Taipei - Taoyuan
- Cooked-to-order dishes for all travellers
- Exclusive space for China Airlines' top frequent flyers
- Convenient location for flights to London
- Limited natural light, and no Champagne unless you're an elite frequent flyer
- Stylish, thoughtful design wherever you look
China Airlines' flagship lounge at Taipei's Taoyuan Airport offers a little something for everyone at Terminal 1, whether you're stopping by for a bite to eat, to get some work done or just to kick back before a long international flight, with seating for 154 business class passengers and elite frequent flyers.
Australian Business Traveller stopped by China Airlines' home-hub lounge en route to London to bring you this review: remembering of course that China Airlines is based in Taiwan (the Republic of China), not Mainland China (the People's Republic), so SkyTeam's China Airlines and Star Alliance's Air China aren't to be confused.
Location & Impressions
Located after security screening – and if your journey begins in Taiwan, passport control – you'll find this lounge up on the fourth floor by following the signs in the terminal.
China Airlines has two main lounges in Taipei Terminal 1: this one is closest to the 'A' gates which are typically used by flights to London: so if you've arrived on a flight from Australia and are making that transit, you'll normally land in Terminal 2 and can then take the free sky train service between terminals, and venture here as the most convenient lounge before your onward flight.
After passing by reception, you'll head down a long corridor: keep following it...
... and at the end, you'll find the main area of the business class lounge, which combines most amenities into the one large room including those for working, dining and relaxing...
... and if it's natural light you seek to help smack down jet lag, wander down the far end where there's a green living wall behind glass, with plenty of light shining through from above.
Some boarding calls are made – namely, for China Airlines' key flights – but to keep track of your departure, flight information screens are provided here as well...
... but having said that, I found it took forever for the screens to cycle through and reveal my flight, because they display literally every departure from Taipei: even those from the other terminal, and of airlines that don't provide access to this lounge (such as China Airlines' local competitor, EVA Air) – whereas showing only 'lounge eligible' flights would make this clearer for the passengers the lounge was designed to serve.
If you're a regular China Airlines flyer with Emerald or Paragon status in the airline's Dynasty frequent flyer program and are travelling on an eligible flight, you'll also have access to the "Paragon / Emerald Exclusive Area", tucked away behind a subtle door...
... which opens to reveal a 68-seat space, offering a little more privacy for each passenger, and many of the same amenities as the 'main' lounge.
Both the main business class lounge and the Exclusive Area are open between 5:30am and 11:30pm daily.
The following guests can access the main business class section of this lounge:
- Business class passengers of China Airlines and its SkyTeam partners departing from Taipei Terminal 1, currently including Korean Air and Vietnam Airlines, plus Air Macau by special arrangement, and Mandarin Airlines.
- First class flyers travelling with Korean Air.
- China Airlines' Dynasty Paragon cardholders travelling with China Airlines, another SkyTeam alliance airline, Mandarin Airlines, or on a CI/AE codeshare flight number served by any airline when the ticket number also begins with 297 or 803.
- China Airlines' Dynasty Emerald members flying China Airlines, Mandarin Airlines, or on a SkyTeam-operated flight.
- Other SkyTeam Elite Plus frequent flyers travelling with China Airlines or another SkyTeam airline (no access when flying Mandarin Airlines or on codeshare flights operated by non-SkyTeam airlines, unless provided by holding eligible Dynasty status, as above).
- China Airlines' Dynasty Gold members flying with China Airlines and Mandarin Airlines only.
- China Airlines Dynasty members redeeming 5,000 miles for one-off access.
As for the Paragon/Emerald Exclusive Area, the name says it all: so unless you hold China Airlines Dynasty Emerald or Paragon status, you won't be able to access this section, but can enjoy the rest of the lounge.
With China Airlines' Taipei-London flights departing mid-morning, chances are you'll be stopping by this lounge for breakfast – and if so, you'll find plenty of dining space within the main business class room, whether you're after an individual table...
... or more communal seating, if travelling in a larger group or to be more social:
An extensive buffet begins by offering a variety of dim sum (prawn siu mai is always a favourite), aside more Western bites like hash browns and scrambled eggs...
... a range of fresh salads and ingredients to assemble your own...
... smaller bites like meats, snacks, cheeses and desserts, if the mood strikes...
... and although the espresso machine describes its product as "barista coffee", it's a regular push-button machine, but which prepared an acceptable latte to help wake me up early on a weekday morning:
There's also a staffed noodle bar open from 5:30am through to 11pm – closing down half an hour before the whole lounge does – where you can order your preferred selection for breakfast, lunch or dinner:
However, step into the Paragon/Emerald Exclusive Area (if you have access, of course), and instead of approaching a counter to request your meal, there's full table service from every seat, with the same dishes available as desired:
I ordered the pork Tainan Dan-Dan noodles, which were an enjoyable way to start the day...
... and to save top-tier frequent flyers from darting in between lounges, there's a separate buffet spread in the Exclusive Area, with many similar items as in the business class lounge...
... whether hot as above or little snacks as below:
The one big thing the Exclusive Area offers which the general business class area lacks is Champagne, which may not be on display, but can be requested from the wait staff and delivered to your seat at any time:
Otherwise, the wines and spirits are relatively similar between the two spaces...
... and while all seats in the Exclusive Area offer dining facilities, if you can snag a seat closer to the entrance, the design of this space feels more like an elaborate marquee than a typical airport lounge, although the tables aren't usually set up as elaborately as pictured below (taken back when the lounge first opened in 2014):
A small business centre is shared by all lounge guests...
... yet we'd expect most business travellers to be toting their own tech, and happily spotted power points near most of the seats, whether the comfy chairs in the main business class space...
... near the business class dining tables...
... or in the Exclusive Area, where dining tables 'slash' working spaces can fold up and down as needed, with the power point accessible in both cases – just note that all outlets here are AC-only, not USB, but these are international-style and accept Australian pins without an adaptor, along with plenty of others:
Password-protected wireless Internet is available throughout the lounges, with our tests measuring average download speeds of 84.6Mbps and similar upload speeds of 84.3Mbps: excellent for basic web browsing through to HD video streaming, uploading large files to cloud drives and everything in between.
Sticking with that Paragon/Emerald zone for a moment, there's plenty of space to relax and unwind in privacy, whether travelling solo, with a companion...
... or in a larger group:
But even without that shiny Paragon or Emerald frequent flyer card, there's plenty of comfy seating in the main business class space...
... including some 'hangout' zones designed around shorter, more social visits...
... with daybeds available to all lounge guests...
... along with a selection of reading material, found along the corridor you encountered at the beginning...
... and an array of private shower suites, which can be booked via reception and are refreshed after every guest:
Overall, the attention to the detail and design of this lounge made it easy to relax before my onward flight, although when travelling through so many time zones – as you do when jetting between Australia and London – I'd love to have seen more natural light, especially in the elite frequent flyer zone which is designed to be the 'best' space.
With other major carriers in the region also serving Champagne in their business class lounges, it'd be great to see China Airlines doing the same for its premium-paying guests, not just for elite frequent flyers as is currently the case: but beyond that, this is a solid home hub lounge with a little something for everyone, and gives a good hint as to the design of China Airlines' newly-renovated lounge in Taipei Terminal 2, which is expected to re-open in September.
Chris Chamberlin travelled to London as a guest of China Airlines.