Hong Kong Airlines 2018 Expansion: London, New York, And San Francisco

Filed Under: Other Airlines

Hong Kong Airlines is Hong Kong’s third largest airline. They just took delivery of their first A350, and they’re using the plane for longhaul expansion, which is exciting.

This summer Hong Kong Airlines added flights between Hong Kong and Vancouver using A330s, and this December they’ll begin flying between Hong Kong and Los Angeles using A350s (surprisingly this will be LAX’s first scheduled A350 service). However, this is only the beginning of their longhaul expansion, it looks like.

Per the awesome Danny Lee at the South China Morning Post, Hong Kong Airlines is planning on adding flights to London, New York, and San Francisco in 2018. While we don’t yet have exact launch dates or schedules for the new flights, this growth does seem possible, given the speed at which they’ll be taking delivery of A350s.

Per the story:

Ben Wong Ching-ho, chief operating officer at Hong Kong Airlines, took a swipe at a Cathay Pacific’s dominance at Hong Kong International Airport, where it controls almost half of take-off and landing slots with sister airline Cathay Dragon.

“The competition says competition is not good, but I think competition is a good thing,” Wong said. “In all the major cities in Asia [there are at least two airlines]. We think Hong Kong can host two locally based airlines so hopefully, with some competition, we can offer a better selection for the public.”

Cathay Pacific has been struggling financially, so this will pose yet another threat to Hong Kong’s dominant airline.

All that being said, international airfare is so cheap nowadays, that I have to wonder how they can even make money with these routes. Economy fares from the US to Asia pretty consistently run around $600. Cathay Pacific can usually charge a bit of a premium when they sell nonstop tickets to Hong Kong, though tickets are still consistently under $1,000 roundtrip.

Hong Kong Airlines can’t compete with Cathay Pacific on frequency (for example, Cathay Pacific has up to four flights per day to both Los Angeles and New York), so do they plan on beating them on price, or…?

I’ve been wanting to try Hong Kong Airlines’ longhaul business class, though I’ve been surprised by their pricing for the new Los Angeles route. Yes, economy is cheap, but it’s cheap on just about any airline nowadays. The part that surprises me is that their cheapest business class fare is over $5,200, which is actually more expensive than some of the fares that both American and Cathay Pacific have in the market. For a newcomer to the route, you’d think they’d have some attractive introductory pricing, but we haven’t seen that yet.

Bottom line

Competition is a good thing, especially for Hong Kong, which up until now has been a market with just one real longhaul airline. However, with airfare between the US and Asia as cheap as it has ever been, I have to wonder what money is in it for the airlines, even with more fuel efficient planes.

Furthermore, selfishly I hope Hong Kong Airlines publishes some business class promotions, so I can review them on a US route.

What do you make of Hong Kong Airlines’ longhaul expansion?

  1. Prices ex-HKG are still very high though – they could charge a premium over CX’s ex-US or Europe fares and still undercut them out of HKG. Non stop to London is typically $2k US from Hong Kong in economy for example.

    Plus if CX shifts to *A as rumoured there is a clear vacancy in OW.

  2. Try going to somewhere else instead of HKG. Based on the dates of your ITA search, BKK costs 3,752 USD, HAN costs 2,721 USD. Maybe you can go to HAN and try out Vietnam Airlines on one of their A350s or B787s.

  3. Interesting regarding LHR, as I’m not aware of them possessing an existing slot at the airport, which are extremely valuable and especially difficult to come by (esp. for east-asia flights which usually want to fly overnight and land early). I wonder where they plan to pick up a slot from. Agree that more competition would be good on that route.

  4. Careful what you wish for Ben. Yes, CX has been exploiting its local quasi-monopoly for many years, but now with fierce global competition from Gulf and mainland China carriers, if it loses more of its O&D position to HX, which is backed by the aggressive and opaque HNA Group, the very viability of the airline may be in question.

    Conspiracy theorists may see the hidden hand of Chinese authorities trying to undermine a UK-controlled airline, a relic of the colonial era, possibly leading to Air China taking over from Swire – not an entirely outrageous proposition given the political situation in HK. It will be sad if CX as we know it – not perfect but still up there in terms of overall quality – becomes collateral damage. The future of OneWorld may be in question too.

  5. Doesn’t the usual trick of booking a flight that connects onwards work?

    So instead of booking LAX-HKG, book LAX to Taiwan via HKG. The extra flight makes it cheaper!

  6. Are you able to find Cathay flights from HKG to JFK or EWR for less than 5,200? Every time I book, it’s roughly 7,500 roundtrip.

