Cathay Pacific's combined business class and first class lounge at Manila Airport's Terminal 3 is a real gem within an otherwise unexciting departures hall, offering the airline's iconic Noodle Bar, barista-made coffee and even a tended cocktail bar as you await your flight.
But you'll need to be flying with Cathay Pacific in order to stop by – there's no access for passengers booked with Qantas, Japan Airlines, Malaysia Airlines or Qatar Airways, as we explain below.
Location & Impressions
After clearing security and passport control, you'll find the lounge on level four near gate 114 – that's one level above the main passenger concourse, easily accessed via the stairs or elevators.
Given that Manila's Ninoy Aquino International Airport is widely regarded as one of the world's worst airports, stepping into this lounge is like being transported into a different world altogether.
Behind you is the chaos that is the terminal, while ahead is a space that's thoughtfully divided into different zones for working, dining and relaxing, but without doing so in a way that makes each area feel closed off: However, the air conditioning system struggles to keep up with the heat and renders some parts of the lounge feeling a little too warm during the day, even with extra fans running.
- Cathay Pacific business class and first class passengers
- Marco Polo Club Silver, Gold, Diamond, Diamond Plus and Diamond Invitation guests prior to Cathay Pacific flights
- Qantas Gold, Platinum, Platinum One and Chairmans Lounge members prior to the same
- Other Oneworld Sapphire and Oneworld Emerald cardholders travelling onwards with Cathay Pacific
Unfortunately for Australian travellers, Qantas' flights to Sydney depart from Terminal 1 which isn't linked with Terminal 3, making this lounge purely for Cathay Pacific flyers.
It's the same scenario for guests on Cathay's Oneworld alliance partners Japan Airlines, Malaysia Airlines and Qatar Airways which also use Terminal 1.
This lounge really shines in the food and beverage department thanks to Cathay Pacific's signature Noodle Bar...
... serving up a variety of fresh, made-to-order dishes with options for vegetarians and also a Western choice if you're feeling homesick or just want something more familiar: During busy times you'll be issued with a buzzer that illuminates when your food is ready to collect, while during quieter periods your food may be table-served by the staff, who we found to be exceptionally friendly. In either case, we never waited longer than five minutes for a meal, with our fare of choice being the Hong Kong-style wonton noodle soup, prawn dumplings and a crisp glass of white... ... followed closely by the tasty stir-fried vegetable noodles and a BBQ pork bun: Enjoy your food at one of the long communal benches or at these nearby tables which are perfect for both dining and laptop work... ... with AC and USB power at the ready, even if it's just your smartphone that needs a battery boost: For something quick and easy, a small self-serve snack area is nearby with machine-made coffee... ... but why drink that when you can order a respectable barista-made coffee over by the bar? That's also where you'll find more laidback seating choices... ... and a spirit-heavy drinks list that paves the way for classic cocktails such as a Cosmopolitan... ... but which comes up light on the Champagne with only an Australian sparkling on offer and which normally retails for under $7 per bottle here at home: For business class flyers, that's a significant step below the Moët & Chandon served in Cathay's Hong Kong business-grade lounges, while for first class passengers, it's less than ideal.
But with so many other drinks to choose from here, we simply saved the Champagne for the flight instead.
While the dining tables above prove excellent for serious laptop work, you're free to roam about the lounge with your devices as power outlets here are abundant, if you know where to look.
Sitting back in one of these comfy chairs, for instance? Notice the tab sticking out at the edge of the cocktail table – just pull it forward and you'll have easy access to AC and USB power... ... while from some of the chairs located away from these tables, pop-up power points on the floor are easy to spot and are your best bet when your travel adaptor includes a third (earthing) pin, which won't fit into the drawer or dining area plugs: There's also a small business area with three Apple iMac computers... ... but however you connect to the Internet, expect it to be slow: even when we had the lounge entirely to ourselves, download speeds measured at just 0.85Mbps, slowing to 0.65Mbps when other passengers started to arrive.
Uploads hovered around the 0.88Mbps mark with ping speeds of 5-10ms: combined, that's okay for basic tasks like sending emails and browsing regular websites, but sending and receiving larger files or watching Internet-based videos takes a while.
The relaxation areas are conveniently close to the entrance with a variety of seats to suit your mood. Solo travellers may prefer the privacy of these boxed-in seats to the far left, beneath an artwork that adds some welcome colour to the space... ... or one of the many scattered black leather seats throughout: Speaking of colour, the use of greenery not only makes the area feel more vibrant but also creates a little extra privacy... ... while duos who aren't fussed can find plenty of seats lining the walls, most featuring those handy cocktail/power tables: There's also an acceptable selection of reading material here with many English titles... ... and although showers are absent, that's understandable when the only passengers using this lounge are making the two-hour journey to Hong Kong.
Only when boarding is called do you remember that you're actually in an airport – until then, the home-like design of this lounge and the great Noodle Bar could easily convince you otherwise.
Also read: Cathay Pacific A350 business class review
Chris Chamberlin travelled to Manila as a guest of Cathay Pacific
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