You Know Your International First Class Lounge Sucks When…

Filed Under: Air China, Other Airlines

…it’s also a Priority Pass lounge.

Beijing’s Capital International Airport is basically a huge contradiction. Architecturally it’s gorgeous, but everything else about it sucks. Big time.


I don’t think there’s a single lounge in the airport which is objectively “nice.” There are certainly some lounges which are worse than others, but none are worth spending any time in, in my opinion.

I’ve been to Beijing a couple of times over the past few weeks. The first time I visited the Cathay Pacific & Dragonair Lounge Beijing, which is the contract lounge American uses for their passengers. The lounge is okay. The wifi isn’t usable and the bathrooms are gross, but the seating itself is fine, and the food spread isn’t offensive.


But before my last visit I figured I’d check Priority Pass’ website, just to see if they have another lounge in Beijing I could visit. As it turns out the Air China First Class Lounge is part of the Priority Pass network, as is the adjacent Air China Business Class Lounge, which I’ve visited before.


I don’t think I’ve ever before seen an international first class lounge which can be accessed with a Priority Pass card, so I decided to check it out. It was indeed a Priority Pass Lounge, though it looked virtually identical to the business class lounge, which I’ve visited before.


On the plus side, the lounge was nice and quiet, and everyone managed to leave their shirt on…


…which is more than I can say about my last visit to an Air China Lounge in Beijing.


The highlight had to be the massage chair, which I saw a sign about. I asked the associate at the front desk where it was, and she explained she would escort me there so she could unlock the room where the single massage chair is located.

She walked me there, unlocked the door, and then had a look of horror on her face, almost as if she walked in on someone three strokes away from a birdie. She quickly closed the door, and opened it again a second later and then had a conversation in Chinese for about a minute. A moment later a lady in an Air China uniform sleepily walked out of the room, as she was clearly woken up mid-nap.

Bottom line

It’s not often you see an international first class lounge that’s part of the Priority Pass network, so this was unique, if nothing else. While the lounge isn’t great, it is a nice alternative to the Cathay Pacific/Dragonair Lounge.

Has anyone else visited the Air China First Class Lounge Beijing using a Priority Pass membership?

  1. The lounges must be like the Delta B-10 lounge at ATL. I walked in the “Ellis Island” of lounges this past Monday at 1pm and promptly turned around and left. No seats, crap food, dirty and a line for the 2 co-Ed bathrooms. Nice job Delta.

  2. Give me the Dragonair lounge anytime – at least the food there is much better than this horrid joke of a first class lounge.

    The best lounge in PEK in the Air China (not *G) domestic Business/First Class lounge that is underground. Massage chairs everywhere AND they serve champagne at the bar! Not open to *G members tho only Business and First passengers are allowed.

  3. Literally no difference between that lounge and the business class lounge, only the signage. They also will admit you as a business class passenger and look at you strangely should you ask the difference between the two.


  4. It looks pretty, but that’s about it. A nice retreat from the rest of the terminal, but I don’t expect much from the rest of the services.

    There are showers available, but really small rooms.

    Food selection looks OK, but most of it tastes like plastic.

    If you were here, probably best to just find a drink and maybe some non-offensive, flavour filled nibble, a quiet place in the lounge and just relax. There’s not much better here. Certainly not exuding with the best of Air China (and if this is, then that can’t be a great testament to the rest of the airline’s premium offering).

  5. I don’t see anything wrong with air China business class lounge. I like the open layout and views of the Tarmac. Descent food, drinks. Would take it over most aa, ual, dl lounges in the U.S.

  6. Been to that lounge a couple of times and it’s depressing. The WIFI restricted access to certain sites, the food spread looked sweaty and it smelled.

  7. “three strokes from a birdie” – LOL, nearly died from that one. You’d think the door opening would break their focus, though.

  8. Indeed Air China doesn’t make much of a difference between the Business and First Class lounges. The First Class lounge is essentially an overflow lounge, although it’s typically quieter. Star Gold members can get in, even though the privilege isn’t advertised.

    The First lounge does have sleeping pods and a few nicer touches, but that’s about it. I do find both lounges to be very pleasant overall, though. They’re spacious, feature great views, there’s plenty of food at meal times, showers, etc. Not much to complain about.

    Incidentally there *are* sumptuous lounges at PEK, but as of now they’re only for domestic passengers. I’m a huge fan of the new lounge at T3D which features Air China’s new design:

    Eventually the older lounges such as those in T3E will be retrofitted.

  9. I have been to that lounge five times and once spent 9hrs there. I didn’t mind it that much as the food offerings were pretty decent if you like Chinese food.

  10. Have you been in the PEK Emirates lounge? It’s small, but better than the others in my opinion.

  11. I arrived from United long haul and needed a shower in an arrivals lounge. There’s a paid lounge after immigration on the arrivals level, but hardly a ‘lounge’ and the stench from the sewer backed up into the shower is difficult to forget 2 yrs later.

  12. Well, Lucky, if the bathrooms were offensive, it’s a good thing that the food wasn’t. 😀

  13. Are you running out of ideas what to complain about? I, as a legit business traveler on American, flying every week on paid fare, am sick of competing with cheaters like you!

