BOOKED: Air Belgium, Ukraine International Airlines, And Hong Kong Airlines (Maybe?)

Filed Under: Travel

I’ve had a really rough week when it comes to actually being able to ticket airline reservations. Specifically, there were five relatively straightforward reservations I tried to ticket, and I had serious issues with four of them. I put the emphasis on “relative” there, because they’re relatively straightforward compared to my usual tickets, rather than the average person’s usual tickets. These tickets include a multi-city itinerary on Ukraine International Airlines, a ticket on a start-up airline that I’m suspicious of, an attempted mixed cabin booking on Hong Kong Airlines, and a misfiled Oman Air first class fare that I couldn’t actually ticket (see Oman Air from Cairo to London on July 11 in first class).

The good news is that I managed to book something for a trip that I’ll be taking in May. Here are details, in the order in which I booked:

Charleroi to Hong Kong on Air Belgium

Air Belgium is a new airline that will begin flying between Charleroi and Hong Kong at the end of this month. The airline has a very questionable business model, as it will operate A340-300s initially to Hong Kong, and eventually to points in mainland China. I have a lot of questions, though mainly I’m just excited to fly a brand new airline.

Unfortunately I had issues with the booking process, though. I kept getting a “REJECT” message on the payment page, no matter what credit card I used. I reached out to the company on Twitter, and amazingly enough they fixed their website within a couple of hours. The problem with their website was that it wasn’t set up to accept US credit cards, as it didn’t ask for the state for the billing address (which was eventually fixed). The representative informed me that I am “currently the only one impacted by this,” so I guess I also have the distinction of being their first ever reservation with a US credit card.

I can’t wait to see what the experience is like. Is the flight going to have a dozen people on it (after all, they just started selling tickets weeks before service begins), or are they somehow going to sell the whole plane to a last minute tour group?

I ended up booking a one-way ticket in business class and one-way ticket in economy, which cost 1,230EUR total, including a 40EUR credit card fee (yuck) and a 75EUR seat selection fee (double yuck).

New York to Brussels on Ukraine International Airlines

I need to get to either Brussels or Charleroi. Brussels obviously has plenty of flights, while Charleroi mostly has service from ultra low cost carriers. Based on looking at options from the US and the timing of my flight, I saw a great opportunity to fly Ukraine International Airlines on their brand new (used) Boeing 777-200, featuring flat beds in business class.

I could book a ticket from New York to Kiev, have a stopover there for a couple of days (it’s my first time), and then continue to Brussels, all for under $1,000 one-way in business class.

Ukraine International Airlines also departs from Terminal 7 at JFK, so I’m hoping I’ll be able to check out the new Alaska Lounge.

Here’s to hoping that this UIA experience is better than the last one.

Getting from Hong Kong to the US on Hong Kong Airlines?

I have two general thought processes for the conclusion of this trip.

My first thought was to fly from Hong Kong to Los Angeles or San Francisco on Hong Kong Airlines, as they recently started flights to the US. The catch is that they don’t really have any airline partners that would be useful for redeeming miles, so I’m trying to find the best fare.

Hong Kong Airlines recently lowered their business class fares from Hong Kong to Los Angeles, and a roundtrip ticket now costs ~$2,800:

The problem is that I don’t actually know when I’d take the Los Angeles to Hong Kong flight, so I’m tempted to book a return in economy, which lowers the cost to ~$1,740:

As a point of comparison, just booking a one-way in business class costs more than the roundtrip in business class.

The issue is that I can’t seem to book the second itinerary above — Hong Kong Airlines directly won’t price a mixed cabin ticket, and for whatever reason Hong Kong Airlines inventory is zeroed out for all of may in the GDS for both of these routes, which makes no sense, so travel agents can’t book it either.

Then my other thought was to instead fly the Hong Kong Airlines A350 from Hong Kong to Bangkok, and then fly Singapore Airlines’ new 787-10 regional business class from Bangkok to Singapore. However, then I’m in Singapore, which is even further from the US, and any further new product review would add several more days to the journey.

If anyone has a creative idea (from a review perspective) for how to get from Hong Kong back to the US, please let me know!

  1. Awesome that you are now booked on these airlines! Ahahaha I love this typically Belgian response: The representative informed me that I am “currently the only one impacted by this,” because of course why would any non-Belgian ever think to fly their airline. Imagine the CFO’s reaction in finding this out ROFL

  2. Once you’re in Singapore take a quick flight to Kuala Lumpur and the try Air Asia X’s flat bed to Honolulu. Or fly with Scoot to Osaka from Singapore and then Air Asia X to Honolulu.

