Qantas, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have all pushed back their plans to restart Hong Kong flights, despite the Asian financial hub easing up on pandemic-related rules for airlines and travellers.
Although a ban on inbound flights from nine countries, including Australia and the UK, was lifted on April 1 after almost three months, major international carriers have not rushed to return.
Virgin Atlantic is one of the first carriers to publicly state its position. “To ensure operational readiness for our London Heathrow–Hong Kong passenger services, we have taken the careful decision to extend the pause in operations, with the intention to resume services from September 2022,” Virgin said in a statement.
British Airways has responded to customers on Twitter to say its flights to Hong Kong won’t return until at least May 28.
Qantas is now selling tickets for daily Sydney-Hong Kong and Melbourne-Hong Kong flights starting October 30, dashing the hopes of CEO Alan Joyce for a mid-year restart.
“We obviously don’t have a firm date on when (Hong Kong and China) will full open up," Joyce told media at a press conference in February, “but we're hoping it will be July.”
Joyce noted that Hong Kong and Shanghai “together represented around 12%” of Qantas' pre-Covid capacity, with Hong Kong seeing daily services from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, while the Sydney-Hong Kong route was often upgraded to an Airbus A380 during the peak season spanning from summer to beyond Chinese New Year.
And when Qantas is once again carrying passengers to and from Hong Kong, those travellers won’t be able to enjoy BBQ pork, dum sum and cocktails at the airline's Hong Kong lounge, which was permanently closed barely six years after making its stylish debut in April 2014.
As a result, all lounge-worthy Qantas travellers – including Qantas Club members – will be able to make a pre-flight stop at Cathay Pacific’s The Pier, The Wing and The Deck.
Qantas has also shuttered its much older lounge at Tokyo’s Narita Airport, with the airline shifting its flights to the city’s Haneda Airport, which is more conveniently located closer to the heart of Tokyo.
Additional reporting by Bloomberg