Review: Air China Business Class Lounge Beijing

Introduction
US Airways Club Charlotte
US Airways Envoy Class Charlotte to Paris
Hilton Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport
Star Alliance Lounge Paris
Air China Business Class Paris to Beijing
Air China Business Class Lounge Beijing
ANA 787 Business Class Beijing to Tokyo
Hilton Tokyo Narita Airport
Tokyo Narita Airport Hello Kitty Check-in
EVA Air Hello Kitty Business Class Tokyo to Taipei
EVA Air The Star Lounge Taipei
Taipei Airport Hello Kitty Gate
EVA Air Hello Kitty Royal Laurel Class Taipei to Los Angeles


While I hate remote stands, there’s something I sorta-kinda like about them when I’m getting off a heavy aircraft. There’s nothing quite as impressive as being able to stand on the tarmac next to a 777 and admire its sheer size.

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Air China 777-300ER

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Air China 777-300ER

There were two normal sized buses and three smaller “VIP” buses waiting on the tarmac, which I was thrilled to see. We initially got on the second bus only to find there were no seats left, so we instead boarded the third bus. There were only two other passengers in the bus, and it was actually rather comfortable.

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VIP bus from remote stand

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VIP bus from remote stand

This was hands down the longest bus drive I’ve ever taken from a remote stand. It must have been at least 15 minutes, and we had a pretty fast driver and didn’t stop once.

On the plus side, the planes were nice to look at.

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Air China 747-400

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Orient Thai 747-400

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Another Air China 747-400

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Air China 777-300ER (with British Airways 747 taking off in background)

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Beijing Airport control tower

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Japan Airlines 787

Once we were dropped off at the terminal we took the escalator to the upper level.

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Beijing Airport escalator to immigration

Usually when you’re just transiting an airport enroute to a third country you just have to go through security and don’t have to clear immigration. Unfortunately at Beijing Airport you actually have to get your passport stamped. The queue took about 20 minutes to get through, which was a bit of a pain given that there’s no need for such formalities in virtually any other country.

Once that was complete we headed towards the security checkpoint. We picked a line, at which point one of the agents yelled “carry on, you go over there.” I asked for clarification, though that was the only phrase he seemed to know in English. I’m still not sure why we had to go to another line, because people in all lines had carry-ons.

By the time we were through immigration and security we only had about an hour till our flight to Tokyo Narita, so we headed to the Air China lounge.

While not designed all that practically, Beijing Airport is gorgeous architecturally.

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Beijing Airport terminal

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Beijing Airport terminal

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Beijing Airport terminal

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Beijing Airport terminal

The Air China lounge isn’t far from the main checkpoint, located at the top of an escalator.

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Air China lounge signage

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Air China lounge entrance

We were quickly admitted, then began the rather ridiculous process of “registering” our passports with a kiosk in order to get a wifi code.

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Air China lounge wifi machine

So looking at the pictures below I’ve come to realize that the lounge looks much nicer in pictures than it was… or at least nicer than I remember it to be. The way I remember it, the lounge felt a bit like a combination of a kitschy, cheap Thai restaurant, and the local Chinese herbal foot massage place I like to go to, at least in terms of the way it was decorated.

The lounge is “open air,” basically overlooking the terminal from one level up. It’s a huge lounge with plenty of seating.

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Air China business class lounge seating

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Air China business class lounge seating

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Air China business class lounge seating

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Air China business class lounge seating

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Air China business class lounge seating

In addition to the “normal” seating there was an entertainment area with some recliners facing a TV.

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Air China business class lounge entertainment area

Best I could tell there also seemed to be two nap rooms. I say “seemed” because for one of the nap rooms the door was missing (well, it actually wasn’t missing, it was simply unhinged and standing next to the room), while for the other there was a notice that read “Disinfection.” Hmmm…

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Air China business class lounge nap room

Then there was a dining area.

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Air China business class lounge dining area

The lounge boasted nice tarmac views, including of the ANA 787 we’d be flying to Tokyo Narita.

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Air China business class lounge tarmac views

The food spread in the lounge was certainly extensive, though none of it looked especially appetizing. There were a couple of buffets. One with cold options, and one with a combination of hot and cold options.

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Air China business class lounge food spread

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Air China business class lounge food spread

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Air China business class lounge food spread

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Air China business class lounge food spread

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Air China business class lounge food spread

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Air China business class lounge drinks

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Air China business class lounge coffee and juice

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Air China business class lounge food spread

You know that one horrible all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet restaurant that every city in the US has, with a name like “Happy Panda” or something? Well, the hot food in the lounge looked equally appetizing.

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Air China business class lounge hot food

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Air China business class lounge hot food

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Air China business class lounge hot food

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Air China business class lounge food spread

We left the lounge at 2PM for our 2:45PM departure to Tokyo Narita. Our departure gate was about a 10 minute walk away, and the gate area wasn’t very crowded.

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Beijing Airport departure gate

My friend and I had selected window seats behind one another since we had never flown the 787 before. I asked the gate agent if the seat next to me was empty (since the seatmap had looked totally empty a couple of days out). The agent typed for a while and eventually said “3C and 4C no one. But 3A and 4A not voice seats. I’m so sorry.” Not… voice seats?! Eventually I figured out she was trying to explain that it’s tough to talk to one another in those seats. Fair enough!

Boarding began at 2:15PM, and I couldn’t wait for my long overdue inaugural 787 flight, even if it was a regional configuration!

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ANA 787

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ANA 787

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Comments

  1. A few weeks ago when transiting PEK from UA/F to TG/C I was admitted to the CA F lounge. But their shower wasn’t working, so they send me over to the CA business lounge. The shower was working, but it was the smallest shower room I’ve ever seen! I could barely find a place to put my suitcase down, no less open it to get out fresh clothes!

