Virgin Atlantic Ending Hong Kong Flights

Virgin Atlantic Ending Hong Kong Flights

49

This is certainly a sign of the times…

Virgin Atlantic won’t return to Hong Kong

Understandably many airlines have suspended service to Hong Kong during the pandemic, due to Hong Kong’s quarantine requirement. This has greatly limited passenger demand to the city, while also making logistics complicated for crews. Things are slowly looking up for Hong Kong, as the quarantine requirement will be ending soon, even if things will be nowhere near how they were pre-pandemic.

Unfortunately that doesn’t mean all airlines will be returning to Hong Kong, though. Virgin Atlantic has announced that it no longer plans to resume Hong Kong flights, after serving the city for almost 30 years. Virgin Atlantic had an office in Hong Kong, which will be closing. Until 2017, Virgin Atlantic even had a Clubhouse at Hong Kong Airport. This route closure will lead to 46 job losses, including office staff and cabin crew.

Here’s how Virgin Atlantic describes this decision in a statement:

“After careful consideration we’ve taken the difficult decision to suspend our London Heathrow – Hong Kong services and close our Hong Kong office, after almost 30 years of proudly serving this Asian hub city. We’re constantly reviewing the performance of our network and as part of our long term strategy of being sustainably profitable.”

Virgin Atlantic claims that the Hong Kong route was already becoming less profitable pre-pandemic, with fewer connecting travelers. Virgin Australia used to offer connecting service from Hong Kong to Melbourne and Sydney, but Virgin Atlantic has cut long haul flights, reducing the number of connecting travelers.

Not only is the airline expecting for it to take some time for demand to Hong Kong to increase, but the Russian airspace closure also means that the route would take up to two additional hours to operate in each direction.

Virgin Atlantic won’t return to Hong Kong

This seems like a logical route cut

Virgin Atlantic cutting Hong Kong service makes perfect sense, and frankly I’m surprised this decision wasn’t made earlier on in the pandemic:

  • Virgin Atlantic’s strength is in the North Atlantic market, given that Delta has a 49% ownership stake in Virgin Atlantic, and the airline is part of a joint venture with Air France-KLM and Delta
  • Virgin Atlantic is best off focusing on transatlantic flights, plus routes to the East that people would connect off of from North America (like Africa, India, Pakistan, etc.)
  • The London to Hong Kong route had virtually no connecting traffic on either end for Virgin Atlantic, since most people aren’t flying from North America to Hong Kong via London, and Virgin Atlantic didn’t have significant partners in Hong Kong
  • Virgin Atlantic was at a massive disadvantage compared to British Airways and Cathay Pacific (the two other airlines operating the route), as they both had connectivity on both ends
  • Virgin Atlantic only has a fleet of a few dozen planes, so the airline very much has to prioritize which destinations are worth serving, as growth potential is very limited
Virgin Atlantic doesn’t have a huge fleet

Bottom line

Virgin Atlantic will be terminating Hong Kong flights after roughly 30 years. The airline says the route has seen declining profitability even pre-pandemic, and the currently reduced demand combined with Russian airspace closure means the route is no longer viable.

Even taking the Russian airspace closure out of the equation, it seems like the writing was on the wall for this, as these planes can more profitably be utilized in other markets.

What do you make of Virgin Atlantic pulling out of Hong Kong?

Conversations (49)
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  1. Brianair Guest

    I have a good feeling that this is the first of a bunch of different international carriers that will cut flights to Hong Kong. Now you see British Airways, arguably the most significant overseas airline, flying a small 787 on HKG-LHR now, much different from the A380 and 777 they flew before the pandemic. Remember when people were criticizing Delta’s decision to pull out of HKG? Oh, how things have changed. I bet that the...

    I have a good feeling that this is the first of a bunch of different international carriers that will cut flights to Hong Kong. Now you see British Airways, arguably the most significant overseas airline, flying a small 787 on HKG-LHR now, much different from the A380 and 777 they flew before the pandemic. Remember when people were criticizing Delta’s decision to pull out of HKG? Oh, how things have changed. I bet that the portfolio of airlines at HKG will slowly become like CAN or SZX. I really don’t envy the position Hong Kong is in. It’s hard to tell if integration with Shenzhen and Mandarin speaking policies are imminent or if things will just continue like normal there for the next few decades. Especially now that they seem to be working on reopening. What will happen to those companies like Swire and Jardines?

