Cathay Pacific (IATA code: CX) is one of the busier tenants of Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport (IATA code: MNL), operating multiple flights each day between here and its main Hong Kong hub. In light of the business CX generates in the Philippines, it’s not difficult to see why they’ve decided to invest in their own lounge at Terminal 3 (T3), rather than contract the services of a commercial lounge as most other carriers have done. Today, with a Business Class ticket in hand and a CX flight ahead, we’ll walk in and experience this exclusive facility for ourselves.
Welcome to the Cathay Pacific Lounge at MNL (NAIA) T3.
Note: The information and pictures presented here are drawn from my own experience of using the Cathay Pacific Lounge on 22 January 2020. Operating hours, admission criteria, lounge facilities/services and other details may change at any time without prior notice.
Lounge name : Cathay Pacific Lounge
Operating airline : Cathay Pacific (CX)
Location : MNL T3, international departures, airside 4th level
Operating hours : 0200-1235, 1400-2130; open daily
Date of visit documented in report : Wednesday, 22 January 2020
Lounge entitlement basis : Business Class ticket for Cathay Pacific flight CX 934 (MNL-HKG). Detailed lounge admittance criteria are available on the airline’s official website.
Related links : Official Site
The Cathay Pacific Lounge is located on Level 4 of MNL T3, one floor above the international departures level. Note that it’s located in the airside zone – i.e., within the restricted area after immigration and security – so you’ll need to check in and complete all pre-departure formalities before you can access the lounge.
After the post-immigration security checkpoint, follow the signs labelled “Airline Lounges” and take the lifts (or stairs) up to the next floor.
Turn right at the sign and keep going until you reach the lounge entrance.
Here’s the door! Now then, let’s talk about what’ll get us inside.
Briefly: First and Business Class passengers travelling on Cathay Pacific (CX) or Cathay Dragon (KA) flights are entitled to use the lounge. Marco Polo Club members (Silver tier or higher only) are also welcome to enter.
There are other ways of gaining access – lounge pass redemption, high-tier status in the Oneworld alliance, etc. – but we won’t go into those details here. For complete information, please refer to the Lounge Admittance page of CX’s official website.
Right, that’s access all sorted. Let’s head inside.
Interiors and Seating
The first part of the lounge – just after reception – is a small business nook fitted with computers (and at least one printer).
A little further inside is the main seating area.
Groups of chairs, couches, and tables in an assortment of styles, most perched on non-contiguous swathes of carpeted flooring.
Charging points are available for those who need to top up their device batteries. For example, if you’re next to a side table, you’ll find power outlets concealed in the drawer.
If you’ve settled into one of the large solo chairs, you’ll find a charging point down by your feet (mounted on the side). Note that the small table in the picture below isn’t fixed to the floor, so you can move it into whatever position suits your needs.
There are views to the outside, though they’re nothing to write home about. The windows are large but set back some distance from the edge of the building. Not the fault of the lounge, mind you: it’s a limitation imposed by T3’s architecture and affects windows on this level that overlook the tarmac (including those in the nearby Skyview Lounge, for example).
Off to one side of the main area – in a separate room but open to the rest of the lounge – is the bar. A more intimate and potentially quieter setting, though that of course depends on how well-behaved the clientele of the day is! I didn’t take pictures of the seating in front of the bar, but you’ll find chairs and tables in addition to the counter seats shown below. (We’ll come back here in due course and explore what’s available on the drinks menu.)
A little further on – past the main lounge space – is the dining area. Here we have a choice between stools set around large tables, two-person booths, and counter seats.
The centrepiece of the dining area is the Noodle Bar: an open kitchen with walls clad in tiles glazed a rich CX green.
We’ll take a closer look at the Noodle Bar later on.
Note how the dining and main seating areas are separated by a divider made up of large, open squares framed in wood. This helps maintain the spacious atmosphere of the lounge whilst keeping its different zones distinct from each other.
Finally, we have the washrooms all the way at the end, past the dining area.
