Review: China Southern Lounge Guangzhou Airport

Filed Under: China Southern, Travel

I arrived at Guangzhou Airport at around 6:45AM, with plenty of time to spare before my 9:30AM flight to Tokyo Narita. The drive to the airport had to be one of the most terrifying taxi drives of my life, as the driver would take a nap at every traffic light, and once we got on the highway I saw his eyes constantly closing and then opening again. Since he didn’t speak any English and I don’t speak any Chinese, I wasn’t sure what to do about it. Fortunately I made it there safely in the end…

Guangzhou Airport exterior

The Guangzhou Airport check-in hall is beautiful, with high ceilings and a bright interior.

Guangzhou Airport check-in hall

I quickly found China Southern’s first and business class check-in area, which is located in a separate room. There was an agent at the door that asked “first or business class?” Once I confirmed I was in first class he motioned for me to go sit down at a desk with an agent at it.

Guangzhou Airport China Southern first & business class check-in area

The agent checking me in was efficient and printed my boarding pass within a minute. She didn’t provide any further instructions as to where I should go and there was no escort service, though I was easily able to follow the signage to the departures area.

Guangzhou Airport China Southern first & business class check-in area

Guangzhou Airport China Southern first & business class check-in area

First I got in the security queue. I was surprised to see that they actually had a first class security queue. Unfortunately there was no one monitoring who used it, so it was filled with just as many passengers as the other queues, and all the passengers around me had economy class boarding passes.

After security I queued for immigration. I didn’t realize I had to fill out a departure form (I figured they would advise me of that at check-in, but that wasn’t the case). I only realized I needed to fill it out once it was my turn, so I had to get out of the queue, fill it out, and then get back in line. By around 7:30AM I found myself airside.

The airport was quite nice with plenty of high end shopping immediately past immigration.

Guangzhou Airport airside duty free shopping

Guangzhou Airport airside

The China Southern Lounge was located at the end of the first corridor past immigration. I found the entrance a bit weird since it was small and hidden behind a billboard. After the agent looked at my boarding pass she directed me towards the reception desk.

Guangzhou Airport China Southern Lounge entrance

At the reception desk my documents were once again verified, and I was handed a slip with the wifi password. I asked if there was a special first class lounge or if it was a shared lounge with business class, though I couldn’t figure out a way to communicate that to the agent, as my question was met with a blank stare. I guess China Southern doesn’t have a dedicated first class lounge?

Guangzhou Airport China Southern Lounge entrance

On the first floor the lounge was a large buffet and dining area with plenty of seating.

Guangzhou Airport China Southern Lounge dining area seating

Then there was a staircase to the upper level, where there was more “lounge style” seating.

Guangzhou Airport China Southern Lounge signage

Guangzhou Airport China Southern Lounge view

There were a variety of seating types upstairs, and I actually found the lounge to be reasonably nice for a business class lounge. There were plenty of lounge chairs, day beds, massage chairs, etc.

Guangzhou Airport China Southern Lounge seating

Guangzhou Airport China Southern Lounge seating

Guangzhou Airport China Southern Lounge seating

Guangzhou Airport China Southern Lounge seating

Guangzhou Airport China Southern Lounge seating

Guangzhou Airport China Southern Lounge seating

Guangzhou Airport China Southern Lounge massage chairs

Then there was a small table indicating that there was a tea ceremony daily from 10AM till 11AM and from 6PM till 7PM. I’m not sure how exactly that works…

Guangzhou Airport China Southern Lounge tea ceremony?

The lounge also had a few small rooms with chairs and doors.

Guangzhou Airport China Southern Lounge private room

And also a fairly nice business center with a handful of cubicles that actually looked pretty practical.

Guangzhou Airport China Southern Lounge business center

There was a buffet on the second floor which looked okay. On one hand the buffet was actually somewhat large, but at the same time there was no continuity to it. I’m not sure if that makes any sense or how to describe it, but the buffet items all just seemed incredibly random and like they didn’t go well together.

Guangzhou Airport China Southern Lounge buffet

Guangzhou Airport China Southern Lounge buffet

Guangzhou Airport China Southern Lounge buffet

Guangzhou Airport China Southern Lounge buffet

Guangzhou Airport China Southern Lounge buffet

Guangzhou Airport China Southern Lounge buffet

Guangzhou Airport China Southern Lounge buffet

Guangzhou Airport China Southern Lounge buffet

Guangzhou Airport China Southern Lounge buffet

Guangzhou Airport China Southern Lounge buffet

Anyway, I eventually decided to sit on the lower level to have breakfast, though that proved a challenge. The main issue with the lounge is that it was freezing. For that matter it wasn’t the lounge, but rather the airport as a whole. It’s clear they didn’t have heat, and at the time it was 45 degrees outside and probably not much warmer inside.

Guangzhou Airport China Southern Lounge buffet

After observing a handful of people in the lounge rubbing their hands together and blowing warm air at them, I took it a step further and decided to put on gloves in the lounge. Why not?

Guangzhou Airport China Southern Lounge… brrrr!

The food spread was equally random downstairs.

