Thursday, March 27, 2008
After breakfast in the lounge we checked out (removing the 8RMB opt-out charitable donation, as I’ve noted elsewhere I take my charity seriously and make gifts on my own, and don’t participate in these sorts of arrangements; separately my understanding of the empirical research is that the corporate giving level remains the same independent of guest participation, so the contribution really amounts to a contribution to the company rather than providing incremental dollars to a charity) and left for the airport around 8:30am. Traffic was bad getting out of the city, but clear afterwards, and we pulled up at Beijing’s new Terminal 3 at about 9:30am. Cab was 103RMB.
Beijing’s new terminal is certainly impressive. It’s an architectural marvel, if a little bit sterile, and it’s opening was certainly smoother than Heathrow’s new terminal 5. And of course Beijing T3 is larger than all 5 Heathrow terminals combined.
We walked inside, found check-in pier E for Lufthansa and walked up to the First Class line. There were plenty of staff around the airport directing people and providing general assistance, as well as several announcements looping in English, to help people figure out their way around this behemoth of a terminal. Most of the airlines had only moved in the day before, so for the vast majority of people there it was their first time in the terminal.
Lufthansa staff checked our bags to Washington-Dulles, issued our boarding passes, and gave us lounge passes for the Air China first class lounge.
Stapled to the back of the passes was a map with quite clear instructions on what we needed to do – proceed forward into the terminal, down the escalator, to the train which the sign says comes every three minutes and drops you off at the E gates. Then through passport control followed by security, and you’re airside. Tons of duty free shopping and the lounges.
The Air China First Class lounge is large, like everything in this terminal. It’s airy. But it’s offerings really aren’t impressive. You’re greeted as you enter, hand over your passes, and there’s not much staff attention after that (except in the restroom). There are some (very) light refreshments. There’s wired internet only, though you can sort of pick up an unsecure wireless signal from the Cathay Pacific lounge.
There’s a buffet that looks as though it would be quite nice, but it doesn’t get set up until 11am – just a tad too late considering our 11:25am departure.
What they do have, though, is a bathroom attendant to get towels for you after you’ve used the sink.. and a small wall mounted LCD TV in the restroom as well.
I caught a glimpse of the ‘VIP rooms’ in the lounge, which I suppose are for high government officials not flying private, but it seems odd to have a first class lounge where first class passengers are not amongst the VIPs. (Yes, I know, there’s ‘special services’ all over the place that pay extra attention to VIP passengers above and beyond what first class folks receive, but this is an obvious walled-off do not enter zone inside the F lounge. Strange to me, anyway.)