EMIRATES A380 BUSINESS CLASS CHRISTCHURCH – SYDNEY: REVIEW

Flight: EK413, CHC-SYD

Loyalty Scheme:  Emirates Skywards

Frequency: Once daily

Duration: 3 hours and 20 minutes

 

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I’m a creature of habit. If I like something strongly enough I will naturally be inclined to return for more. In this case it’s Emirates and their SYD-CHC route. As a fifth freedom route, for many including myself it is the number one option when it comes to flying to New Zealand’s south island from Sydney. Emirates previously also serviced flights to Auckland from Sydney and Melbourne but they were culled by the airline a couple of years ago in favour of their partner Qantas. Sadly the experience and joy of flying with Qantas on the same route is the same. Again thank goodness for Emirates flying to the south island (for now). Nine months on I was keen to seeing if lightning struck twice in terms of a good business class experience on the same route – then again are all business class flights equal? I flew Emirates CHC-SYD on the biz to find out.

The Seat

On this flight I was seated in 9K, a window seat. All business classes have direct aisle access on this 1-2-1 configuration. The seat offer a 48 inch pitch and 18.5 inch width. Upon sitting down I can’t help but notice that signature Emirates use of buried wood trim around the seat. Whilst a tad OTT, it’s nonetheless distinctive and adds a touch of class. Surrounding the seat there’s a console housing an entertainment tablet and mini-bar. Underneath the console are the seat controls which include the all important ‘lie flat’ configuration button. With no overhead storage areas on the window seats side, there’s handy storage bins against the seat.

Awaiting on my seat is an array of amenities including a pillow, blanket and noise-cancelling headphones.

Entertain me

 

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Every seat has a touch-screen Wireless Integrated Passenger Seat Controller which not only handles seat position but also the in-flight entertainment on a 17-inch screen. With more than 1100 channels of entertainment, I was spoiled for choice but settled in over my meal to catch up on the movie Venom.

One winning advantage the A380 has over it’s B777 counterpart is it’s knockout onboard.  Serving a range of drinks and canapés, the space is a great way to mingle with new found friends or for those wanting to catch up live sports and entertainment, there’s a large flat screen TV for their viewing pleasure.

Complimentary Wi-Fi is also provided but it’s for a very small amount of data. If you wish to get download heavy on your flight, you’ll need to take out one of the priced options.

The Bread and Butter (food and drink)

 

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Prior to departure I was offered by the flight attendant a choice of juice, water or champagne. On today’s flight was Moet & Chandon Brut NV, which was naturally my go to option. I continued to enjoy another glass of the Moet after take off before my order for dinner was taken. The service was surprisingly slow for a half full flight.

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On this flight for main I had three choices; roasted salmon, coconut braised beef ribs or the chicken fillet. I went with the beef and the beef was cooked to my liking. It packed a punch in terms of flavour thanks to the star anise and ginger. Accompanying my main was an appetiser of poached prawns. To finish I enjoy a deliciously velvet espresso mascarpone creme, which went down a treat.

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Drink wise, the choice was strong but sadly the service was lacking when it came to matching my drinks to my meal. I requested the Bordeaux red but it never came. When it came to my dessert I managed to get the attention of a flight attendant and asked for the 1994 Graham’s Single Harvest Tawny Port. The port had a lovely texture with subtle dried fig and toffee notes.

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I wanted to retire to the onboard bar for a drink following my meal but found it was closing up earlier than I anticipated in preparation for landing.

Verdict

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Emirates business class on the A380 really is the way to fly between Australia and New Zealand. When on sale, it’s often quite the bargain in comparison to a 1 hour Qantas business flight between Sydney and Melbourne. Despite the service not being as attentive as my previous business class flight on the same route, the food and drink was on par and of good quality. I would have liked to have again experienced the onboard bar but the early close was a bit of a disappointment an hour out from landing in Sydney.

Overall an enjoyable flight that I’d happily do again if given the opportunity.

