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With almost half of Cathay Pacific’s 23 airport lounges now featuring its latest ‘home away from home’ design, the airline is looking at ways to improve some of its other lounges where full refurbishments and upgrades may not be justified, as well as its contract lounges in places where an own-brand facility doesn’t make sense.
Here’s what’s recently changed on the lounge front with Cathay Pacific, and what’s next the airline’s roadmap.
Cathay Pacific's Shanghai Pudong Airport lounge
The latest upgrade on Cathay Pacific’s airport lounge roadmap comes at Shanghai’s Pudong Airport, where after almost a year of renovations, the airline drew back the curtains on a newly-reimagined lounge shaped by UK designer Ilse Crawford.
Featuring favourites such as Cathay’s iconic Noodle Bar, as well as expansive views across the airport – drawing in plenty of natural light – the upgrade elevates the lounge into what’s easily one of China’s best.
“The minute you step in, you feel that the world has stopped for a short while,” emotes Cathay Pacific’s General Manager Customer Experience and Design, Vivian Lo, speaking to Executive Traveller at the reopening of the airline’s Shanghai lounge.
However, flights across Mainland China are regularly delayed due to air traffic control restrictions and restraints, so the airline took this into consideration when designing its Shanghai lounge.
“This sanctuary or oasis is already very sought after,” continues Lo, and “if the flights are full, if suddenly there are some flight delays and there's an influx of customers, who need to stay here (longer), you want the ability to be able to stretch out a little bit,” explaining that the lounge was designed with more capacity than would be needed every day.
Also, “if you think about Shanghai Airport, it's really a lot of hustle and bustle. You really feel like you're in heart of China, (so what we’ve done) is build a contrast that will help our customers feel more refreshed, and more prepared, to kick-start their journey or return home to their loved ones.”
That also plays off the airline’s ‘home away from home’ design concept, Shanghai being the 11th Cathay Pacific lounge to adopt this philosophy, out of the 23 lounges the airline operates in total.
Cathay Pacific's lounge at Seoul Incheon Airport
Seoul’s Incheon Airport was widely tipped to become the home of the first branded Oneworld airport lounge, but with the Oneworld alliance pushing back its debut – and still yet to confirm whether Seoul was on the agenda – Cathay Pacific has instead moved into the new Asiana Airlines Business West Lounge at Incheon.
Being a long-term lease, this comes in place of Cathay Pacific using any eventual Oneworld lounge in Seoul, or indeed, opening a dedicated Cathay Pacific lounge at one of Asia’s busiest airports.
“We decided not to get (our own) lounge in Seoul,” explains Lo. “When we were asked to move out of the terminal where we operated in Incheon, what we had to face was that we were going to miss out having a lounge.”
“We did work with the airport authority to look at opportunities … but after a lot of interactions, what we've decided to do is to move into the new Asiana Lounge that has just opened.”
As Cathay Pacific offers at least five flights per day from Seoul to Hong Kong – all of which are served by large aircraft like the Airbus A330, Airbus A350 and Boeing 777 – as well as an additional daily flight from Seoul straight to Taipei (continuing also to Hong Kong), one of the features Cathay Pacific needs most is space for all those passengers.
“I don't think there’s going to be any sizeable Oneworld lounge nearby that could accommodate the number of flights we have from Seoul,” Lo continues, and speaking of the Asiana lounge, “we actually occupy a very big piece of their capacity.”
Lo admits that being able to open a dedicated airport lounge often “depends on timing and what’s available”, and that sometimes, “there are places where you’d really love to want to have your own lounge, like New York, but never manage to.”
Cathay Pacific lounges at Tokyo Haneda, Tokyo Narita airports
Another key market for Cathay Pacific is Tokyo, with the airline serving both Haneda and Narita airports out of Hong Kong, in addition to Cathay Dragon flights between Hong Kong and Haneda, plus non-stop Cathay Pacific services from Narita to Taipei.
With own-brand lounges at both airports, Haneda currently wins on the lounge stakes, being the first airport to adopt the updated ‘home away from home’ lounge look and feel back in 2014.
But over at Narita, where Cathay Pacific’s lounge is much older, the opportunities to refresh this space – or to move into a new, larger facility – are much more limited.
“We simply aren’t able to do a full renovation to our new (Ilse Crawford design) template in Narita,” Lo says. “A number of years ago we opened a very big lounge in Haneda instead, which is really beautiful. It's a real flagship. If you ask me, ideally, I would like that to be Narita, but unfortunately...!”
“So at Narita, what we have recently done was to improve the equipment to support and enhance the food and beverage proposition, because I just don't think there was any new space available (for a lounge) in Narita,” so Cathay Pacific has to work within the footprint of the existing space.
Melbourne Airport's Cathay Pacific lounge
Down in Melbourne – the only Australian airport where Cathay Pacific continues to operate its own-brand lounge – the circumstances are much the same in not being able to move into a bigger space, but with an added dash of uncertainty when it comes to the terminal itself.
“There's been a lot of talk about whether, eventually, we will have to move to a different terminal: and, would (we) want to get a lounge, (although) what sort of size, what sort of requirements we might have, we don’t know.”
Should the airline change terminals as part of a major revamp at Melbourne Airport, Cathay could also face the possibility of relying on the lounges of its Oneworld alliance partner Qantas, as it already does in Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth, but this also remains to be seen.
Given it’s unknown whether the airline would still be flying out of the same terminal in the years to come, and if so, that the space occupied by the current Cathay Pacific lounge would need to be vacated and returned to the airport, a softer revamp in the meantime stands to be the smartest play for the airline.
In that existing lounge, “I think Melbourne is somewhere … where we might be doing more in terms of improving the food and beverage, rather than renovating the whole thing,” Lo concludes.
Chris Chamberlin travelled to Shanghai as a guest of Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon.
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