Review: Xiamen Air Domestic Lounge Xiamen Airport

Filed Under: Other Airlines

Our inbound flight arrived at 5:30AM, and our connection was at 7:35AM, so we had about two hours to make our connection. Upon arrival we walked down a long hallway towards immigration, which was down a level from the arrival concourse.

Xiamen Airport arrivals hall

Xiamen Airport immigration hall

Another 787 had arrived just a few minutes before us, so there was a fairly substantial line already — not huge, but several dozen people. There were two lines — one for “foreigners,” and one for “Chinese nationals.” As you’d expect, we got in the line for foreigners.

Xiamen Airport immigration line

Everyone had to queue for one specific officer, and there were probably two dozen people ahead of us. We waited and waited and waited, and after around 30 minutes we were next in line. At this point another immigration officer came over and said “you have visa? You can use Chinese line.”

I’m not sure if this is always the case, or was just the case since there was no one in the Chinese line, but it’s certainly something I wish I had known earlier.

By the time we were out of the immigration hall it was 6:10AM, so that whole process took a while.

At that point we were in the arrivals area, and tried to find our way to the domestic departures area. The signage was lacking, though a helpful staff member pointed us in the right direction, and told us to walk right to the very end of the terminal and then go to the second level.

Xiamen Airport arrivals area

Sure enough, eventually we found ourselves in the check-in hall.

Xiamen Airport check-in hall

Xiamen Airport check-in hall

There was a Sky Priority check-in area, so we went there to retrieve our boarding passes for our flight to Chengdu.

Xiamen Airlines first class check-in

Xiamen Airlines first class check-in

At that point we followed the signage to the security checkpoint and gates.

Xiamen Airport departures hall

Given how much time the process had taken up until now, I was happy to see that there was a separate first & business class security channel.

Xiamen Airport priority security lane

Xiamen Airport priority security lane

Before we could go through security, an officer had to verify our boarding passes and passports. I found the decorations on the officer’s desks t be sort of awesome/bizarre, from Despicable Me keychains to a fish tank to (what looked like) decorative food. I figured this was a one off, though this wasn’t the last security desk fish tank that we saw on this trip.

Xiamen Airport security lane decorations

Xiamen Airport security lane decorations

Airport security in China is super tight. Even though I didn’t set off the metal detector, I still got a full body pat down. It had to be the most thorough pat down I’ve ever gotten at airport security (it was probably the most intimately I was touched on this trip, which is saying a lot), and it was by a female officer. That doesn’t bother me, but it’s interesting that there doesn’t seem to be a rule where you can only be patted down by someone of the same gender, as seems to be the case just about everywhere else in the world.

Our flight was departing from gate 20, and was scheduled to board at 7:05AM. At this point it was around 6:30AM, so we still had a bit of time, and figured we should check out the Xiamen Air lounge.

Xiamen Airport departures hall

We followed the signage towards the Xiamen Air First Class Lounge (Chinese airlines typically market the forward cabin on domestic flights as “first class” rather than “business class”), which was located towards the end of the terminal.

Xiamen Airport departures hall

On the way I of course had to stop to snap some pictures of planes, including the same 737 that I was expecting would take us to Chengdu.

Xiamen Air 737

Sure enough, there was a beautiful-looking Xiamen Air lounge located towards the end of the terminal on the right.

Xiamen Air Lounge exterior

Xiamen Air Lounge entryway

Inside the entrance was a reception desk with a friendly staff member who scanned our boarding passes and admitted us, and reminded us that we’d have to leave pretty soon.

Xiamen Air Lounge reception

Before I talk too much about this lounge, let me say that my expectations of domestic lounges in China are really low. I think domestic lounges in China rank among the worst lounges out there. However, this lounge was shockingly beautiful, by far the nicest lounge I’ve seen operated by a mainland Chinese airline… and this was a domestic lounge no less. The lounge was modern, had elegant leather chairs, and was peaceful.  Maybe this would be one of the best airport lounges I’ve been to in mainland China?

Xiamen Air Lounge seating

Xiamen Air Lounge seating

There was even some sort of a tea room setup. I’m not sure if this was just a decorative piece or is sometimes used (anyone know?), though it sure looked nice.

Xiamen Air Lounge Xiamen Airport

Xiamen Air Lounge Xiamen Airport

In the far corner of the lounge was the dining area and buffet.

Xiamen Air Lounge dining area

Xiamen Air Lounge dining area

There was also a rack with magazines and newspapers.

Xiamen Air Lounge magazines & newspapers

The lounge had large circular windows overlooking the apron, where there were several 737s parked.

Xiamen Air Lounge view

In terms of the food and drink spread, it wasn’t terribly impressive, but I also wasn’t really hungry after sitting on a plane for the past 15 hours. If nothing else I appreciated all the fresh flowers in the display setup.

Xiamen Air Lounge snack selection

As an aviation geek I also liked the Xiamen Air 787 model airplane.

Xiamen Air Lounge 787 model airplane

I’ll let the pictures of the food mostly speak for themselves.

Xiamen Air Lounge snack selection

Xiamen Air Lounge snack selection

Xiamen Air Lounge snack selection

Xiamen Air Lounge snack selection

Xiamen Air Lounge snack selection

Xiamen Air Lounge snack selection

Xiamen Air Lounge snack selection

Xiamen Air Lounge snack selection

In terms of drinks, there was a selection of wine, juice, coffee, tea, and a fridge with soft drinks and water.

Xiamen Air Lounge wine

Xiamen Air Lounge juice

Xiamen Air Lounge coffee & tea

There was one lounge attendant who just seemed to be “supervising” the buffet. She looked at me like I had two heads when I snapped pictures of each individual item at the buffet. Fortunately she didn’t actually say anything.

