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.
We made it to the airport by around 10:10AM, where he dropped me off at the international terminal.
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!).
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.
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.
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.
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.
I was also given a lounge invitation card. I was informed the lounge was located after immigration and security.
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.”
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.
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.
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. 😉
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).
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.
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.
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.
Perhaps the only redeeming quality of the lounge was that the wifi worked somewhat well.
I certainly wasn’t going to use their “business center.”
Hainan Airlines Lounge Changsha Airport “business center”
In terms of the food & drink selection, the lounge had canned soda, juice, tea, and coffee.
Hainan Airlines Lounge Changsha Airport drink selection
Then there were a variety of packaged snacks, though I couldn’t really figure out what most of them were.
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!
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.
Furthermore, the drink and snack selection was even worse than in the other lounge.
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.
As you can see, virtually all the flights out of Changsha are regional, with the exception of the Los Angeles flight.
The departure gate for the flight to Los Angeles was partitioned off from the rest of the terminal, though had plenty of seating.
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!
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!