During his stay at Hong Kong Airport, Tim McCready compares the facilities and service in three lounges open to Air New Zealand passengers.

When I checked in for my Air New Zealand Business Premier flight from Hong Kong to Auckland, I was informed that I had access to three fairs: United Airlines, Thai Airways and Cathay Pacific.

Challenge accepted.

United Airlines Club Lounge

My first visit was at United Airlines. At first, I thought the space was quite small but I soon realized that the walls separated the living room into several areas. This layout offers a good sense of privacy to relax before a flight and a very calm feeling in the living room.

From one side of the living room, large windows provide breathtaking views of the tarmac and planes coming and going. On the other side, the mezzanine lounge overlooks the lobby and the departure gates. As the world's 8th busiest airport for passenger traffic, there is no shortage of activity to watch, to spend the time before a flight.

There were a lot of seats of all kinds scattered around, and although it was a busy time at the airport, I had no trouble finding a place. The living room also had a small shower room and a business center.

The choice of food was disappointing, but sufficient for a short stay. The Thai green curry that I tried was delicious; the cauliflower soup left a lot to be desired.

Royal Airways Or Airways Airways Thai Airways

Thai Airways is just around the corner from United. It also benefits from its position: great views of the planes and the ability to watch people downstairs in the departures hall. Compared to United, this salon felt a lot less private. There is an area reserved for first class travelers, but the rest of the show is wide open. The eclectic colors of the chairs – bright green, orange, blue and yellow – were awful, but the chairs were very comfortable.

Thai Airways Royal Orchid Lounge at Hong Kong Airport. Photo / Tim McCready Thai Airways Royal Orchid Lounge at Hong Kong Airport. Photo / Tim McCready

Although the selection of dishes was wider than that provided by United, it remained fairly standard. There was a reasonable choice of drinks to help you. The bathroom had only one shower (which was occupied during my visit). A large business center was available, as well as a few massage chairs. I was tempted to try but I was also aware of my need to install another living room in …

Cathay Pacific: the bridge

Cathay Pacific is a member of the Oneworld Alliance and not the Star Alliance of Air New Zealand. However, the alliance between Air New Zealand and Cathay allows Airpoint Elite and Gold passengers and business class to access its lounges on some flights. Cathay has several lounges at Hong Kong Airport (The Deck, The Wing, The Pier and The Bridge). I visited The Bridge, located closest to where Air New Zealand flights usually leave.

The bridge is a few minutes walk from the United and Thai lounges, but when I got off the escalators in the lounge check-in area, I immediately knew that I had kept the best for the end. The living room is huge and is divided into a north and south wing.

Each contains multiple areas, which provides a great sense of intimacy and makes you feel at home in one of the best hotel lobbies.

The floor-to-ceiling windows cover the entire length of the living room, offering unobstructed views of the tarmac. The natural colors inside the living room – the wooden floors with oak and brass accents – give a sensation of warmth that is often lacking in airports, while custom chairs, shelves, works of art and the sculptures give the living room a very sophisticated atmosphere.

The food was spectacular. The North Wing houses The Bakery, which offers freshly baked bread and pizzas, a rich buffet of Western and Asian dishes, and a fresh salad bar. The Long Bar overlooks the tarmac and offers a long list of wines and tapas.

Bartenders are on hand to mix a drink from the cocktail list – the espresso martini is a treat.

The South Wing Coffee Loft offers muffins, cookies and pastries, as well as barista-made coffee. This wing also contains the Bistro – a second dining room with buffet – as well as a fully equipped business center and shower.

There are nine shower rooms available, and despite the fact that the living room is busy, I did not have to wait to use one. They are equipped with everything you need to cool off before a long-haul flight. They are cleaned and replenished after each use.

The verdict:

This one is easy. Thai Airways and United Airlines offer an adequate airport lounge, though relatively standard, but if you have access to the Cathay Pacific Lounge, take advantage. It is truly world class and presents the best of what an airport lounge can provide. Make sure you leave enough time to explore everything that is on offer.