Now all this exploring has left me feeling rather peckish. Care for a sip and a bite?
Let’s start things off with a peek at what’s on offer in the dining area.
The Noodle Bar
There’s a simple system in place at the Noodle Bar. Order something off the menu, walk away with the supplied buzzer, return when the buzzer lights up, take the tray of freshly prepared food back to your table. Easy-peasy. (Note: CX’s website says that an “authentic Philippine breakfast” is also available in the mornings.)
If you’d like to give the meal a personal touch, you’ll find a selection of condiments spread out at the corner of the bar.
I went for the stir-fried vegetable noodles and ordered chicken dumplings on the side. No complaints in terms of flavour, but the portion size might leave hungry diners dissatisfied.
Still, with a full in-flight meal to look forward to, I was quite happy with what I got. (And I doubt that a second order would have been refused, if I’d chosen to give one.)
Facing the main section of the dining area is a sideboard stocked with beverages and light snacks. The cookie jars here (plus a couple of finger-food trays on the Noodle Bar) are pretty much the only self-service element of the dining area, at least where solid food is concerned; you won’t find chafing dishes or open bread baskets or anything of that sort.
Bottom line: there’s no free-for-all buffet in this lounge.
I fixed myself a cup of hot chamomile infusion from the Twinings selection on offer here.
Fancy something a bit stronger? Time to head for the bar and see what they can rustle up for us.
The drinks bar
There’s a decent selection of beverages available, with both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks represented. They’ve also got a selection of finger food to go with your choice of tipple.
Haven’t got much to say on this point, as I’m the sort of chap who prefers not to be noticed and fawned over (given my dislike of personal interaction); hence, I avoid making direct requests of staff whenever possible. That said, I observed nothing that would give cause for major concern, and I was perfectly satisfied with the service rendered at the Noodle Bar when my order was taken and processed.
There’s complimentary WiFi available in the lounge. The network name and password are posted on a card at the reception desk (as well as at other locations, such as the dining area and bar).
Entertainment and reading material
Newspapers and magazines in various languages are available for lounge patrons.
Lavatory and showers
Let’s deal with the showers first. Ah, that’s right … there aren’t any. Travellers spoilt by the fully-equipped shower suites at the CX lounges in Hong Kong might find this a bit surprising, but bear in mind that Manila’s airport sees very little in the way of transit passenger traffic. Almost every person you’ll see airside has come straight from their home or hotel, and would be less likely to demand a shower than someone who’s just gotten off another flight and needs a rinse.
Of course, everyone needs a good lavatory (transiting or not), and this CX lounge won’t disappoint in that regard. I can’t comment on the ladies’ facilities – for obvious reasons, haha – but the men’s side seemed fully equipped and mostly well-maintained.
I say “mostly”, because there was at least one toilet cubicle out of service at the time. I also recall seeing a wet-floor sign propped up near the urinals, although no wet floor was in evidence; can’t say whether it had been forgotten by cleaning staff or was meant for something that escaped my notice.
It’s been almost seven years since I last flew with CX as a business class passenger. Back then, their base in the Philippines was MNL’s ancient Terminal 1 – and their outdated, bare-bones Manila lounge of the day seemed worlds away from the well-appointed facilities at their Hong Kong home.
Fast forward to 2020. CX transferred all of their MNL flights to the much larger Terminal 3 in 2014, and opened a brand-new lounge – the same one we’ve just inspected in this report – the following year. Having used both old and new lounges, I can say with confidence that the current facility is, in every respect, a massive improvement over their former quarters at T1.
Granted, the lack of certain facilities – such as showers and a full self-service buffet – might be discouraging to some lounge users. Nevertheless, it does appear that the current CX lounge ticks all of the boxes where the essentials are concerned, and supplies other elements that take this facility from a mere waiting room to a luxurious reception hall for the flight to come.
All things considered, I was quite pleased with my experience and would eagerly look forward to visiting the Cathay Pacific Lounge again.