Hong Kong Airlines is now listing Virgin Atlantic alongside Qantas as partners for shuttling business travellers from Australia to Hong Kong and connect to HKA's daily all-business class flight from Hong Kong to London.
The airline is offering to travel agents a $2,600 nett (wholesale) introductory return fare for Sydney to Hong Kong in Virgin Atlantic economy class flights, then on to London in Hong Kong Airlines' Club Classic class. For $3,100 nett you'll travel the HK-London leg in the comfier Club Premier class.
A spokesperson for Hong Kong Airlines advised Australian Business Traveller that travel agents would set their own markup on those nett fares.
"Travel agents are responsible for the sale prices they charge" he said. "The product is provided at price X. Retailers then set their own sale prices." There should hopefully be plenty of scope for shopping around to get the best deal if you choose the Virgin Atlantic - Hong Kong Airlines combo fare.
The fares for Qantas to Hong Kong start at $3,520 (retail) return for Qantas economy to HK and then Club Classic to London, and $8,860 (retail) for Qantas business class to Hong Kong and Club Premier to London.
The Kong Kong Airlines flights use three new Airbus A330-200s with just 116 seats (by way of comparison, Qantas' international versions of the same aircraft pack some 253 seats across both business and economy class).
The flight from Hong Kong (HX875) will depart at 11.50pm, arriving at London's Gatwick Airport the following day at 5.55am. The return service, HX876, will be wheels up from Gatwick at 9.30pm and reach Hong Kong at 6.05pm the next day.
Aussie business travellers will be more familiar with London's Heathrow airport but in many ways Gatwick is more convenient than the mega-hub of Heathrow. It's a smaller and more manageable airport with a direct rail link on London's Thameslink line to several stops convenient for the City of London financial district (and a decent arrivals lounge at the Sofitel).
According to The Wall Stree Journal Hong Kong Airlines president Yang Jianhong “expects the route to break even in its first six months at a targeted 75% load factor.”
Club Premier vs Club Classic
While being an all-business class flight, HKA offers two versions of what it calls 'Club Class'.
34 Club Premier mini-suites sit at the pointy end of the A330, with fully flat 1.8 metre (6'1") beds in a spacious 1-2-1 staggered layout.
Passengers are treated to a 'fine dining service' with individual table settings, a turndown service with duvets, pyjamas and slippers plus luxury amenity kits, or you can while away the hours watching a few shows on your 15.4" 16:9 HD video screen.
The 82 Club Classic seats have a more conventional 'cradle' or recliner design in a roomy 2-2-2 cabin layout (although the PR shot below shows just one aisle).
Each seat has a 1.3 metre (51 inch) seat pitch and 10.4" HD video screen.
What's the difference between angled flat seats and fully flat beds? Don't miss our article demystifying the jargon and putting the truth to the lie-flat lie.
“The concept for the all Club Class aircraft will provide passengers with a private jet style ambience and an exceptional crew to guest ratio" said Gerard Clarke, General Manager UK for Hong Kong Airlines of what he terms as the airline's "new flagship route".
Each Club Class cabin includes its own in-flight bar, with in-flight wireless Internet available through the plane.
Hong Kong Airlines says that all passengers will enjoy lounge access at Hong Kong and Gatwick, with "limousine transfers for Club Premier passengers".