Four years ago, in February 2019, Cathay Pacific’s lounge network was – like the airline itself – in full swing.
The countdown was on for the July opening of a spacious new-look Cathay lounge in Shanghai, modelled along the same warm contemporary lines as Hong Kong’s The Pier and The Deck, and the lounge roadmap stretched confidently into the years ago.
Three years ago, in February 2020, Cathay began closing its lounges in Hong Kong and then around the world as Covid-19 took hold – and stayed much longer than many people expected.
Now, in February 2023, the airline is steadily flying its way out of the pandemic clouds – and its lounge network is being both rebooted and reshaped to suit the times.
That could include a “flagship lounge” in Beijing which Cathay hopes will turn out to be “the best lounge” in China.
The current Beijing lounge will be reopened in the coming months, but Vivian Lo – Cathay’s General Manager for Customer Experience & Design – has set her sights on a dramatic transformation for its presence in the Chinese capital.
“We would definitely love to build a flagship lounge in Beijing,” Lo tells Executive Traveller, adding “we’re very proud to offer the best lounge of China in Shanghai” – but she wants to “replicate that in Beijing.”
“For the remodelling we will need to reach an agreement with the airport authority (while) the lounge we've got is through the ground handling agent.”
“In Beijing they don't sign any direct leases with any airlines… so if you look around there's almost no airline lounge except for the local carrier, which is also the ground handling agent.”
“So in order for us to arrive at a plan of when to renovate (the Beijing lounge), there's a tri-party kind of discussion.”
Other lounges in line for a makeover to the airline’s latest template, created by London designer Isle Crawford and her company StudioIlse, are Tokyo Narita and San Francisco – although both projects will come well after those lounges reopen.
“We have now a very clear kind of strategic roadmap between now and the next five years, in terms of what locations and what to do at each location,” Lo says.
Cathay will also pare back its network and permanently close many of its older lounges.
“As part of the strategic review we’ve decided to have a smaller portfolio of lounges,” Lo confirms to Executive Traveller.
This will include Frankfurt, and to nobody’s surprise, the cramped and dated spaces at Kuala Lumpur and Melbourne (the later of which will be swallowed up by the expanded Qantas international business class lounge).
“We’re trying to more strategically position our lounge proposition,” Lo explains, noting the most modern lounges are based on either the design template of StudioIlse or The Wing-style look from Foster and Partners.
“But you also have some small lounges that weren’t really a differentiator – for example, what we used to have in Melbourne.”
“Those small lounges that are not strategically positioned or presented; we would rather close them and focus on a series of strategic locations and renovate them all to the new Cathay Pacific template.”
“So for the lounges that will be reopening, we will be taking turns to renovate them.”