Breaking up a flight to Europe or the UK with a quick visit to Hong Kong used to be one of my favourite things to do.
As enjoyable as a few days and nights in the city were, sometimes my schedule didn’t allow such side-trips – so I’d simply engineer a long break between my Cathay Pacific flight from Sydney to Hong Kong and the onwards leg to London, for example.
With luggage checked to lighten my carry-on load, I could stroll off first flight at Hong Kong, zip through the Frequent Visitor e-Channel passport gates and step onto the Airport Express, to arrive at Kowloon or Central stations less than 30 minutes later.
After a wander around, maybe some shopping or a stroll through the colourful but hectic night markets, and catching up with friends for dinner and drinks, it was a doddle to jump back onto the Airport Express, visit one of Cathay’s excellent lounges for a shower and supper and then continue my journey.
Now that Hong Kong has ended mandatory hotel quarantine, and with Cathay Pacific rebuilding its international network – including bringing scores of aircraft back from desert storage – are such layovers still an option?
There’s the obvious need for all arrivals to undergo a PCR test on arrival at Hong Kong airport, although you don’t need to wait around for the result – you can head straight to the city and your hotel – but the risk of testing positive for Covid and being forced into quarantine at Hong Kong could be simply too high.
Even so, advice supplied to Executive Traveller by the Hong Kong Tourism Board suggests that breaking your journey with a side-trip to the city is not allowed.
All travellers bound for Hong Kong must complete an online health declaration form, which in turn requires an address in Hong Kong if you intend to leave the airport.
“At this stage, a transit of only a few hours can only be within the restricted area of the airport,” a spokesperson said, "but passengers can enter HK if they are staying overnight.”
And with only The Pier business class lounge open for lounge-worthy Cathay flyers, we’d suggest a sensibly short transit time will make the most sense.