Review: Leeli Lounge Male Airport

Filed Under: Travel

At around 8:50PM I finally retrieved my bag from my domestic flight on Maldivian, and headed towards the international terminal to catch my 10PM Cathay Pacific flight to Hong Kong.

There’s something charming about the setup of the domestic and international terminals at Male Airport. They’re separated, and you walk down a side street to get between them. Based on the neon lighting adorning the terminal, you almost feel like you’re walking through Patpong in Bangkok.

Walking to international terminal at Male Airport

The international terminal has quite a bit of covered open air space, given that only ticketed passengers can enter the actual terminal.

Male Airport international terminal

Once inside the terminal there was an initial security check, whereby all bags were screened.

Male Airport international terminal

I headed straight for Cathay Pacific check-in, which was located near the entry door. There was a roughly 10 minute queue for business class check-in. Once it was my turn, I was quickly issued a boarding pass for my flight to Hong Kong, and connecting flight to Newark. I was also issued a fast track card for immigration, as well as an invitation to use the Leeli Lounge, which is the contract lounge Cathay Pacific uses in the Maldives.

Cathay Pacific check-in Male Airport

The queues for both immigration and security were horrendous, and I almost feel like I would have missed my flight if I didn’t have a fast track card. Fortunately the fast track immigration queue was really quick, and I was through in a matter of minutes.

The security queue wasn’t quite as easy, as there’s not a priority queue. Not only were there a couple of dozen passengers in front of me in my particular queue, but they all didn’t seem to be familiar with the security process or speak a word of English (they were Chinese).

It seemed to be going pretty smoothly, until we got to the group right in front of me. It turned into a 10 minute spectacle of trying to get five people through security, since they literally seemed to have no clue what was going on. The security officer pointed to signs and gestured what they had to do, but it wasn’t clicking for them.

Once through security I followed signage to the Leeli Lounge, which was located just past the (rather modern) duty free shopping area.

Male Airport airside duty free shopping

Male Airport airside duty free shopping

The lounge featured a glass wall along the outside, and then the entrance at the far end.

Leeli Lounge exterior Male Airport

Leeli Lounge entrance Male Airport

I was quickly admitted, though found myself in what was possibly the most crowded lounge I’ve ever seen. There literally wasn’t a single empty seat (a few are empty in the below pictures, but that’s just because people kept getting up to use the buffet).

Goodness, I figured it would be reasonably busy since there are lots of late night departures out of Male Airport, but I didn’t think it would be this busy. It’s worth noting that there is one small Priority Pass lounge at Male Airport, so if you don’t otherwise have access based on your ticket, a credit card with lounge access could come in handy.

Leeli Lounge seating Male Airport

Leeli Lounge seating Male Airport

Leeli Lounge seating Male Airport

Leeli Lounge seating Male Airport

The lounge featured a large room with traditional lounge seating, and then a couple of smaller rooms as well.

Closer to the entrance was the buffet area, which also had a handful of dining tables.

Leeli Lounge seating Male Airport

The food spread looked in line with what you’d expect from a contract lounge. There were mostly stale looking cookies, brownies, cake, muffins, bread, etc.

Leeli Lounge buffet Male Airport

Leeli Lounge buffet Male Airport

Leeli Lounge buffet Male Airport

Then there were some fresh fruit and veggies.

Leeli Lounge buffet Male Airport

And lastly there were a few hot dishes, as well as some instant noodles and soup.

Leeli Lounge buffet Male Airport

Leeli Lounge buffet Male Airport

Leeli Lounge buffet Male Airport

My boarding pass had indicated that boarding was supposed to start at 9:05PM, a full 55 minutes before departure. By the time I arrived at the lounge it was close to 9:30PM, so after having a look around I decided to head to the gate, since I figured that would be a more comfortable space to sit than in the lounge.

Leeli Lounge departures board Male Airport

My flight was departing from gate 4, which was a roughly three minute walk from the lounge.

Male Airport airside duty free shopping

Male Airport airside duty free shopping

Each gate has a glass enclosure, so your boarding pass is scanned and passport is verified as soon as you enter the gate area. To my surprise, the flight’s crew was still sitting in the gate area, so presumably there was some sort of a delay. The pilots both seemed to be Australian, while the cabin crew looked fairly young.

Cathay Pacific departure gate Male Airport

Finally at around 9:55PM boarding began. All flights at Male Airport leave from remote stands, so I headed down the stairs and onto the bus, which they filled up all the way.

