World travellers know that there are many hubs that can connect us to other parts of the globe. Favourites such as Singapore, Doha, Dubai, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Frankfurt and Istanbul remain the most popular ones. As a world traveller who jumps in and out of airplanes from one destination to another, I am always keen on trying different hubs to see what’s on offer. In this article, I explore two of them – Hong Kong and Istanbul – as well as great airline services that are becoming the trademark of each hub.
The Asian Connection
Europe has always been the favourite continent to visit by many Indonesian travellers. Competing with Middle Eastern-based airlines, Cathay offers an alternative for those flying to Europe, via Hong Kong, which actually can be quite fun.
Only six hours away from Jakarta, you’ll feel less fatigued before continuing on the 14-hour leg to Madrid. There is a four-hour transit time in-between flights in Hong Kong that we can use to relax or, even better, shopping!
Hong Kong International Airport has been gaining its reputation for decades as one of the best airports that boast various luxury brands. Depending on the season and personal luck, you can actually get some of them for a bargain. If you are a true shopaholic, dare yourself to hop onto the train from the airport and go just one stop to Citygate Outlets at Tung Chung. It is without a doubt one of the best fashion outlets in the world. You can spend a few hours here before jumping on to the train back to the airport just in time for your departure.
If you decide to enjoy the airport facilities, you can go to any of the four separate business class lounges at Terminal 3. I was quite curious to try Cathay Pacific’s newly refurbished business class lounge at The Pier that is located across Gate 65. This new lounge that spans over 3,306 square meters has an impressive ultra-sleek design by Studioilse, a London-based interiors firm led by Ilse Crawford. At 1,000 square meters bigger than its predecessor, this new lounge is inspired by the street life of Hong Kong.
If you are part of the ‘fast lane’ travellers, there are various dining options – from the fun and vibrant Food Hall with self-service kiosks to the iconic Noodle Bar with its popular Dan Dan and Wonton noodles.
For ‘slow lane’ travellers in long transit, the lounge also offers extensive lounge seating with views out of the big glass windows and glazed timber screens. I spotted the airline’s bespoke Solo Chairs, where each is equipped with a built-in reading lamp and an individual side table. I love these Solo Chairs so much as I can use one to catch up with work, including writing this article!
Still part of the ‘slow lane’ lounge area, we can also find a Tea House with a specialist ready to give you advice on teas. There are also 14 modern shower suites, as well as a relaxation room in the wellbeing area that features low upholstered loungers and footstools – a really good place to catch a snooze. I have to say that the Hong Kong connection is super impressive and really prepares your state of mind, body and soul before your next departure.
I was actually quite sad when it was time to board and leave this peaceful sanctuary, but hey, Madrid is waiting. Entering the Boeing aircraft, I found the business class cabin in a 1-2-1 reverse herringbone layout. Each seat has great space and privacy with supportive pillows and blanket, noise-cancelling headphones, and of course, a glass of champagne. Since I already had quite a ‘good time’ at the lounge, I decided to try the non-alcoholic signature drink called Oriental Breeze – a combination of cranberry, sour plum tea, honey and fresh lemon. It was very refreshing and prepared the mood for flying.
The business class seating is actually larger than it looks, with supportive padding. It can transform into a fully flat bed and is accompanied by a large TV screen, as well as a side cabinet for storage and an under-seat shoe rack. I love how they came up with the design that places all of the control panels and everything else you need on the side of the seat. From reading light to buttons to customize your seating position, TV remote, multinational socket and USB slot – all are on one side and easy to find. I was quite relieved to find hand cream, facial moisturiser and lip balm from Jurlique inside the amenity kit.
Not so long after we took off, dinner was ready to be served with Asian menu on the selection as well as an impressive wine collection. Though 14 hours seemed long, I had enough movies to enjoy, thanks to the extensive entertainment on board. Before I knew it, it was already time for a quick breakfast and Vale! We have arrived at Madrid international Airport.
Overall, it was definitely a great experience to use the Hong Kong connection as a transit hub to Europe. Aside from Madrid, Cathay Pacific has also launched a new seasonal service to Barcelona starting summer this year using, for the first time, Airbus A350.
The European Gate
Being an international hub, we can easily find many flights that go to Istanbul on a daily basis. For the best direct flight from Jakarta, especially for those continuing to Europe, Turkish Airlines business class might offer the finest option. The sleek and modern design of the business class with seat control options not only offers spacious legroom but also comes equipped with USB port and free WIFI on board. They even provide noise-cancelling Denon headphones that are perfect to enjoy the various flight entertainment. For personal comfort, the airline prepares a pair of slippers as well as an amenity kit by Cerutti. The seat can turn into a fully flat bed with complimentary blanket and pillow.
The refreshments on board are definitely lavish – from great wine selection and traditional drink Salep (made of Salep flour) to great dining provided by Turkish DO&CO. We love the airline’s attention to details as well as the beautiful chinaware that they use for serving. At the end of the service came the dessert tray filled with delicious options – fruits, sweet pastries and cheeses. When the dinner service was over, the mood light on the cabin changed into soothing colours to allow passengers to relax and sleep.
At Istanbul Ataturk Airport, we were also impressed by the design of the business class lounge that shows the unique architectures of Ottoman and Seljuk periods. The lounge is grand and beautiful with circular arches and two-floored area that spans around 6,000 square meters.
This is the lounge that serves freshly brewed Turkish tea and Simit, (traditional Turkish sesame seed bagel), Manti (traditional Turkish beef ravioli), Gozleme (traditional Turkish pastry dish of hand-rolled dough brushed with butter and eggs and stuffed with light savoury goods), as well as incredibly delicious Pide (Turkish pizza) and Borek (stuffed phyllo pastry).
Like on the business class experience, food at the business lounge is also provided by DO&CO – an award-winning catering company in Turkey. Along with the great selection of food and drinks at the lounge, we can also enjoy fabulous facilities such as cinema, library, media wall, massages, billiard room, an electric race car track and even a golf simulator! Make sure not to miss the beautifully designed and impressive showers and lavatories.
Istanbul with Turkish Airlines and its spectacular lounge at Ataturk Airport really make a lavish way to fly.