Service: 4 Stars

Seating: 5 stars

Food: 5 Stars

 

Comments

Have you experienced flying Business with Emirates from NZ? Did you love or dislike the flight? Hit up the comments section as I’m keen to hear your thoughts

 

Qantas First Class Lounge Los Angeles: Review

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Alliance: Oneworld

Location: LAX Tom Bradley International Terminal

Lounge Rating: 4 Stars

Qantas possesses some of the best lounges in the world, namely their first class international lounges in Melbourne and Sydney. Outside of Australia the Qantas first class lounge experience is unfortunately scarce. A couple of years ago Qantas opened up a new first class lounge in LAX. Reviews, particularly from American media were highly favourable. I was recently in Los Angeles and was keen to see if the great ‘Australian lounge experience’ was indeed alive and well in the States but more importantly do they do Neil Perry’s salt and pepper squid the justice it deserves? I checked into the LAX Qantas First Lounge to find out.

Lounge access options

  • Qantas first class passengers, plus first class flyers of Oneworld partners British Airways, Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines from Los Angeles
  • Qantas Platinum, Platinum One and Chairman’s Lounge frequent flyers travelling on a Qantas or Oneworld flight, including Qantas codeshare flights
  • Connecting passengers arriving on long-haul first class Oneworld flights
  • American Airlines’ first class passengers
  • 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 at the Tom Bradley International Terminal, proceed over the indoor ‘bridge’, turn left, and then take the lift up to level five, where you’ll arrive in front of the roo branded lounge entrance.

 

Ambience

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Initial impressions of the lounge is that it has a relaxed and unpretentious ambience. It doesn’t feel cluttered or people busy as first lounges in Australia. The rectangular shaped lounge space offers two main seating areas each furnished with quite comfortable large armchairs and a self serve wine and coffee area. Towards the back of the lounge is the dining room which is complete with a sit around bar that’s looked after by a bartender.

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Next door to the dining area are shower and toilet facilities that are equipped with Aspar wash products. I decided to take a shower prior to dining a la carte but found there was a line up for the shower spaces. Unlike the Emirates Dubai lounge I found the turn around of showers was quite speedy which is handy for anyone in a rush.

A big criticism is sadly the lack of natural lighting in the lounge with no tarmac views. As a result the lounge feels a tad dark but nowhere near as oppressive as the Qantas International Melbourne Business Lounge.

 

Bread and butter (food and drink)

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One thing that I always love and look forward to at a Qantas First Lounge is the cuisine. The airline’s partnership with Rockpool culinary king Neil Perry is one of the longest chef airline collaborations in aviation history. The dining area is an a la carte space where passengers are treated to restaurant service and quality. Being a late flight out of LAX the service was dinner focused.

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I started with the lounge’s signature salt and pepper squid dish which has become my go to starter. It was satisfying but not as good as the one I enjoyed in the Sydney first lounge two weeks prior. Moving onto mains I went with the grilled bass with corn puree. It was a lot more enticing than my entree and went down well with my champagne. I rounded out my meal with the sticky date pudding which was surprisingly lighter than I thought but packed a punch in terms of flavour.

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Unlike the first lounges in Sydney and Melbourne there was a lack of champagne choices which was quite disappointing. Fortunately I quite enjoy a drop of Pommery and managed to savour two glasses before my flight was called.

I do give the lounge big props in terms of turning around dishes after they’ve been ordered. The lounge was busy yet unlike the Australian counterparts, they managed to quickly bring dish to table without taking half an hour. I find that I often have to arrive earlier than I would like to at Australian lounges just so I don’t feel rushed when it comes to dining in the dining area before a flight. The LAX kitchen is like a machine and was a bevy of activity the entire time I was there. Despite the swift service, the staff were still as attentive and courteous as their Australian colleagues.

 

Verdict

The lounge is definitely one of the best in America and sets a new standard hopefully for Americans to follow. Qantas should be proud of its first product. It’s slick, well serviced and flies that Australian flag well in terms of cuisine. Sure there are a few little niggles here and there, particularly the lack of natural light but overall there’s no place I would rather be at Tom Bradley International Terminal to spend a couple of hours whilst waiting for my flight.

 

Comments

Have you experienced the Qantas International First Lounge in Los Angeles? Love to hear from you about your time in lounge – did it shine or were you expecting something better?

