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.

QANTAS INTERNATIONAL TRANSIT LOUNGE PERTH: REVIEW

Alliance: Oneworld

Location: Perth Domestic/ International Airport

Lounge Rating: 4.5 Stars

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Qantas has invested heavily into making Perth their new ‘it’ thing for flying long haul international flights. For this coming from the east coast like myself the non stop flight really isn’t non stop when you are saying flying from Sydney, Brisbane or Adelaide where you can stopover instead in Dubai or Singapore and still be in London at the same time.

As such with this move Qantas created a new transit lounge and it’s strictly for that – transiting! As part of my flight to London from Perth on QF9 I had access (and a rare opportunity) to visit this lounge and see what all the fuss was about!

 

Lounge access options

Lounge access is for business-class passengers travelling on flights QF9 from Melbourne to London via Perth, or QF10 in the opposite direction. Passengers joining QF9 in Perth but aren’t flying the Melbourne leg can also use the lounge.

Qantas Platinum One, Platinum and Gold elites as well as Qantas Club members travelling to London on QF9 or transiting on QF10 between London and Melbourne can also access the lounge. As part of Qantas’ partnership with Emirates, those with Emirates Platinum and Gold Skywards members and Oneworld Emerald and Sapphire elites on QF9 are also welcome.

 

Lounge location and opening hours

The lounge is located after security opposite Gate 19 in the International Concourse of the T3/T4 terminal. It’s open daily 1:00pm to 2:45pm when the inbound flight from London arrives, and 4:45pm to 6:50pm before the return flight from Perth to London departs. The one thing I found frustrating is the access time to this lounge. As I have learnt from this experience, if you have an earlier flight, you’ll have to stay in the Domestic Business Lounge in the Domestic section until the International Concourse is open.

 

Ambience

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The lounge is new and as a result quite striking. From it’s lovely wooden fixture entrance with the kangaroo illuminated in a golden light to the outdoor bar with barbecue, this lounge is a nice space to spend a few hours. There’s a stand up bar near the outdoor area as well as plenty of indoor dining space. The real x factor goes to the outdoor barbecue area as well as the yoga space called the ‘Wellness Studio’ – these are two things I’ve not seen done in a lounge before but both looked fantastic.

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In fact I even gave the Yoga session (there are two run during this time) a go despite being a yoga novice, which made this choice all the more interesting. Partnering with Perth spa group Bodhi J, passengers can stop by for a 15 minute stretch and meditation session. I found most of the positions relatively easily but some did push my body limits. That said I hoped it would better me for the 17 hour and 20 minute flight ahead.

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Bathrooms also were taken to the next level with Qantas adding a fantastic new addition called the ‘Refresh’ area. This space allows passengers to give themselves a skin treatment to relax and refresh before or between flights by following instructions underneath the respective Aspar products. It’s a simple but very nice touch. In addition there were the usual toilet and shower facilities for those needing a quick freshening up.

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Bread and butter (food and drink)

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Qantas is priding itself on providing passengers with a menu that promotes wellness by providing passengers with a selection of light, fresh food and drink options.

There’s a small buffet of fresh food with one corner hosting a hydration station called Quench with lemon and pink-grapefruit syrup to mix into water as well as water infused with lemon myrtle, parsley and lemon. Next door is DYI tisanes which offers Rockpool’s signature blend. A hot and cold buffet is also on offer with delicious options including barbecue corn with chipotle butter, chicken and vegetable skewers, seasonal fruits, salads and Aussie dessert favourites including wait for it… lamingtons (and they were rather good)!

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Despite the offerings there, I found myself spending most of my time in the outdoor area near the barbecue. The wursts with various toppings were too good to ignore and were the x factor in terms of food in the lounge.

I couldn’t provide much feedback in terms of the drinks bar as I was saving my body for the business class drinks menu on QF9 but from what I could tell there was a decent selection of Australian sparkling and wines as well as a barista coffee station.

