Review: Cathay Pacific Lounge Shanghai Airport

Filed Under: Cathay Pacific

Update: Cathay Pacific has renovated their lounge in the meantime.

My connection in Shanghai was supposed to be about two hours — I was scheduled to arrive at 12:40PM, and I was scheduled to depart at 2:30PM. I know, planning a 1hr50min connection on separate tickets at Shanghai Airport was probably a bad decision, but the Cathay Dragon flight was the only one that day featuring first class, and I really wanted to review it. I figured worst case scenario if I misconnected I could get onto one of the other Cathay Dragon flights to Hong Kong in business class.

Fortunately as soon as I landed in Shanghai I got a message saying that my flight to Hong Kong had been delayed by just over an hour, with a new departure time of 3:35PM. That worked for me, as it meant I didn’t have to rush.

While some Chinese airports are getting better, it absolutely blows my mind that Shanghai Airport Terminal 2 still doesn’t allow a sterile international-to-international transit. In other words, I had to clear immigration, go through customs, go back through immigration, and then go through security.

Unfortunately in China this process isn’t quick either. I’m fast as hell when it comes to this stuff, and the whole process took me nearly an hour. It’s not just that, but I felt like every step of the process was as complicated as could be.

In total it took me about 30 minutes to clear immigration and customs, including the new fingerprinting that they do for everyone arriving. Then I was in the check-in hall for Terminal 2. Then it took another half hour until I was airside again, due to long lines at immigration.

Shanghai Pudong Airport Terminal 2

I then made my way to the Cathay Pacific Lounge, which is the oneworld lounge in the terminal. The lounge is located near gate 69, though I had a hard time finding the lounge at first. Rather than having signs referring to lounges by their names, signage just refers to lounges by their numbers. Cathay Pacific’s Lounge is #68, which I didn’t know until I got there.

Anyway, the lounge is up one level from the main concourse, and can be reached by escalator or elevator.

Escalator to Cathay Pacific Lounge Shanghai

Compared to some of Cathay Pacific’s other lounges, this one has a modest exterior, and the only thing indicating it belongs to Cathay Pacific is a small sign outside. The lounge is open daily from 6AM until 8:45PM, and can be accessed by all oneworld first class, business class, Emerald, and Sapphire passengers.

Cathay Pacific Lounge Shanghai Airport exterior

I’ve visited this lounge a few times over the past decade or so, though this time around I felt like it was marginally nicer than in the past. They haven’t completely redone the lounge in the new style, but I do feel like some furniture has been replaced.

The lounge is quite large, and wasn’t busy at all. It’s “open air,” in the sense that it doesn’t have a roof, but rather is just part of the terminal. There are pros and cons to that — it makes the lounge feel more spacious, but it also means that the lounge is louder due to noise from the terminal.

Cathay Pacific Lounge view Shanghai Airport

Near the entrance to the lounge are a couple of dozen seats, and then past that is the first buffet area, which has packaged snacks and drinks.

Cathay Pacific Lounge seating Shanghai Airport

That buffet area also has some high-top seating.

Cathay Pacific Lounge seating Shanghai Airport

Past that is another area with more traditional lounge seating.

Cathay Pacific Lounge seating Shanghai Airport

Cathay Pacific Lounge Shanghai Airport

There are also some magazines and newspapers in this area.

Cathay Pacific Lounge newspapers & magazines Shanghai Airport

The lounge then widens quite a bit, and has an area with a bunch more seating, including some more communal seating along the far edge of the lounge.

Cathay Pacific Lounge Shanghai Airport

Cathay Pacific Lounge Shanghai Airport

Cathay Pacific Lounge seating Shanghai Airport

There’s also a business center with individual cubicles, all of which have computers. Personally I love these kinds of cubicles for working, I just wish they didn’t all have computers, because I just want somewhere quiet to sit while using my own laptop.

Cathay Pacific Lounge business center Shanghai Airport

The lounge has two main buffet areas. The smaller one had packaged sandwiches, fresh fruit, chips, cookies, water, soft drinks, a coffee machine, wine, and liquor.

Cathay Pacific Lounge buffet Shanghai Airport

Cathay Pacific Lounge buffet Shanghai Airport

Cathay Pacific Lounge buffet Shanghai Airport

Cathay Pacific Lounge buffet Shanghai Airport

Cathay Pacific Lounge buffet Shanghai Airport

Cathay Pacific Lounge alcohol Shanghai Airport

I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about the upside display of liquor that feels trashy to me.

