Review: Cathay Pacific Lounge San Francisco Airport
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We arrived in San Francisco at around 6:30PM, leaving us plenty of time before our 11:05PM flight to Hong Kong.
Since our flight was arriving at Terminal 2, we had to take the AirTrain to International Terminal A, where Cathay Pacific departs from.
By the time we got there, Cathay Pacific check-in wasn’t even open, though fortunately we had our boarding passes to Hong Kong printed at LAX, so we proceeded straight through security.
The queues at security were super short, though perhaps the best part was that we were eligible for TSA Pre-Check, since we had boarding passes printed from American. We assumed we wouldn’t be eligible since we were departing on Cathay Pacific and the boarding pass didn’t indicate that we had Pre-Check, but when the agent heard the three beeps he escorted us over to the Pre-Check line. Cool!
San Francisco Airport is one of the nicer airports in the country, at least for some of the terminals. While Terminal 2 is probably my favorite, International Terminals A & G are quite nice as well.
All the lounges are located just past the security checkpoint and to the left. And there are quite a few of them.
While the Air France Lounge is located on the lower level just past the entrance, the Cathay Pacific Lounge is on the upper level. So we took the elevator up a level.
Once there we could turn left towards the Cathay Pacific Lounge or right towards the Japan Airlines or Philippine Airlines Lounge.
The Cathay Pacific Lounge was at the far end of the hallway, and they had all kinds of awesome aviation art on the wall as we walked there. I didn’t actually notice how awesome it was till we were leaving the lounge.
As long time readers may recall, I actually reviewed the Cathay Pacific Lounge San Francisco back in 2013. However, just recently the lounge underwent a huge refresh, as it was expanded from ~5,500 to 9,000+ square feet. Therefore I figured the lounge was worth reviewing again.
At the entrance we were welcomed by a friendly associate in a Cathay Pacific uniform. She reprinted our boarding passes on Cathay Pacific card stock, along with invitations to Cathay Pacific’s arrivals lounge in Hong Kong. She also asked if we were familiar with the lounge’s recent expansion, so proceeded to give us a rundown of the features of the lounge.
The lounge is indeed massive now. Let’s start with the area which was there before.
If you look forward and to the right upon entering you’ll see the existing lounge space.
In the first section there are rows of seats, and then a few of the circular cubicles towards the back of the room. The seating is modern and stylish, though also a bit too symmetrical for my liking, if that makes any sense.
The next room is more of a cafe setting, with hightop and wooden tables with bar stools, and small dining tables with more traditional chairs.
Across from that was one of the lounge’s two dining areas. Before the lounge’s expansion, this was the primary dining area.
When we arrived it had a very limited food selection, consisting just of whole fruit, shortbread cookies, chips, and pretzels.
Then there was self serve liquor, wine, and an espresso machine.
Apparently Cathay Pacific only sets up the food spread a few hours before the departure of Cathay Pacific flights, so we were informed the real food would be put out at around 8PM.
Then the final room on the right has more seating similar to the first one, though it feels a bit more private thanks to the partition between two of the sections. I’m not really sure I get why the seating in general feels so communal. Most people are traveling alone or with one other person, so all the sets of 5-6 seats facing one another don’t seem all that practical. Presumably it’s to maximize seating capacity.
Next to the back room was a hallway which led to the bathrooms and shower rooms.
The shower rooms are gorgeous, among the nicest I’ve seen in any US airline lounges. Cathay Pacific’s cabanas in The Wing First Class Lounge in Hong Kong are my favorite airport showers, though these were still quite nice.
The only thing worth noting is that the toiletries seem to be unbranded, or at least in containers where you can’t see what brand they are.
Back towards the entrance of the lounge and to side is a smaller TV room.
Back near the entrance is a business center with seven iMacs and a printer.
I spent a bit of time getting caught up on work, and then at 8PM went back to check out the expanded food spread. The food spread on the “main” side of the lounge had now been put out, and consisted of a decent selection.
