Introduction: A Weekend In Mongolia
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I arrived at Beijing Airport at around 6AM, plenty early for my 8:35AM flight to Ulaanbaatar. I already had my boarding pass for the flight, so headed straight to the gates. This required taking the train to Terminal 3E, and then going through immigration and security there. The queues for both were crazy, and there was no priority line. It took me about an hour to clear both of those.
Once that was done I found myself airside in Terminal 3. Physically it’s a gorgeous terminal, though it doesn’t nearly have the same amenities you’d find at other top airports in Asia.
In the past I’ve reviewed Air China’s business class lounge in Beijing. However, this time around I figured I’d review the first class lounge. Rather oddly, Air China’s first class lounge can be accessed through Priority Pass. In reality, the first and business class lounges are virtually identical, though I guess they just name them differently in order to spread passengers out a bit. Nonetheless, that’s quite underwhelming if you’re in international first class.
Once past security I turned left, and then after walking about 100 feet I saw the escalator to the lounge on the right.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen this before, but there was a sign outside the lounge indicating that Air China offers free buggy rides to the gate for premium passengers. It doesn’t sound to me like this is intended just to be for passengers with special needs. I’ve never seen such a buggy before, so does this actually not exist, or…?
Anyway, the entrance to the lounge was at the top of the escalator and to the right. At the desk I presented my business class boarding pass to Ulaanbaatar, and that got me in. I also had my Priority Pass card, in case they were going to ask for it. Surprisingly that wasn’t even needed, though.
The lounge itself is basic. On the plus side, the lounge was nice and empty. At the same time it feels so outdated for an airport that’s otherwise quite modern.
The lounge has tons of seating, consisting mostly of seats lined up in rows.
However, there are also some cute areas that are a bit more private, like the one below.
There were a variety of magazines and newspapers along the outer edge of this area.
There’s also an entertainment area with a TV and reclining seats, though the TV was turned off and seats looked like they had seen better days.
In terms of views, the lounge mostly faces the interior of the airport.
However, there are also some views of the gate area in the distance.
The lounge has a few different areas with food & drinks. Near the entrance was a small snack bar with packaged snacks, whole fruit, sliced fruit, sandwiches, yogurt, and sweets.
There was another small snack bar with coffee and milk, more packaged snacks, fruit, and ice cream.
The main dining area was towards the back of the lounge, which is also where the bar was located.
There are quite a few dining tables along the outer edge of the lounge, right by the main buffet.
I’ll let the pictures of the food speak mostly for themselves.
The lounge also had several nap rooms, though they all seemed to either be occupied or out of order (last time I visited this lounge, I saw employees sleeping in them).
I didn’t eat much in the lounge. I just had a few bottles of water, and I tried the ice cream, just out of curiosity, which tasted like cardboard.
The lounge no longer has its own wifi network, but rather uses the airport’s main wifi network. The speeds with this network are reasonably decent, though it’s very much subjected to China’s “Great Firewall,” so don’t expect to access anything Google related, even with a VPN.
My flight was scheduled to board at 8:05AM, so I decided to head to the gate at around 7:30AM. My flight was departing from gate E2, which was a very long walk from the lounge. On the plus side, there was some great plane spotting enroute. The airport has big floor to ceiling windows without many obstructions, so it’s great for taking pictures of planes.
Eventually I got to the end of the terminal, where some Air China 737s were parked, including the one that would be flying me to Mongolia.
I got to gate E2 at around 7:45AM, and the gate area was still pretty quiet.
Without much fuss (or any sort of announcement), boarding started at 7:55AM, ahead of schedule.
I was excited to get to Mongolia!
Air China first class lounge Beijing bottom line
Air China’s lounge system in Beijing is bizarre. They have separate lounges for first & business class, though they’re virtually identical. This is also the only international first class lounge that I know of that can be accessed with a Priority Pass membership.
On the plus side, the lounge is spacious and rarely crowded, so it’s a quiet place to relax. However, other than that the lounge doesn’t impress me much — the decor is outdated, and the food selection is just “meh.”