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Leeli Lounge Male Airport
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Cathay Pacific Business Class 777-300ER Hong Kong To Newark
At around 8:50PM I finally retrieved my bag from my domestic flight on Maldivian, and headed towards the international terminal to catch my 10PM Cathay Pacific flight to Hong Kong.
There’s something charming about the setup of the domestic and international terminals at Male Airport. They’re separated, and you walk down a side street to get between them. Based on the neon lighting adorning the terminal, you almost feel like you’re walking through Patpong in Bangkok.
The international terminal has quite a bit of covered open air space, given that only ticketed passengers can enter the actual terminal.
Once inside the terminal there was an initial security check, whereby all bags were screened.
I headed straight for Cathay Pacific check-in, which was located near the entry door. There was a roughly 10 minute queue for business class check-in. Once it was my turn, I was quickly issued a boarding pass for my flight to Hong Kong, and connecting flight to Newark. I was also issued a fast track card for immigration, as well as an invitation to use the Leeli Lounge, which is the contract lounge Cathay Pacific uses in the Maldives.
The queues for both immigration and security were horrendous, and I almost feel like I would have missed my flight if I didn’t have a fast track card. Fortunately the fast track immigration queue was really quick, and I was through in a matter of minutes.
The security queue wasn’t quite as easy, as there’s not a priority queue. Not only were there a couple of dozen passengers in front of me in my particular queue, but they all didn’t seem to be familiar with the security process or speak a word of English (they were Chinese).
It seemed to be going pretty smoothly, until we got to the group right in front of me. It turned into a 10 minute spectacle of trying to get five people through security, since they literally seemed to have no clue what was going on. The security officer pointed to signs and gestured what they had to do, but it wasn’t clicking for them.
Once through security I followed signage to the Leeli Lounge, which was located just past the (rather modern) duty free shopping area.
The lounge featured a glass wall along the outside, and then the entrance at the far end.
I was quickly admitted, though found myself in what was possibly the most crowded lounge I’ve ever seen. There literally wasn’t a single empty seat (a few are empty in the below pictures, but that’s just because people kept getting up to use the buffet).
Goodness, I figured it would be reasonably busy since there are lots of late night departures out of Male Airport, but I didn’t think it would be this busy.
The lounge featured a large room with traditional lounge seating, and then a couple of smaller rooms as well.
Closer to the entrance was the buffet area, which also had a handful of dining tables.
The food spread looked in line with what you’d expect from a contract lounge. There were mostly stale looking cookies, brownies, cake, muffins, bread, etc.
Then there were some fresh fruit and veggies.
And lastly there were a few hot dishes, as well as some instant noodles and soup.
My boarding pass had indicated that boarding was supposed to start at 9:05PM, a full 55 minutes before departure. By the time I arrived at the lounge it was close to 9:30PM, so after having a look around I decided to head to the gate, since I figured that would be a more comfortable space to sit than in the lounge.
My flight was departing from gate 4, which was a roughly three minute walk from the lounge.
Each gate has a glass enclosure, so your boarding pass is scanned and passport is verified as soon as you enter the gate area. To my surprise, the flight’s crew was still sitting in the gate area, so presumably there was some sort of a delay. The pilots both seemed to be Australian, while the cabin crew looked fairly young.
Finally at around 9:55PM boarding began. All flights at Male Airport leave from remote stands, so I headed down the stairs and onto the bus, which they filled up all the way.
The ride to the plane took only a few minutes. Fortunately they had two sets of stairs — one at the front door for business class, and another at door two for all other passengers.
So while there was a queue for the other stairs, I was on the plane in no time.
Leeli Lounge Male Airport bottom line
For a contract lounge, the Leeli Lounge is perfectly nice physically, though it was so overcrowded that I decided to leave right away. Fortunately the transit ended up working out pretty smoothly, since I had minimized my connection time. Still, taking a boat to Kooddoo, then flying from Kooddoo to Male with a stop, then flying from Male to Hong Kong, and then flying back to the US, isn’t exactly the quickest journey in the world. 😉