Cathay Pacific has closed three of its busiest Hong Kong lounges due to the rolling effects of the coronavirus, which has seen Cathay slash flights to mainland China while other Oneworld airlines – among them American Airlines, British Airways and Qantas – reduce or cancel flights to Hong Kong.
Cathay's flagship The Pier First Class lounge, along with the The Deck and The Bridge lounges, closed their doors on Monday February 17 “until further notice”, the airline says. “We apologise for the inconvenience caused to our customers and appreciate their understanding."
The move will allow Cathay to aggregate passenger numbers into those lounges while reducing overall operating costs, which has become a focal point for the airline as it weathers the coronavirus storm.
"We don’t know how long this will last,” Cathay Pacific CEO Augustus Tang has told staff. “With such an uncertain outlook, preserving our cash is now key to protecting our business.”
Tang has also requested that all 27,000 of the airline's staff take three weeks of voluntary unpaid leave as the airline seeks to ride out the worst effects of the coronavirus – now formally named Covid-19 – which has to date claimed almost 1,400 lives, mostly in mainland China, with more than 60,000 confirmed cases across 28 countries; Hong Kong reported its first coronavirus death last week.
The Oneworld member is particularly exposed to the impact of the epidemic: the airline's international routes are funnelled through its Hong Kong hub, while Cathay Pacific and its regional arm Cathay Dragon previously maintained an extensive network of 368 flights per week to 23 destinations across mainland China.
Some of its most popular regional routes to Singapore and Taipei have also been hammered by plummeting demand and travel restrictions.
Your Cathay Pacific HKG lounge alternatives
Passengers who would usually visit The Pier First Class lounge – which caters to first class flyers, Cathay Pacific Marco Polo Club Diamond and Diamond Plus members, Qantas Frequent Flyer Platinum card-holders and their Oneworld Emerald equivalents – will be redirected to the adjacent The Pier Business Class lounge, near gate 65, if their flights depart from the more distant end of Terminal 1.
Travellers bound for The Bridge, near gate 35, should also continue towards gate 65 and The Pier Business Class lounge.
The Pier Business Class is still among the world's best business class lounges, with an extensive buffet plus Cathay's iconic Noodle Bar, a bar, a Tea Room, a series of nap nooks and spacious well-appointed shower suites.
Plan B for many The Pier First Class regulars – or perhaps Plan A, if they still desire a more 'exclusive' experience than a business class lounge – will be The Wing First Class lounge, up near gates 1-4.
The Wing has a markedly different aesthetic to The Pier, as it belongs to Cathay's previous generation of lounge design. The dining room menu is largely the same, with the added option of a buffet, although we suggest the indulgent cabanas will be even harder to snare.
At the top end of the terminal, The Deck – Cathay's newest Hong Kong lounge – was heavily patronised ahead of flights to mainland China, but passengers can make a beeline for The Wing Business Class lounge...
... or, and this may be far more convenient for Cathay Pacific flights departing from gates 15-19, visit the Qantas Hong Kong Lounge, which is immediately adjacent to The Deck.
The Qantas Hong Kong Lounge has a tended wine and cocktail bar, a BBQ pork station serving freshly-prepared char siu, a 'plate of the day' and an extensive buffet, while a whimsical dim sum trolley rolls around in the evenings.
Entry to the Qantas Hong Kong Lounge is available to Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon passengers booked into business class or holding Marco Polo Club Gold or Diamond status (along with other Oneworld business class, Sapphire and Emerald travellers).
Coronavirus precautions inflight, at lounges
Cathay Pacific is also taking what it describes as "precautionary measures" at its Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing lounges.
"The cleaning of surfaces in washrooms, lifts and other high-use areas is being conducted more frequently, and magazines have been removed. Changes to our food offering have also been made, including the replacement of the buffet with single-serve prepared meals, and the use of disposable cutlery at our Beijing and Shanghai Pudong lounges."
Additionally, meals on first and business class flights will be served on a single tray rather than from a trolley, while "hot towels, pillows, blankets, magazines and inflight duty-free sales have also been temporarily suspended."
Earlier this month Cathay Pacific scrapped almost all flights to China with the exceptions of Beijing, Shanghai, Xiamen and Chengdu, with each of those four cities also seeing fewer daily flights.
Cathay, Qantas cut Australia-Hong Kong flights
Cathay has also reduced flights between Australia and Hong Kong until at least the end of March and suspended several international routes including London Gatwick, Rome, Washington DC, New York Newark and Cape Town.
"Due to the Novel Coronavirus outbreak and the subsequent reduction in flight demand, Cathay Pacific Group is reducing capacity across its network, inclusive of flights to and from Australia and New Zealand," a Cathay Pacific spokeswoman told Executive Traveller. "The schedule reduction equates to approximately 37 per cent of flights from 1 to 28 March 2020."
As exclusively reported by Executive Traveller earlier this week, Qantas is winding back its Melbourne-Hong Kong and Brisbane-Hong Kong flights from a daily frequency down to between three and five days each week as the coronavirus and related travel restrictions carve into passenger demand on the usually busy routes.
"We are cancelling some return flights from Australia to Hong Kong in February and March to better match the demand we are seeing," a Qantas spokesperson told Executive Traveller.