    Singapore, Shanghai, Taipei, and other Asian cities will pick up where Hong Kong left. I wouldn’t be surprised if Virgin Atlantic announces LHR-SIN sometime soon (or LHR-PVG if China wasn’t closed).

  2. Perry Ogle Guest

    Can’t help feeling there’s a certain rearranging-the-deckchairs-on-the-Titanic feel about Virgin at the moment: Their most recent TV advert says to me “it’s not about you the passenger, it’s all about us - look at us, aren’t we pretty?”, which - for an outfit that claims to want to be the “most loved travel company” - is a curious way of going about things.

  3. Robert Guest

    I contacted Virgin many times explaining that they need to offer code share connections through Hong Kong but they never responded and therefore I always fly Cathay. Self destruction of there own Airline by Delta.

  4. Shaun Guest

    Error in the article, BA doesn’t have connecting flights when flying from LHR -HKG.
    The planes sit around for the return journey back to LHR

  5. Mammothlover Guest

    I’ve flown LAX-LHR-HKG round trip in PE and enjoyed it! Plus the Mileage credited for it! Hope they start LHR-TPE, yes I’m dreaming

  6. Timo Gold

    The decline oh Hong Kong during this lifetime is unbelievably sad. I had so many great trips using HKG as my transit stop for a few days en route to somewhere else exciting. But I was always thrilled to spend a few days there. Shanghai doesn't have the charm or natural beauty. It's all a shame and I feel so sorry for the citizens who had their political autonomy stripped.

  7. Francis Guest

    Further evidence of the demise of the country of Hong Kong. Every international carrier should boycott HK over the tyranny of the CCP.

  8. Sfodtwflr Guest

    When you say that BA and CX have connectivity on both sides, what do you mean? As far as I can see, neither has flights from both ends, and if you mean partners, all three do….

    1. Leigh Guest

      ??

      BA/CX are oneworld, so of course they have connectivity on both ends. VA has no connectivity in HKG with a partner airline.

  9. JWags Guest

    Its going to be fascinating, albeit sad, to watch HKG go from a monster hub and connection stalwart, like ICN and NRT, to just another large Asian airport. Wouldn't be shocked to see it be like BOM. A huge airport serving a large city that has surprisingly few global long haul destinations.

    Thanks CCP :)

    1. AnishReddi Member

      The problem with BOM is that it hasn't had a commited carrier unitl now, Jet Airways collapsed and didn't focus on long haul growth for quite a few years and Air India was well Air India and is slot constricted. Now with Air Inida coming back (it will still take time) and Indigo getting A321XLRs BOM will get lots more longhaul international destinations.

  10. Stephen Guest

    A route that made sense in 1997 and less since over time as HK as a financial hub has diminished.

  11. Myles Guest

    The HKG-LHR route was a pretty sweet and rare award redemption opportunity without huge surcharges on VS back when those fees were banned out of HKG.

  12. Jimmy’s Travel Report Diamond

    Always thought it would have been fun to do around the world on Virgin flights back when Virgin America existed and Virgin Australia did long haul. Something like LHR-JFK-LAX-SYD-PER-HKG-LHR; (not sure if Virgin ever did PER-HKG). Virgin’s world footprint has certainly shrunk during the last 6 years.

    1. John doe Guest

      More like LAX-JFK on VX, JFK-LHR-HKG-SYD on VS, and then SYD-LAX on VA

    2. RichM Gold

      Virgin Australia never did PER-HKG, only SYD-HKG and MEL-HKG Its long-haul international network was always limited.

