Being the preeminent airline in Hong Kong, it’s not surprising that the airport is scattered with different Cathay Pacific Lounges. Those familiar with the airport will know if its immense size, and will understand me when I say that, walking from one wing to the other, in a barren airport, at 5.45am, after a 16 hour flight, only to be told I was at the wrong lounge, was somewhat heartbreaking.
With nothing more than sore feet, and a chain of emails to protest, I convinced my welcome party to check for my name again. Success. One stamped boarding pass later and I waltzed through the doors of one of the best airline lounges in the world – Cathay Pacific’s The Pier First Class Lounge.
Finding The Pier on the map, is far easier than finding the inconspicuous escalators alongside gate 63 that lead down to the entrance. I was so adamant I was in the wrong place I almost turned back. As I said, between The Wing and The Pier, which have both separate First and Business Class lounges (The Pier’s Business Class lounge is currently under construction) plus The Bridge, The Cabin and The Arrival, or admittance to the excellent Qantas Business Lounge, there’s a lot to choose from for One World Business Class travellers in Hong Kong.
As far as 14 hour airport layovers go, I can’t imagine spending one any better than at The Pier. I beelined straight for the shower suites, to rinse myself of a herculean drinking session, one that had begun over 24 hours earlier in a West Village eatery on a perfect New York night.
I kicked things off in style, standing under a huge rain shower head, covering myself in Aesop amenities as the cool stone tiles worked their placebo style magic to help me relax. The suites are beautifully presented, and as you can see in the image below, you’re no more than an arms length from Aesop anything, at anytime.
Following my rejuvenation I entered the lounge and took my pick of the 231 seats, opting for one of the large leather armchairs. I plugged my devices into the ports concealed in the draw of the accompanying side table, left my bag and went to explore.
The Pier is a sizeable lounge considering the level of exclusivity. It’s also very well appointed with a library, business centre, buffet area (The Pantry), bar, Dining Room, shower and day suites, and a complementary massage service. The library is full of world news papers, elite magazines and hard cover swiss watch catalogues, as you’d expect in Hong Kong – every fellow in the lounge had a significant timepiece on. The Pantry morphs as the day goes on, from breakfast, to light snacks, to sandwiches and small bites. A large double door fridge showcases charcuterie style serves of cold meats, cured fish, semi dried vegetables and sweet treats, all encased in hip glass jars.
The real highlight of The Pier First Class Lounge is the Dining Room – a warm and contemporary room offering à la carte dining, table service and freshly prepared dishes made-to-order by the chef. It’s a beautifully designed room with an incorporated bar and an excellent menu which appears to be designed in conjunction with The Peninsula Hotel Group, offering an abundance of options for diners across breakfast, lunch and dinner. I had a traditional dumpling breakfast to start my day, then a three course lunch consisting of a show stopping seared tuna, the Chef’s signature Kung Pao chicken, and a delicious cheese selection to finish. The food was brilliant, I couldn’t fault a single dish, or the surroundings – absolutely world class.
I drank pretty consistently throughout the day, as I tend to when I’m in airports, and I have to admit, I felt the drink selection was inferior to the rest of the lounge. I’m completely aware that the First Class Lounge experience isn’t the same as flying First Class, being accessible to One World Emerald members (or people like myself!), who could be flying any class, but I was definitely expecting more from the bar. I thought the choice of Moët & Chandon or Veuve Clicquot was adequate but pretty unimaginative – a Billecart-Salmon, Laurent-Perrier or even a cheaper Duperrey Brut would have added a lot more sophistication and originality. The wines I consumed at lunch were solid, but again, nothing to write home about – I did love the Port Trolley in the lounge though! The biggest let down was the whisky selection. Cocktails made with Johnnie Walker Red label, while Chivas 12 and Johnnie Walker Black Label were on hand to sip. I have nothing against either blend, I just expected to see bottles of a stature comparable to the surroundings.
The easiest way to kill time at The Pier is to spend a couple of hours in the private day suites, where you can catch up on some rest. The day suites are probably the best feature of any lounge I’ve ever been in. Having a hot shower, followed by a nap on a daybed (as opposed to the carpeted floor or a angled metal bench), at an airport is a surreal and extremely beneficial experience. I followed my nap with a trip to the massage room, for a 20 min shoulder and foot treatment while I tried to contain my laughter. I know it sounds absolutely ridiculous, it is absolutely ridiculous. While my feet soaked in a warm tub and a woman attended to the pillow situation behind me, I chatted with my Filipino masseuse who was amazed at how young I looked (and that I wasn’t married), no doubt wondering how on earth I was sitting where I was.
The Pier First Class Lounge is an undeniable triumph. The homely lounge is welcoming, and outrageously accommodating, even after half a day waiting for your connecting flight. This is the reason people obsess over flying with the same alliance, these are the perks, the dream, a small taste of how the other .00001% live. It’s not something everyone will get to experience, but it is one you’ll never forget.