Review: Air China First Class Lounge Beijing Airport

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I arrived at Beijing Airport at around 6AM, plenty early for my 8:35AM flight to Ulaanbaatar. I already had my boarding pass for the flight, so headed straight to the gates. This required taking the train to Terminal 3E, and then going through immigration and security there. The queues for both were crazy, and there was no priority line. It took me about an hour to clear both of those.

Once that was done I found myself airside in Terminal 3. Physically it’s a gorgeous terminal, though it doesn’t nearly have the same amenities you’d find at other top airports in Asia.


Beijing Airport Terminal 3

In the past I’ve reviewed Air China’s business class lounge in Beijing. However, this time around I figured I’d review the first class lounge. Rather oddly, Air China’s first class lounge can be accessed through Priority Pass. In reality, the first and business class lounges are virtually identical, though I guess they just name them differently in order to spread passengers out a bit. Nonetheless, that’s quite underwhelming if you’re in international first class.

Once past security I turned left, and then after walking about 100 feet I saw the escalator to the lounge on the right.


Beijing Airport Terminal 3


Escalator to the Air China First Class Lounge Beijing Airport

I don’t think I’ve ever seen this before, but there was a sign outside the lounge indicating that Air China offers free buggy rides to the gate for premium passengers. It doesn’t sound to me like this is intended just to be for passengers with special needs. I’ve never seen such a buggy before, so does this actually not exist, or…?


Does this Air China service really exist?

Anyway, the entrance to the lounge was at the top of the escalator and to the right. At the desk I presented my business class boarding pass to Ulaanbaatar, and that got me in. I also had my Priority Pass card, in case they were going to ask for it. Surprisingly that wasn’t even needed, though.


Air China First Class Lounge Beijing Airport entrance

The lounge itself is basic. On the plus side, the lounge was nice and empty. At the same time it feels so outdated for an airport that’s otherwise quite modern.


Air China First Class Lounge Beijing Airport

The lounge has tons of seating, consisting mostly of seats lined up in rows.


Air China First Class Lounge Beijing Airport seating


Air China First Class Lounge Beijing Airport


Air China First Class Lounge Beijing Airport seating


Air China First Class Lounge Beijing Airport seating

However, there are also some cute areas that are a bit more private, like the one below.


Air China First Class Lounge Beijing Airport seating

There were a variety of magazines and newspapers along the outer edge of this area.


Air China First Class Lounge Beijing Airport

There’s also an entertainment area with a TV and reclining seats, though the TV was turned off and seats looked like they had seen better days.


Air China First Class Lounge Beijing Airport entertainment area

In terms of views, the lounge mostly faces the interior of the airport.


Air China First Class Lounge Beijing Airport view

However, there are also some views of the gate area in the distance.


Air China First Class Lounge Beijing Airport view

The lounge has a few different areas with food & drinks. Near the entrance was a small snack bar with packaged snacks, whole fruit, sliced fruit, sandwiches, yogurt, and sweets.


Air China First Class Lounge Beijing Airport snack selection


Air China First Class Lounge Beijing Airport snack selection


Air China First Class Lounge Beijing Airport snack selection


Air China First Class Lounge Beijing Airport snack selection

There was another small snack bar with coffee and milk, more packaged snacks, fruit, and ice cream.


Air China First Class Lounge Beijing Airport snack bar


Air China First Class Lounge Beijing Airport snack bar


Air China First Class Lounge Beijing Airport snack bar


Air China First Class Lounge Beijing Airport ice cream

The main dining area was towards the back of the lounge, which is also where the bar was located.


Air China First Class Lounge Beijing Airport bar

There are quite a few dining tables along the outer edge of the lounge, right by the main buffet.


Air China First Class Lounge Beijing Airport dining area


Air China First Class Lounge Beijing Airport dining area


Air China First Class Lounge Beijing Airport buffet

I’ll let the pictures of the food speak mostly for themselves.


