food court within the terminal. American has been in turn going through a revamp of late and are slowly changing the look and feel of their lounges, particularly around their Flagship lounges.

Last year American opened their new Flagship lounge at JFK and the feedback from those who have frequented it have been quite positive. Naturally being at JFK I was keen to see what all the fuss was about and if the fuss was justified (all whilst enjoy a champagne or two).

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Lounge access options

  • Traveling in AA intercontinental business or first class
  • Traveling to Los Angeles LAX or San Francisco SFO in first class
  • AA Concierge Key
  • oneworld Saphire and Emerald members traveling on any oneworld flight in any cabin of service
  • oneworld passengers traveling in business class on an intercontinental flight

Lounge location and opening hours

After clearing security, proceed to the Admirals Club signage until you reach the main entrance. You’ll find the Flagship Lounge off to the left, under the flags as you walk down the ramp from TSA screening. There is a lift and staircase that lead up to the Flagship Lounge. The lounge is open daily from 04:15 – 01:00.

Ambience

The feeling the moment you walk into the lounge is a warm and welcome. The use of colour tones and smart, yet simply furnishings add a lovely touch to what AA lounges usually don’t offer…inviting. Initial impressions is that it’s on par on an international level (yes finally AA!). It features a solid buffet, real champagne (hello lover!) and a make your own cocktail bar. Throughout my time spent in the lounge there never a moment that it felt crowded, instead it was rather peaceful, a rarity in such a bustling building like Terminal 8.

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At the back of the lounge was a quiet room/ space which is great for those who want to enjoy a drink/ bite to eat but without the noise of people traffic as they work away on their laptop. Next to that space was the bathrooms and shower suites which were nicely designed and well appointed with C.O. Bigelow toiletries; the same brand AA stocks uses in the business and first amenity kits.

Bread and butter (food and drink)

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As mentioned there’s a large buffet section which has some rather decent offerings including a number of  hot options for the lunch/ evening session during my visit including potatoes, pasta, salmon and even beef stir fry. There were also a number of cold options from meats and cheeses to salads. The food quality was tasty, fresh and much better than anything Admirals Lounge could produce.

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However the centerpiece of the Flagship lounge for me was the rather large communal table with a self-serve wine bar in the middle. Additionally there’s was an impressive selection of both red and white wines available. However I was disappointed they had one away with the Taittinger, instead choosing to serve Champagne Besserat de Bellefon. The drop itself was fine but nowhere near the standard or opulence of the Taittinger.

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Verdict

The AA Flagship lounge definitely sets a high standard for American based airport lounges but on the world scale compared to Emirates, Qatar, Cathay and Qantas to name a few, it falls slightly short. However the lounge is a great space to relax and enjoy some food or a drink in comfortable surrounds with a rather spectacular tarmac vista. The food and drink quality is way above the Admirals Club (not something difficult to achieve) and the design is fresh, clean and quite a showpiece for American. The airline should be proud! I’ll be back here for sure (note: I’ve visited once more since this review).

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Comments

Have you experienced the AA Flagship Lounge in NYC? Love to hear from you about your time in lounge – did it shine or were you expecting something better?

Farewell the Qantas B747 on domestic routes in Australia

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For 50 years the Queen of the Skies aka the B747 has been a staple of Qantas’ international operations. Admittedly I’ve had some fond memories flying her to the USA, the UK and even Germany (when QF used to run their Frankfurt leg). Sadly however as time goes on, so do improvements in technology and great dames like the B747 become in the aviation world (certainly not in the passengers hearts) redundant. Qantas recently has acquired several B787s which are more fuel efficient and as such means the B747 is being retired by the company in late 2020.

Now for the not so sad new folks – all I can say is forget the passport! To recognise how crucial the B747 has been to Qantas (and the aviation sector in general), the airline has announced it will operate the jumbo on select domestic services across four Australian cities. The domestic B747 services will run between November and February 2020.

Below for the list of 747 domestic routes:

  • SYD-BNE  QF524  9 Nov 2019
  • SYD-ADL  QF743  23 Nov 2019
  • SYD-MEL  QF417  31 Dec 2019, QF439 15 Feb 2020
  • BNE-SYD  QF529  11 Nov 2019
  • ADL-SYD  QF736  25 Nov 2019
  • MEL-SYD  QF438  1 Jan 2020, QF400 17 Feb 2020

As an aviation geek, whilst I’m saddened by the B747s retirement, I’m also heartened by the fact that Qantas is giving the general Australian community (and internationals should they be in town), the opportunity to fly the Queen for a reasonable price without having to fork out large sums for an international leg.