  2. “The queue took about 20 minutes to get through, which was a bit of a pain given that there’s no need for such formalities in virtually any other country.”

    What?

    May I remind you that in order to transit through the US, most people need not just a stamp, but an actual visa that costs $150?

    And a 20 minute wait at your immigration lines is the fastest I’ve ever gone. At ORD, I’ve never had a wait under 60 minutes.

  3. @phone-home That was exactly what I was thinking… in both US and Canada you have to go through immigration and often times customs as well… twenty minutes is not too bad

  4. @ phone-home @ Moey — Well yeah, and that’s why I don’t think anyone should ever connect in the US. It’s an overly complicated experience. But I still think the immigration check is worth noting, since there’s no such thing at Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo, Bangkok, etc.

  5. I’d have to agree with lucky on this one. No one in their right mind would transit in the US, china is a logical transit point, though clearly not as easy as other Asian hubs.

  6. No one in their right mind would transit through PEK. They would transit through NRT, ICN or HKG. Some times you have no choice because you either want to try a new product or that’s the only availability that is given on such date. Suffice to say that goes for transiting to US if you want to go to Latin America for folks who are coming Asia…….. You give some and you take some…

  7. @lucky I agree with you that it is worth noting that there is an immigration check in PEK. Although you do have to admit that twenty minutes is not too bad. Although, I wonder why they don’t give out fast passes for premium class customers…

  8. I am surprised as Slyvie is, blue sky? Are you sure this was Beijing? Maybe you were once again “lucky” as was I last Tuesday to visit on a rare smog-free day. Your description of the CA lounge is spot-on except I didn’t have to jump through hoops to get a WiFi connection.

  9. Lucky,

    I have seen worse food in many lounges. Dim sum looked ok. If you were starving, I’m sure there was something edible. Buffet food, to me, requires extra effort to make it look good. Once, you get past appearances, the food usually is edible. I’m sure many Chinese would be ok with it, as Western palates are more experienced.

  10. “Usually when you’re just transiting an airport enroute to a third country you just have to go through security and don’t have to clear immigration. Unfortunately at Beijing Airport you actually have to get your passport stamped. The queue took about 20 minutes to get through, which was a bit of a pain given that there’s no need for such formalities in virtually any other country”

    Um seriously I have to go through that every tine I go to the Asia via the USA and 20 would be amazing, most of the time it takes anywhere from 1-3 hours on a good day so count yourself lucky!

  11. Too many unrealistic complaints!
    20 min waiting at immigration is super fast by any standard in the whole world, and the food is 100 times better than any US clubs (if you can find any real food there).

  12. @ Bostonwalker — Well sure, except there’s no point in comparing an Asian lounge to a US lounge. We all know it’s going to be better. An Asian lounge should be compared to an Asian lounge, IMO.

    Same goes for immigration. Connect virtually anywhere else in Asia and there will be no immigration checkpoint, while there is in China.

  13. Add ZRH to the list of transit passport review airports when connecting to a flight gated at the remote terminal building.

    As for the CA lounge at PEK, it’s still better than the atrocious Shanghai Airlines one at PVG. That one’s so bad that LX gives its premium passengers vouchers to use at restaurants in the terminal, in addition to the lounge pass! Of course, wifi is easier to access at PVG vs the absurd system at PEK (not to mention ZRH!).

  14. @lucky
    “Bostonwalker — ‘Well sure, except there’s no point in comparing an Asian lounge to a US lounge. We all know it’s going to be better. An Asian lounge should be compared to an Asian lounge, IMO.’

    Same goes for immigration. Connect virtually anywhere else in Asia and there will be no immigration checkpoint, while there is in China.”

    I guess you haven’t traveled well in Asia. There are plenty of instances where a 30 minute wait was common for me in many parts of Asia. It all depends on the timing. Has nothing to do with the airport’s resources.

    Just gotta love Lucky’s anti-Asian comments. I guess that’s what mono-lingual Europeans do…

  15. @Lucky

    You’re complaining about 20 minutes for immigration? You sound like you’ve never been to the USA.

  16. @Lucky

    Just loved your anti-Chinese anti-Thai comments about the food. Why do you even bother visiting or transiting thru Asia if you hate the people and its culture? Shameful…

  17. Awesome review – thank you. I can not see how your comments on the look of the food were anti-anyone. It’s baffling to me that if you don’t like a cheap Chinese buffet in the US, @You’re an Idiot thinks you must be anti-Chinese, hate the people and the culture and should not visit the country – haha hilarious! Thank you for the frank review of your experience.

  18. The sign that reads “Disinfection” in English should be “sanitized”, if translated correctly.

  19. It’s because of guys like You’re an Idiot that trolls have such a bad reputation online. One stereotypical troll loose in a forum can undo the goodwill and respect hard earned by 100s of non douchie trolls.

    Why leave underneath your bridge and drag your club to the nearest Internet cafe and post on this forum if all you are going to do act like a classic troll? Shameful.

  20. It has the worst wifi service compared to all the lounges I have been.

    The wifi service they provide sucks unless you have a local China cell phone. It took me 20 minutes to get an authorization code/password for getting access to the wifi service in the loung, because I don’t have a local Chinese cell phone.

  21. Don’t ever use airport WiFi to check your email – your login information is not encrypted. I had Hotmail to notify me that someone in Vietnam tries to access my email after a trip to Hong Kong. I remembered that I used Hong Kong airport WiFi to check on the email. Apparently someone used a WiFi listening device there.

  22. Every time I have to transit through the US I have to clear customs/immigration and then security again. Once Houston Tx., we spent a stressful hour in lineups for immigration, customs and then security, only to reboard the exact same plane for a continuation of our flight through to Canada.

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