  13. FNT Delta Diamond Guest

    Of course, this is a huge loss for Sky Team, especially since Delta abandoned Hong Kong a few years ago as well. I remember flying Delta and using the Virgin Atlantic lounge at Hong Kong. For Americans, this probably helps Star Alliance and United. That aside, I think this is further proof that Hong Kong is not the Hong Kong it used to be. Hong Kong's status as an economic powerhouse, regionally and internationally, is over. Singapore has supplanted it.

    1. ConcordeBoy Diamond

      Sadly, this was intentionally manufactured.... as the mainland has spent the last quarter-century actively attempting to disenfranchise Hong Kong in favor of Shanghai: a metro which it seems will never have the cloud, relative transparency, and trust of foreign investors that HKG once did, no matter how much it grows.

      But the PRC made the conscious decision that they'd rather *destroy* an incredible asset, than take help from Western Capitalists, in regard to the modern...

      Sadly, this was intentionally manufactured.... as the mainland has spent the last quarter-century actively attempting to disenfranchise Hong Kong in favor of Shanghai: a metro which it seems will never have the cloud, relative transparency, and trust of foreign investors that HKG once did, no matter how much it grows.

      But the PRC made the conscious decision that they'd rather *destroy* an incredible asset, than take help from Western Capitalists, in regard to the modern economic rise of the Middle Kingdom.

      Idiots.

    2. Zee Guest

      Not really. Shanghai and Hong Kong serve two different purposes for China.

      Shanghai is more of a hub for domestic capital, as well as greenfield investments from abroad such as the Tesla gigafactory. Meanwhile, HK is more of a general hub for all foreign capital looking to invest in China.

      The major problem right now is PRC's unwillingness to give up its draconian COVID policy. Not only are foreign investors fleeing Hong Kong, but global...

      Not really. Shanghai and Hong Kong serve two different purposes for China.

      Shanghai is more of a hub for domestic capital, as well as greenfield investments from abroad such as the Tesla gigafactory. Meanwhile, HK is more of a general hub for all foreign capital looking to invest in China.

      The major problem right now is PRC's unwillingness to give up its draconian COVID policy. Not only are foreign investors fleeing Hong Kong, but global companies with operational facilities in Shanghai are also retreating right now. Singapore is becoming the new Asian hub for both investors and global companies.

    3. John Guest

      @Zee

      Exactly right. Superficially, the HK and Shanghai money markets look similar to the casual observer, but they're configured for different capital markets, segments and purposes. And I love the fact China is (still) feeling the lash of draconian covid policy. Couldn't have happened to a nicer govt!

    4. SK Guest

      Yeah, the zero-COVID chase (mirage) is beyond words, particularly in Beijing in these pre-meeting days. Everyone is at the mercy of a pop-up warning in a mobile app.

  14. Justin Guest

    Hong Kong is now ruled by the chi coms, why would anyone want to go back there!

    1. tipsyinmadras Diamond

      Dude, turn off Fox News.

      That said, the Mainland Government is certainly killing what was one a vibrant global city.

    2. RichM Gold

      It's been ruled by the CCP since 1997 in case you were unaware.

      Having said that, the recent crackdown on Hong Kong's "one country, two systems" status means it is rapidly being eclipsed by Singapore and Tokyo as Asia's financial hubs.

    1. Airfarer Diamond

      They did, briefly, before 9/11.

    2. FNT Delta Diamond Guest

      I'm pretty sure Virgin Atlantic briefly had Chicago and Detroit flights around 2014 or 2015.

    3. ConcordeBoy Diamond

      VS has made multiple attempts at serving Chicago. It never worked for them.

  15. LEo Diamond

    I think this is expected, considering their name, Virgin ATLANTIC, not Siberia or EuroAsia.

  16. Joey Diamond

    It's very sad. I remember when Virgin Atlantic used to fly to Australia, they'd have a stop in Hong Kong (LHR-HKG-SYD).

  17. VT-CIE Gold

    Small error in the article. It’s Virgin Australia that has cut its long-haul flights. Virgin Atlantic doesn’t have anything but long-haul flights!

    1. RichM Gold

      Yes - it's an easy mistake to make. I think many people unfamiliar with Australian aviation don't realise that Virgin Australia is an entirely separate airline that licenses the Virgin name but, currently, has no ownership interest from Richard Branson's Virgin Group.

