United Global First Class Lounges – Washington-Dulles and Los Angeles

Fifteen Days in Australia

A Trip to Sydney, Cairns, Melbourne, and Diving the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea

TPA-IAD

I awoke on Christmas morning anticipating one of my longest travel days of the year.   My mom dropped my dad and I off at Tampa International Airport where we boarded our first flight of the day, a two-hour flight from Tampa to Washington-Dulles.  We were seated in first class on a B737-800.  The flight was quite nice and went by pretty fast.  There was not a full breakfast service, but scones were served.  I watched some SportsCenter and took a nap, waking up just before we landed at Dulles.

Long couple days of flying!  TPA-IAD-LAX-SYD

Long couple days of flying! TPA-IAD-LAX-SYD

5 hours at Washington-Dulles (IAD)

Due to award availability, we were forced to spend a five-hour layover at Dulles.  Because of this glut of free time, we headed over to Terminal B to spend some time in the Lufthansa Senator Lounge.  Since we had a same day international first class ticket, we had access to the lounge (I also have access as a Star Alliance Gold member).  This lounge is without a doubt the nicest Star Alliance lounge at Dulles Airport, and is one of the better lounges in the US.  We had a couple of drinks and lunch in the lounge,  as Lufthansa has a decent spread that features four hot items and a variety of cold sandwiches and salads.  After a couple of hours, we decided to try out the United Global First Class Lounge.

Food offering in Global First Class Lounge IAD

Food offering in Global First Class Lounge IAD

Upon checking into the Global First Class Lounge, the lounge agent informed us that we didn’t have access to the lounge since our International flight was out of LAX, and not IAD.  I questioned this logic, since that’s not what the United lounge access policy says, so the lounge agent begrudgingly allowed us access to the lounge, but really acted like she was doing us some sort of favor.   This rubbed us the wrong way since we were, after all flying in global first class out of LAX later that day, and were in first class on IAD-LAX later that afternoon.  The lounge itself was completely empty, as my dad and I were the only two people in the lounge.  There was a small food spread, which didn’t look all that appetizing.  We did help ourselves to the open bar for a drink though. The lounge agent requested us to leave the lounge at 2pm since it was the end of her shift.  We found this strange, but we did so anyway and went next door to the regular United Club.  Upon checking into this United Club, the lounge agents here were rather bewildered as to why we weren’t using the Global First Class Lounge.  We explained to them the hassle we were given upon entering the Global First Lounge, and that really upset the lounge agent who offered to escort us back to the lounge and have a word with the agent there.  Since at that point we only had twenty or so minutes until boarding time, we declined, as we just didn’t want there to be a scene since this United employee was pretty bothered that we had been given a hard time.  United just really needs to figure this out and preach more consistency on the education and/or enforcement of policies by their employees.  This whole experience really did leave a sour taste in mouth to start our long day of travel with the airline.

IAD-LAX

Finally, it was boarding time for our flight to LAX.  We were seated in seats 2A and 2C for this flight.  I enjoyed a pretty decent diner of pasta, and then watched a few Anthony Bourdain videos on Sydney and Melbourne before dozing off for a nap.  I must have been really tired since I didn’t wake up until the flight attendant was preparing the cabin for arrival into Los Angeles.  This was actually a very nice transcontinental flight — things were improving!

Dinner on IAD-LAX

Dinner on IAD-LAX

LAX Global First Class Lounge

We only had about two hours at LAX before our long flight to Sydney, so we headed straight to the Global First Class Lounge and were greeted by an extremely friendly lounge agent.   The offerings at the LAX Global First Class Lounge are far superior to that of Washington-Dulles.  Apart from a full bar, there were several warm appetizers and snacks.  We were also provided a limited menu from which we could order a small meal.  We each ordered some udon noodles, which were brought out to us after about ten minutes.  They were delicious, and proved to be a great little snack since unbeknownst to us, it would be more than a couple of hours before we ate again.

