How One New Priority Pass Lounge Shows The Failure Of Asia In The Pandemic’s Re-Opening Phase

Cathay Pacific carried an average of just 774 passengers per day in May. Only around 2000 passengers per day used the Hong Kong airport. That’s only 1% of pre-pandemic volume. As a result, Cathay Pacific has just one lounge open – The Wing First Class lounge. (American Express’ Centurion lounge there remains closed.)

All first class, business class, and oneworld sapphire and above elite members use that one lounge. But without many passengers in the airport, there’s still capacity. And Cathay Pacific will pick up revenue, because as One Mile at a Time was first to report the Wing first class lounge joins Priority Pass effective Monday, June 21.

It’s just the first class lounge facility, they aren’t operating its full service. You don’t get the sit down dining experience, for instance. But it’s certainly one of the nicest lounges accessible via Priority Pass. Almost certainly it will exit the program once traffic begins to recover, although the decision to welcome Priority Pass revenue is one more indication travel restrictions aren’t likely to be lifted imminently.

In general many of the places that contained the virus during the early stages of the pandemic are doing very poorly in the late stages. They’re behind in vaccinations, with citizens remaining largely vulnerable to the virus, so their economies remain closed even as those countries that suffered more from virus spread feel ‘past it’ and are opening back up.

Take Taiwan, where vaccine uptake was limited because there wasn’t much Covid-19 spreading. They face an outbreak, everyone wants a vaccine, and they don’t have enough supply.

  • They bet heavily on building a domestic manufacturing capability, which hasn’t yet delivered, and the vaccine is older technology that may not be as effective.

  • They’ve had difficulty sourcing vaccine from the rest of the world. For instance Germany’s BioNTech, which partners with Pfizer, reneged on an agreement for doses even after Taiwan agreed not to refer to itself as a ‘country’ (remember, China has even kept Taiwan out of the World Health Organization). Then a mainland Chinese firm was given exclusive distribution rights for ‘China’. So Taiwan must accept help from China to vaccinate its people, something younger Taiwanese abhor.

China itself successfully contained the virus, which was perhaps 40 times as bad there than reported, by locking people in their homes which in some cases became tombs. Despite Marriott flattering President Xi for his ideal response to the pandemic China doesn’t appear poised to re-open.

Or look at Australia which flubbed its vaccination roll out. They bet heavily on AstraZeneca, but without much Covid spreading they backed off of it – the (very modest) risk was hard to sell when there wasn’t significant Covid risk either. So they got way behind in line for Pfizer and are hopeful to be vaccinating in earnest at the end of the year.

Australians still largely cannot leave the country, except to go to New Zealand, and are being threatened with prosecution if they fly from New Zealand to a third country (even though there’d be required state quarantine on return). There’s talk of a process to allow vaccinated Australians to leave and even home quarantine on return, but that’s not real yet.

While you may say, ‘gosh I’d have loved to be trapped in Australia or Taiwan for the first year of the pandemic’ I’m not sure most people would say that about the second year.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. It’s an assumption that these governments want to open, when that is not at all in evidence. I’m sure that Carrie Lam for one, is very happy and content with Hong Kong shut down from the world and with a good excuse to shut down dissent and protests before they even start, with only the threat of Covid – but almost no real sicknesses to date. The Thai Junta no doubt feels similarly, hence their nonsensical “sandbox” which keeps Bangkok secreted from the world and under a state of semi-lockdown.

  2. I’d much rather give up travel privileges than see 600,000 people die in my country and millions more suffer in other ways. I can’t believe there are people so selfish they would value their international travel privileges over the physical well-being of others. Disgusting entitlement from elite people who only care about themselves.

  3. @Jeff aren’t you just so amazing. It’s gotta be challenging being so much more responsible and caring. Next time they hold an election for Jesus you get my vote. Thanks for adding to the discussion.

  4. I think it’s more the young Taiwanese that overwhelming don’t want „help“ from China

  5. Luckily for us Gary has extensive on the ground experience during COVID in the countries called out here. Oh, he hasn’t left North America. Heck, let’s throw in generalizations about “Asia” while we are at it and group 1/3 of global population together. Perhaps many of these countries – or at least the elite in government and large businesses – are just happy to keep Gary and his like out for as long as possible. They are nearly all open to global businesses and politicians with a checkbook. Exceptions are made. But not for ham handed bloggers. Taking 20 seconds to look at GDP growth in the countries Gary calls out suggests the collective well being is being served just fine even if the interests of the travel industry and credit card hawkers are not. That the Chinese communist party would would use COVID to gut a HK airline that in many respects was emblematic of a colonial past is just a happy little bonus.

