Review: Plaza Premium First Lounge Hong Kong

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Hong Kong has some of my favorite first class lounges in the world, in particular the Cathay Pacific Pier First Class Lounge.

However, my first stop at Hong Kong Airpot was a Plaza Premium Lounge that I had to pay to access. Why on earth would I do that?!

Plaza Premium First Lounge Hong Kong Review

Plaza Premium operates lounges around the world, though last year they decided to do something rather innovative in Hong Kong.

They opened the Plaza Premium First Lounge, which is essentially intended to be a significantly more premium version of their existing lounges. It’s an interesting concept for Plaza Premium to embrace, given that they’ve historically been so consistent in their product offering.

I’d note that they also have a Plaza Premium First Lounge in Kuala Lumpur, though it’s my understanding that it’s not nearly as nice.

I didn’t know what exactly to expect from this lounge, though I was pleasantly surprised.

Plaza Premium First Lounge Location

The Plaza Premium First Lounge is located in Terminal 1 at HKIA, on Level 6 near Gate 1. Once you clear security and immigration, just take the escalator down a level and turn left, and you should see the entrance to the Plaza Premium First Lounge.


Plaza Premium First Lounge Hong Kong exterior

Nearby there’s a “standard” Plaza Premium Lounge as well, and this isn’t where you want to go if you’re looking for the Plaza Premium First Lounge. If you’re facing that lounge, turn left and walk about 100 feet, and you’ll see the entrance to the Plaza Premium First Lounge.

Plaza Premium Lounge Hong Kong exterior

Plaza Premium First Lounge Hours

The Plaza Premium First Lounge Hong Kong is open 24/7, making it one of the only lounges at HKIA that is open all night.

Plaza Premium First Lounge Access Requirements

The Plaza Premium First Lounge is accessible to those with a Priority Pass membership or with The Platinum Card® from American Express (review) or The Business Platinum Card® from American Express (review).

Note that either way there’s a 250 HKD (~32 USD) co-pay per person to use the lounge, and each visit can be for up to three hours.

If you’re a member of Plaza Premium’s Smart Traveller loyalty program, you can also redeem 4,000 points for a free visit here, or can redeem 1,500 points to “upgrade” from a standard Plaza Premium Lounge to this one.

When I first found out that Plaza Premium was introducing lounges with co-pays I was really skeptical, though after my visit I have very different feelings.

Lastly, it’s worth noting that some airlines use this for their premium passengers.

For example, Finnair and Qatar Airways use this lounge for their business class passengers. That’s interesting, given the number of oneworld lounges at the airport, and it also shows a significant investment on their part (because presumably they’re paying a premium for this).

Beyond that, Lufthansa and SWISS also use this lounge for their first class passengers and HON Circle members, while Virgin Atlantic uses the lounge for their Upper Class passengers.

Plaza Premium First Lounge Layout & Seating

The Plaza Premium First Lounge is elegant, a significant step up over other Plaza Premium locations, in my opinion. The lounge is about 815 square meters, so just under 9,000 square feet, and can accommodate up to 250 guests.

For one, when I entered the lounge one of the hosts gave me a tour, which they seem to do with every guest who enters.

The bar area is right inside the entrance to the lounge, and is pretty. The lounge seems to have quite a few partnership/sponsorship agreements, as you’ll see based on the amount of branding throughout the lounge.


Plaza Premium First Lounge bar


Plaza Premium First Lounge bar

There’s plenty of seating around the bar, including high-top seating, dining tables with chairs, benches, and more.


Plaza Premium First Lounge seating


Plaza Premium First Lounge Hong Kong seating


Plaza Premium First Lounge Hong Kong seating


Plaza Premium First Lounge Hong Kong seating

Past that is the main part of the lounge, which has more traditional lounge seating, with rows of seats facing one another.


Plaza Premium First Lounge seating


Plaza Premium First Lounge Hong Kong seating

There are also some cozy couches.


Plaza Premium First Lounge Hong Kong seating

In the back left corner of the lounge was a long “U” shaped booth, and there’s even a small nap area there with some “curved” daybeds. One of them was occupied, so I didn’t want to take a picture, but personally I wouldn’t want to sleep there for an extended period of time.


Plaza Premium First Lounge Hong Kong seating

Then in the back right of the lounge was the dining area, which had both a menu and buffet.


