We constantly write about how lounges continue to impress us, and this is purely due to the fact there is a lounge war on right now, with airlines around the world trying to offer their passengers an experience to equal their competitors. Cathay Pacific today revealed a lounge that would not just cater for their current passenger base, but even steal passengers from their competitors.

Designed by Studioilse, the London-based design studio led by Ilse Crawford, the 2,061 square metre lounge is a sensory overload. It even introduces a relatively new concept to the airline branded space in the form of a signature fragrance. This helps set the tone as you step inside the lounge, which is actually less lounge, and more ‘contemporary apartment’ (although not one we could ever afford!)

The atmosphere throughout the lounge has a domestic level of comfort and characteristics of a home. “We wanted to make a space that felt branded but made you feel comfortable, and good, that really connects to you as a human.” says Ilse Crawford, on her latest project. On emerging yourself into the lounge, there is no doubt of this, reflected in the choice of materials, furniture, and atmospheric and lighting. The same considered approach has been taken with the selection of art, music, and food, all of which have been curated to feel coherent and support the idea of this being an apartment that visitors are guests in. “It’s about creating something intuitive and informal.” Ilse Crawford continues.


The new First Class Pier Lounge, which has been under wraps for 18 months since the previous Pier Lounge closed, has been split into eight defined areas. On entering, you are greeted by the signature Cathay Pacific Brushwing emblazoned in brass above the welcome desk which plays host to smiling ground crew and a bag drop.


After passing the entrance, you are greeted by the long corridor, which is lined in honed green Onyx tiles and thick plush carpeting. Lining the walls are pieces of dramatic and contemporary International artworks along with beautiful lighting installations, love seats and custom created felled wooden counters, which offer the texture and tactility that Cathay are so keen to impart.

The corridor runs as the main artery to the lounge, which can seat up to 231 passengers at any one time. To the left is the main lounge and bar area, to the right is the a la carte dining room. The ancillary elements run off either side of the corridor. Heading left you are instantly greeted by a warm sweeping wood, brass and onyx horseshoe bar. The bar acts as a focal point, and feels like a luxury London hotel bar, instantly transporting you away from the vaguest notion you are in an airport.


“The bar is meant to be a social and recognisable room. We watched and learned about how people sit in lounges. We sit differently as we have tablets and laptops, so we’ve introduced wider seats for passengers to let them get more comfortable.” Isle tells TheDesignAir about the wide array of seats and pockets that passengers can get nestled in to.

What quickly becomes apparent here is the lack of airport signage, the lack of cables on show, and how considered every design element is. “We carefully picked materials that would age gracefully.” Toby Smith, Head of Product for Cathay Pacific states. “Such as the brass work surfaces and table tops that will age and weather with use.”

Panoramic floor to ceiling windows frame one side of the bar, with views leading out onto the apron, runway, and signature Hong Kong skyline in the back. The windows also help visually draw passengers around into a quieter library style space, which is quieter, and less open in layout. “This area is suited for passengers that just want to get on with work, or want to spend time by themselves.” Ilse Crawford explains.

The seating style is similar and this secondary space, which also hosts a variety of magazines and newspapers, helps break up the vast floor plan to offer a better environment for their passengers. The furniture and lighting here, like the rest of the lounge, includes iconic pieces by Knoll, Cappellini, Fredericia, Kalmar and Roll & Hill, as well as specifically commissioned bespoke furniture pieces, such as the side tables that we fell in love with in Cathay’s Haneda Lounge.


The lounge continues to surprise and delight, with flourishes such as a stylish food cart, suitably positioned to stop passengers having to meander over to the other side of the lounge for a simple snack. Naturally the entire lounge will have waiter service too, incase you get just too comfortable in your wingback chair.

Across the hall is both The Pantry and The Bureau, a stylish home to 6 iMacs offering both Mac and Windows operating system, printers and privacy for those wanting to work in quiet. The Pantry offers a self service snack and fresh food room, allowing passengers in a rush to quickly grab and go a snack, which will change depending on the time of day.

Further down the corridor is more of a hedonistic paradise than lounge. The Retreat is made up of a variety of elements including their soon to be iconic ‘Day Suites’ which are available on a first come, first serve basis. The eight suites each offer complete privacy with unparalleled views onto the tarmac (this is perhaps the most luxurious plane-spotting destination on the planet) – or for those wanting to sleep, curtains and customisable lighting.


