With the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on air travel in the Asia Pacific region dragging on much longer than initially expected, we’re becoming used to the occasional announcement that some airport lounges won’t be opening their doors again.
Singapore Airlines alone has culled three SilverKris lounges from its international network, to be replaced by third-party facilities.
Last month there was a double whammy of bad news for fans of Hong Kong’s great selection of oneworld lounges.
That came with confirmation on 24th August that Cathay Pacific would not reopen ‘The Bridge’ Business Class lounge, followed only two days later by Qantas confirming that its dedicated Hong Kong lounge has also been permanently axed.
As a result, Cathay Pacific will operate the only oneworld lounge facilities at the airport.
Cathay Pacific first opened its 2,500 sq m ‘The Bridge’ Business Class lounge in October 2013, when it was working with Foster + Partners for its lounge designs.
That means it didn’t have the latest Studio Ilse design like ‘The Pier’ in Hong Kong and the airline’s latest Singapore, Bangkok and London lounges.
Nonetheless ‘The Bridge’ was still a firm favourite among frequent travellers, especially for its central location allowing easy access to almost all gates in Terminal 1.
The lounge also featured the ‘Long Bar’ with great aircraft views
Despite it being open for seven years, I only ever visited ‘The Bridge’ once, first thing in the morning for a quick shower on a tight connection between Europe and Singapore, but I remember the shower being great and still having time for a glass of Champagne at the bar before heading to the nearby gate!
Currently Cathay Pacific is operating two lounges at Hong Kong International Airport:
- The Wing First Class (for departing passengers)
- The Wing Business Class (for transit passengers)
Here’s how Cathay’s lounge network will look once passenger traffic recovers and the three remaining lounges (sadly not including ‘The Bridge’) all reopen.
As you can see ‘The Bridge’ was located near gate 36, a great central location especially useful for those departing from gates 40 to 50 who had a long walk or some ‘backtracking’ to do when using Cathay’s alternative facilities.
The Qantas Hong Kong Lounge
The other popular lounge not returning to Hong Kong’s Terminal 1 after COVID-19 is The Qantas Hong Kong Lounge, nestled near Cathay’s ‘The Deck’ on the far right side as you passed through security screening, one level above the departure concourse.
When Hong Kong International Airport first opened in 1998, this space was the British Airways lounge, and indeed since changing hands in 2014 BA also directed its lounge-eligible passengers to the Qantas facility, prior to COVID-19.
Even though they were all eligible to use Cathay Pacific’s lounges, most people are unaware or just do as they are told, so the lounge would remain reasonably busy until BA’s two London flights took off around midnight each evening, even though the final Qantas departure was at around 8pm.
BBQ Char Sui Pork was the specialty here, though I have to say I never actually tried it – Qantas does great buffet salads in its lounges and I always made a beeline for those whenever I visited!
Thankfully Qantas has confirmed that its other overseas lounges, in London, Los Angeles and Singapore, will reopen as the airline returns to international flights. Currently that’s planned from mid-December 2021.
Other Hong Kong lounges
Aside from the Cathay Pacific lounges that will be reopening in Hong Kong as traffic levels rebound, the following lounges should also become available again (eventually):
- Centurion Lounge (American Express)
- Club Autus (Hong Kong Airlines)
- Emirates Lounge
- Plaza Premium (Gate 1)
- Plaza Premium (Gate 35)
- Plaza Premium (Gate 60)
- Plaza Premium First (Gate 1)
- SilverKris Lounge (SIA)
- United Club
The Plaza Premium Lounge near Gate 1 is the only one of these currently open.
The Thai Royal Orchid Lounge near Gate 40 in Hong Kong seems to have fallen by the wayside since COVID-19 and is no longer mentioned on the airport website.
United is still pushing ahead with its Hong Kong Polaris Lounge, though it is not yet under construction and no doubt the airline will be looking at pushing back the project significantly given current traffic levels.
Once it does open though, it should be a great option for Star Alliance passengers, if the carrier’s San Francisco Polaris Lounge is anything to go by.
A Chase Sapphire lounge is also planned at some stage, which should also be open to Priority Pass members.
As the world vaccinates against COVID-19 and we gradually return to the skies, the travel experience certainly won’t be the same as it was before.
It’s a great shame to be losing excellent airline-operated lounge facilities, but this is an inevitable consequence of a prolonged international flight shutdown for airlines like Cathay Pacific and Qantas, who may not see pre-COVID traffic levels for years to come.
Hong Kong International Airport remains well equipped in terms of oneworld lounges thanks to Cathay Pacific, though it’s disappointing to be losing the Qantas option, which was a nice change, and ‘The Bridge’, which was well located if nothing else.
(Cover Photo: Sumu Design)