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?

 

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?

Qantas offers first plane bookable with points only

One of the biggest complaints for many frequent flyers is the inability to redeem their points/ miles for reward seats on airlines. The frustation of lack of availabilty means in turn frequent flyers are having points simply sit in their accounts. Qantas has been pushing the envelope of late when it comes to passenger experience. When they made an announcement on their next venture, it came at no surprise it’d be equally compelling.

The Australian airline has announced they’ll offer a series of dedicated frequent flyer redemption flights across their network with seats only available to those redeeming Qantas points. The innovatively titled Points Plane initiative will see the first plane to be bookable only on points depart 21 October 2019 from Melbourne to Tokyo Narita.

Using my personal favourite Qantas aircraft the A380, Qantas Frequent Flyer members will have the chance to book all 484 seats on this flight (14 first class, 64 business class, 35 premium economy, and 371 economy seats) at the ‘classic’ award level.

Redemption costs for the flight are:

  • Economy seat – 35000 Qantas points
  • Premium economy seat – 54000 Qantas points
  • Business class seat – 72000 Qantas points
  • First class seat – 108000 points

The seats are available on a first come first served basis. Those fortunate to be successful in booking a flight on the Points Plane can expect to be treated to a special inflight service that includes a cocktail and meal service, pajamas for all passengers (not just those in the front end or in the A380s case the top end) and inflight giveaways.

A return leg is also on offer for 26 October 26 2019 but those hoping for an A380 experience again will be disappointed to find the aircraft is an A330. Qantas believes those returning may stay beyond the initial date as part of their trip and so the aircraft does not require the same patronage.

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What do you think of the Qantas announcement? Would you be keen to book a trip on the Points Plane? I’m eager to hear your thoughts.

CATHAY PACIFIC THE PIER FIRST CLASS LOUNGE HONG KONG: REVIEW

Alliance: Oneworld

Location: Hong Kong International Airport, Terminal 1, Level 6, near Gate 63

Lounge Rating: 5 Stars (I would go beyond 5/5 if I could!)

 

 

You would’ve come across those top 10 First Class Lounge lists or best lounges in the world articles where some typical points hack would have written up online for you to salivate over. They become the desirable among the frequent flying elite and are in themselves a must go to destination.  For me one of those lounges is the Qantas Sydney First Class International Lounge. It’s exquisite and worth arriving early for.

For a while now I had heard great things about an equally (if not more) impressive lounge, The Pier First Class Lounge in Hong Kong Airport. So impressive is its offering that I was more looking forward to visiting the lounge versus revisiting Hong Kong again. So how did The Pier stack up? Was the lounge worthy of the hype. I simply had to check in and find out…

Lounge access options

  • Lounge access is available for passengers who are:
    • Cathay Pacific/ Dragonair first class passengers
    • First class flyers Oneworld airline travelling passengers including British Airways and Qatar
    • Marco Polo Club Diamond, Diamond Plus and Diamond Invitation frequent flyers
    • Other Oneworld Emerald frequent flyers such as Qantas Platinum prior to flights with Cathay Pacific Qantas, etc

Lounge location and opening hours

The Pier is located at Level 6, Terminal 1, near Gate 63 and is open from from 5.30am, closed at 00.30am daily.

Ambience

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One of the first things you notice when you step into The Pier is the sheer size yet privacy of the place. This isn’t your normal lounge fit out. It truly is a space to relax, enjoy a meal or be productive without the distraction of the overall airport. The separation of the different, beautiful colour scheme and greenery add to the sense of luxury. This feels more like a 5 star hotel than lounge; again a testament to the work that Cathay has put into making the lounge the experience that it is today.

For those wishing to be productive, there’s a great office space called’ The Bureau’ which offers business travellers desks with computers and space for laptops as well as multiple  AC and USB power ports for those who need to be fully charged and tapped into all devices.

On the flip side for those wishing to be as unproductive as possible there’s a Library with some reading materials as well as eight Day Suites which include a single bed for those wanting to get some forty winks. Yes this lounge really has something for everyone!

 

Refresh Me (Bathroom/ spa facilities)

Having had a rather long day lining up and walking in the heat around Honkers, I made a b line to the bathroom to have a shower before my lounge meal and flight. Unlike other lounges I was able to get a shower instantly. The 14 shower suites are adorned with gorgeous brass fittings and my favourite, Aesop amenities. Let’s say that after my shower I was feeling more than refreshed but rejuvenated.

I applied for a spa treatment but sadly the appointments were booked out right until 11pm that night, well after my flight had taken to the skies (so sadly could not review that aspect of the lounge).

Bread and butter (food and drink)

 

One of my favourite aspects about the First Class Lounges like Qantas and now Cathay is their dining room space. Yes there is a buffet area option for those who do enjoy the ability to self serve and are time poor but for me, these spaces provide a chance to indulge in some truly great cuisine. The Pier did not disappoint with the lounge offer a restaurant space and bar at the back of the lounge. Simply pull up a chair and experience restaurant quality service. On the menu was a staggering amount of food and wine options, including three champagne choices. Due to the Easter period there was an additional Easter themed menu which in the end tempted me and found me mixing it up between some renown dishes and some more holiday spirit cuisine.

 

For the starter I choose the Easter a la coque egg and smoked salmon with fennel salad. Both were equally delicious and beautiful presented. Moving onto the mains I had the succulent mussel marinere with white wine and julienne fries. If I had an criticism here is that the dish was rather small and in turn I found myself order more, which lead me onto my second main the roasted leg of lamb. Again both were tasty, well cooked and looked divine.

To finish I couldn’t go past the Easter themed chocolate dessert which was a rich chocolate mousse Easter egg with orange marmalade….simply delicious! I complimented my dishes naturally with a mix between the vintage Thienot 2008 Brut and the Perrier Jouet NV (which is also served in the Qantas First Class lounge).

Throughout the dining experience the lovely waitress who served me was accommodating, friendly and very conversational. She was great in terms of offering insight into drink and food choices, even getting me onto the Cathay cocktail speciality Blue Dream which was quite a treat!  I did not have to wait long nor struggle to get the attention of wait staff. This really was the perfect lounge dining experience. I could not fault it.

Verdict

The Pier is one of those experiences where you don’t feel you are in a lounge. The atmosphere here is warm and inviting and never feels for a moment crowded. Normally you have to do a hot shoe shuffle to scramble for a seat in another lounge but not here at The Pier. The breakout spaces and use of lighting and fixtures is truly genius. For me it has become one of my favourite lounges in the world after one visit – yes it was THAT good! I will be back for sure and am willing to look at flight options that detour as a stopover in Hong Kong just to make it happen!

Comments

Have you experienced The Pier First Class Lounge in Hong Kong? Did you find the space as inviting and beautiful as my experience or was your time not as enjoyable? Love to hear your thoughts and what you think has been your best lounge experience to date.