Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Around the World in 80 Hours Part 5: Lounging Like There's No Tomorrow (Because Tomorrow Was Yesterday)

**Apologies for any font or format issues in this post.  Writing on multiple devices while flying around the world makes stitching posts together later somewhat obnoxious. 
HKG Airport- Come for the status, stay for the cabanas.
Where we've come from:


Where we're going to next:

Anyone who's done ultra long haul mileage running knows that if there's an art and a gospel to good Oneworld lounge planning.  I'd even going as far as to say that the lounge access is one of the biggest benefits to flying as a Oneworld elite, both domestically and abroad.  The other alliances don't come close to providing such a good network.  Star Alliance is probably second, and Skyteam is so far off you can't see them from here. All IMHO, of course.

If I was doing a promo video for the benefit, it would probably start with the words "Imagine a world where luxury comes standard...." and conclude with "....This is that world- Oneworld," all voiced over by a dulcet British accent, with just a slowly filling champagne glass in soft focus, and a 747 taking off in the distance. 

As an aside, yes I have been at the champagne bar.  And yes, this does explain a lot about this post, thanks for asking.

If there’s one other thing mileage runners agree on, it’s that the HKG airport ranks 1 or 2 on the list of all time best lounge airports.  The other contender is probably Sydney, but it’s generally not a place you find yourself on a mileage run thanks to the higher ticket prices. 
Anyhow, back to this particular excursion.  We headed back from the city in time to ensure a full 5 hours of lounge time, which we were hoping would be enough.  No, I'm serious.  This is serious business.  For serious.

We'd even devised a plan for where to go and what to do.  This is necessary when you want to hit up several lounges at HKG because it's a big airport, and you don't want to waste time backteacking on yourself.  You have to keep in mind that this is from the same people who have spent months plotting an around the world itinerary on a shoestring, all devised to maximize every last mile out of every last cent.  A little lounge strategy is nothing.

First up- The Wing. 

I've reviewed this lounge in several entries, but mostly HERE.  In short, this lounge is worth some significant time, especially if it's not overcrowded.  This time around I grabbed a cabana for a shower, and enjoyed plenty of time at having a few glasses of bubbly with the other mileage runners.  Never disappoints.

Second stop- The Qantas Lounge. 

This lounge is habitually overlooked and under appreciated by Oneworld flyers dazzled by Cathay's lounges. 

To get there from The Wing you go straight out, along the passport control entries, and keep going until you reach the far side of the departures terminal.  It's a bit of a hike, but you can cut back on the steps, you can sneak behind the food court on a narrow walkway/access corridor.  Don't mind the employees catching a few minutes on break, or the occasional trash cart wheeling through.  Just walk like you know where you're going. Just because you're going first class lounge hopping doesn't mean every minute will be glamorous.

The lounge is spacious, with great views of airport ops that The Wing can lack.  The service is also top notch- very friendly and personable.  We grabbed some spots at the bar, and they twisted our arms into trying the 'signature dish' of the day - BBQ pork, freshly sliced.  While there was a full bar on offer as well, most of us went with the Australian sparkling wine.  The lounge is full service, and also offers showers, a full buffet that changes through the day, and plenty of work and relaxing space.  It really is a best kept secret among the lounges, and is a great stop when The Wing gets crowded....or you're just in the mood for some planespotting and Aussie accents.

 Last stop was the lounge that's all in vogue this year- The Pier

The Pier is located at the opposite end of the main international terminal, a decent 10-15 minute walk using the moving walkways.  It happened to be just about as far as we could get from our actual next departure gate, and still be in the same terminal.  This was a fact that the incredulous agent at the door tried to explain rather forcefully to us several times.  She really couldn't sort out why we were there, since The Wing is right next to our gate.  "We just came from there, and we have a plan" didn't seem to make much sense to her. 
There's also a train down a level which can speed things up, but not by all that much once you wait for the elevators, and then the train.  Besides, we had to walk off the buffet at The Wing, and now the dish of the day at the Qantas lounge.  

Where The Wing is modern, open and airy, The Pier is cozy and tucked on the lower level, under the main concourse.  It's d├ęcor speaks more to a 'golden age' of travel, but still with the modern amenities, and plenty of well-maintained plush features.  Think leather high backed chairs, soft lighting, and wood paneled walls.  Oh, and a bar cart from which you can serve yourself a glass of port to finish your layover right.  

Being on the lower level, it also gets you up close and personal with the planes and airport ops in a way that our first two lounge stops didn't.  You feel like you're in a staring contest with a a380 from half of the windows.  The Pier also offers massage services, but you'll need to sign up well before your flight. It's easy to see how this lounge is a favorite of frequent travelers.  I easily could have given this place another hour or two and still not have been ready to leave.  Next time, next time....

Like The Wing, The Pier also has a sit-down, made to order restaurant with a full menu all day.  Their specialty are the Dan Dan noodles, and having heard plenty about them from other frequent flyers online, I had to give them a try.  So, this now probably counted as my third or fourth dinner of the day, to say nothing of the heavy dim sum lunch we'd taken in in Hong Kong just before heading to the airport. 

All too soon, it was time to roll out of there and head to the gate for our CX flight down to KUL.  As it was a partner flight, we were slumming it for the next 4 or so hours in coach.  No pain, no gain.

Up next- an aging CX 330, a long-ass Uber ride in KUL & some quality time by the pool.


Monday, March 6, 2017

We Need To Talk

I realized what was missing from my blogging life, and maybe my life in general.  That is a place to air my pithy but, to me, SUPER IMPORTANT gripes about travel. I have a lot.  I usually forget them within a day or so, but nevertheless, the truth must get out!

So, without further ado, I give you...

"We Need To Talk"
Yes, I'm talking to you.
American Airlines, We Need To Talk about the alleged new boarding times.  For eons, when to get to the gate was quite simple- 30 minutes ahead was boarding, and no getting there less than 10 minutes before or risk having the aircraft door slammed on your face.  This I could live with.  Now, when I roll up to the gate exactly on time, like I did today, you're boarding Group 8 and there's no overhead space.  I don't want to pull a DYKWIA here, but if you're in 1st, you shouldn't have to get to the gate 45 mins or more ahead to claim space and then sit on the plane for that much longer. 

At the very least, if this is our new world order, just say so.  Make an announcement that we now board 40 minutes ahead and let us plan for that.  Common courtesy people, come on.

This is what an upgrade looks like
Marriott, We Need To Talk about what the term "upgrade" means.  You seem to be under the impression that an upgrade is just the exact same room on a different floor, with no added benefits.  This isn't a thing in my book.  Overall, your room upgrade treatment of elites is painfully bad in comparison to SPG, which you're now gobbling up.  Please try to learn something along the way.  Or if you won't, just tell me straight up you're not giving me a better room, own it & move on.

Yes, KAL, you have the best pavilion view & plenty of seats, but you still need soy sauce
KAL Lounge at LAX, We Need To Talk about the fact that you serve sushi, but there's no soy sauce.  First off, you're KOREAN air lines.  You know the score.  Secondly, your 'sushi' NEEDS soy sauce.  This is not an opinion.

Oh, and I thought I was done....but wait, there's more.

Sushi bar at the ATL Airport Marriott, We Need To Talk about the fact that you served me marginal miso soup with a TEASPOON.  It's taken me like 30 minutes to eat.  Soup spoon, or just let's pretend it's the NRT location, and I'll just drink it like you're supposed to.

And on that,

~CruisingAltitude out.