Cathay Pacific Lounge Bangkok

Cathay Pacific Lounge Bangkok

The Cathay Pacific lounge in Bangkok was re-opened in June 2015 and follows the newer format of CX lounges like those in Manilla. It’s taken the space previously occupied by the BA lounge and created one new combined First and Business lounge and seats 140 people. If you’re flying on a One World airline this lounge is now one of the few choices for you in Bangkok. There’s still a Jal lounge which isn’t as good as CX but the Qantas lounge has closed now with passengers redirected to the inferior Louis CIP Tavern lounges.

Design is a combination of soft lighting, leather armchairs and wood panelling. Overall it’s has a nice homely feel to it, especially if it’s not too busy. I particularly liked the leather armchairs and footstools with a view over the runway, great to sip a gin and tonic and watch the apron traffic and take offs and landings. Power sockets are cunningly hidden in the side table in a drawer.

As in Manila, there’s a noodle bar with freshly cooked to order noodles and mostly Asian food. One thing we don’t like is that the fresh food seems to be very heavily balanced towards Asian dishes. Personally I love a lot of Asian foods but sometimes if you travel a lot you want something simple and closer to home. The noodle bar is a firm favourite in Hong Kong and they’re now using this format in the new lounges, however in Hong Kong there are plenty of other hot Western choices but not in the lounge outposts. That being said the food is very good and I took it as a last chance to sample some Thai food with a quite excellent Pad Thai and a steamed Chinese pork bun served in its own bamboo steamer. Delicious!

There are some cold Western options available normally a choice of two sandwiches and a small salad bar, it does feel an afterthought when compared to the noodle bar menu. It would be good to see a Western choice or two on the menu if you’ve had your fill of noodles!

All in all though it’s a good redesign with plenty of space, good bar and great good if you want Asian choices and OK food if it’s Western you want.

Trip Review MH A380 from LHR to KUL

Trip Review MH A380 from LHR to KUL

Check In

Malaysia Airlines operates from terminal four at Heathrow with check in when I left from Aisle D, close to fast track security. Check in had no line for business class with only one person at the desk next to me at first class. Check in was fast and friendly with just a request to check my onward ticket from Bangkok to Hong Kong on another airline.

Tip: After seeing my bag arrive in the carousel at Hong Kong by pure luck when it should have been tagged to London (long story) I now insist on also having a transfer tag on bag to have a better chance someone spots it and it doesnt end up on the carousel by mistake. The check in staff were a bit confused why I would insist on a transfer tag when it was electronically tagged but I explained why and it was no problem.

Security

Malaysia subscribes to fast track at Terminal four with your boarding pass giving you access, no invitation is necessary. This trip I was in business class so I wasn’t sure whether one world status would also give access to fast track if travelling in economy. Security was reasonably quick with maybe 7-8 people in line. Only one belt was operational so you may want to chance regular security with potentially more lanes open if you see many people going through the fast track entrance.

Lounge

Malaysia airlines has it’s own “Golden Lounge” at T4 with unlike the Qatar Airways lounge across the hall, access granted to other one world card holders. The lounge is on the third floor with the entrance just before Pret A Manger. After experiencing the lounge in Malaysia on the way out I have to say I feel like something is lacking in MH lounges. For example, the lounge in London is one big space with views of the runway but there was no area to get away from everyone else and find a corner to relax. Additionally there was no power at any of the seats I saw, cue several people wandering around looking for somewhere to plug in. Also rather weirdly the first class lounge was separated by a glass wall which reminded me of a fish bowl where we could watch the inhabitants! The bar was also actually cut in half to provide access to both business class and first class. It’s not so much that the decor is dated but that the concept needs a refresh maybe in the direction other airlines like Cathay and Qantas are going with unified lounges and modern designs.

Lounge Food

My first instinct was to be critical of the lounge food but I don’t think that is particularly fair. First impressions are that the selection is meagre, this is particularly true if you fancy a cooked breakfast before your flight. There were some Malay hot dishes of Nasi Lemak and Squid Sambal as well as fried Penang and beef sausage so I don’t know how this selection compares to what a Malaysian guest is expecting but the Western breakfast next to it was pretty poor. One of the metal warming dishes in the photo contained baked beans, tomato, croquette potatoes and scrambled egg, the only problem being they were in small bowls in the warmer and had developed a crust on top. I decided to decamp to the Plaza Premium Lounge for a hot breakfast.

To the right of the hot food were some wraps and sandwiches and fruit and cheese. It was that the selection was bad for a lounge it almost looked like it was being rationed. It wasn’t that the choices for the buffet were bad but the presentation was lacking.

