Tokyo Narita airport - Cathay lounge
As I left the train station, I had to go through a passport check before being allowed to enter the terminal area. Being a passenger, I did of course carry a passport, but I wondered what local people seeing off a friend or welcoming someone back would do. Are they required to carry ID all the time? When I walked up to the Cathay check-in counters, I noticed that my flight was delayed until 4.15pm. This being still fairly early, lines where short for all classes, and there was nobody in line for First class, so I was processed immediately. I had intentionally chosen the flight stopping in Taipei over the direct flight to get some extra time in First, but now the check-in agent informed me that this particular flight was heavily overbooked and that they were currently looking for volunteers to go on the nonstop to Hong Kong, which leaves about two hours after the Taipei flight and gets in about half an hour later. For just a moment, I played with the thought of accepting the offer, but then I remembered why I had chosen the longer flight in the first place, and told the agent that I’d much prefer to go via Taipei “so I can do some duty free shopping there”. She smiled, said “very well” (probably while at the same time wondering what kind of a freak she was dealing with here), and issued me a boarding pass and lounge invitation.
With the delay, I still had plenty of time before boarding, so I decided to browse through the mall a bit and eventually stumbled upon the entrance to the observation terrace. Unlike its counterpart at Zurich airport, this terrace is accessible free of charge and also without going through a security check, which makes these precautions in Zurich look a bit questionable. Anyway, I decided to give it a try and hung around there for a while. Later, I had to reassure myself via the large letters cut into the grass on the far side of the runway that this was really “NARITA” and not Minneapolis: There were at least 12 Northwest widebodies around, plus some other US planes. Based just on the one or two blue Korean jets and my Cathay 747 taxiing in the distance, one would certainly not think to be in Asia, much less so in Japan. Later, from the lounge, I saw a sole JAL 747 land as the only Japanese plane. Maybe it was just the time of the day, or maybe all the Japanese airlines really just use Haneda. It was a bit strange in any case. Once the heat became unbearable, I returned into the terminal, breezed through security and then had to stand in line quite a bit at immigration. On arrival, all the booths were staffed with men. This time, there were only female agents around. Just a coincidence?
The Cathay lounge would have been perfectly satisfactory with the few nibbles, drinks and mediocre view it offered, if it weren’t a Cathay lounge. But it was, and thus had to face the comparison with the Wing, the Pier, and even the BKK (and in retrospective the TPE) lounge. In that sense, it was certainly a disappointment. It didn’t have a separate F section, the seats were a bit worn already and I was unable to detect a free WLAN with my notebook. There was a signal, but that was the airport wide, expensive WLAN coverage which I decided not to use. Instead, I used a PC workstation which was free (in both senses).