    It would be nice to have some more low cost strip reports like you’ve done with Spirit.

  3. It’s pretty much impossible to price a Hong Kong Airlines mixed cabin fare on their website, so if anything I’d suggest just going with Singapore.

    Singapore to Perth to London on Qantas and London to the US on a Virgin Atlantic 787/Air New Zealand would be a fun read, but award space is limited (especially Perth to London).

    Alternatively you could book a Hong Kong Airlines roundtrip to Bangkok, sample both their A350, an older product, and both their lounges, and fly Cathay Pacific premium economy back to the US. I’d LOVE to see you review premium economy (it’s probably going to be better than your previous Ukraine experience anyways). You could always fly down to Singapore as you noted and fly Singapore Airlines premium economy back to the US.

    Just a few ideas 🙂

  4. Hey lucky….
    If you’re in Singapore…
    How about trying the Jet Airways Herringbone seat product and then flying Virgin Atlantic or Qatar Airways back to the US???

  5. If I were you, I would just take the plunge on the 2800. Or take Hainan from Chongqing or Chengdu to LA or NY

  6. Would LOVE to see a Vietnam Airlines 787 or A350 review. Might be a pain to come back through either London or Paris to the US, but they generally have great fares from Europe to Asia/Oceania and while the hard product looks great, be great to see how they’re soft product fairs against the other big Asian carriers.

  7. Do UA business class from HKG-ORD I don’t know the last time you did a UA business class review in 3 cabin C (if ever), this would be much more beneficial to most readers who are U.S. based than Singapore regional business class. You may have to wait closer to departure but UA usually releases saver business a few days and weeks prior to departure.

  8. To get back from HKG to the USA, why not fly Singapore Airlines to SIN to meet the new 787-10 regional business class from SIN to Osaka then AirAsia X Premium Flatbed from KIX to HNL ?

  9. @Ben, Feel free to try EVA Air, who recently was awarded as a five star airline, especially their hello kitty product. It’s a lot of fun! Furthermore, their business class product is also pretty decent.

  10. I’d also love Air Philippines

    However I know you love unique airlines….

    What about Air Niugini from HKG to POM (Port Moresby Papa New Guinea)?

    It’s a 2-1-2 lie flat business class seat.
    Food is pretty iffy
    About $2100 one way

    Local people are charming but the town has very high crime.
    So I’d transit quickly

    Maybe to Manila then take Air Philippines to US?

    I’ve heard pitch is 70 inches in first row (can’t confirm)

  11. Firstly, I’m very happy that you managed to book a flight with Air Belgium.

    Not so many (interesting) options from Hong Kong though.

    Since you have to do the following trek sooner or later anyway – QF 9 PER-LHR – I suggest you do it now.

    Cathay Dragon from Hong Kong to SIN and from there to PER (SQ or QF regional product on I think the 737!!!!), PER-LHR.

    LHR-LAX either your comfort food AA or Virgin Atlantic.

  12. I agree with Alvin, @ Lucky. It would be really awesome to see you do a Premium Economy review, especially on Cathay Pacific’s stunning A350 product to either SFO or EWR. Feel free to route through Taipei and experience either Taiwan’s EVA Air or China Airlines, though!

  13. Great suggestions above including the Perth to London option for the return.

    With a few spare days in SIN you could make a side trip to KUL and check out new MH lounges, planes, and perhaps some behind the scenes…

  14. A few more potential (rather expensive) one-ways –

    For $2,073 you can get from Shanghai Hongqiao to Vancouver through Hong Kong on Hong Kong Airlines (A350 and A330 longhaul with bar).

    I see $1,660 from Taipei to Hong Kong to Vancouver but no A350.

  15. China Airlines, preferably on one of their A359 routes, via TPE. They currently have very cheap rates in J and PE.

  16. HK back to the US for review purposes?

    Consider Chennai (MAA)-FRA on the Lufthansa City Line A340-300. Might get to MAA by CX.

    Have you reviewed EVA recently other than the Hello Kitty way?

    How about Scoot?

    All these, I would like to read about. They are not random requests. Bon voyage!

  17. Do Vietnam Airlines! You’d have to fly back via Europe, obviously, but they are one of the most distinguished airlines in Asia that you haven’t flown yet, and their long-haul fleet has been extensively renovated with new 787s and A350s. Maybe, once you are in Europe, you could try one of the low cost transatlantic flights, like Norwegian, Air Transat or Westjet.

