Lounge Review: China Airlines Lounges, San Francisco and Taipei

Lounge Review: China Airlines Lounges, San Francisco and Taipei

Last month, I flew China Airlines’ Premium Business Class between San Francisco and Taipei.  The round-trip flights were awesome, and I wrote a review yesterday.  This is a combined review for the airline’s lounges in both airports.

 

CHINA AIRLINES SAN FRANCISCO LOUNGE

At SFO’s International Terminal A, the China Airlines lounge was on the left-hand side immediately past security, above the Air France / Priority Pass lounge and next to a duty-free shop.  The location was not ideal because the departure gate was at the far end of the terminal.  Fortunately, with the flight’s late-night departure schedule, the terminal was completely free of pedestrian traffic by the time I headed over.

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Asian airlines love cardboard cut outs.  This cute couple was everywhere on my journey.

Next to the reception was a private room sectioned off for Paragon members (the airline’s top-tier status).  I saw two or three folks hanging out in there, though the space didn’t seem much different from the other parts of the lounge.  The main seating area appeared modest in size, but considering that China Airlines operated only one flight out of SFO each day with 40 business seats, the space was more than enough to accommodate the maximum number of guests.

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Half of the main seating area.

The buffet wasn’t extensive, but included an intriguing range of options.  I wasn’t hungry and didn’t plan on eating anything, but ended up sampling it all.

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The buffet spread.

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In the soup containers were red bean soup (dessert) and Cantonese style pork congee.  Both were reasonably tasty.

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Main entrees were three Indian dishes.

I love Indian food, but don’t believe that sentiment extents to the average Taiwanese/Chinese population.  I also don’t know of many South Asians who travel to Taiwan.  As such, I found the featured dining options rather confusing within the given context.

Ultimately, China Airlines’s SFO lounge was decent, comfortable, and quiet.  There wasn’t much to be excited about, except for it being there at all given the single daily flight.

 

CHINA AIRLINES TAIPEI TERMINAL 2 LOUNGE

On my returned trip, I made a brief stop at the check-in counter.  The agent printed out a lounge pass along with my boarding pass, and kindly noted that I could find the lounge across from gate D4, conveniently where my flight would be.

I promptly ignored her.  Oh was it a him?  Geez I really didn’t pay attention.

As such, after clearing security, I looked for signs and navigated myself to the airline’s Supreme Lounge on the second floor.

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China Airlines Supreme Lounge in Terminal 2

Wow, I thought to myself.  The lounge’s exterior along was so amazing! The large automatic doors in a classy arch doorway and a traditional bird cage in the lobby… I could not wait to spend the next hour here to feel good about the VIP that I was.  I walked in with a big smile on my face, and handed the lady my pass.

And she booted me out.

Apparently this lounge was only for Paragon members.  The status requires flying 120,000 miles on China Airlines or some other similarly high bars, so there’s no way to gain the privilege via travel hacking.  Sad!  Well I did a virtual tour anyway.

Where I belonged was this other lounge, directly across from gate D4.  It was still nice… but man was my bubble burst.

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China Airlines non-Supreme Lounge TPE Terminal 2.
The happy couple was everywhere.

The interior was nice but a bit… boring.  At first I was confused to find myself in a space even smaller than the SFO lounge.  It made no sense since Taipei was the airline’s home airport.  I grabbed the first seat I could find, as it seemed like a rare commodity.

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Crowded seating space.

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Kitchenette with a small selection of food and drinks.

As I found myself puzzled and disappointed, and contemplated leaving the lounge to hangout in duty free shops, I discovered a mysterious staircase…

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Okay I guess the bathroom is downstairs?

It was followed by an ah-ha moment as I located the primary space of the lounge.  In the basement.  Maybe it was just me being slow, but the reception gave me no directions and the stair case was unmarked.  Were guests supposed to make this discovery themselves?  Or was the nicer portion reserved only for the smarter customers?  It now clicked for me why there was a coat check room to drop off luggage, as it’d be a pain for people to drag their bags up and down these stairs.

The lounge’s basement featured a long, narrow hallway featuring lots of seating, some computer stations, a main dining room, and shower facility.  I found the layout rather awkward, but by this point I only had time to grab a quick bite anyway.

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Basement level of the lounge.

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Main dining area with a much more appetizing spread of options than the kitchenette upstairs.

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Noodle station, with several classic Taiwanese dishes made to order.

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Taiwanese beef noodles, fruits, and a Coke.

The beef noodles (which, IMO, should be considered Taiwan’s top national dish) wouldn’t survive on its own on the streets of Taipei, but it was good compared to even restaurant options within the same airport.  I was happily stuffed before running upstairs to catch my flight.

At the end of the day, China Airlines’s lounge in TPE Terminal 2 was clean, served good food, and provided all the amenities I can imagine needing.  It fell short a bit from what I’d expect of a top airline’s home lounge, though, and its layout was really awkward.

 

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