  7. My goodness China has how many airlines? 20??????

    China Airlines, Air China, China Eastern, China Southern, Xiamen, Hainan, Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Airlines….and those are just out the top of my head.

    They need to chill, theres enough airlines serving China as it is hahahha.

  8. Hong Kong Airlines needs to really make up their mind. They are now borderline LCC, borderline Full service carrier. Their economy product cannot be compared to CX on regional routes. Seating is 29-30″ tight with poor quality catering, and a poor frequent flier program. I have no experience on business class with them to comment.

    The airline to look out for for great service between USA and Asia is Hainan Airlines. (Same ownership group as Hong Kong Airlines).

  9. @schar

    China Airlines, as well as EVA, and FAT, Mandarin (an affiliate of China Airlines), and Uni (an affiliate of EVA), serves Taiwan (or ROC), which is a totally different sovereign entity from the PR China.

    Meanwhile, Hong Kong and Macau are two Special Administrative Regions of PR China, separated from the Mainland part, so HK-based airlines (Cathay, Hong Kong Airlines, and HKExpress), and Macau-based airline (Air Macau) should be considered in cases similar to Hawaiian Airlines, Azores Airlines and etc.

    As for Mainland China, there are currently about 45 operating passenger airlines and the number is still increasing. Yet, over 2/3 of them are subsidiaries of seven airlines: Air China, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Hainan Airlines, Sichuan Airlines (interstingly, while Sichuan government is their major shareholder, China Southern, Shandong—an Air China affiliate, and Shanghai—a China Eastern affiliate all are significant shareholders), Juneyao Airlines, Okay Airways. And these seven “airline groups”, plus the Shanghai and Tokyo-based LCC Spring Airlines, dominate the domestic market, and are the only Chinese airlines eligible for operating regular international flights.

    One reason for the astronomical number of airlines in Mainland China is that, as the market for infrastructure investment began to saturate, many local governments have turned to the aviation market, heavily subsidizing so-called “home airlines”, as well as long-haul international flights, considering them business cards that could promote their fame internationally. Therefore, for the seven airlines mentioned above, starting a new airline, instead of just opening a hub like US airlines always do, would bring them huge benefits (money, also slots).

  10. @David

    I guess you mistook Hong Kong Airlines for HK Express. Although both are all HKG-based airlines owned by HNA Group/Hainan Airlines, the former is a LCC and the later is a full service airline serving mostly leisure destination in South East Asia, Japan, Korea, Australia, as well as Mainland Chinese destinations.

  11. @ David Barnes

    Agree with you about LHR – but, in fairness, it’s only Lucky’s map which mentions LHR rather than “London”. I’d expect these flights to open at LGW, for the reasons you set out. Unless someone is putting very big money into them (is it now £60m to buy a slot pair at LHR in a decent time slot?).

  12. @Lucky – Theres a good route to try – OOL-HKG business return only costs ~$1800 AUD. Thats even cheaper than CX BNE-HKG premium economy ($1900 AUD). The only downside is no miles can be earned (Fortune Wings Club miles is useless anyway), though.

  13. Lucky – I think you’ve proved that you don’t actually have any knowledge on aviation economics. Your constant bashing about Qatar Airways running a loss when actually they been running a pretty decent profit without financial aids (if you actually bother to read the entire finiancial document sent by Qatar Airways) and then no mention that you were incorrect on your blog, leads me to believe you don’t actually know anything about airline economics. Sure you know how to sit in a premium seat on an airline and you should just stick to that. Leave the actual business side of avaiation to the experts

  14. @David Barnes @A

    Indeed it will very probably be LHR.

    It is rumoured that VS will no longer operate the LHR-HKG route next year and the slots will be given to HX for the route

  15. Nope – Hong Kong Airlines is a step above Hong Kong Express but it is certainly not in the same category as Cathay Pacific.

  16. @ David
    I mean Hong Kong airlines is more like Cathay Dragon (formerly Dragonair) but they start expanding out of Asia. They once start a all business flight to LGW but it fail. Maybe they’re not as good as Cathay Pacific but being like Cathay Dragon is certainly not a bad thing at all.

  17. @David Stevenson @Chun @Ben @Fc @Zee @ David Barnes @ Lucky
    Sorry to “mass message”. But it seems you guys know the secret of booking a cheaper flight. Every time we head to Hong Kong, we pay the 7,500 per person round trip for business class from JFK to HKG via Cathay. Is there a cheaper route/airline?

  18. @sushigirl- I opened a Alaska Airline credit card and charge everything on it. I have a flight from HKG-JFk in October. I paid $88 in taxes and fees, plus 70,000 miles for first class. I charge everything I can on the credit card to build miles. Cathay is the best. I rather fly business class on Cathay over First on United.

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