Cathay Pacific operate eight nonstop flights a day from Singapore Changi Airport to their main hub in Hong Kong, and one additional flight to Hong Kong via Bangkok, for a total of nine services per day.
On 31 October 2017, along with Korean Air, they became the first airline to move to Changi’s new Terminal 4, having previously operated out of Terminal 1. As part of their transfer to the new facility, Cathay also opened a brand new dedicated Business Lounge, the Cathay Pacific Lounge, in T4 on the same day.
We passed through the newly opened lounge in Changi Airport T4 on its fourth day of operation, to write a full review of one of the most anticipated lounge openings in Asia this year. We also took the opportunity to separately review Terminal 4 itself.
Cathay Pacific originally had their own lounge facility in Terminal 1, the Cathay Skyview Lounge. It was actually a joint Cathay / DNATA operated facility and was also open to other airlines such as Bangkok Airways, Garuda and SriLankan. It also allowed access to Priority Pass members.
That lounge closed however in 2016, replaced by a new DNATA lounge in a slightly different location. Cathay passengers used this lounge instead (or the Qantas Singapore Lounge if it was open, and they had any sense!). The DNATA lounge lacked any Cathay branding as by this stage work was well underway on their own dedicated facility in Terminal 4, the second-largest Cathay Pacific lounge outside Hong Kong (after their Taipei lounge).
Regular Cathay first and business passengers, and oneworld status members, will be familiar with Cathay’s excellent lounge selection at their hub in Hong Kong. One of the most recent to open was a re-designed version of The Pier.
The designer of that lounge, Ilse Crawford, also designed this new Cathay lounge in Changi Terminal 4, which will immediately give many of you a good idea of the design and finish to expect, this lounge is very reminiscent of The Pier in Hong Kong.
We arrived to find the lounge very busy just before midday, with a Cathay departure to Hong Kong coming up at 12:55, before our flight to Bangkok at 14:00. There wasn’t much choice of seating left in the Noodle Bar, almost every table was already taken, and much of the quieter area at the far end of the lounge was also occupied, so we took a stool at the bar-style seating just outside the Noodle Bar, close to the buffet and drinks area.
The lounge staff told us that this was one of the busiest times of the day for the facility, as two departures are timed relatively close together. Similarly the early morning is also busy around 6am to 6.30am, with passengers for the 06:50 flight and many for the 08:00 departure sharing the lounge at that time.
It’s worth bearing in mind that while the business class capacity of each Cathay Pacific aircraft departing for Hong Kong is only around 38 to 42 passengers, depending on the aircraft type used, the SIN-HKG route is frequented by many Cathay and oneworld members travelling in economy and premium economy who also have access to the lounge through their frequent flyer status level. There can apparently be upward of 40 to 50 additional guests per flight in this category.
As it was lunchtime, our first task was to order some food and of course we wanted to try the freshly prepared noodles. There was a small queue at the Noodle Bar, and once you have ordered they provide a buzzer which lets you know when your food is ready to collect.
In the meantime while we waited for the food, the obligatory glass of champagne. Cathay are serving Moët in this lounge, but unlike the more usual experience of requesting a glass from the bartender, this is one area where the Cathay lounge in T4 differs from their recent openings, such as in Bangkok and London Heathrow, because there is no manned bar. We found this unusual, especially as the third-party Blossom lounge in T4, directly opposite and in view of the Cathay lounge, does feature a manned bar.
The champagne situation was a little chaotic, as the fridge was not keeping the champagne cold enough (or perhaps it had not been loaded into the fridge for long enough), and the small single ice bucket alongside had not been replenished and only contained an empty bottle.
The lounge staff did their best to be very helpful, and put a new bottle onto the ice for me, with the expectation that in 10 minutes it would be a better temperature. However while waiting several other lounge guests came and poured themselves glasses of (rather warm) champagne until the bottle was empty again, so the process was re-started!
Eventually I settled for a slightly cold glass, certainly not quite the temperature it should have been. This is where a manned bar would have helped, and in our view would have been a logical addition to this lounge.
While enjoying the champagne, it was time to test the Wi-Fi service provided for lounge guests. We found this one easy to join, and it provided a fast connection throughout our visit.
It only took around 10 minutes for our noodles order to be ready for collection, quite reasonable given the busy state of the lounge at the time. The Laksa, which traditionally would normally contain seafood but in this case was a Curry Chicken variety, had great flavour and was quite spicy. The Wanton Noodle was also excellent, as were the BBQ Pork Bun dim sum.
Exploring the Lounge
Around 12:20, once boarding for the 12:55 departure was called, the lounge emptied out significantly, and as we had another hour to kill before our flight we took the opportunity to take a few photos of the various seating options, the Noodle Bar and the Bureau – an office area with computer workstations.
Make a left turn on entering the lounge then continue to walk down to the end of the corridor, and you’ll emerge into the main area with a wide variety of comfortable seating options. If you’ll spend a while in the lounge, we would recommend getting settled somewhere here first.
At the far end of the lounge the windows provide a good view into the main terminal transit lounge, and on the right hand side – our favourite leather chairs which we first discovered in the Cathay Bangkok lounge. They look down over the gates and airport apron / runway, and are in a nice quiet section.
The Noodle Bar is undoubtedly the main feature point of this lounge, indeed at the expense of some other facilities you might have expected to find in a Cathay lounge, like showers and a manned bar. More on those later.
The menu is presented on the bar and lets you know what options are being freshly prepared today. We checked with the lounge staff and they advised that there is a breakfast menu for the morning departures, followed by an all-day menu. Selections will be rotated every two weeks, so regular visitors to the lounge should hopefully not become bored of the same menu on each visit.