In terms of cold option there were salads, sandwiches, cold cuts, bread, etc.
Then there were also a handful of hot dishes, including Chinese broccoli, stir fried rice, burger sliders, chicken, and rice.
Next to the buffet was a noodle bar, which is one of my favorite features in a lounge.
You could order from three types of noodles, and when you placed an order you’d be given a buzzer. When your noodles were finished they’d then page you.
I ordered the dan dan noodles, which were tasty.
At that point I also checked out the other side of the lounge. This side of the lounge was completely partitioned off until 8PM, so there was no way to even access it until then. This area represents the ~3,500+ square foot increase in space as of the past few months.
There was yet another dining area, with eight tables.
Across from that was another buffet.
Here’s the menu for that buffet:
It wasn’t exactly a huge spread, but everything looked reasonably good. Interestingly, rather than helping yourself there was someone working there who plated everything as you requested it.
Perhaps my favorite thing about this side of the lounge is that they had a real espresso machine, so they could make real cappuccinos (not the nasty ones which come out of automatic machines). Between real cappuccinos and a noodle bar, I was happy as a clam.
Past the dining area was yet another huge seating area. It featured a ton of those circular cubicles, which I like in theory. At the same time there’s something about the room which reminded me of a cross between a furniture store and a furniture warehouse.
We settled down on what looked like the most comfortable seats in the lounge, which were quasi-loungers overlooking the window.
Starting at 8PM the lounge slowly began to fill up, until it was packed at 10PM. The lounge has seating for almost 200, so I was surprised at just how full the lounge got, but it was packed.
It was an all around comfortable space, though two things stuck out to me:
- The ambient music in the lounge was really loud, and sort of painful to listen to. It’s bad enough to have elevator music. It’s worse to have elevator music which is as loud as you might listen to the radio.
- Starting at 9:30PM they must have paged someone over the PA every minute or two. I get they need to contact people, but there has to be a better way, as I’ve never been in a lounge with people paged as often as in this one. Each announcement was also sort of a production — “Cathay Pacific is now paging passenger _____, booked on CX873 to Hong Kong. Please proceed to the front desk for a message. Mr. _____ booked on CX873 to Hong Kong.”
Boarding was originally supposed to start at 10:35PM, though unfortunately we had a bit of a delay. At first they delayed boarding until 11PM. Then until 11:10PM. And then until 11:30PM.
We headed down to the departure gate at around 11PM since we were getting bored in the lounge and figured we might as well stretch our legs.
We were scheduled to depart from gate A3, which was just a three minute walk from the lounge.
There we saw our gorgeous 777-300ER. Such a beauty!
At International Terminal A the gates are on the lower level, so we took the escalator down a level. The gate area was civilized at first, though quickly became pretty chaotic.
At 11:05PM they started lining people up for boarding. There was one really long queue for first class, business class, and all elite members, so it was sort of funny to see anyone just arriving at the gate area going to the very front of the queue, assuming for sure there was no way all those passengers could be “premium.” Little did they know…!
It took a while for boarding to begin, though finally at 11:20PM they began boarding through the priority lane.
Cathay Pacific Lounge SFO bottom line
While this lounge pales in comparison to some of Cathay Pacific’s lounges in Hong Kong, it is one of the better outstation lounges in the US. Cathay Pacific did a great job with the lounge expansion, both in terms of the additional space for passengers (previously the lounge was uncomfortably crowded, while now I’d just describe it as “full”), and in terms of the added food offerings.
As a coffee addict, I especially love that they finally have a real espresso machine, which is otherwise rare in an airline lounge in the US.
While I don’t consider this an aspirational lounge you’ll want to arrive early to hang out in, it’s not a bad place to kill time during your layover. Kudos to Cathay Pacific on this lounge.
Have you been to the Cathay Pacific Lounge San Francisco? What was your experience like?