Wrapped in walnut wood, these suites look like they have been ripped out of the pages of Monocle magazine. As part of the Day Suites, there are also 14 showers decked out in limestone, and even a Foot Massage spa, run by London based company Gentlemen’s Tonic. Here passengers can enjoy a variety of complimentary treatments (up to 30 minutes) based on a first come first serve basis.


Passing the washrooms on the right, if you were to continue down the onyx hallway, you will come to the airline’s a la carte restaurant which even has its own cloakroom and reception desk with Maitre D’.

In a shift in their current product, the airline has embraced table service in this First Class lounge, and the signature Noodle Bar (found in their business class lounges) is nowhere to be seen. Seating 100 guests, the ‘dining room’ has a true European bistro feel to it, with a snaking banquette seating bench filling the space.


Space is key here, and enough space has been left between tables to cater for luggage, bags and a variety of group sizes, and solo travellers can also eat at the polished brass top bar that lines one side of the wall.


The food on offer is also exquisite, and the chicken dish (pictured above) is perfectly balanced, as is their heirloom tomato and mozzarella salad.


Stepping from one room to another, Cathay’s investment in their ‘sensory’ lounge also becomes evident, with three different music libraries playing in the Bar, the Retreat and the Dining Room, each suited to inspire and relax the guests in different ways.

Overall, we were slightly dumbfounded by this lounge. Not because of its offerings, which although are considered and excellent, may not be as rich or lavish as their counterparts, but simply because this is a lounge we instantly felt we had an infinity towards. This really did feel like home to us, and the service was discreet and un-fussed. Ground crew were on hand, waiting just out of sight, but ready to leap into action, with tablet in hand, able to answer any questions.

The Dining Room (which we think is incorrectly named) is a destination restaurant in its own right. The bar is one we would happily frequent, even if it was accessible in a city rather than an airport. It’s this simple premise, that sets this lounge apart. It’s not really a lounge by today’s standards, and with no signage, no screens, no airport architecture in sight, it’s a true retreat from the entire airport experience – and its because of that simple concept, it will undoubtably be one of the most talked about lounges of 2015. Our only wish, is that it was a little closer to immigration, as being situated near gate 63 its a good 10 minute commute from entering Hong Kong Airport’s airside.

The Pier First Class Lounge is open from 5.30am until last departure, and is accessible by First Class passengers, Marco Polo Club Diamond members and one world Emerald members. 

The Big Picture

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TheDesignAir were guests of Cathay Pacific, but we still remain impartial in our report.
Posted by:Jonny Clark

6 replies on “Lounging Around: The Pier First Class Lounge By Cathay Pacific At Hong Kong Sets New Standards

  1. It looks pretty sterile to me…as to those reminders that one is at an airport, I actually like those design cues. If I wanted a living room and dining room like I have at home, I would stay at home and not travel.

  2. “If I wanted a living room and dining room like I have at home, I would stay at home and not travel.”

    Seriously? As a regular flyer who doesn’t always have the choice of whether I travel or not, anywhere that takes me away from the noise, crowds and general chaos of an airport scores major points from me. Wanting to feel as relaxed in an airport lounge as I do at home takes nothing away from the travel experience itself. (By the way, lucky you, if you have a living room like the one at the Pier!).

    As for sterile or not, well it is a matter for personal taste, I guess. I visited the lounge over the weekend before my flight. Sterile it isn’t. Warm, relaxing and with a great variety of tactile materials. Very few, cold, hard, sterile elements at all.

  3. Visited yesterday and was impressed with not only the overall aesthetic but the level of detail that CX went into the fit-out. As a home-port CX Diamond Member, this will be my primary lounge even though it’s out in the boonies, so to speak (Gate 63).

  4. It’s probably the best lounge I’ve been to. Although its very modern, it’s still very warm and inviting. From the moment you walk in the staff are friendly and helpful and the smell in the lounge is amazing. The furniture and overall decor is beautiful and food is indeed exquisite, something you expect at a fine dining restaurant, not an airport lounge, this could be my new favorite lounge.

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