REVIEW – Air France : Business Class – B772 – Paris CDG to Guangzhou CANMarch 18, 2020
REVIEW – China Southern : Business Class – A321 – Guangzhou CAN to Saigon SGNMarch 22, 2020
- Class: Business Class
- First and Business Class Passengers on Skyteam Airlines
- Skyteam Elite Plus
Arriving into Guangzhou airport it immediately became clear that we had a strong ‘home advantage’. China Southern were the ticketing carrier for our trip between Paris and Vietnam with only one flight on Air France metal, our next three international flights would all be on China Southern. Guangzhou airport is extremely well geared to accommodate passengers transferring onto one of the home carrier’s flights.
We first came to a ticket counter where our passports were checked and our boarding passes stamped. We then continued to premium transfer security which was a pleasantly expeditious experience. The staff spoke remarkably good English and were very careful with passengers’ belongings, it felt like a genuinely premium experience, unlike… every other Business Class fast track lane on earth.
I headed into this lounge with a great degree of trepidation; after all, I’ve visited the flagship First Class lounge of China’s national carrier in Shanghai and it was woeful. Let’s face it when it comes to lounges, the Chinese have a terrible reputation.
Add in the fact that during my visit China Southern was still a member of Skyteam (a.k.a. the reject alliance) and you have the recipe for a seriously bad layover.
As soon as I passed the reception desk and made my way into this gleaming, design-forward facility I realised that my low expectations were about to be blown away. The angled golden panels, punctuated with LED floral designs were already better than anything I’d seen in the Air China First Class lounge.
The Sky Pearl VIP lounge has a wide variety of different seating areas. The first that you encounter is one for the youngest customers.
It seems a little weird that they are presented as a weird form of zoo exhibit but maybe it helps to keep an eye on them from the outside? I literally have zero idea about travelling with kids.
Another area which remained empty throughout our stay was the library. I really liked the design here and feel like it would be a great place to come for some privacy since there are only a couple of seats in this large space.
Yet another seating area around the outside of the main lounge is the business centre. I use the term loosely as in reality this is something of a lounge/ relaxation area too. In addition to the large desks with laptops and printers there are some comfortable leather lounge chairs, without power supplies nearby.
The main lounge is divided into two very similar sections. The one on the left is larger and has more distinct areas. The first area you come to is the buffet with its cafeteria style seating:
Along from the cafeteria seating is a large lounge area, running alongside the lounges terminal facing windows. There is a real emphasis on design here with the bold floral patterns on the carpets, the varied seating styles, oversized lamps and the portable tables with power supplies.
Continuing on from the buffet there is a fully stocked and staffed bar.
You then come to the centrepiece of the lounge, an area modelled on a tea house with a large art installation in the centre.
I really wasn’t expecting to participate in a Chinese tea ceremony on this trip. In my mind, the brief layover in China would be an unremarkable pause to be endured and not enjoyed. However this was one of many small touches which really elevated this lounge experience.
The final section in the left hand lounge was a viewing area of sorts, complete with some robotic massage chairs.
Moving out of the left hand lounge and into the right you come initially to another buffet area, which is almost identical to the one on the left. Since the right hand section of the lounge is not as immediately obvious to find and lacks a staffed bar (but has a small self service drinks area), it has a lot more empty seating and a generally quieter feel. In many ways the decor in this section seemed more French than the Air France lounge I had just visited in Paris.
Food and Drink
Aside from the aforementioned tea ceremony, the food and drink options are both plentiful and delicious. Being in this lounge genuinely felt like being on holiday in China, with dishes served to a similar quality level as the ones I’ve experienced in my many years of both living and travelling in this remarkable country.
The hot buffet featured numerous Western and Chinese options and every single thing I tried was both delicious and clearly very freshly prepared. I guess the natural consequence of having really tasty food is that it runs out quickly and you constantly have to prepare a fresh batch! The spring rolls and fried chicken were super crispy, the fresh vegetables and pasta were both al dente too.
In addition to the hot buffet there was a live cooking station with chefs preparing spicy noodle soup, wonton soup and grilled dumplings.
I tried every single dish and only the structural integrity of my waistband prevented me from going back for more.
Just along from the live cooking station was a selection of snacks, mostly consisting of breakfast items like yoghurts, fruit and cereal. There was also a coffee machine and self service tea for those wanting a quick cup without having to ask for coffee at the bar or to participate in a tea ceremony.
The drinks at the bar seemed perfectly fine but didn’t really inspire me so I opted instead to go for a double macchiato, which was prepared perfectly and accompanied by a bottle of ice cold Perrier. The snack selection placed up on the bar was amazing too! Ferrero Rocher, Lotus Biscoffs and Dove (aka Galaxy) chocolate bars.
The only thing missing for me would have been proper cocktails and a decent champagne. There was a rather dubious looking prosecco and the bar staff were happy to make mixed drinks but this is a long way off what you’d get in a Qantas Lounge, Cathay Lounge or the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse in Heathrow.
Still, everything else was so good that I’m happy to look past that.
Showers are available by requesting a timeslot at a counter tucked away in a hallway behind reception. Sleep rooms are also ostensibly available but were permanently occupied during both of our visits to this lounge (outbound and on the return home). Whilst the physical design of the showers is great and there is a toto toilet as well as plenty of space to get changed in, the overall experience was horrible.
Not because of the cheap looking generic toiletries but because of the really strong sewage smell in the room. Clearly the place had been cleaned and prepared but for some reason the cleaner signed off on it being usable, when the smell indicated that it most certainly wasn’t. Such a shame because in most other regards this is an excellent lounge.
I was extremely pleasantly surprised by the China Southern International Sky Pearl VIP lounge.
My expectation was one of brusque or standoffish service, subpar food, no amenities and a lack of viable seating options.
Instead I got to eat amazingly fresh and delicious Chinese food, participated in a tea ceremony and was able to charge my devices whilst sitting very comfortably in one of ten or more viable seating areas. The staff cleared plates and wiped tables at a prodigious rate and did so with a smile.
The showers were a definite low point and the selection of alcoholic drinks could improve but otherwise this was one of the better Business Class lounges that I’ve ever visited.
China Hotel Reviews
Here is a selection of our most recent China hotel reviews:
- Part 1:
- Four Seasons Tunis : Premier Room
- Part 2:
- Air France : Business Class – A321 – Tunis to Paris
- Part 3:
- Air France Business Class Lounge : Paris CDG – Terminal 2E – Hall K
- Part 4:
- Skyteam Lounge : London Heathrow T4
- Part 5:
- Air France Business Class Lounge – Paris CDG – Terminal 2E – Hall L
- Part 6:
- Air France : Business Class – B777 – Paris CDG to Guangzhou CAN
- Part 7:
- China Southern International Sky Pearl VIP Lounge : Guangzhou CAN T2
- Part 8:
- China Southern : Business Class – A321 – Guangzhou CAN to Saigon SGN
- Part 9:
- Park Hyatt Saigon : Deluxe King (w. Pool Access)
- Part 10:
- The Reverie Saigon : Junior Suite
- Part 11:
- Vietnam Airlines Lotus Lounge : Saigon SGN (Domestic terminal)
- Part 11:
- Vietnam Airlines : Business Class – A321 – Saigon SGN to Cam Ranh CXR
- Part 12:
- Amanoi : Mountain / Ocean Pool Villa
- Part 13:
- Vietnam Airlines Lotus Lounge : Cam Ranh CXR (International)
- Part 14:
- China Southern : Business Class – A330 – Guangzhou CAN – Paris CDG