      Virgin Atlantic used to fly to SYD via HKG themselves. Then they discontinued HKG-SYD and Virgin Australia took over that route, with a VS codeshare. Then Virgin Australia went bust at the start...

      Yes - it's an easy mistake to make. I think many people unfamiliar with Australian aviation don't realise that Virgin Australia is an entirely separate airline that licenses the Virgin name but, currently, has no ownership interest from Richard Branson's Virgin Group.

      Virgin Atlantic used to fly to SYD via HKG themselves. Then they discontinued HKG-SYD and Virgin Australia took over that route, with a VS codeshare. Then Virgin Australia went bust at the start of the pandemic, and discontinued all long-haul international flying.

  18. MaxPower Guest

    Just the latest iteration in VS being nothing more than a Heathrow slot holder for delta.

    1. ConcordeBoy Diamond

      If that's what's making the money, and/or helping an airline with barely 40 aircraft in their fleet survive, in the world's largest and most competitive metropolitan aviation market......... why is that (as per implication of your post) a bad thing?

  19. Alvin | YTHK Diamond

    This was always a weird route for VS, especially given demand to London from elsewhere in Asia (Hong Kong was one of the major cities, but you had Singapore, Tokyo, etc.). However, from a passenger standpoint, not much is to be missed - especially since BA is flying their Club Suite 777s to Hong Kong soon, VS's 787 product wasn't great in all three cabins, especially in Upper Class and economy.

    1. Frederik Guest

      World leading 21 inch width in that old VS premium economy seating. And width for 2 drinks on the seat rests. All gone from the new and any other premium economy product.

    2. ConcordeBoy Diamond

      "especially given demand to London from elsewhere in Asia"

      What are you talking about?

      HKG is historically the largest demanding route from London in east Asia; which should come as no shock, seeing as it was a (and for all practical purposes, "the") British territory in the region for a century.

    3. TC Guest

      I'll agree with the comment about their subpar product. Virgin's press release saying that profitability had been declining even before the pandemic is somehow curiously silent on the underlying reason...which is that their product is/was poor, even compared to the BA old forward-backward business class.

      I wonder if one less competitor will have an impact for the pricing on the route.

    4. K4 Guest

      You’re insane to say Tokyo or even Singapore could ever compare to HK for demand for London until very recently.
      Tokyo has always been self sufficient and not dependent on foreign business. Demand for the Tokyo route from the US might have been more than from the U.K., but there has never been massive U.K. - Japan demand, in fact there are probably more Japanese working in London on long term posts than business...

      You’re insane to say Tokyo or even Singapore could ever compare to HK for demand for London until very recently.
      Tokyo has always been self sufficient and not dependent on foreign business. Demand for the Tokyo route from the US might have been more than from the U.K., but there has never been massive U.K. - Japan demand, in fact there are probably more Japanese working in London on long term posts than business trips the other way around. Short business trips are high yield. Annual family trips back home are not.
      Singapore was a gateway to South-East Asia, that means Malaysia and Indonesia in particular. Thailand never wanted a middleman, and nor did Brunei. It was never a gateway to China. The monolith of the region.
      The only gateway to business in China from the U.K. was Hong Kong.
      Only now, due to COVID restrictions, has HK become unviable, but that certainly isn’t making Tokyo anything more than a tourism and expat annual family destination from London.
      Singapore is growing, but still isn’t a clear entry point to the China economy, nor does it have the huge British run mega industries in the same way HK has Swire, Jardine-Lloyd Matheson, Dent & Co and Wheelock Marden, which are all to this day owned and or run by British families.
      I don’t really understand how you can compare LHR-HKG to LHR-HND or LHR-SIN pre COVID. Even now I would say there’s a much bigger business interest between the U.K. and HK than Japan and Singapore, even if travel is restricted.

  20. InceptionCat New Member

    Couldn't all the same reasons be used for Shanghai which isn't getting the axe?

