The escalator next to Gate 65 in the northwest concourse of Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) gives no indication of the amount of work that has been going on down below in recent months.
Here, Cathay Pacific’s (CX) The Pier lounge has undergone extension work and a full refurbishment – it now occupies 3,306 sqm (around 1,000 sqm more than its previous incarnation), making it CX’s largest lounge, with seating for 550 people.
Design company Studioilse – which has overseen lounge design for CX in Bangkok, Taipei, Tokyo Haneda and most recently Vancouver (see here) – was tasked with turning this expansive space into an environment that relaxes, refreshes and engages travellers.
“Most users are travellers who are often jet lagged, so we wanted this lounge to be grounded in space, with sensitive use of lighting, plants and cherry wood,” said Ilse Crawford during a guided walk-round of the lounge.
“We thought about degrees of privacy, and broke the lounge into different spaces so you can find the level of privacy you want, the space that serves whatever time frame you have available.”
From the wide reception area, decorated with natural plant life and large wall-mounted artworks, you can turn right into either a locker area or The Bureau, which offers ten iMac computers and printers, as well as easy chairs with task lights.
However, the main lounge areas are to the left. The Pier is divided lengthways into “fast” and “slow” lanes, the former taking you through a range of F&B spaces on the left-hand side, the latter comprising a range of lounge seating between huge windows and glazed timber screens. A variety of chairs have been used, including comfortable solo swivel chairs that let you create your own sightline.
The design of the fast lane has an element of Hong Kong street life – or a luxurious version of it. You enter the Food Hall first, which has seating in booths and at attractive long tables for 100 people. A coffee cart is staffed by trained baristas, and there are self-service kiosks with a comprehensive selection of savoury dishes, sweet treats, tapas, salads, etc. The overall feel aims to be part food market, part deli – it’s certainly a clean, spacious area and the selection of morsels I tasted were excellent (as was my cappuccino from the cart).
Move farther into the lounge and you enter the Bar, behind which two staff (trained mixologists and baristas) are ready to serve up cocktails, wine, coffee, etc – this is a far superior set-up than the self-service sideboards packed with bottles still found in some lounges. The seating area here is relaxed and convivial.
Next comes the Noodle Bar – CX’s signature lounge feature – which offers four choices of noodle soup and also a selection of dim sum offerings. I sampled the wonton noodles and har gow shrimp dumplings, and their freshness and authenticity proved why this concept has been so popular throughout CX’s lounges worldwide.
Beyond the Noodle Bar is the Tea House, specially conceived for this Hong Kong lounge. It is a quieter space, with lower lighting and more traditional Chinese furniture; here, ten core teas (plus one seasonal tea) are offered on an interactive menu that provides the opportunity to see and smell the teas before choosing. (Fresh fruit smoothies are also offered.)
At the far end of The Pier are the well-equipped shower rooms – 13 identical rooms plus a wheelchair-friendly room – and The Relaxation Room, which features 18 low loungers and other seating, all plushly upholstered. Low-level lighting creates a peaceful atmosphere where sleep is easily possible – there are useful touches as well, with universal plugs and USB ports under small shelves within easy reach, hooks to hang jackets and plenty of space for bags.
Studioilse’s Crawford says that there was a deliberate plan to make each section of the lounge slow you down as you enter farther inside, from the bustling grab-and-go Food Hall through the more relaxed Bar, the made-to-order Noodle Bar, the refined Tea House and finally the quiet solitude of the Relaxation Room. In all of this the lighting is of note; Crawford is not a fan of bright, harsh lighting: “I believe in ‘glow’ – it makes people feel good,” she says, explaining the great variety of lamps and muted bulbs used throughout the lounge. “I always say, ‘light the life, not the room’,” she adds.
Also worth noting is that since The Pier’s refurbishment has resulted in a rise in quality of environment, this means an equal rise in level of service is required. This has been addressed by the sourcing of new providers and additional training for the personnel who staff the lounge. It all adds up to a very high-quality offering.
The Pier will operate from 5.30am until the last departure flight every day, and will be open to CX first and business class passengers, Marco Polo Club Silver and above members, all tier members who have earned lounge passes, and/or their friends and families, and Oneworld Emerald and Sapphire members.
No official opening date has been announced, but Business Traveller Asia-Pacific was told The Pier will open within the next two weeks.
For more information visit cathaypacific.com