Boarding

Boarding was through a separate gate at LHR, 6B for business passengers giving quick access to the upper deck of the 380. Boarding was already underway for quite a while when I got to the gate so unsurprisingly there was no queue.

Onboard

The upper deck of the A380 is spacious and the window seats are the ones to bag with the extra storage units under the window which also make a great space to use as an additional table. The downside to the spacious cabin is that the seating is 2x2 which is irritating when you or your seat mate is trying to clamber over in the middle of the night. There’s 66 seats on the upper deck split into two cabins. Design wise it reminded me of the old British Airways Club recliner (that’s going back a few years) with ample space around the seat but a 2x2 config. It’s a strange set up and one you think the airline would be keen to change to get a better yield on the cabin.

The seat itself was quite comfortable. MH supply a thin pad to place on the seat, I wouldn’t call it a mattress as it’s more like the thickness of a fleece but it wraps over the seat headrest with holes for the seatbelt so it provides a little more comfort. There’s ample space and it does go fully flat so it’s possible to get a good night’s rest

Food

On paper the menu looks good, however a few things went wrong on this flight. Let’s start with the good. MH does a really tasty satay service to start off the meal in J class on their intercontinental flights and damn is it good! Your choice of chicken or beef skewers served with dipping sauce. They’re very tasty and I almost felt like skipping the rest of the meal and just eating there.

Next up was the soup, this was tasty except for the fact it was pretty cold. It seemed to not have been heated thoroughly rather than having cooled down during the service as it was served from a coffee type warming pot.

The main course was a total disappointment. I wasn’t particularly far back in the cabin, I would say in the middle, but by then some main course items had run out. I really wasn’t feeling like the other choices so the crew member mentioned they would see if they could find another chicken for me. I was delighted when they managed to do so, however as people were served around me with their other J class entrees, it was apparent this was an economy meal that she had plated and neglected to tell me that’s what she had done. I have no problem being given that option but when you are leading me to think you have found a J entrée for me then it’s not on to substitute it for an economy meal hoping I won’t notice.

Breakfast wasn’t much better and again there was little choice with my first choice having run out. This time the crew managed to get the same meal from first class, it was identical which says something about the first class meals. Honestly though it wasn’t worth the wait. It was tasteless with overboiled potatoes, really not the quality I expect for J. As you can see from the photo not very appealing. Breakfast was also served with stone cold toast and pastries, crew didn’t offer a choice and simply plonked toast or a pastry onto the tray, so some people got a delicious looking Danish and some had cold toast!

Overall

To sum it up MH feels like an airline that needs to decide what it is. We all know the issues they’ve had but if they want to grow their customer base they need to invest more into their product. Crew mentioned cuts had been made which is why meals were in short supply and it did feel throughout the journey from lounge to seat to food that it wasn’t an airline that is passionate about it’s product and customers.

BHC Chicken Myeongdong

BHC Chicken Myeongdong

Koreans are in love with fried chicken! You think KFC is where it’s at then you haven’t been out in Korea and tried the numerous fried chicken joints. There’s many different brands but BHC Chicken is something of a Korean institution. In Myeongdong you can find chicken shops crammed up against each other which makes picking one somewhat difficult, if in doubt go for the one with the most people sitting outside, in this case BHC!

BHC stands for “Better and Happier Choice” and has been serving up delicious lumps of fried chicken since 2004. The branch we visited in Myeongdong has lots of outdoor seating like the restaurants next to it and makes a good place to grab an almost compulsory cold beer with your chicken while you people watch.

There’s every variety of chicken you can imagine, and if you’re not a fan of gnawing your way around the bone they have boneless as well!

So how did the food measure up?

We ordered a mango salad to get started which turned out to be a bit of a mistake as well as half and half spicy and regular. We also got a side order of doughy cheese balls.

First up the mango salad was a bit of a fail. The salad itself would have been fine except for the fact the mango was still partially frozen, i.e chewy frozen! We should have known better than to order salad in a fried chicken joint right?

The chicken though was the star of the show; there was the right amount of batter versus chicken and it was perfectly cooked. The sauce on the spicy version was a balance of sweet and spicy and not overpowering and reminded me of a Thai sweet and spicy sauce. I have to warn you though those doughballs are dangerous. Filled with cheese and deep fried it’s a really struggle not to keep popping those in with your beer while you wait for the chicken dangerously filling you up before the star of the show arrives!

There’s a lot of fried chicken shops in South Korea but if you’re stuck on deciding which to choose, looking at the busiest is a good sign but visiting a shop with over 1000 locations you can’t go wrong either.