    I wonder if we'll see VS launch a flight to Skyteam Hub ICN. While Korean won't be happy about increased competition, VS could sweeten the deal transfering passengers to other asian destinations and Australia to KE.

    But indeed airlines don't seem to be too excited to return to HongKong yet or we woould certainly heard of more routes recomencements to HK.

    1. TyL New Member

      PVG is a skyteam hub with MU based there, so it is a quite different situation for VS in terms of connecting traffic at PVG than HKG. Then even without connecting traffic, Shanghai along with nearby cities (Nanjing, Hangzhou etc.) already have ~200 million people, which is a much bigger market than HKG and should be able to feed the route with direct traffic already.

    2. Eskimo Guest

      @TyL Have obviously never connected in PVG between non-MU.

      However with VS it probably has some relation to where DL is too.

    3. Dominic Kivni Guest

      If both VS and KE are Skyteam, why would it be increased competition? Wouldn't they be codesharing? Delta has significant influence and ownership stakes in both, doesn't make sense for them to compete

    4. ConcordeBoy Diamond

      "If both VS and KE are Skyteam, why would it be increased competition?"

      Because they don't have anti-trust immunity and do not operate a revenue-sharing joint venture. Thus, they remain competitors for revenue, despite (soon) being in the same alliance.

      Simply being in the same alliance, doesn't mean much other than semi-reciprocal FFP cooperation and limited joint marketing. Also keep in mind that VS has not joined SkyTeam just yet.

  21. Tim Dunn Diamond

    All of the "justifications" for cancelling the route noted above were just as true for the 30 years it operated - except for the Russian airspace closure and the fact that HKG has lost its role as the financial capital of the Chinese speaking world.
    There are alot of routes between western Europe and East Asia that cost alot more to operate and they will be retained but airlines cannot overcome geopolitical changes including...

    All of the "justifications" for cancelling the route noted above were just as true for the 30 years it operated - except for the Russian airspace closure and the fact that HKG has lost its role as the financial capital of the Chinese speaking world.
    There are alot of routes between western Europe and East Asia that cost alot more to operate and they will be retained but airlines cannot overcome geopolitical changes including China's reabsorption of Hong Kong.
    VS won't be the last global airline to drop HKG

  22. Jim Guest

    And, totally coincidentally, VS is joining SkyTeam... wherein travelers from LHR to HKG can, albeit with a connection, travel via AF or KL... or, heck, MU or VN for that matter.

    I see the major challenge of VS being limited slots - as long as they singularly focus on LHR to the exclusion of other potential hubs, growth potential is going to be limited. You know BA will happily fly empty 319s to Cardiff and back all day to keep those slots away from the competition.

    1. FNT Delta Diamond Guest

      Air France and KLM have a rather interesting network in Southeast Asia, including some fifth-freedom flights. As an American, I'd rather fly United nonstop than connecting through Europe, but if I was going to make a connection it's definitely going to be on Air France and KLM. China Eastern, no thanks.

    2. Eskimo Guest

      If you ever flew MU and connect at PVG, it's not as bad as people make it to be.
      If you're flying premium, the soft product isn't far behind (except catering), but often at a much cheaper price. Hard product, I'd take them on par or better than AF/KL.
      If you're flying coach, you just have to deal with your fellow passengers.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

VT-CIE Gold

Small error in the article. It’s Virgin Australia that has cut its long-haul flights. Virgin Atlantic doesn’t have anything but long-haul flights!

4
ConcordeBoy Diamond

If that's what's making the money, and/or helping an airline with barely 40 aircraft in their fleet survive, in the world's largest and most competitive metropolitan aviation market......... why is that (as per implication of your post) a bad thing?

2
ConcordeBoy Diamond

Sadly, this was intentionally manufactured.... as the mainland has spent the last quarter-century actively attempting to disenfranchise Hong Kong in favor of Shanghai: a metro which it seems will never have the cloud, relative transparency, and trust of foreign investors that HKG once did, no matter how much it grows. But the PRC made the conscious decision that they'd rather *destroy* an incredible asset, than take help from Western Capitalists, in regard to the modern economic rise of the Middle Kingdom. Idiots.

2
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