Air China First Class Lounge Beijing Airport food selection


Air China First Class Lounge Beijing Airport food selection


Air China First Class Lounge Beijing Airport food selection


Air China First Class Lounge Beijing Airport food selection


Air China First Class Lounge Beijing Airport buffet


Air China First Class Lounge Beijing Airport buffet


Air China First Class Lounge Beijing Airport buffet


Air China First Class Lounge Beijing Airport buffet

The lounge also had several nap rooms, though they all seemed to either be occupied or out of order (last time I visited this lounge, I saw employees sleeping in them).


Air China First Class Lounge Beijing Airport sleeping rooms

I didn’t eat much in the lounge. I just had a few bottles of water, and I tried the ice cream, just out of curiosity, which tasted like cardboard.


Air China First Class Lounge Beijing Airport snack

The lounge no longer has its own wifi network, but rather uses the airport’s main wifi network. The speeds with this network are reasonably decent, though it’s very much subjected to China’s “Great Firewall,” so don’t expect to access anything Google related, even with a VPN.

My flight was scheduled to board at 8:05AM, so I decided to head to the gate at around 7:30AM. My flight was departing from gate E2, which was a very long walk from the lounge. On the plus side, there was some great plane spotting enroute. The airport has big floor to ceiling windows without many obstructions, so it’s great for taking pictures of planes.


Air Macau A321 Beijing Airport


Finnair A350 Beijing Airport


Air China 777 Beijing Airport


Cathay Dragon A330 Beijing Airport


Singapore 777 Beijing Airport

Eventually I got to the end of the terminal, where some Air China 737s were parked, including the one that would be flying me to Mongolia.


Air China 737 Beijing Airport

I got to gate E2 at around 7:45AM, and the gate area was still pretty quiet.


Departure gate to Ulaanbaatar

Without much fuss (or any sort of announcement), boarding started at 7:55AM, ahead of schedule.

Departure gate to Ulaanbaatar

I was excited to get to Mongolia!

Air China first class lounge Beijing bottom line

Air China’s lounge system in Beijing is bizarre. They have separate lounges for first & business class, though they’re virtually identical. This is also the only international first class lounge that I know of that can be accessed with a Priority Pass membership.

On the plus side, the lounge is spacious and rarely crowded, so it’s a quiet place to relax. However, other than that the lounge doesn’t impress me much — the decor is outdated, and the food selection is just “meh.”

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Comments

  1. Been to this lounges a few times myself, as recently as last week. I the food offerings are pretty decent, especially for the lunch/dinner services (western offerings along with local). Drink selection is weak. One gripe I have I guess is the shower in the First Class lounge are inferior to the ones over at the Business lounge. Business lounge has everything in one private room, whereas the first class lounge, showers and toilets are separate.

  2. Yeah, doesn’t look like much has changed since I was there a year ago. Food and beverage options were quite sub-par for a first class lounge. I was flying Singapore Airlines Suites on the A380 and could access this lounge or their ground handling agents lounge (which was even worse).

    As architecturally cool as Beijing’s airport is, I find it to be terribly cold inside. Perhaps the constant overcast and smoggy skies outside has something to do with that. They at least were putting a Boston themed sports bar in the terminal, so hopefully that has now opened.

  3. I got access to this lounge two years ago while flying Air China Business Class given that their Business Class Lounge is in the progress of refurbishments

  4. @Lucky, I have taken the buggy before. It’s for anyone and they also have a buggy from the CA premium check in area to the gates where you scan your boarding pass before getting on the train

  5. I think the space itself is much nicer than say Delta’s JFK or SEA lounges. I don’t eat Asian food so I can’t speak to the quality of the food offerings, but it looked fairly comprehensive. The family style-restaurant coffee was a disappointment, I suppose. I also didn’t see any champagne or Coke/Pepsi.

  6. I also used this lounge, the shower was smelly…
    Also the staffs were very arrogant, they were reluctant to tell me where is the shower room.
    That was just awful.
    I think the staff of other lounge that can enter with priority pass was better.

    Indeed the lounge was spacious though.

  7. This is my favorite lounge, beating all US lounges with Priority access I have been to. The food was the best part, maybe you were there not the right time or simply the food is not your type.

