Things did not get off to a good start in attempting to review the Qantas International Lounge in Hong Kong (HKG). The lounge doesn’t seem to keep to its published hours, insisting on closing earlier than the hours posted on both the oneworld and Qantas websites.
The lounge represents an investment by Qantas in staying relevant in the ultracompetitive Asian market, and follows the airline’s new lounge in Singapore (SIN). The new lounge in SIN has received mixed reactions from frequent travellers, so we were interested to see firsthand how the HKG lounge was – particularly given that on its website Qantas laud this lounge as the ‘new standard of luxury and convenience’.
Both the SIN and HKG lounges now follow a one lounge fits all model in which there is no first class lounge to accommodate oneworld emerald cardholders, given that Qantas have ceased offering first class services on Asian flights.
Located to the sharp right immediately after HKG north security and emigration, the lounge is located a level up from the passenger gates.
There is a sign out touting for business complete with logos of all oneworld members, as if Qantas is trying to capture other airlines’ passengers en route to lounges operated by Cathay Pacific and others.
We note that signage to the old Qantas business lounge on the concourse level is still there (albeit with the the escalators roped off) even though that lounge closed nearly a year ago.
Upon entering the lounge guests pass a small lounge area and a selection of newspapers, before encountering the striking-looking bar, which serves drinks and is apparently also serves BBQ food.
Located behind the bar is a long line of tables suitable for dining. We understand that in the period before Qantas flights depart, the ‘plate of the day’ is offered at some of these tables although signage to that effect would be helpfu..
Across the aisle from the bar is an area with lower ceilings and sparse furnishings. We find this a peculiar use of the space, which seems ideally suited to private work bureaus or nap pods. It would be an quick win to improve this lounge by ripping the seating out of this area and start again.
Continuing into the lounge, guests find more dining spaces. It is not immediately clear why there is an emphasis on group tables in Qantas’ new lounges in Singapore and Hong Kong – it is not exactly in anyone’s interest to encourage loud rowdy groups of diners in an airport lounge. They do look good when no-one is using them however.
In the background is the buffet, where there was a lot of food set out. Qantas has clearly gone for quantity over quality here, which is not necessarily a bad choice given the evening departures of Qantas flights from this port meaning this will often be dinner for passengers.
We did note that in the dessert selection, the cakes were cut so thinly that a single slice wouldn’t remain intact when transferred from the platter to the plate.
Back to the seating arrangements. After an brief interlude of a section with lounge chairs….
… there are more tables.
The lounge then opens out into a cavernous space of lounge chairs.
This is really where the lounge starts to have the ambiance of a discount furniture warehouse. Of course, this does mean that the lounge seats over 300 people, which is necessary given Qantas has a number of departures to Australia spaced close together.
Eagle-eyed readers will spot the power plugs embedded into the base of the coffee table above. Power plugs are located throughout the lounge and like all lounges at HKG don’t take international plugs without an adapter (although these ones do have USB plugs too).
We find the bench seating to be an odd addition. We would not be surprised to find jetlagged travelers sprawled on these getting a much needed nap. Stay classy.
We find the lack of frosting on the clear glass overlooking the void down onto the gates below very strange. We think that would be a worthwhile improvement to the lounge which could be made very quickly.
We did like this Hong Kong inspired feature wall. Although we would be interested to know what the characters say.
The lounge has 12 shower suites. We found them spacious and a well appointed.
They are also coincidentally the only place in this lounge to get some privacy. The little stool propping each of the doors open in the above picture would make for an uncomfortable place to sit to hold a conference call for any length of time. We do not understand lounge designs that do not seem to understand that the lounge’s target market (i.e. business travellers) often need to do, well, business while they are traveling.
Family area at the back?
At the back of the lounge there is a self-service bar, service desk and exit. Then around a wall, there is a strangely sparsely furnished area which seems to double as the family section. It just feels empty.
The rugs really don’t do anything for us.
Given that the lounge doesn’t have a first class section – which is surprising given the number of oneworld emerald members that go through HKG, we are confused as to why Qantas didn’t use this area (along with most of the warehouse-like area of lounge chairs which adjoins it) to create a first class lounge. The space naturally has two access points, one on each end, and so it would not have been difficult to split it down the middle.
Given the choices that have been made in the design of the Qantas HKG lounge, we recommend that oneworld sapphire and emerald cardholders make a beeline for a Cathay Pacific lounge at HKG, from which there are plenty to choose. Cathay’s lounges may even be open in accordance with their published opening hours.