Plaza Premium First Lounge – Hong Kong

Plaza Premium First Lounge – Hong Kong

Plaza Premium First lounge was opened in 2018 at Hong Kong International Airport so is a relatively new addition to the lounge choices in Hong Kong. I received access with Qatar flying in business class but paid access is available at a rate of HK$880 for 3 hours.

Entrance & Layout

The lounge itself is visually impressing. It features curated art by Beijing Poly Art company and has some truly interesting pieces scattered around the lounge that give it an added air of sophistication. When I visited the queue for the regular Plaza Premium lounge was quite literally out the door and around the corrner so it was a nice relief to walk in here and see plenty of space.

Revelation Sculpture by Fan Xiaoyan
The lounge itself is tastfully furnished and is similar to the regular lounge in that it features a central bar with seating to the left then the dining area at the back with an open kitchen but that’s where the similarities end.

It’s quiet!
It’s nice to be in a lounge where the staff are welcoming and you don’t have to hunt for a place to sit. This was the case here, with plenty of seating, both lounge chairs and tables to work at with plenty of power points. At the back of the lounge there are some recliner chairs to get some rest but the area isn’t really darkly lit or would be much quieter than the main part of the lounge if busy

The Bar

The AeroBar has the biggest whisky collection in the airport apparently and it did look like a lot of booze! I’m a gin tonc drinker so was delighted to see Moneky 47 as a choice but unfortunately this is a paid option, the one downside I found in the lounge. I can see where they are coming from that they want to offer more premium spirits than a regular first class lounge but if you’re paying for it the admittance isn’t cheap and charging extra for some drinks would grate.

They have TWG tea and Lavazza coffee and a nice selection of mini cakes at the bar.

Food – Primo

The lounge has an a la carte restaurant called Primo at the back. I was warmly welcome when I entered and shown a table then presented with the menus. I was asked what I would like to drink and was brought a drink from the main bar. Overall I found the menu pretty well thought out for a lounge with breakfast options all day, so if you’re jet lagged and fancy eggs benedict this is the place!

I had the hummus to start which was served with warm bread and delicious followed by the Beyond Meat Burger. I have to admit to being a beyond meat virgin but I was blown away by how much it tasted like beef. In terms of how it was presented they served it with sweet potato fries which were OK, not so many and a bit too fatty with the burger coming with pineapple and cheese and a warm bun, very nicely done!

Other Facilties

They also offer a ten minute head and shoulder massage complimentary which I didn’t take advantage of and have shower facilties.

Overall this is a good addition to the airport and if you’re trying to decide when flying Qatar whether to use your invitation here or visit a OneWorld lounge I would say definitely here. Comparing Plaza First to Cathay or Qantas business lounges in Hong Kong it’s quieter by far with table service and a decent menu to suit most tastes. If you prefer self service though then it will need to be another lounge as the only food is table service.


Shenzhen Visa on Arrival

Shenzhen Visa on Arrival

If you’re living in Hong Kong or simply a tourist and want to visit Shenzhen the closest Chinese city directly across the border from Hong Kong, then you can get a 5 day Shenzhen only visa at the border. I did this to be able to take a flight out of Shenzhen to Europe which was particularly good value and fitted in with my travel plans.

Note: This is for Shenzhen only and you aren’t allowed to travel anywhere else. It also can’t be extended or converted. The 5 days starts from midnight after the arrival day.

Eligible Countries: Most European and developed countries are eligible for the visa on arrival including US, UK, Canada, French, Australia, Germany, Korea, New Zealand, Poland, Romania, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

The following countries are currently ineligible: Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Cameroon, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Turkey, Uganda, and Yemen

This list is subject to frequent updates so check with the Chinese embassy before travel.

Available at: Luohu (Lo Wu) Port, Shenzhen Airport, Huanggang Port, Shekou Port and Fuyong Port.

Exiting Hong Kong at Lo Wu

First take an MTR or other public transport to the Lo Wu station and border crossing. Exiting Hong Kong is much like when you exit through the airport; use your ID card or visit a manned immigration point to exit HK and then you will be in no man’s land before Chinese immigration. Interestingly there are a few shops in the no man’s land between HK and China so not sure what country they are actually trading in!