Will you be booking in a domestic service on the Qantas B747? Get in touch. I’m keen to hear your thoughts. 

Cathay Pacific Business Class Lounge – Bangkok: Review

Alliance: Oneworld

Location: Suvarnabhumi Airport Concourse G, Level 3

Lounge Rating: 4.5 Stars

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Cathay Pacific as a brand is doing all the right things in terms of the overall flying experience. What the airline provides is a unique and understated sense of luxury without being too OTT, which is sadly lacking in a lot of airlines today. During a transit in Bangkok I noticed Cathay had a lounge and for me it was a no brainer, especially when the majority of offerings are paid entry lounges which if you’re lucky will offer you maybe a basic house wine and/ or a shower to refresh in. Having enjoyed the Cathay lounges in Hong Kong and London I was hopeful that I’d have a similar lounge experience. So how does the BKK lounge stack up? Is it worthy of the Cathay name or has it put the airline to shame. TAT checked in to find out…

Lounge access options

  • Cathay Pacific or Cathay Dragon first and business class passengers, plus first and business class flyers of Oneworld partners British Airways, American Airlines, Qatar and Japan Airlines
  • Cathay Pacific Marco Polo Diamond, Gold and Silver frequent flyers travelling on a Qantas or Oneworld flight
  • Connecting passengers arriving on long-haul first class Oneworld flights
  • Other Oneworld Emerald frequent flyers
  • American Airlines Executive Platinum and ConciergeKey members
  • Single-use Qantas first class lounge pass holders
  • Air France first class passengers

Lounge location and opening hours

After clearing security, proceed to Concourse G and go to level 3, where you’ll find the lounge amongst a number of paid entry lounges The lounge is open daily from 04:00 – 18:20.

Ambience

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True to the signature Cathay style, the lounge oozes a sense of understated luxury. Whilst the space isn’t overly large like The Pier or The Wing in Hong Kong, one immediately feels at ease upon entering this space. After clearing concierge there’s a small kitchen/ buffet area in front of the entrance. Being a morning flight, the buffet was stocked with cereals, breads, cold meats and fresh fruits. Adjacent to the buffet space is a long bar to sit and have a social drink (if it was the right time of day for it – clearly not at this stage!).

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Despite being smaller lounge layout, the lounge at no point feels cramped on busy. The choice of furnishing especially around the main seating area are smart and well designed. Space isn’t wasted nor lost. It’s truly a testament to great lounge design. The abundance of light streaming through the large terminal windows adds to the sense of space.

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There are also well appointed and private bathrooms/ toilets stocked with my favourite Aesop amenities to keep passengers looking and feeling refreshed before their flight.

Bread and butter (food and drink)

It wouldn’t be a Cathay lounge without its renown Noodle Bar. Despite being a breakfast session the bar was offering delicious options from wonton noodle soup, fried egg rice to dim sum and fried egg with bacon (more a western influenced dish). The breakfast menu sounded so tantalising that I ordered one of everything and did not have any food regrets!

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If an Asian influenced breakfast doesn’t tickle your fancy there’s the small buffet area with a large number of western dishes. Adjacent to the buffet is a drinks station with juices and a coffee machine as well as a fridge stocked with soft drinks and water. Like the seating area, big things come in small packages and for Cathay it’s all about the quality and choice of dishes/ ingredients. The dishes on offer when I was there looked fresh and visually well presented. If I had an criticism, it’s the lack of a barista but then again a coffee machine is better than no coffee!

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Verdict

The Cathay lounge continues the Cathay understated luxury story. The visual look and feel of the lounge is warm and inviting and more importantly spacious. The Noodle Bar is always a delight in the Cathay lounge and did not disappoint. The buffet and drinks area whilst nothing outstanding, was simple and stylish.

Seating was ample but I could imagine would be a struggle in terms of finding a seat during peak periods. A solid offering by Cathay. It is truly one of the better lounges to frequent at Bangkok International Airport.

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Comments

Have you experienced the Cathay Pacific Business Lounge in Bangkok? Love to hear from you about your time in lounge – did it shine or were you expecting something better?