Bus to Cathay Pacific plane Male Airport

The ride to the plane took only a few minutes. Fortunately they had two sets of stairs — one at the front door for business class, and another at door two for all other passengers.

Cathay Pacific A330 Male Airport

So while there was a queue for the other stairs, I was on the plane in no time.

Cathay Pacific A330 Male Airport

Leeli Lounge Male Airport bottom line

For a contract lounge, the Leeli Lounge is perfectly nice physically, though it was so overcrowded that I decided to leave right away. Fortunately the transit ended up working out pretty smoothly, since I had minimized my connection time. Still, taking a boat to Kooddoo, then flying from Kooddoo to Male with a stop, then flying from Male to Hong Kong, and then flying back to the US, isn’t exactly the quickest journey in the world. 😉

  1. The rest of the Maldives resorts must be a lot more family friendly than the one you stayed at. I’ve never seen so many munchkins in any of your trip reports, or any aspirational travel trip report.

    Favorites: red dress on the bus and leopard tights on dad’s lap playing video games in the lounge.

  2. Kudos for Cathay Pacific for hiring lots of foreign captains! Their biggest competitor – Singapore Airlines, hire only Singaporean Chinese captains.
    Emirates and Cathay Pacific are only two multinational airlines. They hire international, create job oppturnities worldwide.

  3. “The pilots both seemed to be Australian, while the cabin crew looked fairly young.”

    So the Aussies are all old? 🙂

    GREAT detailed report, Ben, and thanks for that. Your eye and attention are a differentiator for your blog. Don’t lose sight of that!

  4. Can you please stop using “literally” so much?
    Surely there are other words you could employ.

  5. I was in Male in December, flew J EK and used this lounge. The lounge was pretty packed when I was there because I believe a Singapore flight also left around the same time as my flight. Overall I liked the lounge because it’s basically the only “quite” part of the airport because rest of the airport is a zoo. It’s too small and way too many people.

  6. Intriguing post. What camera do you use for your pictures, and how do you take your pictures discreetly? Whenever I travel I get quite self conscious when taking pictures in public.

  7. Hi Lucky,

    We will be flying MAle to HKG (our destination) in October, and unfortunately in economy as there are no business class available for award booking. Anyway, you mentioned you were handed a fast track for immigration along with your boarding pass upon checked in at CX counter, is that for all US citizens or only when flying Business class?

    Our CX flight Male to HKG will depart at 23:35, will Park Hyatt be responsible for scheduling our boat departure from the hotel and Maldivian flight to Male or we can request? Hopefully, PH will allow us to stay as late as possible based on availability ( I have Diamond status). I would think more convenient or better (?) than hanging around at Male airport with no access to Leeli lounge or can we pay? Is it worth it. I highly value your comment or opinion, so would like to hear your suggestion.

    We seem to be following your footsteps on our upcoming Maldive so I’m reading every single post of yours. Based on your review of Beach palace or UI Inn, we would not even consider staying there. We will arrive in Male on 10/23 at 2:50 pm, and plan on staying either at the airport or Male city for one night….primarily so as not to pay for 1 night in PH all cash ( budget wise), and use instead for one night upgrade to OWV. In addition, this will allow us to see Male city on our arrival day. I read somewhere this is doable in just about 2 hours. We arrive Male from AUH, so we would not be as tired if we originated from USA.

    I feel indeed “lucky” to have discovered you, Lucky and your blogs. Your attention to details and telling it like it is …makes reading your blog so invaluable to me, not to mention your great photos. Keep writing.

  8. @ Lena — The fast track is only for business class passengers. Yes, the hotel will take care of everything. You tell them when your flight out of Male is, and they’ll schedule the boat transfer and flight, which will likely only be in the late afternoon. Chances are you won’t have all that much time at Male Airport, so I wouldn’t even bother with trying to get access.

    Enjoy the trip, sounds awesome!

  9. One vital (for me at least) point about the lounge not mentioned here is that it’s alcohol free. One would much prefer free alcohol.

  10. I totally agree one of the worst lounges ever visited. only few things to eat and not good, passengers once entered got out again as the outside part of the airport (souvenir shops and nice food) was nicer than the lounge.Ahmed Amsel and Mohamed Mahfooz not at the standard of the passengers who use VIP lounges during worldwide travel.

  11. only few things to eat and not good, passengers once entered got out again as the outside part of the airport (souvenir shops and nice food) was nicer than the lounge.Ahmed Amsel and Mohamed Mahfooz not at the standard of the passengers who use VIP lounges during worldwide travel.

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