Many airline lounges have closed as travel has dropped off by more than 90%. Lounges that are open have cutback substantially on food and services. Once travel resumes, it is my belief that the quality and quantity of services in the air and on the ground (including lounges) will fail to match pre-Covid-19 levels.
That remains to be seen. This review is a pre coronavirus look at a very nice business class lounge, the Japan Airlines (JAL) Sakura Lounge at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport.
JAL names its international business class lounges Sakura which means cherry blossom in Japanese. I visited this lounge in January 2020.
Location, Hours and Access Policies
The lounge is on the third floor of the D Concourse. It is conveniently located within a short walk from passport control for departing passengers.
Hours of operation, 05:40 – 09:45 and 18:00 – 00:20 daily, coincide with JAL flight departures. Access is based on status in JAL’s frequent flyer program, the type of fare purchased, or status in the Oneworld airline alliance. I entered because I was flying business class.
Those with access may bring in a guest for free. Members of JAL’s frequent flyer program can bring in additional guests by using airline miles to purchase coupons. Access is unavailable on arrival.
Sakura Lounges always have a schematic of the layout near the reception desk. That is very helpful for orienting myself in unfamiliar lounges and it makes blog posts easier. 🙂
The reception desk is on the left as you enter. Luggage lockers are in a hall opposite the reception desk as are the bathrooms and shower.
After entering, the main seating area is to the left. Seats are comfortable enough for an hour or two. A work bench runs the length of the lounge next to wall of windows overlooking the ramp. Electrical outlets are available at every seat.
Food and Beverages
For just about any lounge, I think food service is the defining element. This lounge earns high marks in that department.
A well-established local Japanese restaurant, Nippon-Tei, manages the buffet. The menu is primarily Japanese centered but also includes Thai dishes.
Japanese favorites include fish cooked in soy broth, bamboo shoots cooked in soy, mirin and bonito, soybeans with seaweed, and sweet potato cooked in syrup. Nippon-Tei duplicates its famous beef or chicken curry for the buffet. I tried it. It is delicious. Green curry and Chicken gapao headline the Thai menu.
Staff keep the buffet neat as a pin. Menus change seasonally.
The lounge provides complimentary premium international alcoholic beverages. I trust the Japanese drinks like shochu and plum wine are of at least equal quality. A variety of soft drinks, juices, tea and coffee are also available.
Tables for dining are located at the far right side of the lounge. Electric outlets are plentiful in this area too.
The lounge provides good WiFi, internet terminals, printers, TVs, reading materials, flight monitors, a phone booth for calls, and showers.
The Japan Airlines Sakura Lounge at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok more than satisfies my requirements for a good business class lounge. It is large enough to accommodate the expected traffic. Seating areas have plenty of electrical outlets. WiFi is good. There are runway views. Showers and luggage lockers are available. The staff is attentive. Last but not least, Nippon-Tei restaurant prepares an excellent buffet of Japanese and Thai dishes.
How do you evaluate an airport lounge?