Plaza Premium First Lounge Hong Kong restaurant


Plaza Premium First Lounge Hong Kong restaurant

All around I thought the lounge was beautiful. Two other notes:

  • The lounge does lack natural light, which is a downside, but I’m guessing this was the only space they could make work
  • The lounge was really empty; I was here for about three hours, and at no point were there more than a dozen people (and most of the time significantly fewer people than that)

Plaza Premium First Lounge Restaurant Dining

The Plaza Premium First Lounge has a 24/7 restaurant, called “Primo.” This includes both a buffet and an a la carte dining option. I had a meal at around 6AM. There’s a host in the restaurant area who seats you when you arrive.

The breakfast buffet that was set up was reasonably good.

Plaza Premium First Lounge buffet

Again, there’s quite a bit of branding in the lounge. 😉


Plaza Premium First Lounge buffet


Plaza Premium First Lounge buffet


Plaza Premium First Lounge buffet


Plaza Premium First Lounge buffet

The dining area also has a drink station, so while you can serve yourself, the servers will also get you drinks. For any water enthusiasts, they have San Pellegrino and Acqua Panna, which is quite premium as far as water goes.

Plaza Premium First Lounge drink station

A moment after having a seat a server asked what I wanted to drink. I was happy to hear they had iced coffee, so I ordered that.

Plaza Premium First Lounge iced coffee

They have the same menu in the lounge all day, including both breakfast and daytime options. The menu read as follows (guests can select one dish):

It might sound crazy, but my body clock was way off, so I decided to order a burger. Yep, this was my first time ever having an iced coffee and a burger together.

Why did I order the burger? Because I was intrigued by it — it’s a “beyond meat burger” with sweet potato fries, so it’s actually vegetarian. I’m not usually a burger guy, but it was really good.

Plaza Premium First Lounge Bar

There are some things that make the Plaza Premium First Lounge bar interesting.

For one, I was delighted to see that they had barista made drinks, and the Lavazza cappuccino I had was exceptional.

Plaza Premium First Lounge espresso machine


Plaza Premium First Lounge cappuccino

The bar had a long list of complimentary drinks. Here are their signature cocktails:

And here’s the rest of the complimentary drink list:

The bar also had some tasty-looking desserts in a display case, served by the bartender.

Plaza Premium First Lounge desserts

Beyond that, there was a selection of alcohol available for purchase, including whisky flights, premium wine, and more.

Plaza Premium First Lounge liquor


Plaza Premium First Lounge liquor

Here’s part of that menu:

Plaza Premium First Lounge Showers

The Plaza Premium First Lounge has showers, located just inside the entrance to the lounge and to the right.

Plaza Premium First Lounge showers

I made an appointment for a shower around 6:30AM. The shower rooms are really great — they’re spacious and feel high-end.


Plaza Premium First Lounge shower room


Plaza Premium First Lounge shower room


Plaza Premium First Lounge shower room

Toiletries were from Elemis, and were in reusable containers.


Plaza Premium First Lounge shower room

On top of that there were several amenities available on demand.


Plaza Premium First Lounge shower room

Plaza Premium First Lounge Massage

The Plaza Premium Lounge offers complimentary 10 minute pressure point massages. This service is available starting at 7AM daily, so I made an appointment for 7:15AM (which was the first available appointment).


Plaza Premium First Lounge massage

There’s a separate massage room that has two massage chairs, though only one person was working when I had my treatment. The massage was no frills but excellent — I had the you-know-what beat out of my back for 10 minutes, and that’s exactly what I needed.

My one feedback here is that the masseuses use a stopwatch, and at the end of the 10 minute massage it beeps really loudly. You’d think they could try to create a bit more of a soothing ambiance and not have that happen, by just keeping an eye on a clock or timer.


Plaza Premium First Lounge massage

I Love This Lounge, But Don’t Get The Economics

When the concept for this lounge was introduced I was skeptical. I figured it was a slippery slope, and if they started charging co-pays for Priority Pass lounge visits, just how far will it go? Could we start to see co-pays for regular lounges?

After visiting this lounge I take that back. This lounge is so much better than any other Plaza Premium or contract lounge I’ve been to. It’s in a completely different league, and is on par with some international first class lounges.