 

 

 

BRITISH AIRWAYS TERRACES LOUNGE SEATTLE: REVIEW

Alliance: Oneworld

Location: Seattle-Tacoma International Airport Airport Gate S

Lounge Rating: 3.5 Stars

 

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Whilst American Airlines is the dominant Oneworld carrier in America, their lounge product is sadly more sporadic and in parts of the States non-existent. Naturally I thought American would have a lounge in a port as large as Seattle but I discovered that was unfortunately not the case. That said British Airways has a lounge which is the only offering for passengers travelling on a Oneworld carrier. Despite the Oneworld website stating that the BA lounge was open to all Oneworld top tier members, the lounge has been known to pick and choose when they feel like letting partner members in. I encountered this type of attitude the moment I arrived at the lounge but after some perseverance I was fortunately let in. So is the BA Terraces Lounge in Seattle worth the early pit stop for a beverage or two before a flight? I was keen to find out…

Lounge access options

  • Lounge access is available for passengers who are:
    • flying on a scheduled British Airways flight in First
    • a Gold Member of the British Airways Executive Club on a scheduled flight operated by British Airways or one of our oneworld partners
    • an Emerald member of any of the oneworld airline frequent flyer programmes on a scheduled flight operated by British Airways or one of our oneworld partners
    • over the age of 18 years, or if under 18 years you are accompanied by a responsible adult. (Local laws relating to the consumption of alcohol will apply)

    As a Sapphire or Emerald member you are welcome to invite one single guest per each departure flight to join you in the lounge.

Lounge location and opening hours

The BA lounge located at the S gate is open 4 hours before the morning and evening flights with BA. Those with Oneworld flights outside of these times will have to slum it in the terminal.

 

Ambience

The ambience of the Terraces Lounge is dull at best. Whilst certainly not horrific the furnishing were tired and the general design bland. Some of the seats including mine showed signs of severe wear and tear. Overlooking that the location of the lounge provided some nice views across the tarmac (when Seattle isn’t foggy) as well as natural lighting.

The bathrooms were a different story and look like they had been modernised a couple of years ago. Shower facilities were also available to those who wised to have a flight before their international flight.

 

Bread and butter (food and drink)

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Unfortunately this is where the lounge suffered the most with slim pickings being the most apt way to define the food experience. Food wise there was nothing substantial to eat here. Everything was more of the snack variety such as crisps, cheeses and small sandwiches. Admittedly the cheeses sourced from Pikes Place Market were rather tasty.

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Drinks wise was also limited but the selection was well sourced with wines from France to New Zealand. I went with the Italian prosecco which is palatable. The highlight of the lounge was the bar service rather than self pour. The lady behind the bar was making some decent looking cocktails and mixers for those waiting around the lounge when I was there. The Terraces Lounge

 

Verdict

The Terraces Lounge isn’t something to write home about. The bland interior and rather rude reception was disconcerting. Despite the food offering was rather poor the bar service for drinks shone. Overall the experience was satisfactory but if I had to decide whether I wanted to spend more time in the lounge or the option of taking time having a Starbucks in downtown Seattle before my flight, I would take the Starbucks Seattle experience any day.

 

Comments

Have you experienced the British Airways Terraces Lounge in Seattle? Love to hear from you about your time in lounge – did it shine or were you expecting something better?

ALASKA AIRLINES AS931, LAS VEGAS-SEATTLE: MAIN CABIN REVIEW

Flight: AS931, Las Vegas – Seattle

Loyalty Scheme: Mileage Plan

Frequency: Multiple flights daily

Duration: 2 hr and 35 mins

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Despite its namesake, the base for Alaska Airlines is not in Anchorage but instead Seattle (my destination for this flight). As the hub for Alaska, the city of Seattle is quite strategic as not only is it close to the Canadian border but well connected on the west coast in terms of big tech business (Alaska even has priority check-in for Microsoft employees).

A couple of years ago the airline took over Virgin America, which was viewed as many as the shining beacon in American aviation. Now that the airline has sadly merged into Alaska I was curious as to whether the airline incorporated the better traits of the once great Virgin America into their own brand.

Seat

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Today I was flying on a B737-800 aircraft. This particularly aircraft has two cabins (12 first and 112 main cabin seats). The grey and white tones of the interior were a stark contrast to the more vivid purple, red and white tones of Virgin America with the seats looking nowhere near as plush. Leg room and seat pitch is satisfactory with 32 inches offered in the main cabin. Despite the relatively average pitch the seats were a lot more comfortable than they looked.

