Executive Traveller exclusive
Qantas is the latest airline to reset its hopes for a return to Hong Kong, following another schedule shuffle for the Sydney-Hong Kong route.
The Qantas website now lists Monday January 30, 2023 as the carrier's first direct flight between Sydney and Hong Kong, scrapping an earmarked November 7 return for QF127/QF128, while Melbourne-Hong Kong is off the books until March 25, 2023.
Those dates are of course subject to change, especially given reports of Hong Kong aiming to reopen to the world with quarantine-free travel by November.
Qantas initially trimmed its Sydney and Melbourne flights to Hong Kong on February 20, 2020, as the first wave of the coronavirus and related travel restrictions carved into passenger demand on the usually busy route, before all international flights were axed barely four weeks later.
While Cathay Pacific maintains a skeleton schedule from Australia, the airline is steadily bringing back more aircraft from storage in Australia's Norther Territory.
Virgin Atlantic has also suspended its daily Boeing 787 between London and Hong until March 2023 “due to ongoing operational complexities on our London to Hong Kong,” a spokesperson for Virgin Atlantic confirmed to Executive Traveller.
“We look forward to returning to this important Asian hub, providing vital connectivity between the UK and Hong Kong for customers and global supply chains.”
British Airways, which has also been absent from Hong Kong skies, currently lists the return of its daily BA31/BA32 service in December.
Hong Kong to get “conditional” quarantine-free travel?
Hong Kong’s health chief has recently suggested that “conditional” quarantine-free travel could be allowed by November, with arrivals subject to PCR testing and prohibited from attending high-risk venues like bars.
The city didn’t need to follow mainland China’s tough Covid-19 policies because it enjoys some degree of freedom under the “one country, two systems” principle, Secretary for Health Lo Chung-mau said in an interview with The South China Morning Post.
The city is also considering a China-like health code system to manage social distancing. A yellow code will allow people to go to work but prohibit them from high-risk places like aged-care homes or venues where masks are removed.
Earlier this month, Hong Kong International Airport conducted a trial run of a major surge in passenger arrivals, in one of the clearest signs yet the finance hub could soon further relax Covid curbs.
It’s also been suggested that once travel between Hong Kong and China resumes, Hong Kong could introduce pre-clearance Chinese customs and immigration facilities to make travel to and from the mainland easier.
The measure, which would permit travellers from Hong Kong to arrive in China as domestic passengers, is one of several planned to bring the Asian metropolis even closer to the mainland.