Between the nice decor, a la carte dining, massages, and overall quiet ambiance, I absolutely love this lounge.

That being said, I really don’t get the economics?

I would estimate that the co-pay slightly more than doubles the revenue that Plaza Premium gets per visitor:

  • I suspect they’re paid 25 USD or so (give or take) per visit through Priority Pass, Amex, etc.)
  • Then the 250 HKD co-pay slightly more than doubles that

They’d need to have nearly half as many guests in the same space, give or take, to make this worthwhile. That’s purely accounting for the real estate, and not accounting for the difference associated with guests otherwise (food, drinks, staffing, etc. — I’m not sure how all of that works, given all the branding in the lounge).

Part of what made this lounge so incredible was how quiet it was. Maybe I was just there over a non-peak period, but every review I’ve read of this lounge suggests it’s consistently empty.

They must be losing significant amounts of money with this concept, as much as I love it? Were they expecting more people to be willing to pay the premium, or what am I missing when it comes to the economics of it?

It’s one thing if this lounge was just a couple of months old, but it has been around for about 18 months now.

Plaza Premium First Lounge Bottom Line

The Plaza Premium First Lounge is phenomenal, in a league of its own when it comes to contract/third party lounges.

In general I think “upgrading” to this lounge experience could be well worth it, given how much better this is than most other lounges.

That being said, in my particular situation I’d have a hard time justifying visiting again. Why? Because I get access to Cathay Pacific’s spectacular first class lounges in Hong Kong thanks to my oneworld Emerald status whenever I’m flying a oneworld airline.

If that weren’t the case, I’d visit again in a heartbeat, though.

What do you make of the Plaza Premium First concept?

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Comments
  1. FYI, Lufthansa uses this as the contrast lounge for F pax. Flew HKG-FRA in October on LH F and they gave us passes for here.

  2. I can confirm what Sean says.

    Being in LH First did not entitle you to free drinks beyond what was complimentary to all guests. I used the SQ F lounge as well and preferred that lounge.

  3. I dont think Qatar Airways uses this lounge for all their flights.

    Qatar Airways directed me to the (not so great) SATS Lounge in SIN when I was traveling from SIN-DOH in November this year. I ended up going next door to the rather nice British Airways lounge instead (since the Qantas First lounge was far too crowded with their afternoon rush of flights to Australia).

  4. I usually fly business class on the long-haul flights that might take me through Hong Kong, but if I were flying PE or Economy and had a 2.5hr + layover in HK, I could see myself paying the extra to use this lounge. I recall the normal Plaza Premium lounges in HK being very busy, so I think an extra $25 would be worth it for the tranquility (assuming I could use it for the full 3 hrs).

  5. As far as your question on economics, you’re missing a pretty big detail. You even note in your review the amount of branding. That is your answer. It reminds me of the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, with the branding not so in your face, that is to say a bit more tasteful than you’d find on the concourses in the airport itself. Even in the picture of the bar, there is branding for the scotch above it. All that sponsorship brings in COI, which is probably covering most, if not all, of their operating expenses. The extra monetization (entrance fees etc) is probably pure profit. It looks like the art pieces on the walls have name tags next to them, wouldn’t be surprised if those were offered for sale, in partnership with whatever artist created them.

  6. As cited, Lufthansa/Swiss uses it for F passengers but also guests with HON status can enjoy it.

    For LH guests, the “1 dish” limit shown on the dinner menu doesn’t apply

  7. Virgin Atlantic also uses this lounge for its business class passengers as well as its gold members.

  8. We just visited this lounge yesterday for our 3 hr layover at HKG. It was PACKED at around 9PM when we entered, with almost no available seatings. Did the 10 minute massage and shower, and ate at the Primo. Mussels for appetizer and Lobster spaghetti was spot on, food quality was much better than the ANA NRT suite lounge we just visited two weeks back. We were too full to enjoy drinks at the bar but will definitely recommend this lounge over the crowded regular plaza premium, which has always a line waiting to enter. Since we both have the Amex Green, we just used the LoungeBuddy credit to enter, $89 for 3 hours per person.

  9. Not just the branding or the airline deals, it’s also the cross-subsidisation from the regular lounges. Let’s face it, every time I’ve been at a Premium Plaza, no matter how nice, I don’t consume $25 or $30 (that’s what Ben estimates the lounge gets paid by Priority Pass per pax) worth of food, especially not at wholesale prices. I may be an outlier (some folks do get stuffed at lounges), but the food at the regular lounges, while decent, isn’t expensive, so it’s a question of the profits in those lounges making up for any losses in the first class ones.

  10. Flew in Biz with Qatar Airways from Hong-Kong last November and had the chance to experience this lounge. I was told that I had the right to “unlimited number” of dishes and drinks courtesy of Qatar Airways unlike visitors who pay for a 3-hour visit, who are only allowed to select one dish.

  11. “The Plaza Premium First Lounge is accessible to those with a Priority Pass membership or with The Platinum Card® from American Express (review) or The Business Platinum® Card from American Express (review).” Is possibly not correct unless they have changed things in the past 3 weeks.
    This is not mentioned anywhere on their website and when contacted by email this is their response.
    “Thank you for your inquiry. For your kind information,priority pass cardholder is eligible to access our Plaza Premium Lounge( Plaza Premium First not included). We appreciate if you can provide your Arrture membership ID for further assistance. etc…
    As you can see it says Plaza Premium First not included. They only offered us a paid in full access. Where did you see this on their website? I am interested to point that out to them.

  12. This lounge is full during the evening peak. I would assume from F/J passengers rather than paying customers. The 10 minute massage was over 90 minutes wait.
    During the same time the normal Plaza Premium is over packed worse than Centurion Lounge + SkyClub. Avoid that at all cost.

    HKG is loaded with good to great lounges for any alliances + AMEX cardholders. No reason to fight the chaotic horde in the normal Plaza Premium lounge or even spend money on this lounge. Unlike BKK or SIN where it’s loaded with tons of huge Priority Pass lounges, HKG only has 2 tiny ones (while probably having the highest PP holder density per sq.m. in the world)

  13. When I flew through HKG during peak times for CX lounges, I always paid the premium and used this lounge. It maintains a quiet ambiance most of the time (i.e. when AY, VA, LH flights do not depart) and offers amazing food and beverage options, which I’d argue are way better than CX J or QF offerings. Absolutely love it.

  14. Visited that lounge in May 2019. Had the evening HKG-DOH flight at around 7pm in Biz and received an invite for the First Lohnge. Loved it. It was almost empty. Less than 10 people in it. Had the massage, short but nice. The food was really good. During the tour the host did tell me that as airline guests we can have several dishes for free. Non airline pass guesta need to pay an extra HKD158 for their second dish.

  15. Sorry forgot to mention it was on QR flight. The menu was different. I took the bouillabaisse and the dice Angus beef tenderloin. The second dish was delicious and super tender. The fish soup was well good but not really a bouillabaisse 🙂

  16. I’ve experienced the one in KUL (which QR indeed uses for their J-class pax). The HKG version does look slightly more stylish and larger compared to the one in KUL. I don’t believe the one in KUL offers the massage option.
    On the remark “My one feedback here is that the masseuses use a stopwatch, and at the end of the 10 minute massage it beeps really loudly.” – to me this is typical in Hong Kong from what I experience, not having the refined touch to things. Those at the CX lounge are more refined, no such shocking end to what is supposed to be a relaxing session.

  17. We paid to use this lounge last year when our CX flight to JFK was delayed and we couldn’t get into the regular Plaza Premium lounge due to overcrowding. We didn’t want to go all the way back to the CX lounge, and Plaza Premium First lounge was close to the gate. Our experience was overwhelming, from the greeting/payment process to the facilities to the friendly people.

    When we were there (late morning to early afternoon) there were only four people in the lounge the entire time.

    Loved this lounge and will definitely return.

  18. “Amenities listed below are available to ensure you (missing word here) having a seamless and ANTICIPATORY service. MAKE A REQUEST to our team anytime.”

    What an ironic message.

  19. Not sure of good reviews here. For me: Crappy champagne, crappy beer on tap with no choices, Cheap cookies with coffee, 1 hour wait for shower already – the pager is not working and the person responsible clueless and trying to walk me into another lounge for a shower room!

  20. Just left… wow this lounge is so good. I just had the lamb curry and it was delicious. Probably the best I’ve had in or out of a lounge…

    The offer for food is now a starter and a main included in your access, and ability to buy a second main if you like. The price I can’t remember, unfortunately.

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