Lounge Review: Alaska Airlines Board Room at LAX

This past weekend, I had a quite extended layover at LAX, made even longer thanks to a delay on American Airlines. I always find myself on the receiving end of flight delays when flying from either SFO or LAX to DFW!

While I was overwhelmingly impressed with their Seattle Board Room lounge, I really enjoy their LAX location. My main dislike with the Seattle Board Room is how crowded it gets. Located in Terminal 6 near Alaska Airlines, Delta, US Airways gates, you can reach the lounge without leaving security from Terminals 4, 5, and 6. You can either use the hidden tunnel network or ride the AA shuttle.

You enter the lounge via private elevator and access is permitted by purchasing a day pass, or for Board Room members, Priority Pass members, and The Club members. The lounge is warm and inviting with cozy leather chairs, spacious work desks, clean restrooms, and expansive views of the incoming planes. There are TONS of electrical outlets and the WiFi is blazing fast.

You can receive 3 house drinks like beer, wine, or well cocktails at no charge. There are basic snacks, coffee, tea, and soda available. Food is fairly standard for domestic lounges with just drinks and snacks. They do have their famous pancake machine here. For breakfast, they have bagels, toast, and yogurt. In the evening, they have soup and salad. For a charge, you can order a full meal like salmon or pizza but nothing seemed worth ordering to me.

Fancy some robot pancakes?
Fancy some robot pancakes?

This lounge is definitely a place of peace and relaxation amid the chaos of LAX. I have to say connecting at LAX is not my favorite thing but the Board Room makes it much less stressful. Stop by and have a craft beer while you watch the planes go by!

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Trip Report: Cathay Pacific 777 Regional Business Class, Hong Kong to Taipei

Cathay Pacific is well renowned for it’s exceptional in-flight service and it’s short haul regional service is no exception!

On a recent trip to Hong Kong, we took a side trip to Taipei, redeeming 36,000 Avios and roughly $70 in taxes for round-trip Business Class on Cathay Pacific. This was one of my best redemptions using Avios on partner travel. This redemption is within Zone 1 of the BA award chart so it should remain intact with the negative changes to Avios redemptions that take effect on April 28,2015.

Outbound: HKG to TPE

While the flight is just under 2 hours from Hong Kong to Taipei, you can look forward to a robust Cathay Pacific experience. We arrived quite early to HKG to spend some time in the lounge. Since we were at Gate 31, we opted for The Bridge lounge near Gate 35. We’d intended to visit The Wing but got didn’t get around to it. The entrance to The Bridge is impressive and the staff was very kind. There are two side to the lounge and we opted for the left hand side first. The views from the lounge are perfect for avgeeks with great views of the tarmac. The lounge was fairly empty on this side of the lounge which I enjoyed. The decor is very stylish and the seating quite comfortable. And I can always appreciate a sparkling clean restroom!

Hands down, Cathay Pacific lounges at HKG have the best lounge food. There was a buffet of lunch items, both Cantonese and Western. The dumplings were quite good and the selection was great. You must try the signature XO sauce! The bar on this side of the lounge was self service.

The Bridge - HKG
The Bridge – HKG
The Bridge - HKG
The Bridge – HKG

We left the lounge briefly to do some quick shopping and returned to The Bridge. This time we turned to the right hand side of the lounge which was much more crowded than the other side but not terrible. The bar on this side is staffed and you have similar food options.

HKG Boarding
HKG Boarding

We headed to the gate about 30 minutes before departure time and our 777-200 began boarding about 5 minutes later. The flight was not very full in economy or business so we only used one jetway. We were seated in 15H & 15K and pre-departure service began right away. We were brought options of champagne, orange juice, and coconut juice. I went classic and stuck with champagne. Seats are somewhat of a hybrid between a recliner and angle lie-flat. The seats were quite comfortable for a short-haul flight. They are certainly more comfortable than most U.S. domestic first class seats.

Regional Business Class "Hybird" Angle Lie-Flats
Regional Business Class “Hybird” Angle Lie-Flats

There were only 6 people in business class so we received quite a bit of attention from the flight attendants. Menus were brought before takeoff and our selections made as soon we hit 10,000 feet. Due to the short flight, meals were served right away but without feeling rushed. Our lunch consisted of fresh fruit, roastfchicken served over root vegetables, polenta, and a chocolate mousse cake. The meal was excellent (for airline food) and the service was attentive.

Lunch Presentation
Lunch Presentation

As we completed our meals, our trays were prompty cleared although I had plenty of time to enjoy a second glass of champagne before final approach. We arrived at Taipei Taoyuan right on schedule and said goodbye to the friendly crew. Our flight was continuing on to Fukuoka but everyone had to deplane for transit or to pass through customs. Customs was initially slow until additional lanes were opened and were were on our way. We were head to the Taiwan HSR but I didn’t particularly enjoy the long bus ride to the rail station. Transit time to the center of Taipei including bus transfers was about an hour.

Return: TPE to HKG

With a 7:00 AM departure, we had to wake up quite early for our departure. Early morning departures are definitely not my favorite. We opted for a taxi to the airport and after using the hotel staff to translate for our taxi driver, we were on our way. This early in the morning, we were quick to the airport, taking only 20 minutes. We headed straight to the Cathay Pacific lounge which was hidden down a passageway but there was plenty of signage. There was a bit of construction going on nearby. This time were given paper lounge passes instead of just showing our boarding passes on our phones. Although I’m sure either would be acceptable.