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Entertain me

Alaska Airlines offers free entertainment via your own personal device. The entertainment selection of movies and tv series were relatively weak. I struggled to find anything that was of interest to me. A larger catalogue of options would have been more welcome on this flight considering the relatively long flight from south to the north of the USA.

 

Wine and dine me (the food)

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Basic snacks and drinks were complimentary in the main cabin. Those craving something a little stronger in terms of drink (alcoholic) or more substantial in terms of food would need to buy on board.

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What I did like was the partnership between Alaska Airlines and Seattle based Starbucks. The coffee in turn was better than the average inflight filter coffee and did the trick in terms of keeping me refreshed and alert after an early start that morning. Snack wise (I always prefer something more substantial) was a biscoff biscuit to nibble on.

 

Summary

Despite the flight being delayed an hour, the flight experience was surprisingly better than expected. It’s hard to not compare it to Virgin America especially when an airline such as Alaska takes over its fleet and operations. I was concerned the airline would unwind all the good work that VA did to make flying in America a decent experience. Sure it’s not VA but it does work hard compared to some other American competitors to give the passenger a relatively premium experience, whether you are in first or the main cabin.

Food and drink offering was satisfactory. The nice touch of Starbucks coffee was welcome and made the Seattle experience, well, more Seattle. The only negative I would have to say is the entertainment offering. It was quite poor and could offer a better selection for passengers. I would definitely consider flying Alaska again when I next choose to fly in America.

 

Service: 4 Stars

Seating: 3.5 stars

Food: 4 Stars

AMERICAN AIRLINES AA1771, DALLAS-LAS VEGAS: MAIN CABIN PLUS REVIEW

Flight: AA1771, Dallas – Las Vegas

Loyalty Scheme: AAdvantage (Oneworld alliance)

Frequency: Multiple flights daily

Duration: 2 hr and 55 mins

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American Airlines has usually been my first choice when it comes to flying hopping airport to airport within the USA. The staff are generally efficient (and mostly friendly) and the offerings of food and drink whilst simple are generally more generous than its competition. American Airlines recently introduced complimentary enhancements to their Main Cabin Plus passengers including free alcohol priority boarding and storage. I was keen to give their newly enhanced product a try to see if it was truly ‘enhanced’.

Seat

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The aircraft has two cabins (16 first and 165 main cabin seats). There are 18 main cabin plus seats on this aircraft. The interior was fresh and relatively new with IFE seatback entertainment and smart leather seats. Leg room and seat pitch is more ample with 34 inches in main cabin plus as opposed to 31 inches in the main cabin. The only negative was that the bottom cushion of the seats was relatively thin and when I got up to leave the aircraft I felt rather sore. The seats despite looking the goods in terms of design do not feel comfortable after a certain period of time.

 

Entertain me

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American offers free entertainment via seatback or through your own personal device. On the A321 seatback was on offer. The entertainment selection of movies and tv series was strong.

 

Wine and dine me (the food)

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Whilst snacks and non alcoholic drinks are complimentary in the main cabin, the difference with main cabin plus is the introduction of free alcoholic beverages. On my flight was a selection of spirits, wines and beers. I went with a bottle of the Les Papillons Grenache Rose from France which was quite smooth and light. A great choice with the sadly small bag of mini pretzels that was handed out as a ‘snack’.

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American Airlines do offer more substantial sized meals for those feeling peckish but it will cost you. Even after the drinks service has come through the cabin the attendants on board seemed more than happy to offer additional drinks to passengers upon request.

 

Summary

The flight was relatively smooth and despite being delayed an hour, the aircraft did their best to try and make up for lost time. IFE entertainment was good quality as were the selection of drinks for main cabin plus passengers. The pitch despite being 3 inches more than main cabin wasn’t really noticeable and the seats after a certain period of time were a tad uncomfortable. Other than that the flight experience was generally good and one I would fly again on in the future. The big question is would I pay extra for the main cabin plus cabin? To be frank not really. However if you are an Oneworld Emerald or Sapphire member where the seat is complimentary to you, I’d definitely take advantage of selecting this seat as soon as you book your flight as it’s a nice little extra incentive to enjoy on your flight!

