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Air China Business Class lounges

Air China have Business and First Class lounges at their key hubs - at other locations, either generic Star Alliance lounges are used, or there is buy in to another lounge.

Air China call its lounges the VIP Lounges. There is notoriously little difference between the Business and First Class lounges, with only a slightly uprated food service.

Air China Beijing Lounges - PEK

Airside, Terminal 3E, top floor Open 24 hours
The Air China lounges at Beijing are at the root of the vast spreading wings of Terminal 3E - the international terminal. Pretty much the world and his wife are invited into the Business Class lounge. Access is possible in Business on pretty much every airline - just check out the vast boards by the stairs with invited airlines. The only thing the lounge won't do is sell you a daypass.

Indeed, if you fancy a walk, there are four Air China lounges in Terminal 3 this one is in the satellite concourses - Terminal T3E for international flights. A journey on the people mover away - and a trip through passport control - there is a similar lounge in Terminal T3C for domestic flights.

Air China Beijing - First Class lounge

Access for First Class and Platinum Pheonix miles members
The Air China first class lounge Beijing is a vast lounge, idential in size to the Business lounge, however because it gets a lot less traffic, there always seems to be more room.
Air China Beijing First Class Lounge
Beijing Air China First Class Lounge

To get to the Beijing Air China First Class lounge, take the escalator next to the duty free shop - or take the lift - the area opens out onto a small main reception desk.

The main part of the Terminal 3 First Class lounge has a huge open-ceiling design giving it a spacious feel. The lounge has a vast illuminated circle in the middle, with lots of leather armchairs and tables dotted around. Live bay trees give the lounge a little more greenery than expected in such a new modern space. Close to the main servery there are small restaurant type tables which overlook the shops: at peak times there is even waiter service.

Air China Beijing First Class Lounge
Beijing Air China First Class Lounge

There are no boarding announcements, however there are display panels showing Beijing Live Departures in Chinese and English. There are plenty of sleeping rooms, which are fully enclosed with a lockable door, and resenble a Tardis crossed with a Portaloo. They are great for a few hours kip between flights.

Another odd perk is the VIP room. This is down the 'landside' side of the lounge, and half way along there is a small box room marked 'Premium Customers', with large high backed chairs. Senior party officials wait in here for their flights, but at other times anyone can walk in. Another major perk of the lounge is the cinema. This is large, with 10 big squashy seats. Indeed, it's curious that no one ever seems to sit in here. However the vast TV screen is stuck on a news channel, without sound. You can't change the channel, nor can you watch films.

First Class Air China Lounge
Beijing Air China First Class Lounge

There is hot food in the Beijing lounge all day. Unlike the Business side you aren't stuck with sandwiches at non-meal times, however there is always more at set meal times. Breakfast is strictly 6 till 9, lunch 11am to 2:30pm, and dinner from 5pm, at which times at peak periods there is waitress service on the dining tables at the far end of the lounge.

Breakfast is good, with a decent hot English, along with plenty of scrambled eggs, tomatoes, and mushrooms. Lunchtime has sereral hot dishes with noodles, chicken, beef, pork and ham. There is hot soup too, and even more set meals if there is waitress service at the time you are there.

At all times you have to take your pick of sandwiches wrapped in cling film, biscuits, or nuts.

The bar in the Air China Beijing lounge looks brilliant but has a rubbish selection and the setup is confusing.

The bar looks as if it should be staffed:n But for most of the day it is strictly self service, and that is what you have to do, after you lift up the bar flap to get at the bottles. Only at peak times in the evenings is there a barman. When he is there, service slows to a crawl - it is actually better to serve yourself.

Air China Beijing Lounge
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There is a very poor liquor selection, but better than in business. At least the spirits here are named brands, with eight bottles including Baileys and Bacardi, plus Southern Comfort, Black LAgle and Smirnoff.

So, what of the wine? There are some amazing display bottles of Chateaux 1.5 litre on the bar top and dotted around the louge. These are however firmly wired down to stop you actually drinking them. If you want wine, you are stuck with the two types of red, and two white, of the famous Chinese 'Imperial Court' wine.

And beer? Behind the bar, and beside the food areas there are fridges with cans of Tsing-tao beer.

Air China Beijing First Class Lounge
Beijing Air China First Class Lounge

However, if you hunt out the small fridge right at the end of the section, on the bottom level of the fridge is a shelf called 'overseas beer'. Here there are cans of Bud, Carlsber, Heiniken, and Ashai Superdry. This shelf is well hidden, and monitored for overseas customers only.

There are OK bathrooms in the lounge, and also 4 showers, however you need to ask for the key from reception.

There are no computers in the lounge, however there is free WiFi in the Beijing Lounge. The code is printed on a stand at the main reception desk.

