Review: Changsha Airport Lounges

oIntroduction: 5-Star China On The Cheap
Review: Hainan Airlines LAX Limo, Check-In, And Lounge
Review: Hainan Business Class 787 Los Angeles To Changsha
Review: Sheraton Changsha Hotel
Review: Changsha Airport Lounges
Review: Hainan Business Class 787 Changsha To Los Angeles


After a quick two night stay in Changsha, the Hainan Airlines limo driver picked me up at the Sheraton at 9:30AM, as requested. That was a bit earlier than necessary, but I wanted to be sure I had time to review the lounges, so figured I’d rather leave too much time rather than too little time. The limo driver was the same one I had on the way out, and even though he didn’t speak any English, he was very professional.

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Hainan Airlines limo service to Changsha Airport

We made it to the airport by around 10:10AM, where he dropped me off at the international terminal.

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Hainan Airlines limo service to Changsha Airport

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Changsha Airport exterior

The terminal was beautiful, much nicer than I was expecting. Then again, I’ve found several Chinese airports to boast gorgeous architecture, but still be very poorly designed (I’m looking at you, Beijing Capital Airport!).

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Changsha Airport check-in hall

I checked the departures monitor, and saw that Hainan Airlines uses check-in counters D74-78 for their flight to Los Angeles, which was towards the far end of the terminal.

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Changsha Airport check-in hall

While the lines weren’t that long, they were chaotic. People were cutting and had no respect for there being an order in which people arrived. I got in the business class line, where there were several people in front of me.

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Hainan Airlines check-in at Changsha Airport

The person being helped at the time took about 10 minutes, so there was no movement in the line. At that point the check-in agent looked at me and said “business class?” When I indicated I was, he motioned me around the people waiting. Based on him talking to them, I believe they weren’t actually in business class, but also didn’t seem to want to move out the way.

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Hainan Airlines business class check-in at Changsha Airport

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Hainan Airlines business class check-in at Changsha Airport

My check-in process took less than 30 seconds, and was one of the fastest I’ve ever had. It’s interesting that Hainan has two perforated “stubs” on their boarding passes, which is pretty cool.

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Hainan Airlines business class boarding pass

I was also given a lounge invitation card. I was informed the lounge was located after immigration and security.

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Hainan Airlines business class lounge invitation

The immigration queues were quite long, and there was no priority line. And beyond that there was a lack of lines in general, as everyone was just sort of pushing.

Unfortunately things got a bit worse when the guy right behind me started talking to me. “Hey, excuse me, are you a teacher here? You’re the only other white guy I’ve ever seen in Changsha.” He explained that his wife was from Changsha and they were visiting her family for Chinese New Year.

He went on to explain that they had bought the $560 introductory tickets on the route, and never thought they’d be able to fly nonstop between Los Angeles and Changsha. While they booked economy, they were upgraded to business class at check-in, because apparently the flight was way oversold in economy.

That’s where the conversation started going downhill. He then explained how he “f*cking hates Air China,” because the last time he flew with them they were delayed. So he stuck a camera in the gate agent’s face, and said “I’m going to send this video to every one of your bosses and have you fired.” He went on to explain that “they’ll never call the cops on me because I’m white.”

Alrighty then. A rather awkward conversation to have, especially since it wasn’t with an “inside voice.”

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Changsha Airport immigration line

It took about 15 minutes to clear immigration. After that I found myself in the security line. Security was a complete joke — the screener wasn’t even looking at the x-ray as the items went through there.

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Changsha Airport security line

About 35 minutes after arriving at the airport I found myself in the departures hall which was also quite nice, much more so than I was expecting.

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Changsha Airport international terminal airside

While the flight was scheduled to depart from gate 41, I first headed to the contract lounge Hainan Airlines uses in Changsha, which is the Joyflight No. 7 First Class VIP Lounge. With a name like that, I figured I needed to make room on my list of the top seven first class lounges in the world. 😉

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Changsha Airport international terminal airside

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Hainan Airlines Lounge Changsha Airport exterior

The exterior of the lounge looked sort of like a semi-legitimate massage parlor (“semi legitimate” in the sense that shady stuff only happens in a back room somewhere, as opposed to the whole thing being a front).

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Hainan Airlines Lounge Changsha Airport exterior

Upon entering the lounge I handed the agent my lounge invitation, and she requested to see my boarding pass as well. I’ll never understand the point of a lounge invitation if they don’t actually get you into the lounge. Upon presenting my boarding pass she took a picture of it with her iPhone, which seemed to be her registration process.

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Hainan Airlines Lounge Changsha Airport reception desk

The lounge featured a seating area across from the reception desk with a bit over a dozen seats. There was no shortage of lace, that’s for sure.