Hong Kong Express – HKG – HND

Hong Kong Express – HKG – HND

Despite having travelled through Hong Kong and being an ultra-frequent passenger on Hong Kong Airlines this was my first time taking their sister airline and LCC, Hong Kong Express

Boarding

Boarding was well managed and priority (paid for extra) was respected and controlled. Despite their being two queues ground staff held back the regular queue and processed the priority queue first which makes sense otherwise with a single door aircraft it wouldn’t be priority by the time the two queues mixed down to the plane door!

Onboard

The plane itself was new and clean, I believe the seating is the Recaro slim line seat common on LCCs around the world. It’s not a seat you want to spend a long time in but is fine for a short hop LCC flight. On this flight though I had pre-booked probably the best seat on the plane which is 12A (12F is equally as good). What makes it so good is the unlimited legroom behind the exit but also there is no one to recline into you. You also have the benefit of a window but easy exit for toilet etc. Have a look at the photos for the deluxe legroom!

In terms of the other seating and what to look out for, row 11 has two seats only in the exit row, these are decent as well with good legroom but are a bit isolated. Watch out for 12B,C and 12 D,E which may look like exit rows but are normal seats. Only 12A and F are exit. At the front there’s a bulkhead on both sides of the aircraft so no bashing of legs etc. if you’re seated in 1A-C as on some LCCs that have removed the wall.

Service

The service was average. I don’t have very high standards for LCCs in general and nor should most if you’re paying a good fare for your ticket. However there’s a couple of glaring issues compared to even other LCCs or HK airlines:

  1. They won’t allow any outside food or drinks. Stinky take aways I understand but they won’t allow even outside bottled water and will tell you not to consume it if they see you have it. Sorry but this isn’t on. Yes you want to sell your onboard products but have some common sense! What’s worse is a charge of HK$10 for a cup of water from the airplane tank. Frankly unacceptable.
  2. There were zero announcements from the flight deck at top of descent in fact nothing since take off. So despite flying around in the middle of the night as well as being delayed, with no map and having no idea what’s going on an announcement from the captain might have been a good idea, no? I had to flag down a passing member of crew and ask when we were landing and what the delay was.
  3. They still don’t allow mobile phone use during take-off and landing. As I understand it this is because they haven’t applied to Hong Kong CAD for permission and certification. Other airlines in Hong Kong did this years ago so come on!
  4. The food bore no relation to the menu photos, see my example. Taste, size and presentation were all poor. I feel the cost is being squeezed too much to maximize profit. I wouldn’t order anything again and would smuggle on a sandwich to eat when the lights are down. If you’re going to charge for food and enforce no outside contraband prison style then at least make it decent!

Overall

In summary it’s a decent option if they fly where you want to go and check in, boarding and the plane itself were good and I got what I expected when I paid for the priority service. Where they fell down was on the quality of product and service levels. Often I complain about poor crew but in this case, they were good in the cabin but I felt they are let down by UO quality and procedures. They are issues that are fixable if the motivation is there.

Plaza Premium Lounge Heathrow Terminal Four

Plaza Premium Lounge Heathrow Terminal Four

Plaza Premium lounge is located above the Qatar lounge at Heathrow terminal four close to gate 1 and covers 8500 square feet!

It’s nice to see an independent option available more and more at Heathrow; the relatively new Plaza Premium lounge give this option now in terminal four. It’s my favorite refuge at Heathrow as Qatar sees fit to ignore oneworld status passengers and not let them use it’s lounge below!

The lounge has several sections with a large dining area to the right of reception with plenty of seating and good views of the runway as well as some booths to work or relax in. To the left of reception are the showers and toilets which were both clean and spacious, perfect for a shower before a long haul flights. Also to the left is the bar area which is suitably dark and relaxing. There’s also some darkened relaxation chairs to put your feet up before the flight. There are also three private resting suites if you prefer something a bit more private.

Food

I’ve visited the lounge both at breakfast and also in the evening and found the range of food to be between good and excellent. There’s a good selection of fruit, cold cuts and yoghurts in the chiller in the morning then salads in the evening. There’s always a range of hot items, with English breakfast available and cooked to order eggs as well as a variety of hot cuisine available at other times. What I particularly like is that there’s always a meal available, unlike some airline lounges which ration food to a meal time; looking at you BA. It’s a particularly good choice if you fancy a cooked English breakfast before departure, though when we visited we did have to prompt the chef to replace the bacon and sausages.

Power & Wifi

There’s plenty of power sockets in the lounge as well as it’s own Wifi network independent of the airport. No excuse not to download a movie for the flight or get some work done!

Cost

The lounge is included in many credit card programs and priority pass. If you aren’t entitled to a free visit then a 2 hours visit will cost you $49.

Overall

In summary this is a smart, clean nice to have lounge option in terminal 4. The only criticism I would have after a few visits is that the staff are not particularly friendly or welcoming. A minor criticism which won’t spoil your visit.