Cathay Pacific Lounge alcohol Shanghai Airport

The bigger buffet was towards the center of the lounge. It had all of the same stuff as the other buffet, and then some extra things as well, including instant noodles, pastries, muffins, and more.

Cathay Pacific Lounge buffet Shanghai Airport

Cathay Pacific Lounge drinks Shanghai Airport

Cathay Pacific Lounge snacks Shanghai Airport

Cathay Pacific Lounge snacks Shanghai Airport

Cathay Pacific Lounge snacks Shanghai Airport

Cathay Pacific Lounge snacks Shanghai Airport

Cathay Pacific Lounge snacks Shanghai Airport

This section of the lounge also had a couple of hot dishes, including rice, soup, and dim sum.

Cathay Pacific Lounge Shanghai Airport food selection

Cathay Pacific Lounge Shanghai Airport food selection

In theory there was a live cooking station, though best I could tell they were just preparing the few hot dishes there that were then placed on the buffet.

Cathay Pacific Lounge Shanghai Airport cooking station

Cathay Pacific Lounge Shanghai Airport dim sum

Cathay Pacific Lounge Shanghai Airport main course

The lounge had decent enough restrooms, though best I could tell there were no showers.

I spent a bit of time in the lounge catching up on work, though the Wi-Fi was really slow, and I couldn’t get around the “Great Firewall,” which was annoying. At around 2:30PM I decided to leave the lounge and wander around the terminal for a bit.

Shanghai Airport Terminal 2

Shanghai Pudong has lots of great plane spotting, thanks not only to the variety of traffic, but also thanks to the big windows. Hi, Lufthansa A380 and SAS A340!

Lufthansa A380 Shanghai Airport

SAS A340 Shanghai Airport

My inbound flight from Hong Kong only arrived at 2:45PM. The crew for my flight was at the gate. To my surprise, I guess they had a layover in Shanghai — I figured they’d work all of these flights as direct turns. It took a while to deplane, and then at 3PM the crew got onboard.

Cathay Dragon Lounge Shanghai Airport

Boarding was scheduled for 3:15PM for our 3:35PM departure (which seems tight), though in the end boarding only started at 3:20PM, with first class being invited to board first.

Cathay Dragon departure gate Shanghai Airport

Cathay Pacific Lounge Shanghai bottom line

Shanghai is an important market for Cathay Pacific, so it surprises me that they don’t invest more in their lounge here. Cathay Pacific’s new lounge design is stunningly beautiful, design-wise probably my favorite in the world. You’d think a market like Shanghai would be “worthy” of that.

Ultimately Cathay Pacific’s Shanghai Lounge is perfectly alright, but nothing special. The furniture is in decent condition, but the food is really subpar. They mostly have packaged snacks and only a couple of hot options.  It’s a far cry from some of the best airport lounges in the world, especially since Cathy tends to set the bar very high.

So I really think Cathay Pacific needs to do better in Shanghai. At the same time, in general lounges in mainland China are lackluster, so I guess they can get away with it. The nicest lounge I’ve been to in mainland China is the China Eastern First Class Lounge Shanghai, and that’s the carrier’s hub, and the lounge is only for international first class passengers.

If you’ve used the Cathay Pacific Lounge PVG, what was your experience like?

  1. check shenzhen airlines lounge at shenzhen airport.
    it is the best lounge in mainland china.

  2. Big brother wants to spy on you.

    “While some Chinese airports are getting better, it absolutely blows my mind that Shanghai Airport Terminal 2 still doesn’t allow a sterile international-to-international transit. In other words, I had to clear immigration, go through customs, go back through immigration, and then go through security.”

  3. Why does it blow your mind re international transit in China ?? Remind you of somewhere else ? Oh yes .. the USA

  4. Shanghai is getting a new lounge next year I think. Just like the ICN CX lounge being under renovation now. According to the plan PEK and PVG comes after ICN.

  5. I never ever ever have issues with the “Great Firewall” when in China, I swear. Whether I am on my computer or mobile phone at the hotel, airport or out and about, I can always access every so called “blocked” site without issue.

