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.

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.

Malaysia Airlines Golden Lounge Heathrow T4

Malaysia Airlines Golden Lounge Heathrow T4

First off, respect to Malaysia Airlines for having their own lounge at Heathrow T4 which is open to Oneworld status cardholders unlike Qatar which limits access to only those in business  & first class. That being said, how does it stack up?

Location

The lounge is located on the third floor with the entrance just before Pret A Manger, if you walk past Pret you’ve gone too far (like I did)

First impressions

The first impression is good with a large Malaysian themed reception area, with toilets off to the left, a baggage storage area next to the elevators and a door to first class to the right. After entering the buffet is right in front of you, then you walk through to the lounge with the bar to your right and views across the apron.

Design

The lounge is a decent size, though it does get busy before departures with plenty of natural light. However unlike my recent review of the Asiana lounge at Incheon I felt here they haven’t put any effort into zoning the lounge. Seating is arranged pretty much in rows with no thought to create some quieter corners or rest areas. This is probably partly due to lack of space and trying to fit in the maximum number of seats. However, there’s also a serious lack of power, I couldn’t spot any at any table seeing several people walk around looking lost trying to find power before they took up the work space PCs and charged their devices there.

Also it’s one of the strangest set ups for a first class area I’ve seen, with the bar literally cut in two to share half of it with the first class lounge which is separate by a glass wall. I don’t know how long this has been like this but bearing in mind the lack of quieter sections I’m surprised Malaysian hasn’t taken the decision like other airlines to merge the lounges and create one superior space. It felt like this isn’t a good or prestige solution for either first or business class passengers. I say ditch the fish bowl and merge the lounges!

Food

I was looking forward to a hot English breakfast before travelling and have to admit after taking one look at the buffet went straight over to Plaza Premium (review here). The best word to describe the buffet is “rationed”. It just didn’t look particularly inviting.

First, one of the hot warmers in the photo below had four small dishes of egg, croquette potatoes, tomato and baked beans with both the egg and beans having been left for a while and having a slight crust on top. In fairness the Malaysian options looked better, but what would be better is maybe having English options to order if the demand isn’t there. There was fruit, cheese and sandwiches and wraps also available but only one of each had been displayed. It just gave a feeling that limited food had been put out.

The rest

There’s a good children’s play area to the left of the reception desk in its own room; so perfect if you want to enjoy a drink while the children play and the rest of the lounge guests will no doubt thank you as well!

I’ve already mentioned the total lack of power options. There’s wifi as you’d expect which was fine with no problems.

Overall

In summary a decent lounge with a weird set up and shape. MH should really consider merging the two lounges which wouldn’t be hard; there’s just a glass wall separating them and creating one better space for everyone. I’d say food options were OK, but it’s going to depend what you want, I do think the presentation could be much better. However, if you do need to get work done and need power this isn’t the lounge for you. It’s totally lacking in power outlets or even anywhere private/secluded to get some work done. If you need to work then consider visiting the Plaza Premium lounge if you have access which has plenty of power and corners to work in.

Malaysia Airlines – A Tale of Two Lounges

Malaysia Airlines – A Tale of Two Lounges

On a recent stopover in Kuala Lumpur I had the opportunity to visit any of the OneWorld lounges at KIA so made the most of the time and checked out the two lounges you can use if leaving from the satellite terminal; the Malaysian Golden Lounge or the Cathay Pacific Lounge.

First up the Golden Lounge

Firstly the Lounge is huge, think Qatar huge, so not finding a seat won’t be an issue. It’s one long room so is nicely laid out with a large central food service station. Off to the side is a cafe set up that serves laksa and noodles.