The noodle bar has the option of bar stool seating (at the noodle bar itself), communal dining tables in the middle with low stools, or two and four person booths along the sides.
Buffet and bar
Nestled between the Noodle Bar and the main seating sections of the lounge, there is a general dining and drinks area with a selection of soft drinks, beers, wines and spirits, a coffee machine, and a buffet with some additional food selections for those not partial to noodles and dim sum.
As this is not the main food option for this lounge, the choices were rather limited and consisted of three salad options, three hot dishes, and a selection of cheeses.
On the drinks side, the self-service bar area consisted of the usual selection of beers, wines and soft drinks, while the spirits selection included gin, whiskey, vodka and martini.
The coffee machine options included regular coffee, cappuccino, latte and hot chocolate.
The two red wines on offer were:
- Château le Joyeux Bordeaux (2015). 3.7 stars on Vivino
- Woolshed Shiraz Australia (2016). 3.2 stars on Vivino
The white wine selection was:
- Domaine Les Esquirots Sauvignon (2016). 3.6 stars on Vivino
- Whale’s Tale Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (2016). 3.9 stars on Vivino
The lounge also features the Bureau, a quiet office area with desk space and workstations, for those looking to get some serious work done during their visit. To head straight there, it’s a right turn as you enter the lounge.
There are three workstations in total, and none were being used during our visit. Each desk has ample working space, an iMac, telephone and printing facilities.
Key to any lounge these days is a wide selection of charging points, and this lounge has an ample selection at nearly every seating area. Each point contains an AC socket and USB charging socket. Even in the booths at the noodle bar, you’ll find charging points tucked underneath the table, so there’s no excuse for your device running flat before you board your flight.
One thing we did notice however is that the AC charging points are all Type G electrical sockets, the three-pin UK style, rather than the multi-standard sockets which are becoming much more common in lounges and hotels, as they accept almost every plug type including European, USA and Australian.
Indeed the plug sockets in the Blossom lounge, next door to the Cathay lounge (our review is coming soon), are all the multi-standard type, as are the charging points in the public area of the T4 transit lounge itself. It’s rather strange that Cathay did not opt for this socket type for this lounge.
Granted, most people will be using the UK plug type as it is common to both Singapore and Hong Kong, or will charge their smaller devices using the USB sockets, but it will still be an inconvenience to some, who will need to bring their adaptor along with them.
Missing facilities (showers and bar)
We discussed the decision not to include a manned bar or shower facilities with the lounge manager, and she told us it was on the basis of their customer survey feedback at the design phase, and the traditional Singaporean priority of food over drinks, which led to the decision to prioritise most of the space for the Noodle Bar.
In terms of the shower facilities, the decision was made based on the low number of connecting passengers using the lounge, as most are either ultimately destined for Hong Kong, or transiting onto the CX network further afield to Europe and the USA (in which case they can take advantage of the shower facilities during transit in Hong Kong). Apparently the number of transit passengers from other oneworld flights, such as Qantas and Finnair, had been only single digits in the opening few days, so this policy does seem well endorsed.
It’s still a little disappointing in our view. People will also ‘self-transit’ from other carriers and may have originated from much further afield, and some of those who have had a long day of work in the city (many having had to check out of their hotel in the morning) may well appreciate a shower before a 4 hour flight.
We have also personally had bookings on Cathay via Hong Kong which provide only a 55 minute connection (on a flight to Manchester, for example) which is very little time for a shower during the Hong Kong transit, so for these customers too a facility in Singapore would no doubt be appreciated.
Stranger still – the Changi Terminal 4 pay-per-use and third-party Blossom lounge next door to Cathay (full review coming soon), does have shower facilities and features a manned bar (granted there is no champagne). We would have expected the Cathay lounge to be the premier facility in Terminal 4, and in many ways it is, but not for those wanting to use these two key facilities.
This lounge is available to passengers flying on a Cathay Pacific flight:
- in First class or Business class; or
- in Premium Economy or Economy class and holding Marco Polo Club Diamond Invitation, Diamond Plus, Diamond, Gold or Silver status, or Cathay Pacific Cargo Clan Elite status; or
- in Premium Economy or Economy class and holding oneworld Emerald or Sapphire status.
This lounge is also available to passengers travelling on any flight from T4:
- who are Marco Polo Club members (any status tier) and wish to redeem 9,000 Asia Miles in exchange for lounge access. This can be done instantly at the lounge reception.
In theory, it is also a oneworld lounge facility and allows access to any oneworld Emerald or Sapphire status member travelling on a non-Cathay Pacific oneworld operated flight, but as there are no other oneworld airlines using T4, and it is not possible to visit T4 when flying from the other Changi terminals, this is a moot point.
Cathay have provided a really solid lounge product here, thoughtfully designed, beautifully finished, spacious and clearly built around one great central feature – a large Noodle Bar which turns out high-standard noodles and dim sum. It will really please a lot of passengers, especially among the Singapore ‘foodies’ with its regularly rotating menu.
Our slightly awkward champagne experience was hopefully a one off, still we hope there will be more effort to keep a ready supply of wine and champagne suitably chilled in future as a single ice bucket wasn’t sufficient.
At peak times it does appear that the lounge can get quite busy, but even at the peak hour we arrived there were still ample seating choices, and the design capacity is around 200.
The major missing points are shower facilities, and a manned bar. On reflection, perhaps both aspects disappoint us more because, as regular travellers with Cathay both through their Hong Kong hub and other lounges like London Heathrow and Bangkok, we simply know how well they do showers and manned bars. This lounge, while beautifully finished in the fantastic style of ‘The Pier’ in Hong Kong, just doesn’t seem to have reached its full potential for us with these amenities missing.
Of course, for some it will matter more than others, but it would certainly have been an improvement in our view for Cathay to have offered at least one of these two features.