London to Hong Kong: Flight Route Analysis

Hong Kong (HKG) is one of Asia’s premier financial hubs and a very popular destination with good connections from London. There are a number of airlines flying London to Hong Kong (6,000 miles) non-stop with a flight time of around 12 hours.

In the past, an economy class airfare under £400 was seen as value for this route – however airfares have been somewhat firmer with the significant increases in UK Air Passenger Duty.

hong kong flights

Good value business sale class fares have been in the £1,400-£2,000 band – but the £2k-£3k level is standard. In this article we will review all airlines flying London to Hong Kong – but first here are a few factors to consider:

Flight Times – Our preference is to leave London in the late evening and arrive in Hong Kong late afternoon – giving time to get to your accommodation, have an evening meal and then an early night.

Non-stop vs Connections – Obviously it is preferable to fly non-stop but you may find lower fares with a connecting airline. When flying via a hub airport watch out for long connection times.

Alliances – If you have frequent flyer membership(s), you may want to earn miles/points with your preferred alliance. Oneworld dominates this route with British Airways and Cathay Pacific flying non-stop – note, however that Qantas has exited and Star Alliance’s Air New Zealand will also drop the route shortly.

Peak Season – Avoid flying to HKG around the Christmas holiday period and also Chinese new year (next dates: Feb 10 2013, Jan 31 2014, Feb 19 2015, Feb 8 2016).

Exchange Rate – The Hong Kong Dollar (HKD) is pegged to the US dollar. The current rate to pound sterling is £1 to HKD12.25. The best time to visit Hong Kong is during weakness in the US dollar. It’s possible that in the future the peg will be removed and the HKD will be tied to the Chinese yuan.

Airlines flying non-stop LON to HKG:

Cathay Pacific – 4x daily flights from London Heathrow, 3 using Boeing 747s and 1 with B777-300. Offers economy (32″ pitch) and new premium economy seats (38″ pitch). Excellent business class and first class products with full flat seats. Cathay has its own lounges at Heathrow T3.

cathay pacific boeing 747

British Airways – 2x daily flights using B747s and a popular option for UK travellers and BA Executive Club members. Economy seat pitch quite tight at 31″ – alternatively you can pay extra for an exit row (£50 fee booked between 14 and 4 days before flying, subject to availability) or choose to fly premium economy with 38″ pitch. BA’s business class Club World, in our experience, is a a very decent all-round product – try to choose a seat on the upper deck (with 2-2 config) as the main deck has a more cramped feel at 2-4-2. Watch for BA sale fares.

Virgin Atlantic – Daily flight to HKG using Airbus A340-600. Standard 31″ pitch in economy – the A340s 2-4-2 config means plenty of availability for couples wanting to sit together in a 2-seater window row. Upper class is 1-1-1 in original herringbone arrangement; on the ground there are the excellent Clubhouse lounges. Prices similar to BA.

Air New Zealand – Non-stop option for Star Alliance members with 5x weekly LHR-HKG flights using B777-200ER. Good economy seats with up to 33″ pitch. Pacific Premium Economy has 41″ pitch on the 777 while the impressive business class is a flat seat 1-1-1 herringbone arrangement. Note this service is set to be dropped from March 2013.

Connecting Airlines:

Finnair – This is a viable Oneworld option as Finnair is able to take the shorter northern routes to Asia. Daily (late evening) flight from Helsinki to Hong Kong using an Airbus A340 taking just under 10 hours. 3 hour hop from London (A320s) with departures spread throughout the day. Good product and service and some competitive prices on offer.

Jet Airways – Flies LHR to HKG via Mumbai or Delhi. Flights from London on a B777 or A330 takes around 9 hours; onward flights to HKG on an A330. Offers some good economy and business fares but watch for connection waiting times and night-time flights.

jet airways

Emirates – Flies from London to Hong Kong via its Dubai hub. London Gatwick to Dubai flown with B777-300ER with 10 across economy seating (3-4-3 instead of the standard 3-3-3). Dubai-Hong Kong operated by both 777-300ER and Airbus A380. Watch for connection time in Dubai.

Qatar Airways – Operates London Heathrow to Doha flights with a variety of aircraft (B787s, B777s, A340s, A330s) and then Doha-Hong Kong on A330s. As with Emirates, when choosing flights watch for long transit times – total journey times range from 16 hours to 36 hours. If flying business choose the lie flat seats on the 787 with 1-2-1 configuration.

Other European carriers serving Hong Kong are Air France-KLM (via Paris or Amsterdam), Lufthansa (via Frankfurt or Munich) and Swiss (via Zurich). Other main Asian carriers that can get you from London to Hong Kong are Korean Air, Singapore Airlines and Malaysia Airlines – where you can find some flights on the A380.

Some more “offbeat” options from London to Hong Kong:

Turkish Airlines – Occasional competitive fares in economy and business via its Istanbul hub. IST-HKG operated using Boeing 777s.

Air China – Flies London to Beijing (A330) and then the 3 hour hop to HKG on an A320.

Royal Jordanian – Another Oneworld carrier with flights via its Amman hub using Airbus A330s. Note the Amman-Hong Kong flight makes a stop in Bangkok.

China Eastern Airlines – Flies London-Shanghai-Hong Kong and offers some low business fares. Be aware of long total journey times of circa 30 hours.

Aeroflot – Skyteam’s Russian carrier flies London Heathrow to Hong Kong via Moscow using Airbus aircraft. Can offer reasonable business class fares but watch for some overnight connections.

Article last updated January 2013.

London to Australia: Flight Route Analysis

During the autumn and winter months in the northern hemisphere, many people think about jetting off to get some southern sunshine – with Australia being the destination-of-choice.

