Review: SAS Lounge Chicago

Filed Under: Cathay Pacific, Other Airlines

My mom landed from Tampa around noon, and I landed from Seattle a few minutes after that. This left us a comfortable connection for our 3:30PM flight to Hong Kong. Once we both arrived we headed over to terminal five, where Cathay Pacific departs from. I sure do wish they’d just leave from American’s terminal, much like Japan Airlines does.

After taking the train to terminal five we headed straight through security, where there was no queue. Terminal five gets busy in the late afternoon, so we beat the “rush” at security by arriving so early.

Once past security we headed to the SAS lounge, which Cathay Pacific uses for their passengers. Up until recently they used the Swiss lounge, and while that’s by no means an amazing lounge, at least it had a first class section, which the SAS lounge doesn’t have. As a reminder, if you wouldn’t normally have access based on your ticket, there are a couple options available in Chicago for those with a credit card with lounge access.

Terminal five

Entrance to SAS lounge

A super-friendly Cathay Pacific representative was working the desk and confirmed our travel documents and issued us boarding passes on Cathay Pacific card stock.

The lounge itself is pretty standard for an SAS lounge, with plenty of Ikea-esque furniture. It’s fairly clear that the budget for designing the lounge was even less than the pilot episode of “Honey Boo Boo.”

The lounge is large enough to accommodate all Cathay Pacific passengers without any overcrowding.

Lounge seating

Lounge seating

Lounge seating

Lounge seating

Tarmac views

In addition to plenty of seating areas there are also several Macs for passenger use.

Business center

In terms of food and drinks, the lounge had a rather weak selection of self serve beverages.



The food spread was even more disappointing, I thought. The buffet was limited to chips, bread, meat, cheese, and some veggies.

Chips and bread


I find it rather hilarious that by the door they had some carts with food exclusively for Cathay Pacific passengers. This consisted of finger sandwiches, ramen noodles, fruit, and veggies. Wouldn’t want any of the pesky SAS passengers stealing such gourmet food, after all. 😉

Cathay Pacific carts

The lounge did boast pretty great tarmac views. When we arrived a Lufthansa 747 just pulled in, and a couple of hours later we saw it push back to taxi over to the United terminal, where Lufthansa’s flights depart from.

Lufthansa 747


Watching the push back

Later we saw an SAS A330 arrive.


The biggest downside of the lounge, though, is that it doesn’t have restrooms, so you have to go into the terminal to use them.

Our flight was departing at 3:30PM, so at around 2:30PM I got a bit bored and decided to head over to the British Airways lounge. In theory I should have been granted access to the lounge not only based on the fact that I was flying OneWorld first class but also based on my OneWorld Emerald status, but it seems they impose some “capacity” restrictions on completely empty lounges. I wrote about that here, for anyone that’s interested.

To British Airways, this is what a lounge looks like “at capacity”

How will I find a seat?!

Overcrowding at its finest

At around 3PM we headed to our departure gate, and within a few minutes boarding commenced.

Gate area

As is always the case when flying Cathay Pacific from anywhere other than Hong Kong, the real experience only begins aboard!

  1. I had the same problem at SFO- the BA lounge almost wouldn’t let me in at a time they were nearly empty, even though I had a CX F ticket (and thus OW F lounge privileges).

    (BA’s lounge is a lot closer to the CX SFO gates than the CX lounge.)

  2. When my family of 4 checked in for our ORD-HKG flight in CX first class this summer, an agent personally escorted us past the long T5 line for ID check, then walked us through a special security line. Essentially, we only stopped moving for TSA to look at passports and to take our shoes off for security.

    She then deposited us in the Swiss lounge.

    So to be fair – the CX experience at ORD begins at their check-in counter, for sure!

  3. @ John — Seems they haven’t updated the site yet. I’m not sure when it opens, but it’s definitely not before the Cathay Pacific flight.

  4. @ matt — Yeah, realized after the fact that they do offer an escort through security, which is a nice feature. That being said since security lines were short that wasn’t really a big deal.

  5. @John

    On at least the days when Swiss operates LX2609 departing ORD for ZRH at 2:40pm, the Swiss lounge is open early. However, be warned that the Swiss lounge is very small and reaches capacity quickly; I saw several non-Swiss passengers being told by the lounge guard to go to the SAS lounge.

  6. One thing to note is that the SAS lounge doesn’t have restrooms. In addition, Although wifi is available with a code, the SAS lounge uses a Scandanvian VPN or something so things like HBOgo or any uS streaming service doesn’t work. On the upside, you get Scandanvian ads.


  7. Can’t wait for the Bali-KL flight on mH review, assuming you did the 738 one and had a similar experience as I did, I’m sure it will be a hilarious read.

  8. My favorite thing at T5 is Rick Bayless restaurant, Frontera grill. I quite enjoy some very nice Mexican food before jetting off! Much better than spending time in any lounge at T5.


  9. I flew the same route earlier this year for Chinese New Year and used the Swiss Lounge instead and it is nicer. Better food and drinks selection. They do separate first vs business class customers.

  10. Fortunately it now seems starting on Oct 1st, the CX flight will be using the British Airways lounge! Perhaps they’ll push the “CX exclusive” food trolley down to the BA lounge now. 🙂 Wondering if they’ll allow the CX F access to the BA First Lounge or just the BA Terraces?

  11. @ TrAAveller — That’s good news. I assume first class passengers will get access to the first class lounge since it really isn’t anything special.

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