During a trip back from Asia I found myself having an uncomfortably long layover at Beijing Capital International Airport. Still, I wasn’t going to stay long enough for leaving the airport. I decided to spend my time in the Air China First Class Lounge.
First Class for everyone! A unique feature of the Air China First Class Lounge at Beijing Capital International Airport is that it’s open to Priority Pass members. As far as I know, this is one of the very few international first class lounges you can access with priority pass. Of course, the lounge is also open to Air China First Class passengers and Phoenix Miles Gold and Platinum Card holders.
It’s still pretty quiet when I arrive at Beijing Airport at 5AM. After a somewhat confusing immigration and security check I found my way to the lounge, which is located on the upper level next gate E20. It’s quiet at the lounge reception desk as well. After scanning my boarding pass, I’m allowed to enter the lounge.
The Air China First Class Lounge in Beijing is by no means as fancy and polished as other first class lounges. It’s quite basic and more like your average business class lounge in terms of interior and furnishing. The furniture looks slightly different from reviews I’ve read in advance, and seems to have been upgraded recently. The lounge area is quite large with tons of seating, consisting mostly of rows of seats with tables in between.
The lounge is open towards departure hall. It can get quite noisy when traffic picks up during peak hours.
Food and beverage
Since I was going be stuck here for a while, I had the opportunity to sample both the breakfast and lunch offerings. The quality of the food is actually not bad. If you like Chinese food you should have no trouble finding something that suits your taste. Both the breakfast and lunch buffet offers a decent selection of hot dishes, but the lunch offering is slightly more extensive. You can also have salad, bread, simple maki rolls and noodles cooked to order. It’s really not first class, but for a businesss lounge this wouldn’t be bad at all.
The beverage selection however would hardly pass as business class standard. The non-alcholic offering is limited to Coca Cola, Sprite, Schweppes, juice and water. If you want beer or wine, there are two different local beers available and wine from China Great Wall Wine Company. Again, neither the beer nor the wine is horrible. I can also understand their desire to offer local products, but this is supposed to be international first class and there is nothing first class about it.
This is where the Air China First Class Lounge really falls short. Coming from a red-eye flight from Bangkok I haven’t had much sleep and I’m really craving for a nap before my next flight. However, I cannot find the nap rooms the lounge is supposed to have. Trying to ask the lounge staff doesn’t help me either, as I cannot find anyone who speaks English. The lounge seating is comfortable enough for sitting in, but not suitable for resting your eyes. I suspect the nap rooms might be closed for renovation, because so are the showers and restrooms. The nearest restrooms are actually near gate 17, which is quite a distance away from the lounge.
The lounge has an entertainment room, but it seems to be out of service as well. There’s a wide selection of newspapers and magazines available, but if you’re not fluent in Chinese there’s not much to choose from.
Internet is as you might suspect extremely limited. Forget about Google and Facebook. Instant messaging services like WhatsApp and Telegram are blocked as well. Not even my VPN service in super obfuscated mode is able to penetrate the great firewall of China. The public WiFi will even disconnects me for trying.
Air China First Class Lounge – Beijing Capital International Airport
I find it a bit hard to rate the Air China First Class Lounge. As a Priority Pass lounge, it’s probably one of the better ones I’ve visited. It wouldn’t be bad as a business class lounge either. But I’m holding a first class ticket with Air China and there is nothing first class about this lounge. The food is average and the beverage selection is poor. The amenities you expect to find at an international first class lounge are closed, out of service or simply not there to begin with.
The lounge isn’t bad, but it doesn’t even come close in comparison to the first class lounges of airlines like Lufthansa or Qatar Airways.