Qantas, Virgin, Cathay Pacific ready to battle for Hong Kong

By David Flynn, March 21 2017
Qantas, Virgin, Cathay Pacific ready to battle for Hong Kong

Qantas and Cathay Pacific are gearing up for a pitched battle for the skies between Melbourne and Hong Kong as Virgin Australia moves onto the popular route.

Virgin will launch its direct flights on Wednesday July 5, 2017, in a move which will see the challenger go toe to toe with the Oneworld partners but otherwhile frenemies.

"Cathay and Qantas have got (Hong Kong) by the throat" Virgin Australia group CEO Borghetti has previously said.

"We intend to break that duopoly and bring competition not only from the price side but also from the product side."

Expect all three airlines to take an axe to airfares from economy through to business class in the early days of this stoush.

According to statistics from the Federal Government, the Melbourne-Hong Kong route carried an average of 59,000 travellers per month over the last quarter of 2016.

That's estimated to be split between Cathay Pacific and Qantas at close to a 3:1 ratio – and neither airline is going to yield on their slice of the market without a fight.

"We shall fight them in the lounges..."

The ground war will include airport lounges, where both Qantas and Cathay Pacific have an edge, and onwards flights from Hong Kong to China and Europe.

Cathay Pacific also enjoys a higher frequency of flights with three services a day darting between Melbourne and Hong Kong so that passengers can travel at a time that best suits their own schedule, and a premium economy cabin to appeal to business travellers on a budget.

"We shall fight them at the pointy end..."

The aerial dogfight will be fought on more equal terms: while Virgin Australia's newest A330 business class may be arguably superior on specification to those of Qantas and Cathay Pacific, the incumbent's pointy-end product is more than good enough to give would-be defectors pause before changing sides.

Qantas could also choose to leverage the dominance of its frequent flyer scheme, which now had over 11.5 million members on its books, using promotions such as double points and status credits on Melbourne-Hong Kong flights to soak up forward bookings which may otherwise lean towards Virgin Australia.

Australian Business Traveller approached Qantas and Cathay Pacific for their take on Virgin's move and how they would respond, but both airlines declined the opportunity to comment.

David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

QFF

12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1446

And anyone seriously believe that QF not already lost ALL Asia routes to corresponding carriers? Perhaps it is only on corporate market and even then only partially. But now with Virgin came to play I predict that QF will be kicked back even more exactly because Virgin also big player on corporate market - IMHO there is no freaking way that Virgin fight his piece of pie from CX, thus QF may disappears from HKG route altogether.

Qantas - QFF Platinum

20 Mar 2012

Total posts 214

QF has a significant route map through Asia and is expanding (Beijing/add'l Tokyo, for example). 

Not sure they've lost all Asia routes and highly doubt they'll disppear from HKG.... Plus VA, one route with a convoluted schedule - great to see competition but I think VA has the biggest cliff to climb.

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2425

Serg, please remember this article is about Hong Kong, indeed specifically Melbourne-Hong Kong, so your comments should be in line with that and add value to the conversation rather than spin off into your take on Qantas' entire Asia network, Asia strategy etc etc.

05 May 2016

Total posts 587

In peak times QANTAS rosters an A380 onto flights to HKG. The demand is there for QF to fly to/from HKG.

This move by Virgin if it proves successful could put pressure on QANTAS to add MEL-HKG as one of the 787 routes after MEL-LAX and PER-LHR. Being able to remove all 747 flights off the route would mean that regardless of whether the A330 or 787 is used customers in J would get a seat that stacks up well against the competition.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

10 Jan 2012

Total posts 269

The A380 only runs from SYD to HKG. MEL is 747.

11 Dec 2014

Total posts 10

Guys, the sentence


"Except all three airlines to take an axe to airfares from economy through to business class in the early days of this stoush."

probably means "Expect"?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1237

Indeed. A bit of proofreading before churning out articles is probably a good idea.

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2425

It is indeed a good idea, but time works against us: we run the articles through a spellcheck, but this doesn't pick up correctly spelled words in the wrong place (eg 'except' vs 'expect'), and we don't have the luxury of proofreaders or slowly proofreading articles (and that's the only way to do proofing, slowly & carefully) – life's pretty busy here at AusBT HQ, so we just need to get each article up fast and move on.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Jul 2011

Total posts 48

You knew what it was meant to say. Calm down.