Exiting Hong Kong at Shenzhen

Note: When I was waiting (for a long time) I saw two people being sent back to HK immigration which is quite a walk for an exit piece of paper. I have a HK ID Card and didn’t get asked for this so I am presuming it’s required if you are a visitor and possibly used the automatic machines which don’t give you a receipt. Best plan is to use a regular immigration officer if you don’t have an ID Card

After walking through no man’s land you’ll arrive at some big signs:

Straight Ahead – Chinese national immigration

Basement – Foreigners immigration

1st Floor – Apply for VOA

Getting the VOA

If it’s busy which it probably will be, then I advise you to ignore the instructions to fill in the form and take your photo first as these only take a few minutes and take a numbered ticket from the machine to the left of the door first.

After you’ve done that, grab one of the application forms which is pretty simple and then have your photo taken at one of the free digital machines next to the application forms. Keep the receipt the machine will give you.

Next: WAIT then wait some more then probably some more

Don’t plan on this taking any less than two to three hours, if it does take less you are lucky. When I was there there were maybe 40 people waiting and only one officer actually processing visa applications. There were several immigration staff walking around or occasionally taking money, so make of that efficiency what you will.

Once the number is called hand over your application form, passport and the photo receipt. I was only asked where I was going, no proof was required of exit plans or hotel stay.

Once the application has been accepted you wait for your number to be called for payment and then it’s only about 10-15 minutes wait for your passport to have the visa stuck in.

Money – They used to only take cash but now take credit cards for the visa, so you don’t need to get RMB just to cross the border.

Entering China

Once you have the visa go back down two floors to the basement and proceed through Chinese immigration. There’s arrival/departure forms on the left as you come down.

Tip: They may encourage you to register your fingerprints on machines to the left before queuing up for immigration. Don’t bother. They are full fingerprint scanners of every finger and they are horrible at recognizing your prints. I had to press so hard I thought the glass would break. Once you get to a person they will still scan some of your fingers anyway despite registering them (well done bureaucracy) and the machines are newer i.e more reliable.

Once you are passed immigration you’re almost in China! Walk through customs then after a few meters more you’ll see the signs for the metro. Be prepared to have your bags X-rayed before entering the metro and for an enormous amount of security cameras and personnel.

Cost of Visa: The cost is the same as a regular visa in most cases i.e RMB 168 but for some countries that charge Chinese more i.e the UK the cost is RMB 304. In any case credit cards are accepted now.

Hong Kong Airlines Economy Seating on 33T (Ex-Emirates Aircraft)

Hong Kong Airlines Economy Seating on 33T (Ex-Emirates Aircraft)

Hong Kong Airlines has a variety of aircraft including what they refer to as the 33T in the booking engine which is an ex-Emirates aircraft. The airframe itself is pretty old but the interior seating and entertainment systems is new. 

Firstly the good. The seats are clean and relatively new and the entertainment system is one of the best we’ve seen on an aircraft. It’s responsive, even maybe too responsive and the screen is clear, sharp and bright. Hong Kong Airlines doesn’t update their entertainment as often as they used to (budget cuts?) but there’s a good selection of movies and TV and the screen is a pleasure to watch. Legroom is also pretty good, I’m 6’2″ and as you can see from the photos I still had knee space to spare. 

Unfortunately this is where the good stuff ends. The seats are probably some of the most uncomfortable we’ve ever sat on, they’re as hard as a rock. Even on a short flight to Bangkok of two hours they had us squirming in our seats. They are just about bearable for a short flight but I wouldn’t want to be in one of these to Tokyo for example at 4-5 hours. The padding is either minimal or old through use and time. Also of note is that the overhead bins are a smaller and older variety on this aircraft so if it’s busy it could be an issue with space but it is generally unlikely on an A330. 

Finally if you want an exit row plus window be aware that 31H and K have only a partial window view with the seat aligned somewhat in the middle of the window. 

Hong Kong Express – HKG – HND

Hong Kong Express – HKG – HND

Despite having travelled through Hong Kong and being an ultra-frequent passenger on Hong Kong Airlines this was my first time taking their sister airline and LCC, Hong Kong Express


Boarding was well managed and priority (paid for extra) was respected and controlled. Despite their being two queues ground staff held back the regular queue and processed the priority queue first which makes sense otherwise with a single door aircraft it wouldn’t be priority by the time the two queues mixed down to the plane door!


