2015 is set to be a busy year for Cathay Pacific with new and refreshed lounges in Manila, Bangkok, Taipei, Vancouver and flagship The Pier in Hong Kong all opening their doors.
The lounges will follow the ‘home away from home’ design cues of the airline’s Haneda Airport lounge, created by London-based StudioIse, to adopt a warmer residential feeling compared to most of the showpiece Hong Kong lounges shaped by previous CX lounge designers Foster+Partners.
“It’s a big investment and a bit of a strain on the team” reflects Toby Smith, the airline’s General Manager Product, of the rollout timetable.
“But we want to maintain our position as a premium airline and continue to give our passengers what they want, and they’re saying lounges are an important part of their travel experience.”
Each of the new lounges will also include The Noodle Bar (shown below at Hong Kong's The Wing lounge), which has become one of Cathay Pacific’s most familiar and indeed iconic lounge elements.
“We want to introduce The Noodle Bar into as many lounges as we can because that’s uniquely Cathay Pacific” Smith explains to Australian Business Traveller.
Those Noodle Bars will also have more of Haneda’s open design with the kitchen on display and raised bar stools at the counter.
“Rather than just taking your noodles from the bar, and going away and sitting somewhere else, there’s an opportunity if you’re a solo traveler to sit there and watch a chef at his craft, or talk to other passengers.”
Manila will be the first lounge on Cathay Pacific’s 2015 calendar, with Smith aiming for an April opening.
“Manila certainly hasn’t been a shining star in our lounge network, I’ll be the first to admit” Smith says.
“But we’ve been waiting many years to move to Manila’s Terminal 3 and finally that’s happened, so we’re now able to invest in a new lounge, and this will follow the same template as we have here in Haneda."
Bangkok will follow, with the two current lounges swapped for a single super-sized one.
“At the moment we have two small lounges in Bangkok, but British Airways has relinquished the space next to the bigger of the two lounges, so we’re taking up that space. That lounge will double in size and the smaller one will close” Smith says.
“This will probably happen in May, and the new Bangkok lounge will very much follow the same template as Haneda and include a noodle bar.”
After a ribbon-cutting for Hong Kong's The Pier First Class lounge in June, attention will turn to Taipei, which like Bangkok will see an expansion of the lounge as well as a much-needed make-over.
“Taipei is probably August, maybe September” Smith predicts. “It’s obviously a major destination for us, with flights pretty much every hour. So we needed more space, which we’ve now secured from the airport authority, and it’s also overdue a revamp.”
The year will close out with a renovation and relocation for Cathay Pacific’s Vancouver lounge, which Smith says “should open probably at the very end of 2015 or early 2016.”
“We’re moving the lounge because we’ve got a better space nearer our departure gates, and it will follow a very similar template to Haneda.”
Expect to see more 'integrated' lounges
Part of Cathay Pacific’s lounge plan will also see a move towards single-class ‘integrated’ lounges outside of Hong Kong, without separate business class and first class zones.
Smith tells Australian Business Traveller that travellers will generally only see first class lounges “in Hong Kong and our top ports like London.”
"The risk is, if you don’t have a high volume of either first class passengers or top tier Marco Polo Club members, you end up having a rather small first lounge.”
"That’s not only inefficient but we don’t think it delivers as premium an experience as building one big lounge to a very high standard.”
Smith says Cathay’s lounge at Taipei “is a very good example”, and will this year will go from having first and business spaces to a single shared facility.
“Taipei has a very small first class area and I don’t think it’s particularly premium. Replacing it with something like Haneda will appeal more to our Marco Polo Club Diamond members and First Class passengers than continuing with the status quo.”
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