  18. Maybe flying with Qantas from either Singapore or Hong Kong down to Melbourne (able to test their A330 business suites) and then continuing with QF95 to LAX on the 787-9? Qantas long haul hasn’t been revived in a while, their A330/787 products look amazing!!

  19. I second Brad’s request to return Scoot or AirAsia X via HNL “I’ve taken a interest”

  20. Do a Hong Kong-Aukland with Sichuan, with a stop over in Chengdu (take a picture with a baby panda) and then on an a330. From Auckland to Buenos Aires on Air New Zealand on a 787, Eze-Sao Paulo on Turkish and Sao Paulo-Miami on BOA, with a stop over in Santa Cruz de La Sierra in Bolivia (stay at the Radisson there for a night) and a 767 ride to Miami.

    And then tell us if you still like being adventurous 😀

  21. Lucky, just like many others mentioned on your previous post about Air Belgium, I would do whatever possible to get that 40€ credit card fee rebated as it is illegal under new EU regulations. That’s of course if you think it’s worth it… Excited nevertheless.

  22. You could try HKG-SIN, from there to BKK on the 787-10, and from there to DXB on FlyDubai’s 737 MAX. Now from there…

    Or you could do HKG-PER-LHR.

    Or HKG-MEL-LAX, since QF flies the 789 on that as well.

  23. Ben Holz: EU Creditcard fees are NOT “illegal” IF.
    the card used is a business card
    not issued by a EU bank or creditcard institution
    a company (non personal) card.
    Ben’s card was issues in the US so it’s totally “legal” what that EU airlines is doing and charging the fee!

  24. Congrats Ben for finally ticketing Air Belgium and Ukraine Airlines !! So how to get back to the US??
    …hmm…regarding your affinity to new airlines in premium classes or which you have not tried it yet…why not try Malindo Airlines from HKG via KUL to CMB…as far as I have seen roughly 460 USD oneway…than with Kuwait Airways in First roughly 2529 USD oneway…interesting???
    The KU metals are A330 from CMB to KWI than the new First in B777 from KWI to JFK….

    So we have a new airline..Malindo Airlines..which we can compare to Malaysia Airlines etc.. and finally the new First Suite with Kuwait Airways…

  25. Another +1 for Philippine Airlines! I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on their transpacific business class.

  26. Why not suffer and go down to Singapore and take the direct flight to LA on United, it might be one of the longer flights that you’ve taken

  27. @Golfulmean10

    Ben already tried the UA route SFO via HKG to SIN last year April…but perhaps it is a good idea?? see and much Polaris service and amenities are still there after one year…what is left after all these” cost cuttings” before it has been implemented to the entire long haul destinations…

    @ Matt

    there is not a lot new or better in PR C product comparing to Ben’s report last March…the only difference could was the new B777 with their new seats which are full flat beds now…it is same seat which TK already has for years…it is 2-3-2 confiugration(you don’t want to be trapped between locals on a transpacific vida loca !!)…gone is the angled flat seat which Ben thought one of the best angled seat beside MS…F&B are okay, not very impressive and the portion is rather on the smaller sides…if you are lucky you can have a second serving…amenity kit is not overwhelming..the service is the best from all the soft products..typical Asian friendliness and I was lucky to have one on my aisle who is very professional without being over the top nice or rude…but the transit in Manila…Oh boy, just give me CX lounges in HKG or SQ lounges in SIN anytime!…

  28. You can now fly overnight from Hong Kong to Sydney on Virgin Australia’s new service being operated by their A330-200. From there you have any number of flights back to LA leaving in the morning.

  29. S7 would be an interesting choice. I’ve read elsewhere that they have a very impress lounge/VIP terminal in Novosibirsk. For a more practical purpose I’d also suggest Vietnam Airlines (nice reverse herringbone seat & Pho on board!) and Air Europa, which I haven’t seen too many reviews out there.

  30. Hong Kong airline is the partner of Virgin Australia, so we could redeem Virgin Velocity point on Hong Kong Airline from HKG to LAX or SFO. Virgin Velocity is a transfer partner of SPG And AMEX Rewards in Australia, though I don’t think it is a transfer partner of AMEX rewards in US.

