Air travel has become a necessity in our lives as working professionals that it is likened to taking a bus or a train. Some airlines, however, make it more pleasurable than others.
Recently, I was on a trip to New Mexico on a US airline. It was a three-and-a-half-hour flight and we were served nothing more than peanuts and chips. Most one-and-a-half hour flights on Asian airlines serve you a hot sandwich in economy, and a rice or noodle meal complete with fruit or dessert in business and first class.
This disparity between Asian and most US airlines is further highlighted in the design, quality, service, food and amenity offerings of each airline’s respective lounge.
In October 2013, Cathay Pacific (CX) opened its newest lounge, The Bridge. It is the sixth lounge at Hong Kong International Airport, joining The Wing, The Cabin, The Pier, G16 (Dragonair) and Arrival Lounge.
The Bridge is approximately 2,570 square meters, and designed by Foster and Partners. Lord Norman Foster was also chief architect of the Hong Kong International Airport itself, as well as the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank headquarters.
With The Bridge, Cathay Pacific now operates a total area of 13,000 sq m of lounge space within Hong Kong International Airport.
The aesthetics are neutral, warm, airy, light and modern. If the physical space had been a double-height ceiling, it would certainly feel like a snazzy New York or London Loft. (These lounges have, after all, become regular “hang-outs” for many.)
In addition to these features, The Bridge boasts the largest expanse of glass among all other lounges, with a view overlooking the tarmac.
The Bridge is located at Gate 35 and is separated into two wings, North and South, each extending from both sides of the central reception.
It is a natural characteristic of each lounge to be different from the other and to have variations in food offerings, but always keeping high culinary standards and aesthetics.
The Bridge has several sections. The Bakery (North Wing) is a deli-style dining area offering freshly baked bread, pizza, pastries, salads, soups and a variety of sandwiches. An a la carte menu is offered but you have the option of a self-service buffet, perfect when you are late for a flight and on the run.
The Long Bar (North Wing), as the name suggests, sweeps parallel to the large expanse of perimeter glass. You have prime bar stool or lounge seating.
The Bistro (South Wing) is a self-service area with a full array of Asian and international hot and cold dishes, salads, pastas and desserts—hearty meals you can take at leisure for those delayed connecting flights or for early birds who like to be settled in hours before their flight.
At the Coffee Loft (South Wing), baristas make you feel like you’re sitting in a Starbucks, Juan Valdez or Lavazza coffee shop.
The Shower Suite (South Wing) is a sanctuary in a busy airport—a true oasis of serenity and rehydration! (Those long-haul flights just dry you out like a prune.)
The IT Zone (South Wing) offers high-speed Internet and 12 individual workstations equipped with dual system iMacs.
Most CX lounges feature the works of top painters, sculptors and furniture designers which may be considered the unifying thread of all CX lounges.
Present in The Bridge’s design is the luminous reception wall made of Venetian glass tile by Fabbian of Italy. Two layers of tiles lit from top and bottom, using energy efficient LED lights, create an abstract visual impression of bamboo—an iconic Asian element. White Carrara marble-and-black granite exude the air of luxury without the glitz.
The palette is natural and warm, with black granite and vertical oak lamellas creating edginess. The lamellas are strategically placed as dividers to create a sense of privacy between areas.
The seating at The Bridge includes the innovative bespoke Cathay Solus Chair that is hand-finished by Poltrona Frau in Italy. This is designed to cater to various needs, providing a space to eat, work, read or simply relax.
I also think it is the perfect chair for a lone traveler. It cocoons you as a subtle way of saying “do not disturb” or “I like the solitude.”
Other distinct pieces, such as The Oscar swivel armchair by Pearson Lloyd, Foster 520 armchairs, Antonio Citterio-designed dining chairs and B&B Italia handcrafted sofas, are used all over the lounge.
The Wing’s First Class area is on Level 7, its Business Class area on Level 6. Both offer a view of Gate 2. I must mention the classic identifying features that offer unparalleled levels of comfort at this particular lounge.
It is conveniently located to the left as you exit Immigration, so travelers don’t have to look far.
The champagne bar offers cocktails and champagne. Very recently, it has begun to offer one of my favorites, the crisp, light and “easy to drink” Delamotte Champagne (the humbler sister of Salon).
The Haven offers an a la carte menu, set menus with wine pairings, and an extensive buffet of roast beef, pork belly, among others, plus freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juices. It is catered by no less than The Peninsula of Hong Kong.
My all-time favorite is the Cabana where one can shower and take a nap. Last December, the lounge was so full we all ended up hanging out inside a cabana. It is so soundproof that the silence is deafening.
Since it is detailed and well-appointed, it feels like having your own studio apartment while in transit. Just don’t get too comfortable because you might miss your flight. Set an alarm or ask the attendant to wake you.
Though the business class lounge at The Wing is much more pared down than the first class lounge, dining at The Noodle Bar definitely hits the spot. Nothing like hot piping soba or wanton after a shower after a long-haul flight.
I must also note the environmental features, such as the use of bamboo and eucalyptus from sustainable sources and the wide use of natural light. This can be seen throughout the airport.
Unlike The Wing, The Cabin is a mono-class lounge. (No distinction between first and business class). It is located next to Gate 23. It is modern in a jazzy-hip way. Materials are high-gloss and the signature Cathay Solus chairs are ever present. (I might soon call it the “Do not disturb chair.”)
A deli is a new dining experience where one can order hot sandwiches using whole-wheat bread, panini, or any of the freshly baked bread. This is in addition to the usual Asian and Western dishes.
The Long Bar also provides a healthy twist of blended smoothies, Chinese herbal tea and specially blended cocktail with or without alcohol. Those smoothies are great to start your day.
The Arrival is CX’s response to the traveler who lands in HK and has to go straight to a meeting. Have a shower and enjoy complimentary self-service buffet made available from 5 a.m. until midnight. For someone who has just traveled to the Southwest, where fast food is often the choice while in transit, the CX lounges are a true oasis to the weary jet-lagged traveler.
The lounges are open to both first class and business class passengers, The Marco Polo Club members (Silver tier and above), One World members (Sapphire and above). As a Marco Polo Club member (Gold and below tier) and business class passenger, you may use your miles to upgrade yourself from business class lounge to first class.