  8. buggy ride can be arranged if you ask the lounge attendants who do the boarding announcements, next to the lounge reception
    if the buggies happen to be parked downstairs, just show your boarding pass. more than often than not, the buggies are parked at the business class lounge coz there are more passengers needing that service there.

  9. You should have tried to see about the buggy ride!

    Pet peeve: it’s hard to let the food items “speak for themselves” when all the chafing dishes are closed and the signage is too distant/out of focus to read.
    I know it’s a PITA, but lifting up a lid or two would “speak volumes.”

  10. I don’t find the decor dated but it’s odd that there are visible bar code stickers on the legs of the chairs – kinda ruins the overall look.

  11. A very brief review. Did you check showers? What champagne was on offer? Did the staff speak any English?

  12. @ Ding Ding — Unfortunately the showers were all occupied, so I wasn’t able to get a picture. I didn’t see any champagne. As far as the staff go, I didn’t interact with them much. At the front desk they scanned me in and didn’t say much, and I didn’t speak with anyone else.

  13. @Lucky: “At the front desk they scanned me in and didn’t say much, and I didn’t speak with anyone else.”

    Maybe that’s because they don’t speak English well enough to be comfortable speaking with a fluent English-speaker. I’ve encountered this with Japanese. As a country, Japan has horrible rates of English proficiently. Many Japanese are hesitant to speak any English to an American because their English is poor or they think it’s worse than it is. In my experience, Japanese girls, for example, are very shy around American guys because of the language barrier.

  14. Shower rooms may not have been occupied. When we were there last year (for several hours it turned out, since our AA flight was on a rolling delay for 4 hours, then cancelled), there was 6 of us and we all needed showers as we had just come back from hiking the Great Wall. They told us that all of the shower rooms were occupied but they would let us know when any came available. We waited about 45 minutes seated right outside the entrance to the shower rooms and no one went in or out, so we asked again and they told us the same thing, but about ten minutes later, again without anyone going in or out, there were suddenly two available. It looked like there were actually at least 4 rooms, but they never let us use the other two, we eventually all got done using just two and, unless a couple of people took 2 hour showers, the others never got used. And they are pretty tiny little shower rooms. With the number of priority pass lounges that are available in Beijing, we would definitely try a different one next time or one that our AA business class tickets would have gotten us into.

  15. I had the exact same experience as FAnorthtrader. For some reason, they are hesitant to let guests use the showers. Eventually, I just pressured the shower attendant into opening one. Just demand it.

  16. The buffet is available only at limited hours – you have to stick to instant noodles after 9am till noon.

    The Cathay lounge is far superior to this lounge – with its noodle bar after 9am and more spacious seating. The best lounge in PEK is the secret domestic F lounge in B1 (not the al fresco F lounge similar to this international one reviewed by Lucky). This airport is not exactly known for its lounges.

  17. In Dec-15 we flew CA Biz from IAD to PEK to SIN to PEK to IAD. On the outbound we used the Biz lounge which had fantastic private shower facilities + sink + toilet. Clean, no line, perfect after a long flight, and before connecting to SIN. On the inbound we were told the Biz bathrooms were out of order and we were directed to the First lounge. Teeny, tiny, and just a shower/sink. Very disappointing, especially after our experience earlier in the week.

    Candidly, the PEK security line/lounge/pollution experience is reason enough to not fly CA from the States to Asia (assuming PEK not final destination). Going through NRT offers a far superior experience.

  18. Brazilian blogger Fabio Vilela from Passageiro de Primeira was there today and I got to see it all from his Instagram stories- looks beautiful but its so crappy, barely any food or drinks…so sad, theres so much potential

  19. @nic@aol.com, that is true, we, Japanese people(apart from me), are too shy to speak English, not only women but also men.

    That is because they try to a grammatically perfect English and think themselves too much.

    It leads to a horrible rates of English, even in Tokyo.

