Good Advice Tried and Tested

Lounge check: Cathay Pacific The Wing & The Bridge Lounges, Hong Kong

04/06/2014

Background:

I was flying with Cathay Pacific (CX) to Singapore from Hong Kong on business class (departing at 2025), and so I decided to pay a visit to a few of the airline's lounges.

Having attended the opening ceremony of The Bridge – CX’s newest lounge at HKIA back in October last year (see here), I was eager to visit the lounge again to observe how it was faring during full operation. However, before making my way to the new facility, I took a short detour to visit another of CX’s lounges, The Wing.

With both The Wing and The Bridge having been designed by British architectural firm Foster + Partners, I wanted to see if there were any resemblances between the two lounges, as well as the products on offer.


THE WING

First impressions:

The Wing is the airline’s flagship lounge and was launched back in 1998. An extensive redesign effort to the facility was commissioned in late-2010, with the final phase of the project being completed in February 2013.

Welcome to The Wing 

Located between Gate 2 and 3, the lounge is close to security and immigration, and it took me just under five minutes to walk to the lounge. I reached The Wing promptly at 1820. The use of the travelator can further reduce the travel time there.

The lounge:

Upon presenting myself to reception, I noticed that The Wing consisted of two levels – Level 6 and 7.

My immediate observation upon entering the sitting area of the lower level was that it was very empty. There were only two other people, which left me wondering if The Wing was no longer as popular as the other CX lounges on offer. Little did I know that the vast majority of guests were currently enjoying themselves at Level 7. 

In terms of design, the lounge shares some noticeable resemblances with The Bridge. The use of tonal colours and varnished wood are key elements that are very much present at The Bridge, too. According to the airline, the space is primarily decked out with Carrara marble, “Nero Marquina” black marble and “China Black” granite.

Sitting area at Level 6

Perhaps the most identifiable feature is the type of chairs seen in the lounge. Here, the Fosters + Partners-designed 503 & 500 leather armchairs are complemented by the iconic Cathay Pacific Solus Chairs (designed by both the airline and Fosters + Partners). I had the opportunity of sitting in both seats, and found them remarkably comfortable. However, both evoke different cues with the leather seats allowing the user to appreciate the surroundings, while the Solus Chair offers a more personal ambience due to its enclosed feel.

Cathay Pacific's Solus Chair

Having left for the airport immediately after work, I was very hungry and therefore eager to get something to eat. A self-serviced buffet area is available next to main seating area, and I made my way there to check out the food on offer.

CX stocks its lounges with a mix of Asian and Western food selections, but I would recommend going to Level 7 for the best culinary delights that The Wing has to offer. The picture below (taken from Level 6) serves to show some of the offerings available that day.

Self-service buffet selection

Also on the bottom level is the IT Zone, which consists of six separate workstations. Each is equipped with computer terminals and there is a shared printer that is available for all guests. Finally, there are 24 shower suites and washrooms located at the end of the hallway.

The IT Zone

I made my way to the top level of the lounge, and was very surprised to see that the entire upper floor was much more busier than the lower level. I believe that the major appeal of “the balcony level”, and the reason for its popularity over Level 6 is that it features a brighter palette, and thus generates a more “open” feel, which is accentuated through the use of high ceilings and views overlooking the rest of the airport and tarmac. The superior food offering over Level 6 could also be a major factor.

Sitting area at "the balcony level"

On Level 7 is The Noodle Bar as well as The Long Bar that serve freshly made noodles (including the lounge's signature Dan Dan noodles) and drinks. There is also a central self-service food counter that offers a number of food choices including salads, soup, cheese, fried rice and dim sum. Having eaten a bit downstairs already, I decided against doing so again. I did however take my time to appreciate the open surrounding as well as the enthusiastic life that was reverberating through the lounge. I particularly liked the use of the long bar table at the side of the lounge, which provided direct views of the aircraft apron.

Sitting area with self-service buffet (Level 7) 

Following a short rest at The Wing, I left the lounge at 1900 and made my way to The Bridge.


THE BRIDGE

First impressions:  

Located near Gate 35, The Bride is conveniently located between two other Cathay Pacific lounges – The Cabin near Gate 23, and The Pier at Gate 62, thereby providing more flexibility for passengers that are departing from near that area of the airport.

I chose to take the Automated People Mover (APM) train to get to The Bridge as walking there from The Wing would take nearly 10 minutes. The lounge is easily located just under the newly opened Food Plaza (see here), and there is a long welcome desk at the entrance.

As reported in our initial First Look report of The Bridge, the lounge is made up of two wings, each situated at either side of the central reception area. I chose to visit the right side first (known as the North Wing), and duly proceeded into the lounge after showing one of the desk attendants my air ticket. Each wing's entrance is characterised by a sculpture designed handcrafted by UK-based artist Charlotte Mayer. 