Air China Beijing First Class Lounge
Beijing Air China First Class Lounge

There is plenty of reading material, with several newspapers, but most of it is in Chinese. There are few foreign language newspapers, and no English ones other than the FT, just US papers like the Global Mail.

Air China Beijing - Business Class lounge

Access for First and Business Class, Gold and Platinum Pheonix miles, and Gold Star Alliance
The main Air China lounge at Beijing, this is the main lounge for International Business Class for almost every airline - not just Star Alliance ones - in the International Terminal, T3E.

The Air China lounge Beijing International can get very busy indeed, with not only premium passengers on Air China, all Star Alliance airlines at Beijing, oneWorld from BA to JAL, some Skyteam airlines, and even Priority Pass. At one stage even economy passengers were let in.

Air China Beijing Business Class Lounge
Beijing Air China Business Class Lounge

To get to the Beijing Air China Business Class lounge, take the escalator next to the Shanghai Tang shop, then take the lift the area opens out onto a vast main reception desk.

The main part of the Terminal 3 business class lounge has a vast illuminated circle in the middle, with lots of leather armchairs and tables dotted around. Live bamboo plants gave the lounge a little more greenery than expected in such a new modern space. Close to the main servery there are small restaurant type tables which overlook the shops: however make no mistake, there is no waiter service.

The lounge always smells a bit smoky: this in part is because of smoke drifting out of the small smoking room for those lighting up.

Air China Beijing Business Class Lounge
Beijing Air China Business Class Lounge

Few of the staff speak English, and are notoriously not very helpful. An unusual perk in the lounge are the sleeping rooms: These are fully enclosed with a lockable door, and resenble a Tardis crossed with a Portaloo. They are great for a few hours kip between flights.

The Business Class lounge is very similar indeed to the First Lounge - the only difference is the vast business centre with PCs in Business, and the cinema. Alas, the bar is markedly worse, and the food offerings poorer too, but not by much. The difference between the two lounges is very slight.

When you leave the lounge beware cart-touts. They will shout to you "Ride for First Class" even if your gate is only a few yards away and then promptly charge you 50 Yuan. Avoid.

Business Class Air China Lounge
Beijing Air China Business Class Lounge

There is hot food in the Beijing lounge - not a lot however, and the problem is being there at the right time. The lounge sticks to Chinese meal times, even though many of the passengers are passing through and on an international body clock. Breakfast is strictly 6 till 9, lunch 11am to 2:30pm, and dinner from 5pm. At these times there is hot food: at other times, you'll just be out of luck, and have to stick to the sandwiches.

There are just two hot tourines of hot food: at breakfast time Air China has reinvented that staple of airlines, the Chicken Sausage, and it isn't a good idea. The other tub is filled with scrambled eggs. Lunchtime has one hot dish with noodles, with chicken or beef to sprinkle over the top, with a similar selection at dinner time. Other than that, you have to take your pick of sandwiches wrapped in cling film, biscuits, or nuts.

Air China Business Lounge
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The bar in the Air China Beijing lounge really isn't very good. It should be brilliant: it looks great, at the end of the long aisle of armchairs, and before you turn the corner for the dining area. There is a large enclosed bar area with a counter, wine bottles on display, large well stocked fridge. How could Air China muck this one up?

By making the selection rubbish, that's how. Compound this with a confusing setup, and the result is a nonsense. Alas, the bar looks as if it should be staffed: there are even large chairs at the bar, and it is hard to get behind the bar to serve your own. But spot the small sign saying 'Self-Serve', and that is what you have to do, after you lift up the bar flap to get at the bottles. There is a very poor liquor selection, with spirits consisting of just four bottles of Gin, Vodka, Whisky, and Campari. And cheap ones at that, on a long shelf that could easily accommodate plenty more.

If you want wine, you are stuck with the two bottles of wine (Chinese 'Imperial Court' wine too!) in a bucket. Red, or white. It's undrinkable. Behind the bar, and beside the food areas there are fridges with cans of Tsing-tao beer.

Air China Beijing Business Class Lounge
Beijing Air China Business Class Lounge

However, if you hunt out the small fridge right at the end of the section, on the bottom level of the fridge is a shelf called 'overseas beer'. Here there are cans of Bud, Carlsber, Heiniken, and Ashai Superdry. This shelf is well hidden, and monitored for overseas customers only.

There are also large glass jars containing special tea leaves for passengers to brew their own cup of Chinese tea.

There are OK bathrooms in the lounge, and also 2 showers, however you need to ask for the key from reception.

There is a large work area right at the far end of the lounge featuring plenty of computers: however beware that the computers are riddled with viruses, and are very slow. There is free WiFi in the Beijing Lounge. The code is printed on a stand at the main reception desk.