Flight prices from London are higher than a few years ago and the days of sub-£500 economy fares to Australia seem long gone. High-season fares for an economy ticket from UK to Australia are priced around £750-£1,250 – partly due to the significant levels of UK Air Passenger Duty (APD), with Australia being in the highest band.

sydney harbour

There are  a few factors to consider when booking flights to Australia:

Alliances – Because of the significant flight distance you should try to get miles or points in a frequent flyer scheme, preferably in your primary program.

Connection Times – There are no non-stop flights between UK and Australia so you will have to connect. You may wish to avoid overly long waiting times at connecting airports. Also, what if your first flight gets delayed and you miss the connection – how long will you have to wait for the next flight?

Stopovers – Consider breaking up the long journey by stopping off for a few days in the Middle East or Asia. You may be able to get an accommodation deal with your airline.

Peak Season – Avoid flying out around the Christmas period when prices reach their highest level for the year. The cheapest time of year for flights from UK to Oz will be between April and June.

Exchange Rate – Another factor to consider is that the Australian dollar has been very strong against the GB pound (rate:1.50) and euro (1.25) so travellers will notice everything in Australia being more expensive. Normal hotel rates in Sydney of AUD 200 per night equates to around £135 or €160 – not exactly cheap. And if you head out to a popular resort town like Byron Bay over Christmas and new year you will find eye-watering accommodation prices.

Let’s take a look at the airlines on the London to Australia market. Note that only 3 airlines have a direct through-service, meaning the plane travels the whole route:

British Airways – Flies London to Sydney via Singapore using Boeing 747s.  BA’s fastest through-service takes just over 22 hours including the SIN stop. Economy seat pitch of 31″, premium economy 38″. Note that the joint-service agreement with Qantas on the “Kangaroo route” comes to an end from April 2013. Expect more co-operation in future with Qatar Airways and Malaysia as they both join Oneworld.

Qantas – Currently flies from London to Australia via Singapore (co-operating with BA). From April 2013 it will move its hub to Dubai having signed an codeshare and marketing arrangement with Emirates. Will fly London-Dubai-Sydney/Melbourne through-services using Airbus A380s. Standard economy seat pitch is 31″, though very decent premium economy seats up to 42″ pitch. Large Australian network means you can reach almost any part of the country.

qantas a380 flight sydney

Virgin Atlantic – Flies a direct service to Sydney from London via Hong Kong using Airbus A340s. Codeshare arrangements with Virgin Australia for domestic Australian flights. Seat pitch 31″, prices similar to BA/Qantas.

The following airlines all require a change of aircraft to Australia:

Air New Zealand – Flies from London to Auckland via Los Angeles. From Auckland you can connect onto services to Sydney or other Australian cities. Good economy service, reasonable 33″ seat pitch which is superior to BA, Qantas and Virgin but be aware of 10 across seating on the 777-300ER. A drawback is the longer route to Australia which takes over 30 hours. Travel via Hong Kong is being pulled, so passengers are forced to transit via the US.

Singapore Airlines – Serves various major cities in Australia from London via its hub at Changi Singapore – one of the world’s best airports. Operates some flights between London and Sydney/ Melbourne with the A380. Pretty decent service, economy seat pitch 32″ but always priced at the higher end. Codeshare agreement with Virgin Australia for domestic Australian routes.

Cathay Pacific – Serves various cities around Australia (Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, Perth, Cairns) from its Hong Kong gateway. Flies Boeing 747s/Airbus A340s from London to Hong Kong – then uses Airbus A330s to Australia. Economy seat pitch 32″, new premium economy seats 38″ pitch. Like Singapore Airlines they have frequent connections – a total of 81 flights per week to Australia. Occasional sale fares are competitive.

Malaysia Airlines – Offers competitive fares from London to Sydney (and 4 other Oz destinations) via its Kuala Lumpur hub. Now flying the Airbus A380 from London to KUL with class leading 34″ economy seat pitch. New member of the Oneworld alliance.

Thai Airways – Flies London to Bangkok using B747s. Onward flights to Australia on A330s and A340s. Roomy 34″ seat pitch but prices tend to be on the higher side.

thai airways a340

Emirates – Middle East heavyweight flying via Dubai and biggest user of the Airbus A380. Departures from London and 4 other UK cities – which makes them a serious choice for regional UK flyers. Economy seat pitch up to 33″, but again, note the 10 across economy seating on the 777s. New tie-up with Qantas from April 2013. Note also that Easyjet flights can now be redeemed using Emirates Skywards.

Etihad – Flies from London to both Melbourne and Sydney via its Abu Dhabi hub. Uses Boeing 777 and Airbus A340 aircraft on the route. Their Coral Economy service is a reasonably good product and the airline is gaining a solid reputation. Major codeshare agreement in place with Virgin Australia which offers a good Australian domestic network.

Qatar Airways – Flies London-Doha-Melbourne using combinations of B787s, B777s, A330s and A340s. Seat pitch around the 33″ mark. Watch for occasional special offer fares.

Some other ‘off-beat’ options, not necessarily recommended but also flying the kangaroo route:

Royal Brunei – Serves Melbourne from London with stops in Dubai and Bandar Seri Begawan (Brunei). Uses Boeing B777 aircraft on the route with 32″ pitch. They often have some reasonable airfares but do note Royal Brunei is a dry airline.

Korean Air – Not particularly cheap but flies London-Seoul-Sydney with B777s/B747s with 33″ economy pitch.

China Eastern Airlines – Flies London-Guangzhou-Sydney with A330s. Seat pitch 32″.

Alternative: Consider a round-the-world (RTW) ticket which will cost extra but can give you much more interesting stopover opportunities.

Article last updated January 2013.