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Hainan Airlines Lounge Changsha Airport seating

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Hainan Airlines Lounge Changsha Airport seating

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Hainan Airlines Lounge Changsha Airport seating

Then there’s a barrier separating that seating area from the rest of the lounge, which featured another dozen or so seats facing a TV.

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Hainan Airlines Lounge Changsha Airport seating

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Hainan Airlines Lounge Changsha Airport seating

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Hainan Airlines Lounge Changsha Airport seating

Perhaps the only redeeming quality of the lounge was that the wifi worked somewhat well.

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Hainan Airlines Lounge Changsha Airport wifi log-in

I certainly wasn’t going to use their “business center.”

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Hainan Airlines Lounge Changsha Airport “business center”

In terms of the food & drink selection, the lounge had canned soda, juice, tea, and coffee.

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Hainan Airlines Lounge Changsha Airport drink selection

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Hainan Airlines Lounge Changsha Airport drink selection

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Hainan Airlines Lounge Changsha Airport coffee & tea

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Hainan Airlines Lounge Changsha Airport mugs

Then there were a variety of packaged snacks, though I couldn’t really figure out what most of them were.

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Hainan Airlines Lounge Changsha Airport snack selection

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Hainan Airlines Lounge Changsha Airport snack selection

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Hainan Airlines Lounge Changsha Airport snack selection

Frankly the entire decor sort of reminded me of this herbal foot massage place I used to go to all the time when I lived in Bellevue (yep, that’s how I spent my Friday nights). The only thing missing to complete the experience was a foot massage…

But what really ruined the ambiance was that no one in the lounge had anything even remotely resembling an inside voice. Not only that, but the standard protocol for making phone calls was to simply put your phone on speaker and hold it about a foot from your mouth, and then yell as loud as you possibly could.

I knew there was another lounge in the international terminal at Changsha Airport, which I figured I’d check out. Maybe it offered more peace and quiet. So I headed to the No. 6 First Class VIP Lounge. Very creative naming system they have!

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Changsha Airport Priority Pass Lounge entrance

This was also a Priority Pass lounge, so I presented my Priority Pass card to gain entry. This lounge had even more depressing decor, if that’s possible, though on the plus side it was also emptier.

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Changsha Airport Priority Pass Lounge seating

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Changsha Airport Priority Pass Lounge seating

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Changsha Airport Priority Pass Lounge seating

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Changsha Airport Priority Pass Lounge seating

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Changsha Airport Priority Pass Lounge seating

Furthermore, the drink and snack selection was even worse than in the other lounge.

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Changsha Airport Priority Pass Lounge drink selection

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Changsha Airport Priority Pass Lounge snack selection

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Changsha Airport Priority Pass Lounge drink selection

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Changsha Airport Priority Pass Lounge snacks

After spending as much time in both lounges as I could tolerate (about three minutes in each), I decided to head out into the terminal and sit there. Because the thing is, the terminal was actually quite nice, and wasn’t overcrowded. So I’d rather sit in an airy terminal not listening to people yell into their phones, than in a drab lounge.

I found the international departures out of the airport to be quite interesting.

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Changsha Airport departures board

As you can see, virtually all the flights out of Changsha are regional, with the exception of the Los Angeles flight.

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International flights at Changsha Airport

The departure gate for the flight to Los Angeles was partitioned off from the rest of the terminal, though had plenty of seating.

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Hainan Airlines departure gate Changsha for LAX flight

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Hainan Airlines departure gate Changsha for LAX flight

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Hainan Airlines departure gate Changsha for LAX flight

At around 12PM the Changsha Airport security squad set up shop. Boarding was called at 12:15PM for everyone (there was no priority boarding), and after presenting your boarding pass you’d be searched. The screening was more or less based on the honor system — you were asked if you had liquids, and if you did they’d ask you to show the liquids to them. Makes me feel much safer!

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American’s last line of defense

Changsha Airport Lounges bottom line

These have to be some of the worst lounges I’ve ever been to… and I’ve been to some not-so-nice lounges. This was one of the less pleasant ground experiences I’ve had, so I’d recommend leaving as little time as possible at Changsha Airport. Then again, with how unpredictable traffic in China is, and given that Hainan’s flight to Los Angeles is twice a week, it might not be worth risking it!

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About lucky

Ben Schlappig (aka Lucky) is a travel consultant, blogger, and avid points collector. He travels about 400,000 miles a year, primarily using miles and points to fund his first class experiences. He chronicles his adventures, along with industry news, here at One Mile At A Time.

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Comments

  1. This looks similar to the HGH lounge up on a mezzanine that we visited when flying KLM late last year, and the 1950s overstuffed chairs remind me of the lounges we visited in HAN and SGN.

    Definitely not a trip highlight.