  6. noone wants any tourists in hongkong either.
    pro democracy protesters want the govt to be starved off; and the pro china nationalists doesnt want non chinese in.

    so its just the travel community who feels pity they cant use the CX F lounge for now.

  7. btw, the reason why taiwan didnt have enough vaccines was because the few main vaccine deals has their vaccines made in prchina for the Taiwanese market along w Hong Kong, Macau and prchina.

    and sensibly the taiwanese govt do not trust these prchina made vaccines. (we can see from UAE Chile and the few countries in the world that used prchina donated vaccines)

    and now Japan USA and whoever else are sending in the properly made vaccines to Taiwan. Hopefully, travelling will open up soon and there will be better options travelling to Taiwan!

    PS. it’s a shame some other air miles blogs/forums would block out the Hong Kong/Taiwan topics so that the chinese shills do not fart on their turf.

  8. Some items in this post from Gary need to be clarified —

    #1. “They bet heavily on building a domestic manufacturing capability, which hasn’t yet delivered, and the vaccine is older technology that may not be as effective.” <— based on media reports, there are two domestic Taiwan pharma companies getting ready to submit their vaccines for domestic EUA clearances there, likely by the end of July … they use the *same technology* as the Novavax vaccine developed here in USA, which will also be submitted for domestic authorization here by September, and has been *field ranked* (ie, based on trial results) to be *above* Pfizer/BioNTech and just marginally below Moderna, but with *much fewer* side effects than both mRNA vaccines, because it's based on a more traditional vaccine development method!

    #2. "So Taiwan must accept help from China to vaccinate its people, something older Taiwanese abhor." *why* would they make 85+ year olds even try to use a web-based reservation system, then climb very steep hills in order to get to their vaccination centers, only to require them to wait outside, where it’s really hot and humid, before being able to get their jabs? Contrast that with the way other Cities and Counties that are run by the *young* folks have operated their vaccination programs, with car/van pickup services to bring old folks to their vaccination centers and return them back home, while even providing live violin/guitar musical performances inside of a large vaccine dispensing hall that’s also air conditioned, to boot! Needless to say, these places have had great successes while other places run by those “old folks of yore” have generated 80% DIS-satisfaction at their *totally incompetent* local leaders … so if those “old folks of yore” can *not* even run their local vaccine dispensing centers properly, even with the currently limited supplies on hand, just *how* are they going to efficiently dispense the *Millions* of new shots that are soon to arrive at Taiwan during the upcoming weeks? Also, do *not* forget that the *world* currently has a vaccine shortage created by backlogs in manufacturing at various pharma companies — just look at what’s happening with Vietnam and its search for available inventories of vaccines … even *without* any obstructive interference from China!

    #4. “China itself successfully contained the virus, which was perhaps 40 times as bad there than reported, …” <— Really? Seriously? Some estimates have placed the under-reporting of China's actual #infections and #deaths at closer to 1000X, rather than the 40X that you claim! Have you been following what's happening *right now* in China's Guangdong Province and their huge cities of Guangzhou and Shenzhen? Recall that those folks were vaccinated with China's vaccines, too, so you might rightfully be shocked at their current crisis!

    Look, Gary, I respect your reports on airlines and travel-related matters, but with respect to vaccines and vaccination programs in other countries, perhaps you need to better vet your source(s) of info?

  9. Somehow my post managed to lose a very pertinent “middle portion”, so #2 got chopped and #3 is missing its beginning —>

    “#2. “So Taiwan must accept help from China to vaccinate its people, something older Taiwanese abhor.” [MISSING PORTION] … *why* would they make 85+ year olds even try to use a web-based reservation system, …”

    I’ll try to reconstruct what somehow went missing —

    #2. “So Taiwan must accept help from China to vaccinate its people, something older Taiwanese abhor.” <— it's actually the *young* in Taiwan who are *against* using vaccines from China, while some of those "old folks of yore" are the ones who politically demand to get their jabs with vaccines from China; also, *why* "must" Taiwan "accept help from China", implying adoption of their vaccines, since Taiwan has *never* been under either historical or legal jurisdiction of China with its current regime? So *why* are the *young* in Taiwan so *against* using vaccines from China, politics aside? Just look at what's happening in Seychelles and Indonesia, both of whom used China's vaccines, with their currently rampant outbreaks … and Seychelles was so proud of being the most vaccinated country in the world, too!

