Back in Guangzhou, I instinctively knew where to go, having spent so much time in the airport while experiencing a delay. Thus it was a short walk to the International security check area since I already had my boarding pass issued from Shanghai.
There was a huge bunch of Chinese tourists since it seems to be the school break and many teenagers seems to be headed to Los Angeles as well. In addition, a huge bunch of tour group was being briefed before they head to immigration. I was quick enough to bypass this huge group to a quick security check before waiting in line for immigration and passport check. While it is unusual for passport check on departure in North America, it is common in Asia.
Past immigration, the international terminal really feels different with rows of high-end duty free stores.
Past the shopping, the terminal opens out into a walkway with the Premium Lounge that caters to airlines other than China Southern and its Sky Team partners. That means most of the Star Alliance and oneworld airlines uses this lounge.
At the end of the walkway, a huge poster marks the entrance of the China Southern First & Business Class lounge. There is a gate agent outside checking the boarding passes. Past the first agent, there is a patio of sorts before a glass door welcomes guests to another reception desk. The staff at the desk check if one is a Sky Team elite member or travelling in First & Business as guests are sent to the left or the right. First & Business Class passengers are directed to the left side of the lounge.
The ground floor of the First & Business Class lounge is dedicated for dining with a complete buffet table and ample seats.
Though my first priority is to get a shower, hence I head upstairs where the showers are located at. The lack of elevators meant I had to carry my luggage up the stairs, though they did have a luggage storage room that was guarded by a staff member beside the entrance foyer.
I was able to snag one of the limited number of shower rooms and while I had some low expectations based on my past experience with shower rooms in Chinese airlines’ lounges, the one in Guangzhou was very good. The shower room was spacious and even more so than some hotel bathrooms. There is a large wardrobe by the wall that can support my hand carry luggage. Ample amenities are also provided including hair dryers, toothbrush, combs and they even placed fragrance sticks inside!
A walk-in shower cubicle and toilet occupy the other part of the room. The shower area is even decked out in mosaic tiles, giving it some designer feel, so this was a nice space for a shower, especially considering how warm the whole lounge feels in Summer afternoons. For a fact, I actually sweated after the shower that kind of negated the shower.
Fortunately the weather cooled after I finished my shower as the sun slowly sets. This was a nice time to relax after the shower by one of the chaise lounges facing the tarmac. Surprisingly there was very little people using them. Aside from these chaise lounges, there are 3 day rooms that was unfortunately occupied during my visit.
As the sun sets, the dining area downstairs actually got cooler so I headed downstairs for my dinner. But because it was also dinner time, it is common for staff to direct guests to dine with those dining alone. As I was travelling alone, I had a table-mate halfway during my meal.
The buffet table during dinner time was quite a spread and consists of fried spaghetti with black pepper and onions, fried rice in Thai style, steamed meat ball with radish, fried egg with chopped green onion, fried Potato with vanilla, fried breaded chicken fillet, baked basa fillet with citronella and lemon, stir-fried broccoli with garlic, beancurd with pickled cabbage and mashed chicken and corn soup.
There was also a noodle station that made wontons, dumplings, egg noodles and beef noodles in soup with various condiments. Wines and beers are also available in the lounge though since I did not drink either, I can’t say how good they were.
Finally there are fridges containing desserts like custard cream cake pudding and jelly, sponge cake with raisins, black forest cake, fruit and salad bowls. While there are coffee machines, I was more attracted to the packets of Sumiyaki instant coffee packs which makes for some tasty coffee by just adding hot water. Another feature I liked was the Ferrero Rocher chocolates they supply in the lounge in addition to some crackers and chocolates.
For some reason the staff in this lounge is really afraid of passengers taking photos. First the reason they gave was that it intrudes on other passengers’ privacy. Then they said it was just prohibited (when I just started taking photos of items on my tables which meant no passengers in the picture), though there were no signs stating so. Then finally, a male staff member approached me and asked what was my purpose for taking photos. Apparently he tried to ensure I had no complaints whatsoever and wanted me to provide any feedback to him for improvement.
As it got noisy in the ground floor due to the dinner service, I headed back upstairs which was still quite warm. It was then that I noticed a small air conditioned room that I wanted to enter but I was stopped as it seems to be reserved for First Class passengers or VIP only. Beside the room there was a tea ceremony area that had regular hours where a staff member would display the art of brewing Chinese tea. Though this area was unoccupied at night.
There is also a small work station area at the corner on the second floor beside the row of chaise lounges, another buffet table setup that was not as complete and a main seating area with a green wall setup. For lounging only, the second floor offers guests far more options and the lounge also stocks up on publications like Wall Street Journal and Financial Times which is impressive considering some of these are rarely available in other lounges inside China.
It feels like this lounge incorporates some great design themes from other lounges and I would say it would be a fantastic lounge if not for the overzealous staff that seems to watch your every move. In addition, I really hope China Southern staff would finally solve the temperature issue in this lounge as it is unbearably hot in the summer!
However with all that being said, there is a lot of effort put into this lounge from the range of food and beverages being offered, to having day rooms even for Business Class passengers, and ample shower stalls that are well equipped. There are also thoughtful amenities like a phone charger cabinet on the second floor and small touches to add privacy and comfort. And finally even adding a staff member to oversee luggage and ensure a peace of mind and more space for guests makes it one of the better airline lounges I have visited and I think even gives Cathay Pacific’s lounges a run for its money (probably why they are also continuously upgrading their own lounges). All in all, greater variety for travellers with the competitive premium class market!