Cathay Pacific’s international airport lounge network is on the rebound, much like the airline itself, and for the first time in five years Cathay will be cutting the ribbon on an all-new lounge.
But unlike its many siblings, this lounge will be at the ferry terminal of Shekou, a port city of Shenzhen where fast ferry services whisk travellers straight to the Skipper at Hong Kong Airport and onto their Cathay Pacific flight.
“This is our first seaside lounge, it’s like an airport lounge in the Shekou pier,” Lavinia Lau, Cathay Pacific’s Chief Customer and Commercial Officer, tells Executive Traveller.
“It will give people a taste of what they are going to have at Hong Kong airport,” she added.
Expected to open in August, Cathay’s Shekou ferry terminal lounge will “be a scaled-down version” of a conventional Cathay Pacific lounge, Lau says, because visitors will have a relatively short ‘dwell time’ between stepping into the lounge and stepping onto their ferry.
With familiar materials, fixtures and furniture, the Shekou pier lounge will look like a compact version of Hong Kong’s The Deck, but with views over the ocean rather than the runway.
“We have our own check-in desks at Shekou where travellers can check in their bags, get their onwards boarding passes and step on a ferry which takes them directly to airside, where they board the flight,” Lau explains – so the new Shekou lounge will become a part of their journey with Cathay “and provide a taste of the Hong Kong lounge experience.”
Cathay’s Shekou pier lounge is part of the airline’s push into the Greater Bay Area – the Chinese ‘megalopolis’ rated as the world’s largest and most populated urban area and the highest concentration of Fortune 500 companies.
“Hong Kong is our home market but we are also stepping up our investment in the Greater Bay Area, a market which is ten times larger than Hong Kong,” Lau relates, “so we really want to extend our home market into the GBA.”
“We have two flights a day into Guangzhou, it’s actually our shortest flight at 30 minutes, and they are basically for connections (to long-range CX flights)… what we are now trying to grow is sea-to-air connections” such as Shekou, which will soon have around 16 direct ferry services a day to Hong Kong airport.
“In many cases we also codeshare on those ferries,” Lau adds.
The GBA is in turn part of Cathay’s broader global recovery, with the airline “on track” to reach 70% of pre-pandemic levels by the end of this year, and be back at 100% by the end of 2024.
All of the Cathay jets stored in Australia’s Northern Territory will be flying once more “by the early part of next year,” Lau tells Executive Traveller.
And the timing couldn’t be more fortuitious, with 2024 also seeing the opening of Hong Kong airport’s three-runway system and the all-new Terminal 2.
While giving Cathay more room to spread its wings – including the prospect of new lounges – Lau admits there’ll also be more competition.
“We had a lot of competition even pre-pandemic,” Lau says, citing that in 2019 Hong Kong airport was “one of the most competitive (airports) in the world” with 120 airlines, “and even pre-pandemic there were a lot more airlines on the waiting list to come in, too.”
“But we are not afraid of competition, it just pushes us to be better and stronger.”