    #3. The problem with Taiwan's vaccination of it's populace is *not* solely due to it's limited supply of vaccines on hand, to date, but also because of China's obstructive interference against Taiwan getting delivery of vaccines that it had already purchased from vaccine manufacturers. In addition, there have been *totally incompetent* local dispensing of available vaccine shots by those Cities and Counties that are run by those "old folks of yore." For example, *why* would they make 85+ year olds … [CONTINUE AS ABOVE]

  10. “600,000 dead” fails to consider that 1/3 to 2/3 of deaths (country dependent) occurred in nursing homes where avg entrant dies within 6 months.

    Also a couple years ago it was reported 80,000 people died of the flu. Nobody I know cared when I mentioned it.

  11. In Uruguay..much heralded for their early response. Adjusting for population with the USA, nearly 500,000 have died. Go figure. If you don’t adjust for population, you deceive yourself. It just comes to health now and in the future.

  12. Having lived in Australia, I would gladly be trapped there for a second year even with their slow vaccination rollout. I realize living in the US I’m fortunate to have gotten the vaccine back in April, but even with Australia’s current delayed rollout it looks like I would still be able it get the vaccine over there 3-6 months from when I got it here.

    2 years of being trapped in a nanny state, largely free of Covid, is still a better deal than the 1 year spent in a country with the disease running rampant with a constant risk of catching it.

  13. America has the right response. It lead the disease run it’s course and focused on vaccinations.

    Now Americans are living lives that are back to normal as ifCOVID never happened and the economy is booming. While the rest of the world suffers and wonders when their next lockdown is, as COVID isn’t as well contained in other countries.

  14. Having lived in Taiwan for the first seven months of Covid, and living in Japan now, I 100% concur with this post. Asia-Pacific may have been leading the Covid race in 2020, but the region is on course to badly lose the marathon.

    Contrary to what some Aussies and Kiwis may think, your life isn’t “normal” (or anything approaching it) if you aren’t free to go where you want, when you want. Particularly if you’re trapped in a boring, expensive, culturally homogenous country like Australia, where local leaders are happy to re-impose lockdowns for cases in the single digits, in spite of bluster about having “eliminated” the virus.

    The extent to which residents of Covid Zero fantasy lands have been gaslit and brainwashed is really something.

  15. Once again Gary nails it and good to see he is one of the few bloggers not afraid to criticize the chicoms. USA may have blown the covid containment but at least we got the vax program right. Glad to be traveling this summer while the rest of world sits home.

  16. So killing 300 times as many people who died in 9/11 and living a year in constant lockdowns and fear of getting a disease that’s now proven to reduce long-term cognitive abilities (amongst other things) is worth a few months of doing during the summer what Australians have been doing since April 2020 while they wait for more vaccines to arrive despite the American ban on their export?

    Man, you’re brainwashed.

  17. Whocares misses the point…The main reason our countries feared this epidemic was the strain that it put on our health system. If your health care system collapses due to the hospitals being overloaded , the medical staff becomes part of the casualties and then it all falls to shit. Not only do older people start dying of covid, but other people with treatable diseases start dying. You only need to compare death statistics from 2020-2021 in cities like New York with previous years to see what affect this disease was having

  18. @Gary -TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan reacted with an outpouring of thanks to the United States for shipping 2.5 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to the major semiconductor-producing island, more than doubling its arsenal as it deals with a rise in domestic infections….

  19. @Gary responding to “@Joseph enough for 5% of the population” —

    As I posted above, it’s *not* about how many shots you have on hand, but how effectively you can dispense those shots *Before They Expire*! Thus far those Cities and Counties run by “old folks of yore” have *not* yet demonstrated local competency with their dispensing, so what use will all 42 Million needed doses accomplish, sitting “on site” all at once? Those doses need to be time staged to synchronize with their abilities to dispense those shots in a timely manner!

    Furthermore there should be some 10 Million doses available in short order from Taiwan’s own pharmas once they get their domestic EUAs (most likely in July) … so the picture is *not* all that grim for the longer term, as long as those Cities and Counties run by those “old folks of yore” can get their acts together on how to properly dispense their inventories of shots!

    Taiwan is forever grateful to both Japan and USA for their most generous shipments, no matter the sizes of their incremental amounts!

  20. Is it as hilarious as an ignorant fat inbred blogger thinking China or Russian trolls would make an effort to monitor his moldy corner of the internet? I for one think it’s fucking, well, hilarious.

  21. Loyalty Lobby is reporting that The Wing is NOT joining PP and that the listing on PP was an “operational error”.

  22. calm down people

    the number of global deaths due to china virus is nothing compared to how communist china runs genocide schemes in tibet, east turkistan, and hong kong.

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