 

Service: 4 Stars

Seating: 3 stars

Food: 3.5 Stars

QANTAS LONDON LOUNGE TERM 3 LONDON HEATHROW: REVIEW

Alliance: Oneworld

Location: London Heathrow Airport, Terminal 3

Lounge Rating: 4 Stars

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For years Qantas relied heavily on its Oneworld partners to provide their top tier frequent flyers with lounge access from British Airways to American Airlines. Whilst the business lounges from the respective airlines did the job, they lacked character and were no where near the standard set by Cathay or Emirates. Fast forward to late last year and hello – Qantas opens its first dedicated Qantas lounge.

From the dine-on-demand from set menus to a sexy gin and cocktail bars, the Qantas London lounge has really raised the bar in terms of lounge offering at Heathrow Terminal 3. A few of my friends have already frequented it and all have glowing reviews of it. I was keen to see what all the fuss was about and hopped on in for a look.

 

Lounge access options

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Lounge access is available for passengers who are:

  • first class and business class passengers on Qantas flights and those of Oneworld airlines departing from London Heathrow Terminal 3 (American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Royal Jordanian, etc)
  • Qantas Platinum One, Platinum and Gold frequent flyers (and one guest) and their Oneworld Emerald and Sapphire equivalents, on Qantas or Oneworld flights
  • Qantas Club members (and one guest) on Qantas flights
  • Holders of a Qantas Club lounge invitation who are on a Qantas flight
  • Emirates Skywards Platinum and Gold cardholders on Qantas flights.

As a Sapphire or Emerald member you are welcome to invite one single guest per each departure flight to join you in the lounge.

 

Lounge location and opening hours

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The Qantas London lounge is known at Heathrow Terminal 3 as  ‘Lounge B’. Simply follow the signs for Lounges or Gates 1-11, take a left turn shortly after exiting the central core of the terminal’s duty free shops, cafes and seating. It’s open daily from 8am to 8.30pm.

 

Ambience

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The first thing I notice upon entering the lounge is the striking staircase that ascends up to the gin and cocktails bar. Glimmering so bright it ‘almost’ looked like a staircase to heaven…almost! The lounge is split between two levels with the ground floor housing a dedicated dining area with table service whilst the upstairs space contains the bar and more relaxed seating arrangements alongside a buffet food station.

Both levels offer views of the tarmac but be warned – unless you are near the windows you are unlikely to see much due to the way the lounge is positioned.

On the upper floor there’s six large showers suites with both rain and wand shower heads and Aspar toiletries – the usual Qantas lounge amenities suspects!

Due to the large open layout you’ll find that the noise carries around the lounge and during peak hours can be quite noisy. If you are looking for somewhere more quite to relax or work I would suggest you visit the Cathay or British Airways lounges instead.

 

Bread and butter (food and drink)

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Whilst I wasn’t there to enjoy their dedicated table service menu, I did manage to sample some of their buffet options as well as enjoy a sneaky glass of their champagne which is provided to Platinum passengers. The choices on offer had a good focus around British and Australian cuisine. The scones and jam accompanied with my champagne went down a real treat! They were so good that even her Majesty would approve these!

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There’s also espresso machines at both bars for the coffee aficionados while tea fans will find can brew themselves something lovely from the large selection of Dilmah teas on offer.

Being a hybrid business/ first class lounge, some of the food options were a little underwhelming compared to the offerings found in Qantas first lounges.

 

Verdict

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The Qantas London Lounge is quite a flashy, shiny new product. The lovely furnishings and wooden tones that meld well with marble really is a sight to behold when one first walks into the lounge.  It has the vibe of a savvy upmarket London bar as opposed to an airport lounge.

Food and drink wise is a bit hit and miss and that is due to the airline catering for both business and first passengers. Qantas has definitely stepped up the food and drink offering for business class passengers but for those who frequent the Qantas first lounge may find the food on offer a tad disappointing.

The gin and cocktail bar is a fantastic touch and the girls and guys behind the bar know their drinks well. It’s almost a spectacle in itself to watch them behind the bar work their bar tending magic to create to fantastic looking (and tasting) gin and cocktail creations.

The lounge in conclusion is solid offering. I would definitely consider returning (should the Cathay Pacific First Lounge be full next door).