  31. Business class flights from Bangkok or Hong Kong are surprisingly cheap to Las Vegas 90% of the times i’ve checked Hainan airlines thats dirrct from PEK. Not bad cash fares and earn heaps of alaska miles for it.
    Or what about BKK to CMB on a Sri Lankan airlines flight and book yourself a dratsically cheaper return Business class ticket from CMB to SFO via SIN on SQ… gives you a good opportunity to get back to the SE asia area at a later date going Via Colombo could save you $1000s

  32. SIN-PEK on Air China 787 , with a connection on Air China to CTU then KLM to AMS on 787 , and UA back on the 2-4-2 BUS

  33. Try to get on the Cathay Dragon F to PEK, then do positioning to KIX on Shenzhen Airlines, and try Airasia X or Scoot premium cabin to HNL

  34. How about Vietnam Airlines, JAL or Philippines Airlines from Hongkong to the USA?
    Hongkong Airlines does not seem worth it..

  35. @Lucky,

    which website are you using where you can separate business class one way and economy the return and actually book it like that? thanks

  36. Lucky, i got a suggestion on the itinerary. First after you reach HKG, you could connect to BKK using Hongkong Airline’s A350. Then from BKK, you go all the way to SIN in SQ’s new 787-10. From here you could just go back to LA via Hong Kong, or you could fly to PER and take Qantas’ new flight to LHR, and from LHR take Air NZ back to LA. So you got all new product in one shot

  37. I have seen a lot of sub $1000 fares in the past couple of months for a one way HKG-CMB-MEL on UL J. Take that, and then as many have suggested above connect onto QFs 789 for MEL-LAX.

  38. As others have said I think it would be a fantastic and an amazing idea and review to go Perth – London on QF as you haven’t reviewed their new business class yet and it is still relatively new or you could go QF 787-9 from MEL o also you could try AirAsia flatbed (premium class) form
    HKG-KUL-PER-LHR and then do one of the European airlines you want to review e.g. KLM’s new 787-9

  39. +1 for PAL as well. Want to know your thoughts on their new A330 J that they use on some HKG frequencies.

  40. Or you could go HKG-SIN-PER on Singapore airlines new 787-10 as they are staring flying it on May 9
    and then could go PER-LHR on QF 9 and then LHR-AMS-SFO on KLM’s new 787 dreamliner with their reverse herringbone seats make it a 787 trip.

  41. You should try Ukraine International. They have good business class. If you’re in Kiev, stay in Hyatt or Premier Palace, they’re the best hotels there.

  42. Have you figured out how to get from Brussels Airport to Charleroi Airport? It’s 75 km away. No train from BRU to Charleroi airport. Bus service from Brussels Midi Station. Good luck.

  43. VN from HKG to CDG, then CDG to FCO/MXP with AZ/AF, then AZ to the US (last AZ review is 4 years old).

    PAL new A330 from HKG to LAX

    HKG to PER with SQ 787-10, PER to LHR with QF 787-9, LCY to JFK with BA001 (See how it changed since 2009)

  44. i can book the HX itinerary (biz there, econ back) for USD2232, email me if you would like it

  45. Can you try SIN – DEL/BOM – YYZ, second leg being on AIR CANADA 787-9? It will be good to get a review of how AC is doing on the India route as compared to UA.

  46. Either you could: 1) fly SQ 787-10 from SIN to PER, then QF 787-9 to MEL and QF 787-9 to LAX/SFO or 2) from SIN to MEL on JQ or TR 787 and then QF 787-9 to LAX/SFO

  47. +1 for PAL … new Thompson Aerospace seats for J and isn’t EY sweet spot for redeemables ?

  48. My vote is Hong Kong Airlines. I’m interested in Ben’s take on their biz class, other blogs give it some positive feedback.

  49. What about

    1) Philippine Airlines from Hong Kong to Manila to Honolulu
    2) Philippine Airlines from Hong Kong to Manila to Guam and then United from Guam to Honolulu to Los Angeles. Alternatively, you could do the famous milk-run United has between Guam and Honolulu via a bunch of Pacific islands.
    3) Asiana from Hong Kong to Seoul and then Hawaiian from Seoul to Honolulu to mainland.

  50. Fiji from HKG-NAN-HNL, Delta/United/Hawaiian/American from HNL-LAX/SFO/SEA/SAN

    HKG-PEK Hong Kong Airlines, PEK-SEA on Hainan.

  51. HKG-TLV on Cathay Pacific and TLV-FCO-LAX on Alitalia

    HKG-HAN-LHR on Vietnam and LHR-LAX on Air New Zealand

    HKG-AMS on KLM, AMS-CDG-LHR on Air France, LHR-FRA on Lufthansa, FRA-SEA on Condor, SEA-LAX on Alaska

  52. JAL, their first class is totally awesome and a bargain with AS mileage redemption. Although only business class to NRT. If NRT to LAX not avail, HND to SFO has good award redemption availability.