Food
The food is difficult to describe. I visited twice in the same night thanks to a flight delay and it grew on me the second time. The first visit I had the impression the food selection was cheap mass market stuff, think tomato pasta, tubs of rice etc. But when I did a second visit I noticed they had panini cooked to order and an espresso bar. There was also a waffle station. There’s not a huge variety, think one type of waffle, a salad bar of 4-5 items and limited choice of sandwiches but for the size of the Lounge and traffic it does the job. I have to admit to being spoilt by the CX Lounge I visited in between the dual Golden Lounge visits. 7/10

Drinks
Now this is where Malaysia fails dismally. Now I get that Malaysia is a Muslim country, however they want the foreign connecting traveller so get a decent bar. The bar is off to the side as you walk in and is dark and worn. There’s a significant difference between the bar and the main lounge, I’m guessing one was renovated and the other wasn’t. There’s nothing on the shelves behind the bar or in the fridge, just a few bottles hidden below the bar and no menu. I ordered a vodka soda and not only was the soda flat but could hardly taste the vodka. I wiped the table with a napkin as it looked wet and ended up with a black tissue. Not pleasant. The drink was so bad as well as the environment I abandoned it and went to the CX Lounge for a proper drink. 2/10

Environment
The lounge itself is fine, it’s a bit cavernous but then you’re not going to have an issue finding a seat. There’s plenty of charging points as well as flight information screens. It doesn’t feel particularly intimate and more suits a quick 30 minute grab and go I think rather than somewhere to relax. 6/10

The Cathay Lounge

I have to admit I wasn’t planning on lounge hopping but after the disaster with the bar I wanted a proper gin and tonic, so decamped to the Cathay lounge to see what was on offer.

Food
The food selection was significantly better in the CX lounge. It wasn’t that there was more choices but that there was a feeling of more quality ingredients being used in the food. The MH lounge had a feeling that they were catering to the masses. CX had hot dishes such as potato dauphinoise (really good), Japanese chicken curry (excellent) as well as some delcious mini quiches and an assortment of cheese and salad. CX wins on food quality here, hands down. 8/10

Drinks
No complaints here, self serve drinks! There wasn’t much selection with just whiskey, gin, vodka, rum and a red and white wine but they were all branded spirits and free pour so you could make your own drink the way you want it. Simple but works. 9/10

Environment
In fairness to MH, CX has a much smaller lounge which is understandable at KIA. It’s also not a “refreshed” lounge like Bangkok and others with the CX change to noodle bars and wood paneling. It is however clean, comfortable and when I visited quite quiet though your mileage may vary. In fairness to MH they have a lot more passengers to accommodate in their lounge so the size and slight cavern feel is partially understandable. Given similar levels of traffic though I think most would prefer the smaller quieter lounge with less walk to food and drinks. 8/10

Summary
In summary the CX lounge definitely wins here, though the reasoning is more complex. It’s not that the MH offering is bad, but the word that sums it up is “budget”. The food quality is not as good and they are definitely catering to mass traffic. Why they have so many people needing lounge access is another issue. Then there’s the issue with the bar which is quite honestly awful. Either you’re a full service airline and want international non-muslim passengers or you don’t. Decide. There are definitely worse lounges around but if you’re expecting luxury and a more relaxed intimate experience this isn’t it. It has more of a dining hall/commissary feel than a business class lounge.

BA Closing Hong Kong Base

BA Closing Hong Kong Base

In quite a disgusting way to treat people British Airways has announce plans to close their Hong Kong base and lose the experience and language skills of 85 local crew. It’s the latest short sighted move from a company with management solely fixated on cutting costs no matter what effect it has on their service levels or people. Coming hot on the heels of their hacking and loss of credit card information in the last month, where I personally was affected and had to cancel my card you would think they would have a PR office with more sense. Maybe they are hoping no one notices.

No matter what commercial reasons you decide to take for your business there are ways you do things and the letter to the left sent to crew is NOT how you treat people. Stripping rosters with no notice is a robotic, weak and mean-spirited way to behave. If there was ever a way to lose your Hong Kong market share even further to Cathay Pacific and manage to antagonize your customer base at the same time then this is it.