While Virgin Atlantic is pulling out of the Sydney-Hong Kong route, Qantas is talking up the Asian metropolis as not just as a destination in its own right but an increasingly important 'transit point' for taking passengers into China.
"(Hong Kong) used to be a transit hub for European destinations such as London, Frankfurt and Paris for Qantas" according to Wyn Li, general manager in Hong Kong for Qantas, in an interview with The South China Morning Post.
"But now, we would rather see Hong Kong as a transit point for the mainland or North Asia destinations."
The city and Qantas' strategy neatly dovetails into efforts to launch Jetstar Hong Kong, the latest in a series of Asian 'franchises' for Qantas' own low-cost offshoot.
The Hong Kong connection
Qantas hopes that the Hong Kong-based budget airline will get off the ground this year after missing its 2013 target to obtain an operating licence from the Hong Kong government.
Leading the lobbying against Jetstar Hong Kong is incumbent Cathay Pacific, ironically a Qantas partner via the oneworld airline alliance, which relies on its own flights and those of regional sibling DragonAir to shuttle travellers into China and a clutch of capital and regional cities throughout Asia.
Also in the anti-JQ camp is low-cost airline Hong Kong Express, which aims to expand its network to 20 Asian cities and more than double its fleet to 11 Airbus A320s by the end of this year.
Qantas has already forged codeshare partnerships with China Eastern and more recently China Southern but these are primarily for flights between Australia and China and a limited number of mainland connections from each airline's respective hubs in Shanghai and Guangzhou.
Superjumbos and souped-up lounges
For its own part, Qantas has recently upgraded its Sydney-Hong Kong service to a daily Airbus A380 through to early March, with the flights then switching back an A380 for five days of the week and a Boeing 747 every Tuesday and Wednesday.
However, Hong Kong could conceivably become a dedicated A380 route for the Flying Kangaroo should Qantas decide to 'optimise' other superjumbo routes in any reshuffle of its network as the airline attempts to reign in costs.
Qantas will also open a new Hong Kong lounge in early April, based on the same concept as the successful Qantas Singapore Lounge with a menu drawn from Neil Perry's Rockpool and Spice Temple restaurants.
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