  53. Jeez, lots of options..we do have lots of aviation geeks here..Ben, you have the hardest job to find the interesting flight back home…I do miss a QF or a NZ report..but I stick to my Malindo Air and Kuwait Air suggestion

  54. HX has a one leg upgrade program which they offer at a cost on the space available basis. Usually, the cost is quite reasonable. You might want to check directly with HX.

  55. Cant wait to check this review. What about EVA throught or either China Airlines throught Taipei to LAX.

  56. Hi @Lucky – love the blog, read it every day! I was just in Kiev for a week on business. Wonderful city! Highly underrated I think. Great restaurants, scenery, history. I stayed at 11 Mirrors, a design hotel, and it was fantastic. It’s not the historical angle like some other hotels are but in a great location.

    I was very pleasantly surprised by my time in Kiev!


  57. @Lucky, not sure if you were able to get your Hong Kong Airlines ticket in the end, but these flights are indeed bookable from the USA, although direct connect in Sabre has to be used (Oddly enough, “neutral” availability won’t show-up the flights you need…) On the other hand, the fare appears to have gone-up a bit to USD 2131.21 today…

    Of course, the USA based-agent of your choice must have ticketing capabilities enabled with HX in order to issue this ticket on your behalf.

    I certaibly hope this has been helpful !

    07MAY MON HKG/Z‡8 LAX/PDT-15
    7HX 68 C9 D9 J9 Z9 I0 Y9 B9 H9*HKGLAX 1200N 1025A 359 0
    K9 L9 M9 N9 S9 X9

    1 HX 68Z 07MAY M HKGLAX SS1 1200N 1025A /DCHX /E
    2 HX 69N 11MAY F LAXHKG SS1 1210P 620P 12MAY J /DCHX /E
    1- HKD15890 USD2024.00 107.21XT USD2131.21ADT
    XT 36.60US 5.65YC 7.00XY 3.96XA
    5.60AY 15.30HK 22.90G3 5.70I5
    15890 2024.00 107.21 2131.21TTL
    ADT-01 ZRTHK52W N6MHK52W
    HKG HX LAX1541.31HX HKG486.32NUC2027.63END ROE7.834232 XF

  58. You can fly ScootBiz on the new flight to jeddah for around 700SGD$ , that could be interesting…

  59. So… hope you don’t have high expectations, the “new PS 777… Is a refurnished one and the hard product is what we used to get 10 years ago. Regarding soft product… well, the usual Ukrainian airlines style : rude FA, crappy and disgusting food, poor wine selection and not to mention the fact that they are never on time. It’s cheap but when it’s bad cheap is always too expensive!

  60. Lucky you’re going to love Kiev, agree with @Steven Godfrey, it’s one of the most underrated cities in Europe. Try to have dinner at Kanapa restaurant. If you have a spare day and want a very intense experience book a private tour of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (but stay away from the group tours which are less interesting).

  61. I agree with the above comments about Vietnam Airlines. I’d be curious about their long haul product offerings. I’ve used them several times for domestic flights in economy within Vietnam and was pleased with the experience. Looking forward to your thoughts about the current state of Ukraine in J, since I am looking at routings to visit Ukraine from NY and was leaning towards looking at a krisflyer award with SQ in Suites JFK-FRA or LH F then connecting on to Ukraine.

  62. Head to Guam and do the island hopper on United to HNL

    be a great trip report – about the flight not so much about the seats or the service

  63. @Lucky

    So you’re willing to commit fraud and possibly inconvenience Air Belgium by adding on an economy flight you have no intention of taking?

    You’re depriving the airline of revenue. They’d have every right to chase you for payment of your flown itinerary.

  64. @TracyAnderson

    who are you the voice of reason? If you want a free oneway Eco ticket from HKG to CRL, you could have just asked nicely!.
    So if Ben is denied boarding, we know now who is the black sheep in OMAAT who denounced him to Air Belgium..

  65. @Tracy Anderson,

    Lucky is paying for his return seat, but simply not using it, so he is not depriving anyone of revenue or committing fraud.

    That would only be the case if he asked for a refund for it, which he airline would certainly refuse in any case.

  66. Don’t know when your flight is but Belgian media are reporting the first flight has been delayed to June 3rd because the airline doesn’t have the rights to fly over Russia yet.

  67. I’m trying to book a one-way flight (BGO-BOS via CPH with SAS in their business), and it’s a lot cheaper to get the business class flight for that leg and an econ ticket as a return. Can SAS penalize me if I’m not taking the Econ flight BOS-CPH-BGO in econ?

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