At Beijing-Capital Airport (PEK), Air China’s international operations run from Terminal 3E, where it operates a pair of business and first class lounges. Most airlines seem to use these lounges (there are limited options in Beijing), although on this occasion we spent a few hours here before our flight to Sydney with Air China.
As a first class lounge, you would expect access to be restricted to passengers traveling on Air China or another Star Alliance airline in first class. However we have accessed this lounge on other occasions while flying business class, simply by presenting our boarding pass. Furthermore, Priority Pass members are permitted access to the Air China first class lounge.
The lounge itself is difficult to miss. Located near gate E20, you’d be hard pressed to walk past the large signs ushering you towards the first class lounge. It would have been a good opportunity to use the same ‘Forbidden Pavillion’ moniker as their flagship first class product!
Up the top of a dedicated pair of escalators lies the entrance to the first class lounge.
The terminal at Beijing-Capital itself is massive and the lounge is mezzanine-style (also used in most lounges at Hong Kong, such as the Qantas lounge), taking advantage of the natural light and providing sweeping views across the airport.
The lounge was reasonably empty during our visit. Ample seating and 70’s carpet featured here, with the lounge set up in a bit of a U shape. The seating was arranged around the outside with the facilities in the middle.
We had no issue finding a place to sit. The seats themselves were comfy enough. With mahogany and leather everywhere, Air China have put some effort in. The lounge also includes showers and individual sleeping rooms (enclosed, except for being open to the terminal on top).
We didn’t notice any power points readily available, which is quite a serious omission from an airport lounge, let alone a flagship first class lounge in our opinion.
To get a Wi-Fi code it is necessary to scan your passport into a kiosk, which then spit out a code.
The lounge also has a smoking room, something we’ve only seen in a few lounges around the world (such as THAI’s First Class Lounge in Bangkok).
There was a small bar located about halfway round the lounge but we found this un-staffed for most of our visit.
There was, of course, a bottle of the famous Great Wall Cabernet Sauvignon that need not be tried twice.
The food options were reasonably varied, the below station served sushi and what we presumed to be dessert cakes.
We’re not sure how long these had been sitting in the warmer, they were quite unremarkable.
The dim sum collection was excellent: plenty of steamed buns and other dishes to fill you up!
We didn’t sample any of the food in the bain-marie, opting to wait to eat on our next flight.
We weren’t too sure what Eight-treasure porridge or Russia’s beef slices and we weren’t going to try them just so our readers would be fully informed.
The Air China First Class Lounge for international departures from Beijing provides a space to relax and have a bite to eat between flight, maybe even try a glass of Great Wall. As a first class lounge, we found it quite underwhelming. As a business class lounge, it is much more in line with market standard. In any event, One Mile At A Time has used the Air China business class lounge here and it seems very similar.
Our advice: embrace the fact that you are in China and don’t think of it as a first class lounge in the same vein as other top tier offerings around the world – Bangkok, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, Singapore and Sydney.