At this point we noticed that our boarding passes to Chengdu didn’t have our Delta SkyMiles numbers on them, so we went to the reception desk and asked the lounge attendant if she could add them. There was a bit of a communication barrier, though eventually she proceeded to take a picture of both of our boarding passes with her smartphone, and then through some app sent them to someone. She then said “we add.” Sure enough, the miles posted, even though it was a rather odd system she was using, and we never received updated boarding passes that reflected our SkyMiles numbers.

At around 6:50AM we left the lounge and headed in the direction of our departure gate.

Walking to our departure gate Xiamen Airport

We quickly realized that gate 20 would be one of the remote stands, based on the signage pointing right, and the buses we saw parked outside the window.

Buses to remote stands at Xiamen Airport

Sure enough, this was a mega gate area with hundreds of passengers seated.

Xiamen Airport departure gate

Xiamen Airport departure gate

At exactly 7:05AM boarding was called. There was a separate priority line, though as we tried to board we were told to please wait, as there was a special bus for premium passengers. After waiting for just a few minutes, she motioned for us to go.

Xiamen Airport departure gate

While there was a large bus to the left, there was also a smaller premium bus to the right.

Xiamen Air first class bus

The bus was comfortable — it had seating for just eight people, and everyone just left their bags at the front of the bus. All business class passengers showed up almost immediately, and off we were to our plane.

Xiamen Air first class bus

Xiamen Air first class bus

However, much to my surprise we didn’t pull up to a 737, as expected, but rather up to a 757. Woot, we had a last minute aircraft swap!

Xiamen Air 757 Xiamen Airport

Xiamen Air Lounge Xiamen Airport bottom line

Typically flying within China isn’t an especially enjoyable experience, but I was very impressed by our experience with Xiamen Airlines. Even though we were flying domestically, the lounge we had access to was probably the nicest lounge I’ve visited in China. On top of that, the fact that they have a separate comfortable business class bus is a nice perk.

Xiamen Airport was easy enough to transit, though the long wait at immigration was a bit annoying. However, I’ve found long lines to be pretty normal at major Chinese airports.

Over all I found Xiamen Air to be a cut above the rest.

  1. The full-on security pat down is now standard all over China. Men only pat down men, but women pat down whoever’s next in line.

  2. ‘Typically flying within China isn’t an especially enjoyable experience’

    I don’t know where you get this from, like, 10 years ago maybe? Your experience is quite an average experience flying within China these days. You gotta remember, this country moves in a speed most westerners can’t even understand.

  3. The second 787 that arrived before you was from Vancouver, Canada right? (Based on the Canada sweatshirt and mini Canadian flag in the pic) 🙂

  4. Interesting how Canadians accuse Americans of being overly patriotic (as if love for one’s country is an odious thing), yet they’re the ones who drape themselves in their own flag to the point of cliche.

    The sewn on flag on the napsack is virtue signaling at its finest. It’s a quick & easy way to tell the globe, “I’m not some ignorant, crass American souring the landscape of your country – I’m a global traveller (sic), smugly bringing my superior culture to your shores.”

  5. ‘I think domestic lounges in China rank among the worst lounges out there. ‘

    I don’t think there are airlines and lounges ever worse than Big Three airlines in the states.

  6. It’s not just domestic lounges, lounges in China rank among the worst lounges out there with a few exceptions.

  7. Grant: most of the knapsacks you see with a Canadian flag sewn on are carried by Americans, pretending to be Canadians. We don’t need flags on our backpacks to announce our nationality. It is obvious to any non-North American by the way we behave.

  8. @Wilhelm @John

    Try the Sakura Lounge at PVG T1 (a contract lounge, I think).
    The lighting in there feels like an office! (yes, this is meant to be taken in a negative way)

  9. @Frederick: Thanks for proving my point.

    Btw, few Americans have access to MEC bags. Higher quality equipment at lower prices is readily available here.

    The next time you drive to Buffalo or Bellingham to save a few loonies for a flight, don’t forget to be grateful to your welcoming hosts.

    And it wouldn’t hurt to tip once in a while.

  10. @Lucky: Regarding adding the Delta FF #s in the lounge – A couple years ago I was in Air China’s domestic first class lounge in PEK T3 and requested a seat change, but the lounge agent told me that they did not have the ability to reassign seats in the lounge. Not sure if this applies to all Chinese airlines and their lounges, but perhaps the lounge agents do not have certain reservation/ticketing abilities. My guess is that the lounge agent you spoke with sent your FF #s and the pictures of your boarding passes through WeChat to a colleague with the authority to add the numbers (maybe someone at the XiamenAir ticketing desk at XMN), who then added them to your reservation.

  11. The tea room set up is definitely used. This is a common scene in many Chinese business place. Sometimes the host will make the tea, sometimes a waitress will do it for you. Fujian province is one of the most important tea producing region in China as well.

  12. Wow – the Canadian American rivalry is still alive and well according to this thread. I thought that died a generation ago. Just sad!

  13. @Peter that is on my list to try. I hope the lounge is as nice as you say it is. When in Shanghai, Shenzhen Airlines uses the Air China lounge and it was super crowded and it was very basic. At least, the employees were nice.

    @Andy the Sakura lounge at Pudong is owned and operated by JAL. That should be their lounge for business class customers and other types of VIPs.

  14. @Lucky You can use the Chinese National Immigration lines when directed by the Immigration staff. It has happened to me a few times as well. I waited in the appropriate line until directed by the staff in order to help speed up the queue when necessary.

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *