Reviews

Review: Cathay Pacific business, first class lounge, Manila Airport

Overall Rating

By Chris Chamberlin, July 20 2016
Cathay Pacific business, first class lounge, Manila Airport
Country

Philippines

City

Manila

Airport

Manila - Ninoy Aquino International

Alliance

oneworld

Airline

Cathay Pacific

Cabin-class

Business & First

Notes
The Good
  • Tended bar with barista coffee
  • AC and USB power points abundant
The Bad
  • Slow wireless Internet
  • No differentiation for first class flyers
The Unexpected
  • Great food at the Noodle Bar
Location
Dining
Work
Overall

Introduction

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.

Access

  • 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.

Dining

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.

Work

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.

Relax

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

ChrisCh
ChrisCh

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!

TheRealBabushka

TheRealBabushka

21 Apr 2012

Total posts 3034

Slightly off topic, but certainly hope it's not worthy of censorship...

Is there a PAYG lounge at MNL T3, for when you're flying with Cebu Pacific?

Or in the absence of that, is there a Starbucks?

ChrisCh

ChrisCh

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2925

Hi TRB, your question relates to the content of the article so it's not one we'd remove as being off-topic under our comment policy, as such a lounge (or coffee shop) would also be an option for Cathay Pacific passengers departing from the same terminal who didn't have lounge privileges. :)

T3 has a few independent lounges including Pacific Club and Sky View which are open to Priority Pass members, among others – often that means there's also an option to pay for access at the door if you don't have one of these cards, but can't say I've visited those lounges or tried to pay.

russell

russell

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Nov 2011

Total posts 326

I really would like to understand the rationale of having CX fly from T3 and all the other OW carriers fly from the terrible T1. Currently in Manila but flying back to SYD with QF, dismayed that I can't get access to this lounge. 

TheRealBabushka

TheRealBabushka

21 Apr 2012

Total posts 3034

You should be. The contract lounge QF uses at T1 is a disgrace.

For MNL its really only CX or SQ that is worth considering. The new Silver Kris lounge at MNL T3 is on par with CX's.

Walter

Walter

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 2

I think you will find the rationale is that it is the Philippines! Without any basis in fact my view is that T1 was over capacity and 'disputes' over T3 were resolved so airport authorities could start to move some of the larger airlines across to aleviate the capacity issues. CX doesn't really care too much about OW and the added bonus of extra space to build a greenfields lounge made sense for them. T1 is actually vastly improved compared to 2 or 3 years ago but still pretty awful. I have wondered in the past why QF even offer a lounge in Manila as what they use is so bad.  

Leisuretravel

Leisuretravel

17 Dec 2014

Total posts 3

Just FYI, there is a Korean run private pay per entry lounge prior to passport control at T3, upstairs next to McDonald's. It offers shower only and sleeping/shower options plus longe at a reasonable cost for travellers desperately needing a shower or short term sleep (4-8 hour blocks if I remember correctly) before their next flight. Would be useful if one has lots of time before check in opens, rather than sitting around with somewhat limited food / seating options upstairs, and needing to keep an eye on one's luggage etc. I haven't actually needed the facilities myself, but would use them if a connecting domestic flight meant I had too much time at Manila T3. With domestic flights often delayed, having excess time is quite probable in the event of an on time arrival of a domestic flight to T3. 

mrmaxwell

mrmaxwell

17 Jun 2011

Total posts 66

The disparity between the luxurious CX lounge in T3 and the absolute joke of a QF lounge (if by lounge you mean small boxed room) in T1 is light years. Throw in no AC or wifi and stale sandwiches and you'd be forgiven for thinking you had been transported to the Alice Springs TAA lounge from 1982. 

I've made several return flights back to SYD via HKG on CX just to avoid T1 and the horrible QF setup they are running. Surely 50-100 premium PAX 5 x per week along with the top performing route by load in the entire QFi group would warant some kind of upgrade? And to think QF actually moved lounges from a small lounge to right next door and a much smaller lounge is hilarious.

Cudos to CX for giving their PAX world class lounge facilities in T3 - I've even spoken to the lounge manager a few times who visits form HKG to get feedback and check up on things. No one from QF would be caught dead in their sad excuse of a lounge.

tneumanas

tneumanas

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Aug 2016

Total posts 5

The JAL lounge in Terminal one is the best of a bad lot while not up to usual standards the food is good and the staff friendly. Nearly always get a seat as it only gets busy before Japan Airlines flights.We fly Malaysia Airlines quite a bit from here and get access with Qantas Gold


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