  14. Who gives a damn about someone was sleeping in the massage room, if the food offering is 10x, if not 100x better than any lounge in the US?

  15. @Tim, If you can’t beat them join them! I fly everyweek too and year to date I have not accumulate as much miles as two credit card signups. I’m a domestic flyer that usually fly to/from hub cities, there is absolutely no benefit in elite status. I get more benefit from a CC. Priority boarding, free check bag and lounge access.

  16. @ Bostonwalker — I certainly didn’t find the food offering to be better than any lounge in the US. Nothing at the buffet looked appetizing to me.

  17. im well surprised pek lounge is at your horrible review, just visited pvg air China first class , the food was terrific , you may also order them off menu rather than Buffett , 2 massage chairs in the back no one uses , the shower and bathroom were tidy and best of all it’s very quiet and rarely anyone is at the bar!

  18. I agree this lounge sucks.. The bathrooms were nasty and the food wasnt that great. I wish it was like Cathay HKG. Nothing was to good but nothing was extremely horrible. I did notice that they didnt have the AC on. Is that normal? Or is it bc the lounge is open? Plus the stupid internet, why cant they have dedicated internet. It’s horrible when your overseas and you dont have a local number to access internet. Thats my rant. Thanks

  19. I thought they have the scan your passport kiosk thing for internet there. Was that not working?

  20. @travelfam – I’ve been to the EK lounge in PEK many times and find it to be quite awful due to its tiny size. If you don’t get there at least 2 hours before departure, expect to be sitting on the floor. It simply cannot accommodate the 90+ premium pax on an A380, plus all the EK Gold/Platinum flyers as well. Wifi speeds also become unusable with everyone milling around for the flight. Finally, the staff don’t actually clear dirty plates away until the flight leaves so the lounge stinks of food as you near flght time. I usually just go there to pick up a quick snack/drink and then sit at an empty gate upstairs rather than stick around.

  21. I was there 5 days ago and the CX/KA lounge was fine. For the wifi, you just have to ask the agent for a code. It worked fine for me. And the bathroom was spotless.

  22. Lucky,
    Wish I knew I could use priority pass for air China lounge the last time I was in Beijing. I feel the Air China lounge is much better than the Cathay lounge food wise. Cathay only has a couple of unappetizing hot dishes and instant noodle, which I didn’t touch. On the other hand, you can always count on semi fresh beef noodle soup in Air China lounge. Make sure you go all the way to the end of the lounge for dining. There is a “buffet” area at the entrance of the lounge that resembles American Airlines’ lounges. But it’s just the snack area, which is separated from dining.

  23. You know whenever you see a lounge which says ‘VIP’ on it and in China, that you are in for a vile ride.

    Just like all the other terms China uses to describe western luxuries. For example ‘western breakfast’ ends up to be some chicken and coke, like my visit to the Beijing rainbow hotel last year. And they claimed to be 4 star…

  24. For free wifi at Beijing airport choose “airport free wifi” then open your browser. Key in your cell phone number in the first white box, press the button to the right of your number. you will receive a 4 digit password which you need to type in the second box. YouR password expires in about 60 seconds. This is good for a few hours (6 I think). Try it next time! Good luck

  25. There goes Lucky yet again, uncovering another sleeping scandal in a First Class area. I don’t know why my favorite line ever from “Big Bang Theory” came to mind:”I’ve been responsible for my own orgasms for the last 30 years.”

  26. I’ve also come to realise, Beijing’s lounges are like Mexico’s election: you’ve got to vote for the least worse.

  27. I think the statement “I’ve been to Beijing a couple of times” is factually incorrect as you only ever get to the airport and lounge. There is more to life than that.

  28. @Lucky, why?
    It’s simple because there is no competition in Beijing / Chengdu. Air China controlled everything in these two airports so they have no motivation to improve lounges.
    However, Air China Shanghai Pudong Internationak Depeature lounge and Shenzhen Airlines Shenzhen airport lounge are very very nice. Because of existence of some strong competitors,
    As for lounge in general, there are way too many star gold / one world sapphire in China thanks to Turkish Airlines / Oneworld. Airlines have to reduce quality of service to compensate cost.

  29. @Lucky
    You know lounges in Singapore are even sucker if you are not flying on first class. There is really no competition in Singapore.
    Hong Kong, however, face competition from many other airlines.

  30. Same goes for international airlines at SEA. Currently LH, EK, and NH are the only airlines to offer first class at SEA and the lounge at the S gates is a joke. I work at an airline at SEA and the new “club at SEA” is a plethora of lounges combined into 1 dinky lounge with just a glass partition that separates business class and everyone else from first class. Not to mention the lounge itself is tiny. If you ever fly out of SEA again in C or F cabins, you’re not missing much if you don’t go to the lounge.

  31. I forgot..BA has first class too, but they have their own “separate” lounge which I THINK is shared with OZ… can’t remember since my airline lounge is the previous lounge I just mentioned.

  32. Vietnam Airlines lounge in Hanoi. A little threadbare but doable. Got a small plate of food. Got a juice out of the cooler. Closed the door and out from under the fridge ran the biggest rat I’ve seen in my life. Like a small cat. Dumped my plate of food and got a double Johnnie Walker.

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