Guangzhou Airport China Southern Lounge buffet

Guangzhou Airport China Southern Lounge buffet

For me the biggest disappointment of the lounge was the wifi speed — it was virtually unusable.

The strangest part of the lounge experience had to be that there was a lady in a uniform continuously walking around the lounge taking notes. She’d stand by my table, glance over, take some notes on a little post-it style pad, continue to the next table, etc. It was odd enough to begin with, but she made the same round just about every 15 minutes, so I got multiple visits.

At around 8:45AM I decided to leave the lounge and head to my departure gate, A106. It was roughly a five minute walk from the lounge, and I quite enjoyed looking at some airlines that I don’t otherwise see much of…

Guangzhou Airport walk to gate

Guangzhou Airport walk to gate

…like a China Southern 787, which is the only 787 equipped with a first class cabin.

China Southern 787

Gate A106 was at the far end of the terminal, and the gate area seemed oddly empty for an A330, as there weren’t more than a few dozen passengers in the gate area.

China Southern departure gate

China Southern departure gate

At roughly 9AM boarding began, starting with the first class cabin.

China Southern A330

So yeah, not anywhere close to the best airport lounge, but more than anything else I wish they’d install heat in the airport…

  1. Are you trying to get EVERYONE at China Southern demoted, fired, or sent to re-education camps?! (just kidding)

  2. The lounge food reminds me of the food at the EVA Air lounge in TPE. Totally random! Love the gloves, by the way… 😉

  3. When I was in the same lounge last June it was STEAMING hot! I too did not know about the departure form and had to get out of line. Had the same problem with wifi. They do have a chef that comes out to make wonton soup and noodles.

    Quick question, why didn’t you try Uber while in GZ?

  4. @Lucky & @Brent — so I guess the airport doesn’t have air conditioning AND doesn’t have any heating either?

    Anyhow, what is this departure form you guys are talking about? Do I need to fill it out if transiting to HKG the same day (i.e. USA-PEK-HKG)?

  5. I also had my meal on the lower floor which was for CZ elite and elite plus member, however, as a F or C passenger, you can use both. Then I would go upstairs for shower and rest. The Guangdong province doesn’t have heating system in most of their office buildings and malls as it usually doesn’t get this cold easily. It’s the city planning problem. I was in Shenzhen new Terminal 3 last week and found freezing as well. In summer, it was freezing too as they turn the AC down to a very cold temperature like in HK’s subway.

  6. @ Qing — I’ve actually heard good things about Hainan, would love to try them, but they don’t really have any partnerships with any major airlines with good mileage redemption opportunities. Maybe some day!

  7. @ Brent — Didn’t realize they had Uber in Guangzhou. I generally don’t use data on my phone when traveling internationally, so wasn’t the most practical option, but in the future may be worth it given the alternative.

  8. @ Lucky
    I’m going to try it in Shanghai soon. After reading the China thread in Flyertalk someone mentioned that the drivers are young rich kids trying to make connections with business men. You could possibly use wifi from the hotel to get the car there. It could make for an interesting article in the future. For places where not many taxi drivers speak english or are not safe Uber could become a good option.

  9. Lucky – I went through the lounge in early January, and it appears you missed about half of the lounge. Not your fault as it’s not obvious, but when entering, go to the right, or when leaving – after the desk but before the entrance take a left. There’s another area with hot food, booze, showers, etc. Also since it was not obvious it had about 20% the number of people as the main area.

  10. In November 2012, I had a 7 hour layover in that airport flying CZ and spent nearly all of it in that lounge (if the 72 hour visa option was available I might have hopped into the city; unfortunately it was not yet implemented and as a transit passenger I did not have a current Chinese visa). When I was there, the temperature was fine – maybe I was just lucky? Did you get any feedback from CZ or the airport that indicated an HVAC problem that day? I preferred the second floor of the lounge in that back area near the tea ceremony table (no, I didn’t figure that process either. It was a weekend and the lounge was pretty dead/quiet most of the time). By China standards, the quality of the lounge was better than some others that I have visited.

  11. My Chinese friends have told me, in the past, that people who live in southern Chinese cities only rarely have heating in their domiciles, as they’re warm-to-hot for most of the year; it makes it miserable for those few weeks in January and February, but other than that they don’t need it. It’s possible you went to Guangzhou during a cold snap in the middle of the winter. [This is also true for Indian cities like Delhi, where homes are frigid in January.]

    That said, I’m not sure why they’d do that in an important construct like an airport, but it wouldn’t surprise me that much, either.

  12. about the 1st class queue had everyone on it, its common in china. a country full of contradictions. at a train ticket counter while asking about a ticket, i was pushed aside by someone from behind, who handed the cashier $ for his ticket, both sides doing business as usual. while walking on the street, there are all kinds of signage saying “do not spit/pee in public”, “be civilized & polite to others”, making me think it’s 50 yrs behind western countries.

  13. @Ben S – the ground floor part of the lounge (to the right of reception) is guarded in the morning. If you try to use it you get ushered upstairs. Later in the day when the lounge gets crowded they relent and permit access to the right.

    @Lucky – I think you were unlucky with a cold snap. I’ve been through Guangzhou several times early in the morning this winter and not once was it cold inside the terminal. I was comfortable in just a light shirt.

  14. I can solve the mystery of the lady with the clipboard. i was there a month or so ago and the function of the lady is to take names for the showers. Most westerners at that time of day will probably have come from MEL or SYD connecting through for Europe and will almost certainly want showers. I expect she was checking on you to see if you wanted to put your name down for a shower or more likely trying to work out if you were on her list and it was your turn.

  15. Lucky,
    China will be full of unemployed airline and airport workers after your trip.
    I would change your name and go as a German on your next trip. Watch your back!

  16. Showers are in the upstairs lounge, but there is no elevator access – only stairs! Must be tough to be disabled in China.

  17. At Air China’s First Class Check-In it’s kind of similar. They don’t tell you which Lounge you can use or where you have to go to get to your Gate.

  18. Next in line being demoted/fired/executed:
    – F check-in agent
    – lounge dragoness
    – IT engineer, who set up the wi-fi
    – lounge manager, who set up heating

    anyvan elze viz a komment??

  19. Visited that lounge twice last year, both times flying C… once they ushered us to the right, once they ushered us upstairs.

    So we saw both parts, and had no idea why each visit we were shown to a different half.

  20. I’d like to see if the airport management will actually follow up on your blog post and actually install heating in the airport. Haha

  21. I’ve travelled a few times through Guangzhou airport recently and it most definitely can be quite cold, particularly in the morning. The lounge itself is described quite reasonably — it is a nice lounge but the selection of food is indeed strange.

  22. I have been through that lounge quite a few times in the last 6 months. Agree that the food makes no sense, I tend to just have the coffee and occasionally a chocolate. I noticed that the structural beams were unpainted on the glass side and were rusting badly. The showers had only one of the three available, it was unclean and smelled pretty bad.

    The WiFi is totally unusable. The business office is no good if you need the Internet, but acceptable if you just want to print something off a USB drive.

    If travelling First or Business, and the transit time is greater than 8 hours, CZ put you up in the on-airport Pullman Hotel, which is great. However just last month they changed the flight time out of London so that the New Zealand connection is 7 hrs and 50 mins transit time, and tried denying me the hotel. I put my foot down and got in, however a guy next to me for Melbourne was refused at 7 hrs 20 mins transit.

  23. I have a question for you about the Guangzhou Airport I am flying with Southern China Airlines I have a 7 hour lay over Coming from Bali going to Vancouver Canada, to go in the Southern China Lounge is there a cost for that.. I am a first time traveller lots of questions I hear such bad things about this airport

  24. can I leave the airport with 24 hour permission or do I need the 72 hour permit? layover time: 9 hours in Guangzhou

  25. @ ulrike — Well if you’re eligible you can just get a 72 hour transit without visa and then stay less than 24 hours. It would be the same process.

  26. Hello Lucky,
    I’d like to purchase a 2-in-1 laptop and smart phone from computer street/city: I am on a 5 hour layover. Would it be possible to use the 72 hour transit to purchase outside of the airport? Has the GZ a duty free shop that sells such items? (I have completed a few searches and am unable to find an answer).
    Thank you,

  27. Is there a smoking area near the lounge please, or anywhere in the transit area, we only have a four hour stop over there.

  28. Hi
    If I am coming on international Business class flight and transferring to an domestic economy flight, may I access the lounge? I have a 10 hours waiting in airport.
    And if not, may I buy access to the lounge?

  29. I was at this lounge for a 6 hour layover this week. Yes, it was a little hot and the food was random. But, I was pleased overall with my stay. I was given a sleeping room to use – a nice room with a bed, an air purifier, individual control air conditioning, a light. I slept for 4 hours there – great! I then took a shower there. So, although not the best lounge I’ve been to, I was very satisfied with my visit.

    I flew from Bali to Guangzhou and then Guangzhou to New York. Both flights were late – although this was not a problem for me this time. The flight from Guangzhou to NYC was great. New plane, great seats in Business Class.

    All in all, I’d fly China Southern again.

  30. Hi Lucky, that was beautifully documented tour of the Guangzhou airport, fantastic job. I will be on transit and have a 3 hour stopover to catch my onward to Qingdao. I will be traveling economy class. Can you or anyone on this blog who has travelled through this air port let me know if i can have paid access to this lounge and if yes, how much will it cost.
    Thanks and keep up the good work.

  31. FYI: They do have showers at this lounge as well. Nice to take a cold shower in the summer and warm up in the winter. I did find it odd they have no heat or air! But you can’t beat the price of a business class fully lie down seat on China Southern!


  32. Hi, I have a 7 hour wait in Guangzhou arriving from Heathrow before onward flight to Christchurch. I am flying economy – just wondered if there is a lounge I can pay to access, or if I can leave the airport and pay to stay at The Pullman for a few hours ?

  33. Why no replies to the economy class passengers? Have you been in a plane recently? Can you pay to enter this or any other lounge at this airport if you are traveling ecomony?This is the first time I replied to this site.

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