 

Verdict

I enjoyed this lounge and whilst it didn’t offer the perks of the Melbourne or Sydney First Class lounges it did offer some nice touches like the Refresh amenities area and Wellness Studios still set it apart from most of the other Qantas lounges. If there’s any criticism of the lounge it was their strange, restrictive policy of who could and couldn’t use the lounge and the times it was open. I understand this might work for them currently but if Qantas does expand with more flights in the future as they plan to from Perth, then they seriously need to rethink this area.

 

Comments

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

 

 

AirAsia to fly out of Victoria’s Avalon Airport

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Avalon Airport airport and AirAsia will announce this weekend that the airline will move its twice daily return service between Tullamarine and Kuala Lumpur to Avalon. The move would create a second international airport in Victoria.

This has been a long time coming for Avalon Airport where the owners had high hopes of creating a competitive alternative to Melbourne’s Tullamarine but failed to take off over the years to develop the airport beyond its domestic Jetstar services. Having used the airport numerous times and keeping in mind the expanding population of Geelong down the road, this is really a no brainer and a great win for the area.

Whilst the announcement will be the easiest part when it is signed and sealed on Sunday, there is a lot of work to be done especially if the airport wants to start operating AirAsia aircraft by years end. The airport which only caters domestic flights would need to not only build an international terminal but also secure the services of immigration, quarantine and Border Force agencies.

The move follows an amendment by the federal government on Avalon’s lease in 2015 to allow it to build an international terminal and/or expand the existing terminal to accommodate international operations.

Operating since 2014, the airport currently averages 500,000 passengers a year but is anticipated to swell to 7.25 million a year by 2031.  In my opinion with these figures in mind, there is no time like the present to get on building and create the Avalon Airport that owners envisioned years ago.

Comments

Are you excited by the news of AirAsia flying out of Avalon and if so would you use them for your next international flight?

 

 

Etihad Business Class Studio A380 SYD- AUH: Review

Flight: EY455, Sydney-Abu Dhabi
Loyalty Scheme: Etihad Guest (a partner of Virgin Australia Velocity program)
Frequency: Daily
Duration:  14 hours and 45 minutes

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Etihad for some has come as a overnight success but it may surprise some travellers that Abu Dhabi’s home carrier is actually thirteen years old (still young when compared to airlines like Qantas and British Airways).

I have flown with Etihad numerous times; from First right down the back in Economy. The experiences were varied but the general feeling of quality is there. That said my preferred Etihad aircraft and best journeys have come from its A380. Having flown Business Class once in the A380 compared to its 777 (which I had flown a handful of times) I was keen to see if lightening could strike twice in terms of great service and product.

Seating

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Business Class, 10D. The Residence, First and Business Class cabins share the upper level of the aircraft. There are 70 flat business bed seats, all with a 73” pitch and 20” width, laid out in a 1-2-1 configuration. I sat in 10D alongside my travel companion who was in 10G, in forward facing seats. The seats allowed privacy but were also close enough to properly converse over a meal as opposed to the rear facing seats which make flying with a companion difficult due to the space between each seat.

Entertain Me

There are two IFE touchscreens, with the secondary screen providing information about your flight or entertainment info. The primary 17” screen showcases Etihad’s E-BOX entertainment in all its colourful and audible glory, offering a decent movie and audio selection. In addition, Etihad offers inflight wi-fi but I did not trial it as the initial cost was around $25 (this is for the duration of the flight) and I had movies to catch up on.

The Bread and Butter (Food and drink)

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One of Etihad’s strengths is its food and drink menu and service. The airline offers a dine on demand service but I’m more a traditional flyer and like to enjoy the three-course meal service option.

Naturally I choose the Arabic Mezze for entrée and by far it surpasses the taste, variety and presentation of both Qatar and Emirates. For main I decide on the Beef Fillet and it is served deliciously medium rare. Dessert doesn’t disappoint with the Caramel Apple Pudding going down a treat.

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Later in the flight after getting some sleep some sleep (3 hours after watching my way through catch up cinema sessions) I ordered some breakfast. I took the warm option of poached eggs with spinach and tomatoes, coupled with warm pastries and a cappuccino. The result was delicious and a real pick me up when my body really did need someone to lift me up from my half sleepy slumber.