    I started to question if this was even a real thing in China. I do not use any VPN (I think that’s what its called). But I do trust you and others encounter this issue.

    All my friends in China walk through the “Great Firewall” like its not even there.

  6. What a tease, you said in the previous post your connection at PVG was a PITA, i expected at the least you’d be stuck in a locked room for a while , not that you’d have to clear chinese immigration.

  7. Finally! So good to see Ben return to the Cathay Pacific Lounge in PVG.

    My parents live in Shanghai and I would usually visit them during vacations. Since direct flight options between PVG and any US airports look really dismal, I would almost always fly with CX because their lounges and premium economy products are top notch. Still I am very disappointed that CX lounge in PVG doesn’t even have shower rooms. I could just hop over to the China Eastern Lounge there, pay 200 yuan (approximately $32) and then use its shower rooms. And China Eastern Airline doesn’t even operate any flights out of T2. CX really needs to step up its lounge in Shanghai.

  8. @Icarus I think he has repeatedly pointed out of what a pain in the ass clearing immigration is in North America. He is holding the transit experience to an international level as many international airports do offer sterile international transit, especially in Asia: HKG, ICN, NRT, SIN, TPE just to name a few.

  9. Didn’t check the schedule but I imagine the crew change is because they’ll be taking the first morning flight back after a short overnight stopover. Your flight being crewed by the crew arriving late the night before (with the aircraft staying on the ground overnight)

  10. @ Lucky. Whilst I usually agree with your reviews, I truly think that your review doesn’t express how simply terrible the food selection is at this lounge. All the new seating and decor is not going to change this unless the management looks at food and beverage too. It feels more like a priority pass lounge from the 90s than a FIRST & BUSINESS class lounge for an entire alliance! It’s a disgrace! As a CX diamond, I really hate using this lounge.

  11. Hey a few comments, I travel to PVG all too frequently…

    1) For those commenting on the ‘great firewall’: It only applies if you are using a ML China IP address. So if you are using the lounge wifi, or a mobile with a ML provider, then you’re blocked. But if you’re roaming on a different sim card, everything should work. Example: I have a HK mobile & pocket wifi device, and all things normally filtered work just fine.

    2) For immigration, totally get the APEC business travel card. You’ll go through the diplomat line, which is quicker than even if you’re Chinese national in this airport. I cannot tell you how many hours it has saved me, especially at PVG.

    3) Regarding the lounge, I completely agree. It’s the absolute worst in the CX network that I’ve been to (most of them). In my opinion, the primary reason is that it’s open air and it feels like you’re still in the terminal, and does not feel all that special unlike a regular CX lounge.

  12. Why did you call it Shanghai Airport rather than Shanghai Pudong throughout the entire article except for one spot? That would be like calling JFK “New York Airport” and completely disregarding LGA. In fact, unlike LGA, Shanghai Hongqiao not only has the vast majority of domestic flights but also international flights to Seoul Gimpo and Tokyo Haneda. This is just sloppy writing on your part.

  13. @Daniel: Good point, although it’s worth mentioning that Hongqiao also has flights to Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, which, practically (if not politically) speaking, are international, and operate out of the international Terminal 1.

    Lucky: PVG T2 was, in fact, designed to handle direct international-to-international transfers in the way it’s done in other Asian and European airports; you can even see the unused transfer counters in the middle of the arrivals concourse. I suspect the reason they are not using these facilities has to do with control, as @Debit suggest.

  14. Lucky, I just transited via PVG coming in from HKG on CX J class going to DFW on AA J class. I was reading your article as I was about to deplane upon arriving in PVG… I was fretting about the possibility of having to go through customs as you described. It must’ve been luck or chance, however across from gate 71 in the arrivals area before you go down the escalators to the immigration desks, there is a international transfer desk. I checked with them, they stamped my boarding pass, walked me down to a special immigrations desk, then walked me back up to the international transfers door which then led to the security checkpoint. It took approximately 10 minutes for all of this.

    After that, I proceeded to the CX lounge & asked about showers and they pointed me to the China airlines first class lounge that has a full set of showers available as well as great food. At the China lounge entrance (on the sign where all of the welcome airlines are listed) American Airlines was listed at the bottom.

    Please share with your readers, and I hope this helps you during your next trip as well.

  15. Cathay has renovated the lounge this year and open to public on Jul 18. Time to update your blog!

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