Overall, the LAX Global First Class Lounge was far superior to that of IAD.  The employees at the LAX lounge were friendly, accommodating, and provided great service — the complete opposite of our experience at Dulles.  The physical facility, while not amazing was much better than the Global First Class Lounge at Dulles.    At the end of the day, I feel that United needs to vastly improve its consistency.  While lack of consistency is a major weakness throughout the United brand at the present time, it was never more painfully obvious than it was given our two experiences at two of United’s “premier” lounges. Next:  United Global First Class Los Angeles to Sydney

DC to Dubai and Tokyo via… Santiago? Cathay Pacific “The Wing” Business Class Lounge – Hong Kong

Introduction
Planning
TAM Economy Class New York JFK – Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro
Santiago
LAN Economy Class Santiago – Sao Paulo
TAM Economy Class Sao Paulo – New York JFK
United BusinessFirst Denver to Tokyo Seattle (Emergency Landing)
United BusinessFirst on the 787 Seattle to Tokyo
Cathay Pacific Regional Business Class Tokyo Narita – Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific “The Wing” Business Class Lounge Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Business Class Hong Kong – Dubai
Dubai, Day 1  (Traiteur Brunch, Park Hyatt Dubai, Burj Khalifa, Atlantis Palm Islands)
Dubai, Day 2 (Shark Dive at Dubai Aquarium, Burj Al Arab, 360)
Cathay Pacific Business Class Dubai – Hong Kong – Tokyo Haneda


Upon arrival in Hong Kong, I cleared transfer security and decided to trek back towards gates 1-4 to try out the newly renovated Cathay Pacific Lounge, The Wing.   There are so many options of things to do in Hong Kong’s airport, but I’d heard good things about this place, so I wanted to check it out.

Entrance to The Wing

Entrance to The Wing

The lounge is visibly brand new, and is very appealing to the eye.  It spans two levels, and the top level is by far the better of the two.  As I arrived, I asked about taking a shower, and I was whisked away to a shower attendant who arranged a nicely appointed shower room for me.  This was especially refreshing considering I’d been in transit from Seattle for well over 24 hours at that point.

Bathroom / Shower

Bathroom / Shower

I grabbed a drink from the downstairs portion of the lounge and checked by email.

Funky seating / workstations

Funky seating / workstations

Afterwards, I decided to head upstairs.  If you find yourself in The Wing, forget the downstairs altogether – the upstairs is where to be.  Up here, there is plenty of seating space, the Long Bar (one of the longest airport bars in the world) with sweeping terminal and tarmac views, a Noodle Bar that serves up a variety of delicious noodle dishes and dim sum, and a coffee bar.  I had some dim sum, noodles, and a BBQ Pork Bao from the noodle bar, and it was delicious.

The Wing

The Wing

Noodle Bar!

Noodle Bar!

BBQ Pork Bao from The Noodle Bar

BBQ Pork Bao from The Noodle Bar

The Long Bar

The Long Bar

Afterwards, I shut down the Long Bar with a couple beers, as I had one of the latest departures of the night at 1:40am.

Shutting down another bar...

Shutting down another bar…

The Wing is one of the best business class lounges I’ve seen, anywhere.  I’d probably rank it a little behind the Turkish Airlines CIP Lounge in Istanbul, but it’s not far behind.  Hong Kong is probably my favorite airport in the world, and The Wing is just another awesome addition to it.

