Executive Traveller exclusive
Hong Kong has been scrubbed from Virgin Atlantic’s network until at least March next year, as the Asian metropolis continues to struggle with conflicting goals of adhering to China’s Covid-Zero policy while hanging onto its status as a global financial hub.
Virgin Atlantic, which flew a daily Boeing 787 between London and Hong Kong prior to the pandemic, suspended its Hong Kong route in December 2021 but hoped to resume flights on September 1 2022.
However, the airline now says those flights won’t come back until March 1, 2023.
“Due to ongoing operational complexities on our London to Hong Kong route, we have taken the careful decision to extend our pause in operations, with the intention to resume services on 26th March 2023,” 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.”
The airline says it “will begin contacting customers next week with their options, including to rebook on a later date, convert their booking to a voucher, or to request a refund.”
“Our Hong Kong customers are important to us and we look forward to returning to the skies with them next year.”
British Airways, which has also been absent from Hong Kong skies, currently lists the return of its daily BA31/BA32 service from October 30, although as the start of the airline industry’s summer 2022-2023 scheduling period, that date serves more as a formal placeholder.
At the time of writing a spokesperson for British Airways declined to comment in detail, saying only that the carrier keeps its “ global operations under constant review” and advising would-be travellers to check the airline’s website for the “latest status” on its flights.
However, BA has since pushed its Hong Kong flights back to December, and also confirmed the November reboot of its London-Bangkok flights has been scuppered.
“We regularly keep our extensive global network under review, and we’ve taken the decision to extend the suspension of our Bangkok service,” the airline said in statement.
Hong Kong to get “conditional” quarantine-free travel?
Earlier this month, Hong Kong’s health chief 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.
The Hong Kong government this month suspended the system that banned airlines if they carried too many infected passengers.
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 tavellers 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.