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Lounge Review: A Work in Progress



Kuala Laumpur's largest airport, KLIA is a modern aviation hub with all the facilities of a world-class destination. Nick Walton checks out the new Plaza Premium Lounge as part of a new series of airline lounge reviews available on JETSETTER Online, and finds the hardware is solid, but the software needs work.

When I first learned that Plaza Premium Lounges were opening a new facility at Kuala Lumpur's modern KLIA, I was overjoyed. The brand has made significant headway in the Asian pay-in lounge market and extending the service to KL's major international hub was a coup for short-haul business travellers in the region. However, some work needs to be done to bring the lounge experience up to that of its brethren in other major Asian airports.

My wife, a Malaysian national, and I arrived at the lounge at 8am in preparation for a 9.50 flight to Hong Kong. There was no queue, but we struggled to get the attention of the three staff behind the counter, all of whom were closeted in conversation. We handed over our Priority Pass cards (an absolute must for any regular traveller who, like me, likes to ease his way into jet travel) and as the transaction was processed, one staff member informed me that I could bring as many guests into the lounge as I liked, as one of the benefits of our particular Priority Pass membership.

Different lounges in Priority Pass' extensive 600-lounge network have different rules and I inquired as to how much I would be charged, should I ever need to bring guests. The two staff and one manager were completely baffled and said they didn't know, they just handled the transactions. There was a priority pass brochure on the desk and I asked if they could check, as it's a good thing to know. We were met with more blank faces. The manager was struggling with a handful of cards and receipts (despite only four guests being served at the time) and the result was we were given someone else's card and receipt to sign.

For my wife this was enough, as she had been patiently listening to the staff complain about my inquiries in Malay the whole time, oblivious to the fact that their customers could understand them. The first girl fobbed me off to her colleague with a “you deal with him”. His response, in Malay, was that I was just another foreigner asking too many questions and that she should ignore me. Suitably ashamed as soon as the realised they had been caught out, the correct receipt was signed and we were admitted to the lounge.

Fortunately this is where Plaza Premium excel; the space beyond reception is elegant, tranquil and modern, with plenty of natural light thanks to a bank of floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the apron. Designed by Kinney Chan, the lounge is dressed in marble, with elegant chandeliers, fine New Zealand wool carpets and chic furniture.

Food always plays an important role in Malaysia and the lounge's offering is comprehensive, with Indian, Malay and Chinese dishes, including Chicken Biryani, Balsmati Rice, oven-fresh pastries and daily soups, complimented by a range of soft drinks. Fresh noodles are prepared at a dedicated noodle bar, while coffee made from Java coffee beans, beer and cash bar spirits are served from a separate bar, similar to the set up at the Hong Kong Travellers Lounge. The separate bar also boasts a range of snacks including cup cakes and sandwiches.

One let down was the condition of the bathrooms. The lounge features showers, a welcomed reprieve for transit passengers, but as in Hong Kong, the bathrooms seemed to be in a perpetual state of maintenance, with doors wedged open and stalls out of order for the duration of our visit.

Overall, this lounge is an elegant and sophisticated space in which to await a flight, and is an asset in the Priority Pass collection. But a few touches could lift it from 'also ran' to a sure winner.

For more info on the lounge go to www.plaza-network.com
For more info on Priority Pass go to www.prioritypass.com.hk






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