While not Lufthansa’s First Class Terminal in Frankfurt, the CIP Hall at Tashkent Airport offers an impressive lounge service for premium class passengers and those willing to pay for it.
This service is free for business class passengers on Uzbekistan Airways. Coach passengers are welcome to use the facilities at a cost of $200 each. Details here.
We arrived just before 5am to the airport and found the door the of the VIP Terminal locked…
Not a good start, but we proceeded upstairs instead, entered the terminal (where we encountered our first of many security checks), and approached a special “Business Lounge” entrance with the Uzbekistan Airways logo on it.
A woman sitting behind a tall desk glanced at our passports and entered something on her computer, likely verifying that we had access to the VIP facilities. She directed us further in, where a yawning man took our passports and checked us in.
He was very slow. We had no visas for Tajikistan and I figured he might be trying to verify whether we could obtain a visa on arrival or not, but he never said anything and finally just handed back Ben’s passport with a boarding pass inside and moments later mine.
After another security check (x-ray screening of luggage and metal detector for the second time), we came to passport control, a desk in which a uniformed agent stamped us out of Uzbekistan.
We had finally made it into the lounge.
The first floor of the lounge contained a large sitting area with leather chairs, a selection of beverages, and a duty free shop (just like the private duty free shop in the Lufthansa First Class Terminal).
Note that wi-fi did not work. Although we could connect to the network, we could not load a single webpage or even e-mail on our phones.
Upstairs was a restaurant area with a remarkably nice décor. I loved the checkered tile floors and the aviation style seats like you can buy at Restoration Hardware. A barista was on hand to make the coffee of your choice and made a fairly decent cappuccino.
A self-serve buffet contained a variety of mixed nuts, dried fruits, fresh fruits, cold cuts, and cheeses. Behind glass sandwiches and pastries were available. I tried an unidentified pastry that seemed to have meat inside. When I requested it, the barista pointed to the microwave, visually asking if I wanted him to warm it up.
So the food was a disappointment, but not terrible.
Behind the counter a huge variety of alcohol was also available for purchase. A bottle of 2013 Dom would set you back 160EUR for a bottle. Cigarettes were also available for purchase, though I did not notice a smoking room. Soms were not an accepted form of payment: U.S. Dollars or Euros only.
A children’s play room–
The restrooms upstairs also contained a shower stall.
The slightly disconcerting thing was that once you entered the lounge, you could not leave the lounge until you were allowed to. The door into the terminal was locked.
We asked about boarding early and were denied. “We will tell you when!” stated the attendant.
Finally, about 30 minutes prior to scheduled departure the door was unlocked and our flight was called. We were the only two passengers in the lounge traveling to Dushanbae.
On the other side of the door was a hallway followed by one more passport check and one more security check (again, baggage screening + metal detector).
Past the security screening, we walked through a deserted concourse before heading downstairs to a bus loading zone.
It was there that an official saw Ben taking pictures, demanded his phone, and deleted several pictures (which we were quickly able to recover).
Unfortunately, there is no car service to the aircraft. Instead, there is shared bus service. We boarded our “luxury” bus with a large family heading to Kazakhstan. They were dropped off first then we were taken to our aircraft to board.
While certainly a unique experience, I think the good outweighed the bad. I enjoyed the lounge. A better variety of food, including hot options, would have been nice, but I appreciated this was not simply a small room with couches and soft drinks like the arrivals lounge. I do wish that we could have left the lounge on our terms rather than their terms. Most importantly, the internet problem needs to be addressed.