Cathay Pacific unveils The Deck — but where is jiăbăn?

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The much awaited refurbishment of the former Dragonair lounge near gate 16 at its Hong Kong International Airport hub opens next month, and Cathay Pacific has released some teaser pictures of The Deck, as it’s calling the refreshed space. The Deck will join the Bridge, Cabin, Pier, Wing and Arrivals lounges in HKG, although The Cabin will close on 30 April after The Deck opens.

The decor, apparently, is supposed to be “contemporary living room environment of understated luxury”, although I doubt many people have a signature noodle bar in their living rooms. (This is, perhaps, our loss, and something to raise with our real estate agents.)

The noodle bar is great, but is it to all tastes? Image: Cathay Pacific

The feel of The Deck from the images is a combination of the wipe-clean efficiency of The Bridge (the business class lounge at the apex of the Y-shaped terminal) in the more external sections of the lounge, plus the residential feel of Cathay’s international business and first class lounge concept in the more interior areas.

There’s a distinct lack of anyone trying to get any work done (or any features for it) in this business class lounge. Image: Cathay Pacific

There is also, apparently, a quiet zone with Solo chairs — I’m a big fan of these low green sofa-chairs, which independently hit the #LoungeHolyGrail buttons with their work surfaces and power sockets — plus showers.

I love the external wraparound verandah, which remains, but I can’t help feel that it looks a little bit too much office cafeteria and not enough “contemporary living room” or “understated luxury”.

It’s always struck me as odd that passengers can just lean over the edge of this lounge, alcoholic beverage in hand. Image: Cathay Pacific

It’s a bit of a shame that I cannot see a single power socket anywhere in the PR snaps, although I imagine that some may be contained within the rather impractical lamp-tables in the “residential” area.

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But in a wider context, it’s notable that The Deck means that there is no longer a Chinese-market specific Cathay lounge in Hong Kong, which was the role the old Dragonair lounge played. Part of the reason for Cathay’s dual brand strategy with Cathay Pacific and Dragon is that its primary market of longhaul non-Chinese connecting traffic wants markedly different things than those Chinese-market passengers connecting into or out of the mainland. That’s why Cathay Dragon exists, and it’s why I’m surprised not to see a Chinese-market product offering.

Announcing the lounge, Cathay Pacific Chief Customer and Commercial Officer Paul Loo said only, “The Deck builds on the formula that has made our other new lounges around the world so popular with our customers. Investing in experiences that our customers value and consider important is at the heart of our product and service philosophy, and helps us differentiate ourselves from any other airline.”

Is Cathay missing out on what looks likely to be the most lucrative market of international travellers? There’s certainly a tension between its Hong Kong status in the two decades since the handover and its desire to capture more of that market.

The example I always use of this tension is Cathay’s signature dan dan noodles, called dandanmian in their native Sichuan province. Cathay Pacific’s version is a mild dish featuring peanut butter as the main flavour. My adventurous but Western palate is something of a fan, especially on a cold day at one of Hong Kong’s outstation lounges. But the Sichuan version is incredible: the noodles come instead with a spicy oil-based sauce featuring minced pork and preserved vegetables. Clearly, a Chinese passenger expecting dandanmian and receiving peanut butter soup will not have their expectations met.

These Dan Dan Noodles are not Sichuan dandanmian. Image: Cathay Pacific

At The Deck, Cathay’s mention of food options is limited to saying that “passengers who yearn for a taste of Hong Kong can choose from a selection of local classics, including wonton noodles in a hearty broth, fish ball noodles and a variety of dim sum and buns. Ready-to-order Asian delights, such as dan dan noodles and Japanese-style vegetarian noodles, are also available.”

No matter how many “Asian delights” there may be, the lack of an equivalent jiăbăn — The Deck in Mandarin — feels like an omission.

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3 Comments

  1. Peter

    Hum… “no picture of power plug in PR photo”… “distinctively lack of people working”… is it just me that I think you have a weird sense of opinion? Why on earth will a PR photo of the overall lounge environment want to show you that they have power plug? Of course there are bloody power plugs all over the lounge, if you ever been to any of the CX lounge, you will find it on literally every seat @.@… as for distinctively lack of people working? What is that got to do with the PR photo which is really supposed to show the overall look and feel of the lounge. Who cares if there are people working? Finally, my last straw from this post is the Dan Dan Mien. You do realize there are different regions in China and different version of this dish right? The Sichuan version has spicy oil, but the Taiwanese and Hong Kong version has sesame or penult paste replacing the spicy oil. So what you call “not” authentic is simply the dish doesn’t match your own work of Sichuan cuisine, but considering that Cathay Pacific is a Hong Kong airline (not a Sichuan Airline), I consider the Dan Dan Mien is quite authentic… maybe if you want authentic Sichuan Dan Dan Mien, maybe you should fly Sichuan Airlines (but for for reason, I doubted they will serve that in their lounge or onboard their plane). Anyway, it really annoys me when you have writer like you who are writing things completely out of context. Not cool at all! Totally disappointed at the runwaygirlnetwork today.

  2. Josh

    I think readers and loyal followers (like myself) want non-subjective review, not mediocre and opinionated so-called analysis. Unless you’re John Walton

  3. Atul Jain

    Its a well written article no doubt. But alas it has every ingredient of being a John Walton article in terms of subtle leg pulling. That’s the way I look at it. The author is simply pulling Cathay’s leg in a lighthearted manner.
    That’s what breaks the monotony in John Walton’s articles (in my opinion ) !