  2. I traveled extensively in China over the period roughly 1981-1985 and what you need to understand is this look, velvet chairs with doilies, was considered the height of luxury by the Chinese. Look at news photos of the leadership and this is what you see them sitting on. It’s what you saw in the “luxury” hotels and the first class waiting room. That it persists today even though we find it horribly outdated should be surprising. But lets not be too critical because Americans are no different given our association of the Edwardian look with luxury and sophistication. They both derive from a shared view of European and in particular French and English culture as a beacon for what is to be strived for.

    Maybe to Chinese eyes leather chairs and dark wood bookcases look horribly outdated.

  3. On a general basis I second @steve above but also have got to add two things
    The look of the lounge is based pretty much on the economy of about 7-10 years ago when the airport must have renovated. It would certainly look different if it was built 2-3 years ago. The economy has boomed and all sorts of things changed, including style.
    Another thing is that the access can be bought for roughly 30-50 yuan, which is 5-7 dollars. What’s worse, ctrip and other Chinese travel sites bundle airfare with “club access” for ~60% of that, which means for $3 you get the access. That would explain why it’s very over crowded.
    The only good thing about the lounge access I can think of is that they have a separate lux vehicle to get you to the airplane (if the plane is not parked at the gate, of course….), which gives you priority boarding onto the plane. This comes extremely handy in winter when you have to board onto a sold out plane on the open ground of the airport

  4. @Lucky:
    Do they really keep the mugs/cups/teapots (intended to be used for hot beverages, I suppose) in a fridge? Or is that just some kind of cabinet?

  5. i have flown on international route only from T2 in Beijing. I second that they also do not have any priority line for passengers with priority (either business, first or else) for passport control. Its the same for x-ray and hand luggage search (only occasionaly i have seen priority lane on complete left for first class passangers on certain airline).

    I have visited there the lounge for Skyteam travellers (also Hainan). And have to admit that it is not bad, at least food is ok and there is an OK selection of drinks. And yes, you get a special paper to entry. However, loud speaking people on the phone are everywhere in China.

  6. Meat Floss is a horrible translation. It is basically Finely shredded Pork Jerky. Like all Jerky products, it is very dry, therefore preserves well. The taste is a bit savory and a bit sweet, a little bit like a very light teriyaki flavor.

  7. “It’s interesting that Hainan has two perforated “stubs” on their boarding passes”

    Small note: several airports in China use standard airport card stock to print the boarding passes for some or all airlines. Since your boarding pass had the name of the Changsha airport written on top rather than “Hainan Airlines,” the double stubs could be a feature of Changsha Airport boarding passes rather than Hainan Airlines boarding passes.

    Still cool though!

  8. Even if it’s not a very good lounge or one that a lot of readers will visit, it would probably be good to redact the WiFi password 🙂

  9. reminds me of the lounge i was in when i flew domestic F from Shanghai hongqiao to pek ~10 years ago. I’ve never been a fan of any of the lounges i’ve been in the mainland since then.

  10. Pork floss isn’t a mistranslation, just a name for a type of product that is made from pork and has a similar texture and appearance with cotton candy, which in better varieties of English is usually called candy floss. Not to my taste, but trying it won’t kill you.

    As for the lounge, it reminds me of the China Southern lounge in Harbin airport. Same design, lace covered chairs and range of food and drinks (although the Harbin lounge did have beer, at least!). Like others have said, those types of chairs with lace are fairly common in offices, meeting rooms, hotels, et al. At least they are comfy and the broad, square armrests do make a good place to safely put one’s phone or tablet on.

    @Frank: It’s not a fridge, it’s a sterilising machine which dries and um, sterilises, dishes after they have been washed. They are used in kitchens both domestic and commercial all over China in large part because the tap water is not safe to drink.

  11. It looks better than Xiamen Airline first class lounge at Xiamen Airport! I did Beijing- Xiamen- Sydney flights recently! Well the lounge is terrible! I think the regional Chinese Airports have long way to go!

  12. The lounges in most Chinese smaller airports look like the one you were at. I flew out of Wuhan a couple of months back and there is only one lounge to serve all international departures. Mind you, AF flies 3x a week non-stop to Wuhan from Paris. Lots of French businesses in Wuhan.

  13. Seems nicer and better maintained than the United Clubs in DEN that I just visited on a short layover today… Challenge anyone to locate a single seat/couch/chair in either of the United Clubs in DEN without a single tear, stain, or suspicious sticky items on them. On the plus side, the espresso and cappuccino machines aren’t bad.

  14. Lol Changsha Airport is a joke on international flights. I would not have any expectation on their lounge given the fact that they only have several international flights with mostly narrow-body aircraft. Only exception would prolly be HU’s LAX flight and CZ’s FRA flight, which originates in Guangzhou.

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