UPDATE | Cathay Pacific has now opened its new The Wing First Class lounge – read our full photo-laden report.
PREVIOUS | Cathay Pacific has five lounges at Hong Kong International Airport, and more on the way, with The Wing as their flagship lounge.
In fact, I rarely set foot in Qantas’ own Hong Kong lounge – even when flying to or through Hong Kong with The Red Roo, I usually head straight to The Wing during stop-overs or before my flight out of HK. So what's the appeal of The Wing?
Location & Impressions
The Wing is located at Hong Kong airport’s southern concourse, across from Gates 1-3.
If you're departing from HK airport use the southern airside entrance, go through security & immigration gates and veer left.
Watch for the life-size Cathay Pacific attendent and a sign which points the way, because the lounge's entrance isn't exactly in the most glaringly obvious location (we suspect that will change after the 2012 makover).
Like its northern concourse twin The Pier (near Gate 65), and unlike the The Cabin (adjacent to Gate 23), The Wing is spread across two levels and divided into First Class and Business Class sections.
First Class is found on the upper level (level 7), and is essentially built into a balcony overlooking the gate areas below, while large windows over the tarmac flood the main area of the lounge natural light.
Yet at the outset it doesn’t look like a first class lounge. It doesn’t immediately reek of exclusivity: in fact, the larger part of the lounge – a open area of sofas and work benches – looks noticeably worn.
That’s not news to Cathay Pacific, which will temporarily close the First Class lounge early next year for renovations, after the newly upgraded upstairs Business Class lounge re-opens (expected in late January).
Entree to the First Class lounge is restricted to passengers travelling in Cathay Pacific First Class (which isn’t available on flights to and from Australia) and Emerald-class members of oneworld.
This includes Qantas Frequent Flyer Platinum as well as Cathay’s own Marco Polo Club Diamond.
So you're packing that slice of premium plastic? Then walk on it...
The Haven restaurant is off to the left side of the lounge, just past the entry to the showers and the private cabana rooms.
It’s not unusual to see all the tables occupied during peak hours, although the staff are quick to clean up and prepare any newly-vacated table for the next occupant.
Just be wary of the shallow rockery which runs along the edge of The Haven – I’ve seen more than one jet-lagged traveller accidentally stumble into this, at which point I was grateful Cathay resisted the temptation to fill it with water and create an indoor stream
The Haven’s buffet selection doesn’t seem to vary much – but I’m quite fine with that because it’s an excellent spread, and there a number of daily meals available for table service straight from the kitchen.
In addition to hot Asian dishes including duck, Shanghainese-style spare ribs, dim sum, braised vegetables and BBQ pork, you'll usually find a roast turkey sitting on the carvery table plus a few other more 'international dishes'.
Unlike some airport lounges which lean towards the heavy side of the menu, you can top up on a wide range of lighter foods – including sushi and sashimi, cold soba noodles, parma ham and salads.
The dessert table is worth a visit, unless you're more into savory than sweet – the cheese selection is fairly rudimentary. On the other hand, there are plenty of sweet to sample, and you’ll find delectable milk and dark chocolates to go with your coffee (or simply to enjoy on their own).
If you're on the move, with only a short time between flights and are shifting onto a short-haul economy segmet such as Cathay's DragonAir into China, a few of the wrapped sandwiches make a perfect grab-and-go snack.
One improvement which we hope to see after The Haven is renovated is AC power points along the wall, so you can recharge your notebook or tablet while refuelling yourself. At the moment there are no sockets to be seen (at least none that I’ve spied!), which means that during a short transit you’ve got less time to top up your tech.
There are two main areas in The Wing’s first class section: The Library, and the main part of the lounge. The former (detailed below) is a welcome quiet zone where you can tackle emails, presentations and proposal documents with ultimate focus.
The rest of the lounge is noisier, and often with passengers conducting bothersome voice-chats over Skype sans headphones.
This is really more of a mixed-use zone, where work-ready cubicles intermingle with lounges.
The workbenches where you can park your laptop are definitely showing their age, with poorly-recessed AC sockets which do nothing for The Wing’s premium positioning.
We expect these will largely be replaced by the more modern benches and stylish Solus chair-pods which Cathay has already introduced into The Cabin and the refitted business class section of The Wing on the lower level.
Wireless networking floats throughout the lounge, of course, but seems to have become slower and less reliable in the past year. Perhaps CX hasn’t boosted the bandwidth or upgraded the hotspot hardware to cope with the increasing number of people now packing tablets, who previously travelled tech-free.
Either way, this should also be earmarked for attention during the lounge’s 2012 makeover.
The Library offers classic club-style furniture which you’ll want to sink into, and perhaps even stretch out on (but please don’t).
At the far side of The Library are two small booths where you can hang your coat, hook up your laptop and work away in peace.
If you’re stuck for something to read you can help yourself to an extensive selection of newspapers and magazines from around the world, stored in cramped bookshelves just past the lounge’s reception desk.(This is another area which needs to be revisited, to provide space for more than one person at a time to peruse the publications.)
But when it comes to relaxing, the highlight of The Wing ia the zone known as The Cabanas, with eight private ‘relaxation suites’.
Each has a shower, of course...
... plus a deep bath for soaking...
... which opens onto a semi-private deck...
... with a chaise-style loungechair and a larger soft day-bed.
‘Semi-private’? Well, yes. While the deck overlooks a wide pebble-stone strip which faces onto thick frosted glass (so you can the see ghost-like shadows of visitors arriving at The Wing on the other side)...
... the wall of each cabana only extends out to the stone garden.
You can’t see anybody else while lying back on the lounge, but you can hear them and they can hear you.
There are also separate shower stalls opposite the cabana rooms, with Dermalogica cleansers, moisturisers and body lotions in both showers and cabanas.
It’s true that The Wing’s first class section has seen better days – but for the most part it’s still up there with the world’s best airport lounges, thanks to the great food served at The Haven and especially the opportunity for some stopover r&r afforded by The Cabanas.
I’m looking forward to seeing how much better this will all be when next year’s renovations are done...