 

Comments

Have you experienced the Qantas London Lounge in Terminal 3 at Heathrow? Love to hear from you about your time in lounge – did it shine or were you expecting something better?

 

 

 

CATHAY PACIFIC FIRST CLASS LOUNGE TERM 3 LONDON HEATHROW: REVIEW

Alliance: Oneworld

Location: London Heathrow Airport Terminal 3

Lounge Rating: 4.5 Stars

 

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The Pier is highly regarded not only as one of Cathay Pacific’s best lounges but also one of the best on the global stage. It really isn’t hard to see why the moment you step into a Pier lounge from the high spec fittings to the quality of the food and beverage. I was recently in London where I had the opportunity before my international flight to spend an hour in the highly regarded ‘Pier mini’ lounge equivalent. Sure it isn’t on the large grand scale of the Hong Kong version but everything in terms of quality is matched. My question was despite its size, was it big on the wow factor?

Lounge access options

  • first class passengers on any Oneworld airline flying out of T3 (including Cathay Pacific, British Airways, Qantas, American Airlines and JAL)
  • travellers holding Oneworld Emerald status in their respective airline frequent flyer scheme (ie. Diamond and Diamond Plus tiers of Cathay Marco Polo Club)

 

Lounge location and opening hours

Cathay Pacific’s London Heathrow T3 lounges sit on the left corner of the terminal.Keep your eyes peeled after clearing security for a ‘Lounge C’ sign. The lounge which is positioned nearby to the British Airways and Qantas lounges is accessible via an elevator. The lounge operating hours are 5:30am–10:30pm daily.

 

Ambience

 

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The ambience of the lounge is striking, warm and engaging. I almost got sensory overload trying to soak in all the grandeur of this lounge. The pocket rocket packs a lot of sophisticated punch with its à la carte menu dining room and gorgeously appointed shower suites which includes Aesop shampoo and body wash (a win for me as an Aesop fan).

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The cosy environment is made possible thanks to its Living Room, which wraps around the lounge to face the tarmac in an L-shape layout. The beautiful wooden tones and greenery creates a sense of tranquillity and harmony – a godsend considering the lounge is situated in one of the busiest airports in the world. The lounge is served well with a lot of natural light from its floor to ceiling windows and for this avgeek, some fantastic runway views.

The only downside if anything is hopping in and out of the lounge to access the bathroom area which is also shared with the Cathay Business Lounge. Fortunately for me I was not here during peak hour but can imagine the traffic issue this bathroom would experiencing during peak times.

 

Bread and butter (food and drink)

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Like the Qantas First Lounge and BA Concorde lounge, there’s a restaurant dining space for those who prefer to enjoy a sit down meal in the Dining Room. My timing in the lounge saw me quickly obtain a seat but was also sadly at the mercy of the kitchen who were between meal serves (breakfast and transitioning into lunch). I didn’t want breakfast again so worked with what I could order from the menu. Since it was after midday in this part of the world I ordered a glass of Moet and Chandon.

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I wasn’t feeling too peckish but was inclined to sample some of the menu. I decided on a Shrimp Cocktail starter and a Wonton Noodles in Soup. Both were delicious and took my tastebuds back to my Hong Kong trip last year. Yes they were that pretty darn good; especially when paired with one of the best champagnes from France! It’s a shame I didn’t not get to sample any of their dessert menu due to the transition from breakfast to lunch service but based on what I enjoyed the dining experience was still a solid effort.

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For those wanting something more express and easily accessible there’s a small buffet section within the Living Room as well a a self pour drinks station. For those seeking a tended bar and greater food buffet selection I’d strongly recommend you visiting the Business Lounge next door instead.

 

Verdict

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For a ‘scaled down’ Pier lounge equivalent this lounge really wows. Food and drink is limited in the buffet area but then again the First Class lounge experience here is all about the Dining Room.Only negative about this lounge is that the small space it possesses can be a major issue during peak periods with overcrowding and line ups for both the bathrooms and dining space. The Cathay Pacific First Class lounge is the best option (Qantas isn’t far behind) in terms of the best lounge offering for Oneworld Emerald travellers flying from Terminal 3.

 

Comments

Have you experienced the Cathay Pacific First Class Lounge at Terminal 3 in London? Love to hear from you about your time in lounge – did it shine or were you expecting something better?