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2425

S'cool, always happy for such wee typos to be pointed out!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

30 Aug 2016

Total posts 26

Shows that people are reading your articles in detail

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2425

Thanks Sergey, fixed :)

10 Mar 2011

Total posts 531

Can't say I agree that Virgin is superior to Qantas to Cathay. I would say that it is on par (as long as Qantas are using the A330). Frequency is on both Cathay and Qantas' side since Virgin is not daily. My pick is still with Cathay as it gives me far more choice for onward connections plus a choice of 3 flights per day so I won't be moving over to Virgin.

QFF

12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1446

"since Virgin is not daily" - apparently google believes that VA flying MEL-HKG one plane daily plus another one 3 times per week

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 390

"We shall fight them in the lounges ......... once we work out which lounges we'll be using and on which days ........

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Mar 2014

Total posts 221

Very hard to go past CX & QF lounges in HK

30 Jul 2015

Total posts 123

Thats not good aircraft utilisation by having the aircraft sit on the tarmac all day whenever the VA89 flights go into hong kong. 

Qantas - QFF Platinum

20 Mar 2012

Total posts 214

Wondering if there is a tag flight to mainline China on Tuesday, Thursday & Saturday?

19 Aug 2011

Total posts 23

Don't think they're allowed to do a tag flight to the mainland from HKG under the rules. They appear to be limited(...) to Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Japan, South Korea, the UK and selected European countries. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Mar 2014

Total posts 221

I wonder if they will be $499 return SYD HK to match QF latest deals in Economy

06 Jan 2015

Total posts 69

I think many people are missing the point and strategy here. VA aren't targeting Australians looking to travel to HK/China, Australians are the winners however with pressure on airfares.


The target is mainland Chinese in the current tourism boom through their new alliance with HNA. This is a smart move.

28 Dec 2016

Total posts 69

Qf flies to beijing direct for 300 bucks... it also flies to shanghai direct. How and why would people pay teice as much or more to connect via hkg?

06 Jan 2015

Total posts 69

Through secondary cities which the HNA alliance serves, and those Qantas specials certainly aren't everyday. Qantas has no one world partners in mainland China either, they are very much a point to point carrier there between Syd and Shanghai/Beijing. There profile their is almost non existant to the average chinese person.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

11 Dec 2016

Total posts 62

Really?? CX goes through to enough mainland cities via Cathay Dragon. 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

17 Mar 2016

Total posts 42

This is interesting when reading the South China Morning Post article, two days ago, about Qantas' CEO Joyce questioning Hong Kong's future as an Asian aviation hub. With the rise of Chinese airlines flying direct from the mainland, direct PER-LHR flights and Middle Eastern airlines offering competitive deals to SIN and HKG. It makes one wonder about Qantas' intentions for HKG going forward.

23 Oct 2014

Total posts 186

This looks like a LAUNCH schedule, people need to understand they prob need to LAUNCH with this schedule due to slot constraints at HK airport and will build up quickly to daily as soon as they can, and they will no doubt.

23 Feb 2015

Total posts 268

Flew up on the 747 from Melbourne last week in economy. admittedly got top notch service as a result of being P, but my assessment is that the 747 only falls down in business relative to other options.


For leisure travellers, no reason to flip except price.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

16 Jan 2017

Total posts 4

Which Australian airlines was the last one that flew to Hong Kong and not part of the Qantas family?

I think it was Ansett.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

26 Feb 2016

Total posts 101

This is because no one beside QF and VA (and also Air Australia for a couple of seconds) has owned any wide-bodies. 


The claim of "who is the last one that flew to XXX and is not in QF's family" can also be applied to all foreign destinations of Ansett except NZ, Bali and Phuket.

QantasFF

16 Nov 2012

Total posts 57

I'm always surprised that the Qantas group don't run a direct Jetstar flight to HKG, probably from MEL, rather than the absurdity of transit through Singapore. Another smart move for QF would be a codeshare to Europe ex HKG - CX would be the obvious partner except that the two hate each other, always commercially unproductive.


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