Drink selection throughout the flight were of a strong quality with French, German and even Australian wines popping up on the menu.

The only downside was the disparity in the service. Whilst my meals and service were prompt and attentive, my companion found that his meal service was spaced out too long, struggled to get attention of staff and even had an incorrect order come out. Again, each experience is different but it is interesting to see a different side to the experience I was enjoying.

Extras

The bar wedged between first and business class is a nice little break out spacer but underwhelming in comparison to Emirates and Qatar. I don’t know if it is the ambiance, the lack of space and lack of staff for that matter but it was not as unique and welcoming as it could have been. A missed opportunity considering how the other Middle Eastern airlines have utilised similar spaces on their aircraft. I found it often a struggle to get a drink in that bar with staff hard to get attention from.

That said the LUXE branded amenities kits are a nice touch and offer some lovely goodies to have you looking refreshed throughout the flight.

Verdict

The Etihad Business Class Studio is definitely class leading and a refined, understated product (thankfully not massive on bling). The food and drink service is a key ingredient that sells the airline well but the service at times can be patchy. I have flown with Etihad on this aircraft and seat a couple of times now and the experiences have been varied. Never poor but it does flag inconsistencies in service.

The bar/ breakout area is also a tad disappointing compared to its competitors but with the lack of space it is hard to see how they can best utilise this area.

That said the business class seat is comfortable, the inflight entertainment is strong and the general experience well worth the money. I would indeed be flying this barge again in the future.

Comments
Have you experienced the class of Etihad Business Class Studio? Did the service and product take off for you or was it grounded from the start? Love to hear your feedback on this.

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Busiest travel routes for 2017 announced

 

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Whilst I’m not a numbers man (and don’t profess to be), I do get excited nonetheless by facts and figures around aviation and travel. Naturally it comes as no surprise that when Oag.com (global provider of digital flight information) released reporting around the Top 10 World’s Busiest Routes for 2017 this week I was eager to know more.

According to OAG.com, the world’s busiest air route for 2017 was in South Korea. The popular route from Jeju to the capital Seoul saw airlines fly a whopping 64,991 this year.

Australia featured strongly, appearing twice in the top ten. Sydney to Melbourne was the world’s second busiest air route, with 54,519 flights annually whilst Brisbane to Sydney is the eighth busiest, flying 33,765 times annually. Having flown frequently on both routes I understand the patronage and busyness of the legs.

Whilst the top 10 busiest flights were domestic, When it came to international routes, Hong Kong to Taipei topped the list with 29,494 flights yearly. Eight out of ten routes in the top 10 international routes were from Asia.

Top 10 busiest air routes

Jeju-Seoul, South Korea: 64,991
Melbourne-Sydney, Australia: 54,519
Mumbai-Delhi, India: 47,462
Fukuoka-Tokyo Haneda, Japan: 42,835
Rio de Janeiro-Sao Paulo Congonhas, Brazil: 39,325
Sapporo-Tokyo, Japan: 38,389
Los Angeles-San Francisco, USA: 34,897
Brisbane-Sydney, Australia: 33,765
Cape Town-Johannesburg, South Africa: 31,914
Beijing-Shanghai, China: 30,029
World’s busiest international air routes

Top 10 international air routes

Hong Kong-Taipei: 29,494
Kuala Lumpur-Singapore: 29,383
Jakarta-Singapore: 26,872
Jakarta-Kuala Lumpur: 20,890
Hong Kong-Shanghai: 20,818
New York La Guardia-Toronto: 17,116
Hong Kong-Seoul Incheon: 16,366
Beijing-Hong Kong: 14,592
Dublin-London Heathrow: 14,556
Bangkok-Singapore: 14,455

I’ll be keen to see what the figures/ patronage is for 2018 when this time of year comes around again. Will South Korea still maintain the crown? Only time will tell.

 

Comments

Have you flown any of the aforementioned routes? Do the figures reflect your experience in terms of crowds/ people traffic? Keen to hear your thoughts.