Turn the Heat Down: A Review of The SkyTeam Lounge in Beijing
The SkyTeam Lounge at Beijing Capital International Airport (PEK) opened in early 2017 and instantly gave the alliance's Chinese members, China Southern and China Eastern, a credibility boost. Including Beijing, the SkyTeam alliance now has seven branded lounges around the world: Vancouver, Dubai, Hong Kong, Sydney, Istanbul and London Heathrow. I visited the lounge before my Delta One flight to Detroit on the Airbus A350.
The SkyTeam Lounge is in the international departure area of Terminal 2 at Beijing Capital International Airport, near gate 11. A sign points the way to take one of two elevators up to next level. It's open 5:30 a.m. to 1:00 a.m., but that is subject to change based on airline schedules.
All business and first class passengers on SkyTeam flights operating that day may access the lounge, and so can SkyTeam Elite Plus members plus one guest. I arrived around 1 p.m., well in advance of my 5:30 p.m. flight.
Check-in took only 15 seconds as the desk agent scanned my boarding pass.
Spend any time in the dark and uninspiring common areas of Terminal 2 and you will find that the SkyTeam Lounge is a much-appreciated refuge. The large curved windows help grace the main areas with natural light, but cleaner widows (and less smog, but that's another story) would do wonders.
The lounge has seating for 160 and features 8,600 square feet of space. When I visited, it was almost empty: I saw about 20 patrons in three hours. The natural wood design matches SkyTeam's other locations. The green botanical wall is a nice touch.
The dining area was clean and the staff quickly picked up finished dishes.
In the corner of the lounge was my favorite location: The wine bar. The contemporary chandelier added an upscale ambiance to the otherwise simple lounge.
Sofa chairs were comfortable, and peering out the large windows to see tarmac operations was a good way to entertain oneself. This is when I noticed how uncomfortably warm it was; it felt about 80 degrees F. The outside temperature was 35 degrees so obviously it was an overcompensation for the winter weather.
Three rest loungers are available but are not hidden away, which makes it challenging if you seek a quiet hideout to sleep.
However, that day was peaceful with the lack of patrons. A 45-minute nap helped me regain energy for the 13-hour flight. Bring your eye shades, as it's bright, even with the typical Beijing smog.
The restrooms were clean and modern. Compared to the BGS Premier Lounge in the same terminal, which amazingly does not have internal restrooms, this was enough to make the SkyTeam lounge the clear winner. That said, the public restrooms in the terminal are perfectly clean.
As someone who frequently travels to Asia destinations, I know finding a hot shower can be challenging. The good news is the shower facilities offer a perfect temperature. Sealed clean towels, slippers, shampoo, hair dryer, razors and toothbrushes are offered too.
Wi-Fi service was the least efficient element of this lounge visit. When I first arrived, the Internet ticket kiosk was down, which meant I relied on the common airport Wi-Fi, which was slow and had frequent outages. Also, to use the airport Wi-Fi you must either have cell phone service (to receive a confirmation text) or a WeChat account. I recommend a WeChat account in China anyway as Facebook and other popular messaging services are blocked (Apple's iMessage works though.)
To use the lounge internet kiosk, you are required to scan your boarding pass. When I finally printed a password receipt, I experienced slow download and upload speeds (2.94 Mbps and 1.02, respectively). About 20 minutes later, the Wi-Fi speed was better, at 16.5 Mbps download.
Other amenities include two desktop computers with printer and flight monitors. There is also a "VIP Room," which anyone can access, if looking for a quiet place for a phone call or to work. Looking to charge your devices? There are plenty of US-style power outlets.
Food and Beverage
After a delicious beef bulgogi meal on a Korean Air flight, I didn't need to eat but that didn't stop me from sampling what the SkyTeam Lounge offered. That afternoon's main dish was Three Cup Chicken (San Bei Ji) and rice. The chicken was tasty with the right amount of soy sauce and rice wine. The white rice, however, wasn't fresh nor soft.
Dim Sum was satisfactory. Selections included steamed pork/mushroom and red bean buns.
I was pleased with the fruit selection of oranges, apples and grapes. Minestrone soup was also available. Forks and knives were plastic; spoons were stainless steel.
A hearty collection of spirits made up for any inadequacies of the lounge. The variety of Campari, Jack Daniel's, Tanqueray and Absolut helped me feel less homesick. Carlsberg and Yanjing beer were available along with Coca-Cola, Sprite and Schweppes Tonic Water. The wine options were suspect but the Chardonnay tasted fine.
The Jura coffee machine looks impressive but the buttons were unlabeled and, without a manual, it took three attempts to make regular coffee.
The SkyTeam Lounge at Beijing International Airport (PEK) is better than most Sky Clubs but far from what you would expect at a major international airport. However, a hot shower, a stiff drink and a place to rest my eyes were enough for me. Service was well staffed and accommodating. For instance, when the Internet kiosk was working again, a friendly staff member fetched me.
I give it a 4 out of 5 for cleanliness, which for me is the most important factor. But someone needs to wash the outside windows. And if SkyTeam executives are reading this: Please put the loungers in the quieter and darker "VIP Room."