The plane itself was new and clean, I believe the seating is the Recaro slim line seat common on LCCs around the world. It’s not a seat you want to spend a long time in but is fine for a short hop LCC flight. On this flight though I had pre-booked probably the best seat on the plane which is 12A (12F is equally as good). What makes it so good is the unlimited legroom behind the exit but also there is no one to recline into you. You also have the benefit of a window but easy exit for toilet etc. Have a look at the photos for the deluxe legroom!

In terms of the other seating and what to look out for, row 11 has two seats only in the exit row, these are decent as well with good legroom but are a bit isolated. Watch out for 12B,C and 12 D,E which may look like exit rows but are normal seats. Only 12A and F are exit. At the front there’s a bulkhead on both sides of the aircraft so no bashing of legs etc. if you’re seated in 1A-C as on some LCCs that have removed the wall.


The service was average. I don’t have very high standards for LCCs in general and nor should most if you’re paying a good fare for your ticket. However there’s a couple of glaring issues compared to even other LCCs or HK airlines:

  1. They won’t allow any outside food or drinks. Stinky take aways I understand but they won’t allow even outside bottled water and will tell you not to consume it if they see you have it. Sorry but this isn’t on. Yes you want to sell your onboard products but have some common sense! What’s worse is a charge of HK$10 for a cup of water from the airplane tank. Frankly unacceptable.
  2. There were zero announcements from the flight deck at top of descent in fact nothing since take off. So despite flying around in the middle of the night as well as being delayed, with no map and having no idea what’s going on an announcement from the captain might have been a good idea, no? I had to flag down a passing member of crew and ask when we were landing and what the delay was.
  3. They still don’t allow mobile phone use during take-off and landing. As I understand it this is because they haven’t applied to Hong Kong CAD for permission and certification. Other airlines in Hong Kong did this years ago so come on!
  4. The food bore no relation to the menu photos, see my example. Taste, size and presentation were all poor. I feel the cost is being squeezed too much to maximize profit. I wouldn’t order anything again and would smuggle on a sandwich to eat when the lights are down. If you’re going to charge for food and enforce no outside contraband prison style then at least make it decent!


In summary it’s a decent option if they fly where you want to go and check in, boarding and the plane itself were good and I got what I expected when I paid for the priority service. Where they fell down was on the quality of product and service levels. Often I complain about poor crew but in this case, they were good in the cabin but I felt they are let down by UO quality and procedures. They are issues that are fixable if the motivation is there.

Intercontinental Hong Kong Lobby Lounge

Intercontinental Hong Kong Lobby Lounge

You’ve checked into your hotel, spent an enjoyable day sightseeing and shopping around Hong Kong and simply need a place to rest your tired feet with a cold drink; here’s a hidden gem you wouldn’t necessarily think about. The Intercontinental Hong Kong Lobby Lounge.

When you think of hotel bars you generally assume a non descript bar tucked into the corner of the lobby and in a sense yes this is a lobby bar but what makes this a spectacular choice at the end of your long Hong Kong day is the view; floor to ceiling panoramic views of Victoria Harbour all lit up at night. It’s truly stunning.

They’ve got some great cocktails and as you will no doubt assume they aren’t cheap but then think of it like you’re getting the entertainment of the view or the symphony of lights show thrown in for free nightly at 8pm! There’s also live music from famous Hong Kong jazz musicians such as Eugene Pao.

If you prefer an afternoon visit then don’t miss the afternoon tea, one of the best in Hong Kong.

BA Closing Hong Kong Base

BA Closing Hong Kong Base

In quite a disgusting way to treat people British Airways has announce plans to close their Hong Kong base and lose the experience and language skills of 85 local crew. It’s the latest short sighted move from a company with management solely fixated on cutting costs no matter what effect it has on their service levels or people. Coming hot on the heels of their hacking and loss of credit card information in the last month, where I personally was affected and had to cancel my card you would think they would have a PR office with more sense. Maybe they are hoping no one notices.

No matter what commercial reasons you decide to take for your business there are ways you do things and the letter to the left sent to crew is NOT how you treat people. Stripping rosters with no notice is a robotic, weak and mean-spirited way to behave. If there was ever a way to lose your Hong Kong market share even further to Cathay Pacific and manage to antagonize your customer base at the same time then this is it.