Air China Beijing Business Class Lounge
Beijing Air China Business Class Lounge

Many of the newspapers are kept on racks suspended from long poles: the idea seems to be to stop you from taking it out of the lounge. There are few foreign language newspapers, and no English ones other than the FT, just US papers like the Global Mail.

A major perk of the lounge is the cinema. This is large, with 10 big squashy seats. Indeed, it's curious that no one ever seems to sit in here. Then you realise - the vast TV screen is stuck on the news channels, without sound. You can't change the channel, nor can you watch films. Oh well, it was a nice idea.

One other curiosity is that there are three mobile phone charging stations dotted around the lounge: they are free, and take about an hour to charge phones.

Air China Shanghai Lounges - PVG - Business Class lounge

Airside, Terminal 2, by gate 77 Open 24 hours
Access for First and Business Class, Gold and Platinum Pheonix miles, and Gold Star Alliance
The Air China Shanghai lounge is a joint business and first class lounge. It can be confusing however as many passengers refer to this lounge by two names: calling it both Lounge 77 (after the gate), the Shanghai Airlines Lounge (well, it was), and the Air China Lounge Shanghai.

You find the Air China Shanghai lounge directly after security, up the lift. The lounge has two sides: Business Class is all around and behind you when you are at the desk, while First Class is a small area to the right of the desk. In truth, there is little difference between them. Airlines like Air New Zealand provide vouchers to First for Business passengers, but all Star Golds are firmly on the left.

Air China Shanghai Business Class Lounge
Shanghai Air China Business Class Lounge

The lounge design is of a balcony within the vast bulk of the airport: as such it is open to the terminal and that makes it noisy: in particular, you can hear all the boarding announcements. The lounge itself looks nice but it is rammed with passengers in the early afternoon, and it also has a reputation for quite poor food, and a very basic bar.

Air China Lounge Shanghai
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The lounge has recently added dozens of Televisions to the lounge but the volume is turned down, so it's quite quiet - however the boarding announcements boom around the terminal and wake you up.

There is a small snooze area within the lounge, where you can have a nap. The snooze areas are in small high walled boxes - which you may think are great. However they are placed in the lightest, brightest part of the lounge, right on the edge of the balcony, where there is all the noise of the airport below you. Even worse, they are right beside the dining area. And then the snooze chairs are some of the most uncomfortable lumpy leather things you'll ever find.

In short, the Air China Shanghai lounge has a great ambience overall, and plenty of seating with a view of planes over gates. The New terminal - built in 2008 - is certainly a radical improvement on the old one. All that is missing is decent food and a bar.

Shanghai Star Alliance Business Class Lounge July 2012
Shanghai Shanghai Airlines Business Class Lounge

There are two food station on either side of the two sides of the lounge. Hot food is on the left, salad is on the right. The hot food isn't all that much to write home about, with BBQ Pork hot noodles, and noodle broth. On the cold side there are sandwiches, a little faux sushi, and a salad bar.

Incidentally, tucked away beside the entrance there is also a hot noodle station, only open from 3pm onwards: just ring the bell beside the hatch. They have a small printed menu they will hand you - but it is in Chinese too.

Air China Shanghai Business Class Lounge
Shanghai Air China Business Class Lounge

The bar in the Air China Shanghai lounge really isn't very good. Beside the food areas there are fridges with cans of Tsing-tao beer and two bottles of wine (Chinese 'Imperial Court' wine too!), with no spirits of any kind.

However, if you hunt out the small fridge right at the end of the 'cold' food side, on the bottom level of the fridge is a shelf called 'overseas beer'. Here there are cans of Bud, Carlsber, Heiniken, and Ashai.

There are full bathrooms in the lounge, with japanese style toilets that have buttons. There are also two showers, although they seem to be out of order for large parts of the year. The shower area is access able from both the First and Business Class sides: you can walk directly from one to the other.

Air China Shanghai Business Class Lounge
Shanghai Air China Business Class Lounge

The Air China Shanghai lounge promotes itself as having a full business centre, with 20 computers in small work cubicals. In reality though many of these PCs are broken, and most of the computers are badly infected with viruses. Do not log onto even hotmail in the lounge, or your account will be stolen. There is a relatively poor wireless network with slow speeds and not much of a signal.

If you are after newspapers, you'll pretty much be out of luck. However, there is a small magazine rack, if all you want are magazines to sell you very expensive things you never knew you wanted. ...body...
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All reviews and opinions on Air China food, service, seats, planes, upgrades, lounges, and the Frequent Flyer scheme are given as a personal opinion. No legal liability is accepted if you take my advice.
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