Score Note: This review is scored is based upon comparing this lounge with the best lounges of similar equivalent in this, and other airports around the world. 100 in any category would mean the all time best.
If you’re a frequent visitor through Hong Kong International, as I tend to be, there’s one thing you can depend on: a long queue outside the Plaza Premium Lounge. With so many credit cards and loyalty programs offering access, it’s constantly at capacity.
Enter Plaza Premium First – where there’s no lines to be found, complimentary champagne inside and even sit down a la carte dining. In short: it’s a seriously upgraded experience on the traditional “pay as you go” airport lounge concept, with a few interesting stories to tell. Here’s what to expect inside this new(ish) lounge near Gate 1…
Plaza Premium First is accessible to business and first class travellers on Air France, Virgin Atlantic, Finnair, JAL and other select airlines departing Hong Kong, but also to paying guests, or as a paid upgrade for anyone with Priority Pass, DragonPass and other lounge access memberships.
Basically, if you’re not in business or first – or even if you are – you can pay your way in. The most logical way is to upgrade for HK$250, if you have PriorityPass or similar.
Although the entrance may not look like all that much, this is a great lounge, and you can tell almost immediately. When you upgrade or access the lounge, a front of house member will give you a tour and explain the benefits you’re entitled to, including a nice shower and spa treatment. I found this proactive approach and helpful approach to be really refreshing.
All guests are also entitled to free flowing champagne (G.H. Mumm) and drinks from the bar, as well as a la carte dining. Before any of that, I made my way through the two primary seating areas to the front, left and rear of the bar. I was extremely pleased to find power ports at virtually every seat, and varied setups which could cater to solo travellers or groups equally.
Even at peak times, the lounge is never “rammed” as many pay lounge options can be, and there was never a time when a seat wasn’t easily available. It seemed that the later the evening went, the more people were in, so the earlier the better if you want true peace and quiet.
If, like most travellers these days WiFi is everything to you, you’ll be quite happy here. I found WiFi speeds of over 100MBPS up and down, which is pretty much shockingly good for an airport lounge. I was so shocked, I actually enquired and they noted that those speeds were very standard.
Although the space isn’t blessed with super high ceilings or open air views like many of the more exclusive options in HKIA, it’s very tastefully done. It wouldn’t be out of place to compare the decor to a “lite” version of what Cathay Pacific has achieved. Compared to most airport lounges in other parts of the world, it’s absolutely swanky.
Plaza Premium First Hong Kong Food
After fidgeting around and catching up on emails, I headed to the back right of the lounge if facing away from the entrance, where you can find the a la carte dining room. Admittedly, I was quite eager to see what was ahead, because I had heard a rumour that the previous catering crew from my old favourite Cathay Pacific “The Pier” First Class Lounge had moved into this location. Perhaps that explained why the food in Cathay First had become so mediocre?
I was seated politely, offered a menu and a choice of wines and instantly gravitated towards a nice, healthy salmon option, and a crowd pleasing Thai yellow curry for some extra nourishment. Compared to a recent experience at Cathay First, this food was a triumph. I could see the chefs working hard through the open kitchen, and each dish took an appropriate amount of time to arrive.
There was even an effort made with plating, which wasn’t lost on me. In their own right, both dishes were more than acceptable for airport food, and the Thai curry was genuinely fantastic, airport or not. One amusing bit: there’s Iberico Jamon on display at the open kitchen. Apparently, this is free for Air France first class passengers and no one else, but you can buy it, as I did hah.
Plaza Premium First Hong Kong Drinks
Aside from the Mumm Champagne, which always goes down very easily, the wines weren’t all that much to speak of. They were solid, but not inspired. On the other hand, the whiskey selection was excellent, which also included the opportunity to pay for super premium flights to do tastings. But back to the wine stuff…
In speaking subsequently with the team that runs Plaza Premium First, it appears that elevating the wine program is something on their radar, and they are looking into bringing wine education into their team training, with a focus on finding great wines guests will really seek out. Obviously this is a “to be seen”, but it was nice to speak to a team who seemed passionate about trying to create a culture of learning and taking things further. It’s unfortunately rare in today’s airport world.
Finally, if you have a sweet tooth, you’re in the right place. If you need a diet, you’d best walk out the door. I’m not sure any lounge on earth allows you to combine pastry and champagne quiet as easily as Plaza Premium First at Hong Kong, with a pastry counter at the actual bar, in the front of the lounge. I’ll let the picture speak for itself. And yes, you can have all that you want ; )
For about $32USD (HK$250), it’s not a completely insignificant expense, compared to a free option. At the same time, I’d say it’s really money well spent. There’s no guarantee you’ll even have space at the other Plaza Premium Lounge, and the service in here is definitely better than what’s found at most business class lounges. As long as the HK$250 promotion is on, I’d say this is a top 4 lounge at this airport, which is saying something, given the exclusive lounges which don’t offer paid access.
Basically, if you’ll enjoy a couple glasses of champagne and a nice sit down meal, or desperately need a good shower (as more travellers do than they may realise), then this is money well spent. I’m excited to check back in the near future and see if the wine has improved, or any of the ideas the team were throwing around, like making a private room you can book for groups into a reality.