 

 

DC to Dubai and Tokyo via… Santiago? Review: Cathay Pacific Regional Business Class – Tokyo-Narita to Hong Kong

Introduction
Planning
TAM Economy Class New York JFK – Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro
Santiago
LAN Economy Class Santiago – Sao Paulo
TAM Economy Class Sao Paulo – New York JFK
United BusinessFirst Denver to Tokyo Seattle (Emergency Landing)
United BusinessFirst on the 787 Seattle to Tokyo
Cathay Pacific Regional Business Class Tokyo Narita – Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific “The Wing” Business Class Lounge Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Business Class Hong Kong – Dubai
Dubai, Day 1  (Traiteur Brunch, Park Hyatt Dubai, Burj Khalifa, Atlantis Palm Islands)
Dubai, Day 2 (Shark Dive at Dubai Aquarium, Burj Al Arab, 360)
Cathay Pacific Business Class Dubai – Hong Kong – Tokyo Haneda


I arrived in the late morning, I had several hours to kill at Narita due to my re-scheduled inbound flight.  As mentioned earlier, I hopped the inter-terminal bus to Terminal 2 and decided to spend the day in the Cathay Pacific Lounge.  There was nothing special about this lounge, but it did have functioning internet, a decent food and drink selection, and sadly no showers.

Cathay Pacific Lounge at Narita

Cathay Pacific Lounge at Narita

Self-Serve Bar at Cathay Lounge NRT

Self-Serve Bar at Cathay Lounge NRT

Self-Service at NRT Cathay Lounge

Self-Service at NRT Cathay Lounge

I proceeded to my gate to see a massive boarding scrum, but because I was flying in business, I got to hop ahead in line of all that nonsense.

Ready to go back to Hong Kong

Ready to go back to Hong Kong

Cathay Pacific (CX) 505
Tokyo-Narita (NRT) – Hong Kong (HKG)
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300
Seat: 17A (Regional Business Class)
Thursday, June 20
6:20PM – 10:10PM
Duration: 3:45

 

Boarding my ride, a B777-300

Boarding my ride, a B777-300

A few weeks prior to this flight, Cathay Pacific subbed in a B777-300 with the regional business product instead of the lie-flat business seat that they’re known for.  This, of course was a disappointment.  Instead of a 1-2-1 configuration with a fully flat bed, I found myself in a 2-3-2 configuration with decent recline, but nowhere near lie-flat.

Cathay Pacific's New Regional Business Class Seat

Cathay Pacific’s New Regional Business Class Seat

Good IFE and decent leg room

Good IFE and decent leg room

Seat Controls

Seat Controls

For a regional business product, it was pretty good, and it was obviously tolerable considering the flight was only about 3.5 hours.

The flight attendant offered some pre-flight champagne, which I happily accepted.

Pre-departure glass of champagne

Pre-departure glass of champagne

About 30 minutes into the flight, the meal service commenced.  With this being regional business, the appetizers and salad came out together.  The salad was paltry, and barely had any lettuce.  The soba noodles with shrimp was not my favorite, and the ham appetizer tasted pretty funky.

Small salad, soba noodles with shrimp, and a parma ham and melon appetizer

Small salad, soba noodles with shrimp, and a parma ham and melon appetizer

Grilled beef tenderloin with mushroom wine sauce, pumpkin potato mash and sauteed squash with bacon

Grilled beef tenderloin with mushroom wine sauce, pumpkin potato mash and sauteed squash with bacon

For the entrée, I selected the grilled beef tenderloin.  It was tasty enough, but grossly overcooked.  The pumpkin potatoes were great, but it was not a very visually appealing meal in the least.  The steaks I’d enjoyed on United on the flights to Japan were far superior.  Dessert consisted of a small serving of Haagen Daaz ice cream, which is pretty hard to mess up. It was a relatively disappointing meal, but then again, it was only regional business class.

After dinner, I nodded off for a couple hours, and woke up  upon our decent into Hong Kong.  It was quite choppy on our decent, but we landed and arrived at our gate, leaving me with about 3 hours until my connecting flight to Dubai.

Overall, this flight was perfectly fine, but I was expecting more since this was my first flight on Cathay Pacific.  The service was fine, but certainly nothing special or memorable.  My first impression was that the flight attendants, while efficient and kind, appeared quite robotic.  But this was, again only regional business class.  Surely Cathay’s international business would be better.