Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK)
August 26, 2016
JT: After a two week stay in Beijing, our guest writers were headed back to New York! Here’s Laura’s take on Air China’s Business Class lounge in the Beijing Airport. The lounge is located in Terminal E, the international terminal, after security.
Laura: The lounge was in an elevated area of the terminal, with escalators and elevators outside. By the entrance of the lounge, there was a sign showing the layout of the lounge, which showed that the lounge had a total of 434 seats. There was also a machine where you could use your ID to gain access to Wifi, but it didn’t look clear on whether it would work for non-Chinese citizens. As I was only planning on being in the lounge for 30 minutes, I didn’t bother trying to get on the Wifi.
Because of my limited time in the lounge, there were a couple of areas that I didn’t get a chance to visit, including the sleeping area, business center, entertainment area, and VIP room. I went to the restrooms, but I didn’t see any clear signage about showers, though there were a lot of unmarked doors that could have hosted a shower room. There was also a bar in the back of the lounge. It looked like it might have been intentionally without a bartender, as I saw a few of the lounge patrons walk behind the bar and serve themselves.
About two thirds of the lounge were armchairs, and one third was dining tables and chairs. The chairs were pretty comfortable, and there were plenty of outlets and tables scattered throughout. There was also an area providing periodicals for visitors to read.
There were three food areas within the lounge. Two of them were self-service areas with some cold snacks, fridges with drinks, and machines for tea and coffee. One of the self-service areas also had small sandwiches, fruit, and ice cream available.
The dining area took up the back third of the lounge. They had a sushi counter (though there weren’t a lot of fish options, it looked like mostly shrimp or vegetarian when I was there). Though the picture looks pretty empty, when I circled back 10 minutes later, the case was completely filled. They had 4 total towers of dim sum baskets, I thought the chicken shu mai were the best of the options).
Laura: The dining area also had a salad area and a hot food area. The hot food included two soup options, two starches (rice and pasta), and 4 entrees. I tried some egg fried rice and a beef dish. I found that the food wasn’t terribly hot, and it all tasted okay, but I wasn’t eager to come back for seconds.
If I had more time or appetite, I would have tried out a noodle dish. There was a table with pictures of three noodle options, and bowls would just appear on the table. When I first passed it, there was one of each option, so I thought that they might just be examples to be ordered at another area, but it looked like people were just taking them off the table as they appeared.
I heard a few announcements while in the lounge, but the size of the lounge and the fact that it wasn’t in an enclosed space meant that it was hard to hear all of the announcements. There were several boards throughout the lounge showing flights that were boarding. The board seemed to announce that our flight had started boarding at 12:16 (ahead of the 12:30 schedule). My colleague and I left the lounge around 12:25 to get to our gate.
JT: Overall, the lounge sounds like a perfectly good place to spend some time before a flight. Based on Laura’s trip report, the variety of food sounded amazing (although really, I’m just interested in the shu mai). I’m a little surprised at how basic the amenities are, considering this is an Air China hub (or should I be?). Can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think I’d prefer the China Southern Lounge in Guangzhou (CAN) over this, as far as Chinese lounges go!
AS: I actually think it looks more than decent for a China-based carrier lounge. While Joey rightly points out that it should be better given that Beijing is one of Air China’s main hubs, airport lounges in China are almost universally panned be it one from an airline or contractor. So as far as it goes given the low standard we’re starting with, it seems actually above the average offerings of others, China Eastern especially.