    Of course some exception exists like me 😛

  20. I have used this lounge dozens of times and agree it is nothing too special. However, your wait at immigration can be cut dramatically if you have the APEC Business Travel card available as an option with your Global Entry. Upon arrival in China there is an APEC fast lane next to the diplomatic channel. On departure there is usually an APEC lane too and if not they let you use the diplomatic lane. I have never waited more than a few minutes if at all using the APEC card. Same for Japan and several other countries.

  21. Last time I used this lounge I was waiting for an early morning flight to Doha and since there were few staff remaining on duty, the bar was self service. A couple of very glamorous (Russian speaking) ladies were hanging around – not looking for company or conversation – but surreptitiously decanting hard spirits into empty containers in their handbags….bizarre!

  22. The food selection is great for breakfast or a light meal before the actual flight meal. I admit that there’s no A La Carte, which you shouldn’t expect based on CA’s “International First” standard hehe. I admit that there’s no caviar or lobsters or steaks, but I’m afraid there’s never going to be those things

  23. @FNT Delta Diamond lI don’t eat Asian food so I can’t speak to the quality of the food offerings…”
    What planet are you from?

  24. Fab article! Sure do wish you would do an article on the best ways to connect to the internet (with or without VPN) from the Beijing/Xian area. I am planning on going within the next two years and would NEED access in order to communicate with family and in case issues arise, with vendors. Also would love a report on the Xian airport as well. Thanks for all you do!

  25. Wow. It really is a clone of the Business lounge. Had to check a few times to make sure this was the First class lounge getting reviewed.

    The CA Business Lounge at PEK isn’t the worst in the world, but it’s nothing special either. I was pretty impressed with the new CA International Lounge at PVG and hope that they look to that as a model whenever they get around to doing up the lounge at PEK. Much better/more variety of food and better setup for dining at PVG.

  26. In every aspect other than alcohol offering this lounge beats any American, Delta, or United lounges in the U.S. out of water. Period.

    Wait, should we compare CA with SQ, CX, and so on? Hahaha, that’s the actual complement to the Chinese carrier.

  27. Actually, i find the cues much shorter on international part of T2 on PEK. T3 is usually busier. Even the lounge selection (and quality!) on T2 has improved since the opening of the new Skyteam lounge. Lounges on domestic terminal are usually just appaling and not worthy of a visit.

    @brad… if you want to access social networks (FB, Twitter, IG), any of the google services (including mail and maps) or cloud services (Dropbox) you need to have a VPN. Just google best VPNs for China for latest (latest update as possible). Install and test all VPN services/apps before coming to China (their websites are not available, google play is not working, apple app store works fine). To access non-chinese pages via VPN (or without) expect relatively slow speeds. Also, some VPN providers work faster in some cities than in others. Of course, monitor the situation as the chinese government plans a crackdown on VPN services. Oh, almost forgot. Internet through VPN gets painfully slow in the evenings and during some national events (like Party meetings) it stops for a prolonged hours. Yahoo/Hotmail and Skype do work. Though, when calling, i prefer using Skype via VPN. Whatsapp worked flawlessly until a month ago. It still works, but sometimes there are outages.

    Sometimes its useful to install and log in into WeChat (chinese alternative to facebook messanger, skype,…). Many times you can access some wifi networks just by using this app.

  28. Had the “pleasure” of beeing there (and the BC Lounge) quite a few times, last time in May.
    I might be a bit jaded with the other flagship lounges in Asia, Europe and Ocenaia but this one really disappoints (In PVG the CA lunge is much better).

    Entry into the FC lounge is a bit haphazard – traveling in C and as a *G they sometimes let you in, other times they refer you to the BC lounge.
    Showers are much better in the BC lounge (the ones in the FC lounge smelled horribly and were cramped).
    Food is really best described as MEH, none of the fridges are at anything remotely resembling a “cold” setting.

  29. Sleep cabine:
    I used this lounge yesterday evening. I saw the sleep cabines with either busy or closed mention.
    I asked at the lounge reception if I could use one and they nicely opened it for me. It was great! A real bed with linens etc. I recommend it.

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