I arrived at Beijing Capital Airport Terminal 3 around 7am. The pre-security area is massive, with sweeping high ceilings and beautiful architecture. It feels like a larger, somewhat more modern version of the entrance to Hong Kong Airport.
The American Airlines check-in desks were getting ready to open and I was first in the premium queue. About 10 minutes later the desks were opened, I received my boarding pass for the flight from PEK to ORD and was presented with an invitation to the Cathay Pacific lounge.
En route to the departure gates, there is an initial automated turn style where all passengers scan their boarding passes to gain access. Beyond this checkpoint is a train that ferries passengers between different areas of the terminal. I took the train to the E gates of T3.
After a long and unnecessarily complicated journey through immigration and security (there is no fast track lane, so be prepared to wait), I made my way to gate E20, where the lounge is located.
The lounge was perched on the second floor of the open-air terminal. Luckily, it was directly above the gate where my AA flight to ORD would board, so I had a view of the preparations below.
The lounge offered plenty of well-spaced seating areas with partitions, some work desks, and communal tables. When I arrived around 8am, only a couple of passengers were there. By 9am, many more had filtered in, but there were still plenty of empty seating areas.
The decor was nice, though nothing revolutionary. I appreciated how well spaced out the seating areas were. Plenty of space to maneuver carry-ons and have some distance from other seats. One thing to note when choosing where to sit: many of the armchair seating areas lacked access to power outlets, so you may want to park yourself at one of the workstation desks to ensure you can charge up.
There was a magazine rack with a variety of periodicals.
This Cathay Pacific lounge had two food and drink stations. The primary one offered a selection of hot dishes, pastries, cereal, and assorted snacks. As in other CX lounges, there was also a noodle bar, but it was closed during my early morning visit.
There was a second mini refreshment area on the opposite side of the lounge that offered drinks and a much more limited selection of packaged snacks.
I had some pastries and peanuts, none of which tasted very good.
There were staff circling throughout the lounge regularly to clear used plates.
There was no obvious Cathay-specific wifi access point and the staff member who checked me in didn’t mention one (though to be fair, I didn’t ask). The airport has free wifi, but it requires a phone number to get online, so I instead logged in to a Boingo hotspot (a free perk of the Amex Platinum card) that was nearby. It was painfully slow and hampered by the Great Firewall of China, as with most other connections in the country.
I chose a comfy felt-lined seat with a view of the gate area below and caught up on some work.
There were festive Christmas decorations up around the lounge. One thing I found cute was that the wreaths were consistently hung upside-down (likely by a non-English speaker). I would likely have done the same thing hanging a sign with Mandarin text! :)
The restroom in the lounge was unpleasant, and didn’t fit with Cathay’s typical quality or upkeep. During a visit to the lounge earlier this year, the restroom was completely out of order, forcing patrons to use the main terminal restrooms. I guess having a working restroom is at least an improvement over none at all.
After a little over an hour in the lounge, I noticed that the staff at the gate were preparing to board the flight. I took the stairs down to the main level and queued up to get on the plane.
While nowhere near Cathay’s flagship lounges in terms of food, ambiance, or decor, it offers a welcome respite from the terminal below. There are nice views of the surrounding gates and plenty of light. It's not worth arriving at this lounge earlier than necessary, though it was a quiet and comfortable place to get some work done.