There is no comparison to the lounge in Taipei to the lounges at HKG. Still, the lounge was tidy and uncrowded. The food selection was mediocre with a small selection of pastries and dumplings. The washrooms were a bit small but clean.

Cathay Pacific Lounge - TPE
Cathay Pacific Lounge – TPE

We headed to the boarding gate about 30 minutes before departure time but boarding had already started. Economy was pretty full but business class was only about half full. We boarded through 2 jetways this time and took our seats on the opposite side of the plane in 14A & 14C. This time we were on a 777-300 which featured a landing gear camera which was a cool entertainment feature.

Front View of Regional Business Class Seats
Front View of Regional Business Class Seats

Pre-departure beverages were offered immediately although no coconut juice this time. I skipped the champagne and stuck with orange juice. 7:00 AM is a bit early for me for champagne. Menus were handed out although there was only one option for breakfast. Once we were airborne, breakfast was served which consisted of fruit, miniature omelettes, sausage, potatoes, and a croissant. It was basic but good for airline food. I paired it with a Hong Kong milk tea which was quite good. Turns out it was powdered Lipton tea served with hot milk and the sweet flight attendant snuck me a few packets of tea to take with me!

Breakfast Presentation
Breakfast Presentation

Serving carts were used on this flight but they weren’t used on our outbound flight. Presentation is always nice when the cart isn’t used but it really doesn’t matter to me. Trays and cups were collected more promptly on this landing so I didn’t get to finish my second cup of tea. We landed right on time into Hong Kong and arrived directly at the jetway. We were connecting onto Delta back to the U.S. in a couple of hours so we had to clear customs and pick up our checked bags. This left us unable to return to The Bridge or any of the other post-security lounges. We did receive passes to The Arrival lounge which was near the ticketing counters, pre-security so after re-checking our bags onto Delta, we headed to The Arrival. When we walked in, I couldn’t quite believe how small the lounge was! There wasn’t even a washroom in the lounge, just a few desks, a self-serve bar, and some snacks. There are showers available but no toilets so you must leave the lounge.

While you can’t expect to receive multi-course meals on short haul flights with Cathay Pacific,you can expect to receive attentive service, quality meals, and a comfortable seat. It was hard to adjust to flying Delta back to the U.S. after such a pleasant trip with Cathay Pacific around the region. I was quite pleased with the value of my redemption with BA Avios!

Annual Priority Pass Lounge Membership for $69 on Groupon

I was browsing Groupon earlier and accidentally came across this special for a Priority Pass Membership.

There are two deals, an annual membership with one free lounge visit for $69 or an annual membership with two lounge visits for $99. Any additional lounge visits are $27 and are charged to your credit card on file.

Shop on Groupon through one of the airline shopping portals to earn a few miles on your purchase.Currently the Alaska MileagePlan portal and the AAdvantage eshopping portal are offering 3 miles per dollar spent on Groupon.

Priority Pass Groupon

Lounge Review: The Club at ATL

 

The Club at ATL Entrance

On my trip to San Francisco earlier this week, I found myself with a somewhat long layover in Atlanta and decided to check out The Club at ATL in the International Terminal. The Club at ATL is not affiliated with a particular airline and touts themselves as a value-conscious, yet attractive and modern airport lounge. While they do have arrangements with a few international airlines such as Lufthansa, most visitors are purchasing day passes or have access through the Priority Pass program.

I arrived on my redeye flight from the West coast around 6:30 AM and headed directly over to the International Terminal where many of the lounges are located on the Mezzanine level. I checked in with the front desk and purchase a day pass for $35. For an airport lounge day pass, it’s a very competitive price.

 

The Club at ATL Mezzanine

Mezzanine Level of the International Terminal

There are 2 seating areas with the larger main room and which includes the bar and a secondary seating lounge with a bit more privacy. In the main seating area, there is a coffee and tea bar along with the food buffet. It was the early morning so I found the food selection to be quite limited. There was only a few pastries and some whole fruit. If you are looking for the espresso, you will find it hidden in the secondary seating area. While it was too early to enjoy a cocktail, it was nice to know there’s plenty of options at the bar. I spent just under 3 hours in the lounge and there were only 2 other guests the whole time. It wasn’t exactly peak hours though.

 

The Club at ATL Seating

Main Seating Area

The Club at ATL Espresso

Espresso anyone?

The Club at ATL Sunrise

Nice Sunrise over the “Fly Delta Jets” Billboard

I had a very long day of travel ahead of me and since I  has just gotten off the redeye, freshening up seemed like a great idea. The front desk staff must let you into the shower facilities as they are kept locked. By airport standards, they are quite clean. I enjoyed a warm shower and changed into fresh clothes. I had my own toiletries with me so I didn’t need to request any toiletries but they don’t stock many items in the bathrooms. There were however, plenty of towels to be had.

The Club at ATL Washroom

Just Like a Spa?

The Club at ATL Shower

Plenty of Towels

Overall, I thought The Club at ATL was a nice lounge a great alternative to the traditional carrier lounges. I did find the service to be a bit dull and I had to head to the front desk for just about everything. I also would like to have seen a better food selection in the morning as there was not a lot of substance. I’ve heard they have better food later in the day. But in the end, for $35, it was a great way to pass the time and board my next Delta flight feeling very refreshed.

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