Sculpture designed by UK-based artist Charlotte Mayer

The lounge:

Upon entering the lounge, I was greeted by the welcome sight of the main sitting area. While it does feature the same leather seat designs seen in The Wing, I did note a key difference between both lounges.

CX had previously stated that its aim was to create a space that provided a residential and homely feel, and this is clearly evident from the carefully defined individual seating arrangements.

The use of different types of seats, along with the inclusion of display cabinets helps separate the entire seating area into distinct and individual spaces – each offering a different character and tone. This is a distinct contrast from that seen in The Wing, where there is design consistency throughout the area.

The two pictures below serve to emphasize my point. They feature individual seating arrangements that are located next to one another, but are highly distinct from each other.

 

Two distinct-looking seating spaces... located next to one another

The various styles of seating include the Oscar Swivel Armchair designed by Pearson Lloyd, the Foster 520 Armchair, an Antonio Citterio-designed dining chair and sofas handcrafted by B&B Italia. The Cathay Solus Chair, popular in sister lounges is also featured here, in olive green.

In terms of décor, the tone is slightly warmer than in The Wing due to timber flooring and lightly coloured carpets. In addition, the abundance of floor to ceiling windows allows for more natural light to enter the lounge, which would contributes to the overall airy feel of The Bridge. 

 

Food offering at The Bakery

As I had been a little underwhelmed by the food offered at Level 6 of The Wing, I made my way to The Bakery, which is a feature that is only available in The Bridge…and what a treat it was. I was delighted to see that The Bakery offered a significantly more impressive spread of food. Along with the usual fare of hot and cold dishes, The Bakery gets its namesake by serving freshly baked bread and pizza. I helped myself to some food, and was not disappointed at all. The "Long Bar" feature first seen in The Wing is also available here, and offers drinks, canapés, and hot and cold tapas.

It is interesting to observe and analyse how people use the designated spaces in the lounge. After all, the success of a lounge is very much dependent on how people use it. The design philosophy of CX and Foster + Partners may have been to create a residential space that is segmented into different sections – each of which serve a different function, but at the end of the day, it’s down to the user to decide how the space is being utilised.

The TV Lounge

The picture above illustrates my point. Known as The TV Lounge, this area of the facility is designed to place an emphasis on comfort, and appear laid back and fun. The inclusion of long couches where people can rest, or watch TV serves to facilitate this role. As seen above, users have indeed responded to this, and are utilising the space as it was intended to be used. The strength of a product is based on its ability to silently convey to the audience how it is meant to be used, and I believe that The Bridge has certainly succeeded in this regard.

Having settled down onto one of the chairs located at the sitting area of the lounge, I was soon informed by one of the CX attendants that the airline had just launched a new offering that was available to all of its lounge guests.

Upon connecting to the wifi network available across all of its lounges at HKIA, passengers can now gain access to more than 2,000 digital newspaper and magazine titles from some 100 countries on their mobile devices. Intrigued by that possibility, I used my iPhone to check out the new service, and sure enough, there in front of me was a digital version of the latest Business Traveller Asia-Pacific issue.

 

CX's new online newsstand

Prior to me leaving the lounge for my flight, I had a brief look around the South Wing of the lounge which consisted of The Bistro – a designated dining area that offers similar dishes to that seen in the North Wing, The IT Zone - like The Wing offering 12 workstations, six of which are iMacs that run both OSX and Windows systems, and shower facilities.

Shower suite 

A noticeable similarity between The Bridge and The Wing is that one section of each lounge appears to be very much less busy than the other. In the case of The Bridge, I noticed that the South Wing had much fewer people, compared to the North Wing. However, this may have been due to the late hour, as colleagues of mine who have visited the lounge have noted that The Bridge does get very busy at times.

There is also a sitting area here, which once again offered carefully defined individual seating arrangements. The lack of people during the time of my visit made the atmosphere appear comfortable and private – ideal for people who want to work or rest in peace.

Coffee Loft

At the far end of the wing was the Coffee Loft that serves freshly brewed coffee or tea, along with muffins and pastries. However, there wasn’t anyone behind the counter and so I didn’t bother to ask for a drink. I did very much like the small circular tables near the Coffee Loft, which provided direct views of the tarmac.

Who can access it?

Both The Wing (first class & business class lounge) and The Bridge (single-class lounge) are open to Marco Polo Club Silver-tier and above members. Marco Polo Club Diamond members, oneworld Emerald members and first class passengers can access The Wing's first class lounge section, while oneworld Sapphire members and oneworld business class ticket holders can access all other Cathay Pacific-operated lounges at HKIA, including The Bridge.

Verdict

The Wing sets a high industry standard for the level of quality and comfort that a lounge could offer. The Bridge builds on that success, and elevates it to a new level of acceptance. Overall, both lounges are excellent and definitely worth a visit.   

 

Clement Huang