Travel tip: drop your bags at Hong Kong's CBD airline check-in desks

By Chris Chamberlin, June 10 2016

Most travellers lug their own baggage to the airport and drag it to an airline’s check-in desk, but in Hong Kong, why not take advantage of the free in-town check-in counters for Airport Express passengers?

Offered by most airlines including Qantas, Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines and more, you can drop your luggage and get your boarding pass in the city – rather than at the airport – which means you’re free to explore Hong Kong or to continue your meetings before flying out later in the day.

It’s also a crafty way to get your boarding pass early when the on-airport check-in desks might otherwise be closed, making way for a little extra lounge time.

Some airlines even let you check-in and ditch your baggage the day before you fly, which can be useful before jetting off early the next morning.

Hong Kong in-town check-in: the basics

The only catch here is you’ll need a ticket for the Airport Express train (or an Octopus card for the same), which costs HK$100 (A$17.30) from Hong Kong Station, HK$90 (A$15.55) from Kowloon Station and HK$60 (A$10.40) from Tsing Yi Station.

You’ll also find the in-town check-in counters only at Hong Kong and Kowloon Stations – not at Tsing Yi – but these are well-connected to the broader MTR network and are an easy-reach from most hotels…

… such as being one stop from the Conrad Hong Kong hotel at Admiralty (Hong Kong Station via walkway from Central), two stops from the Marco Polo Hongkong hotel near Tsim Sha Tsui or three stops from the Novotel Nathan Road at Jordan.

Hong Kong in-town check-in: what to do

At either Hong Kong or Kowloon Stations, simply follow the clear ‘In-town Check-in’ signs. If you’ve reached those stations via another train, exit through the MTR ticket barriers first.

Then, hunt for your flight number on the departure screens. In our case we were seeking Finnair flight AY70 to Helsinki, with the screens pointing us towards check-in counter 31.

If you’ve arrived super early and can’t locate your flight number, look to the side for a list of airlines and their corresponding check-in desks, where you can check your baggage and receive your boarding pass…

… before following the onward signage to the Airport train…

… or returning later to catch your flight.

Hong Kong in-town check-in: airlines

Almost all airlines departing Hong Kong allow in-town check-in – you’ll find the full list here on the MTR website, along with any special rules or timing restrictions that may apply to each one.

If your airline isn’t on that list, you can still catch the Airport Express but will need to cart your luggage with you and check-in at the airport the old-fashioned way this time around.

Note also that most participating airlines provide just one in-town check-in counter – and some even share that one counter with three or four other airlines – so while the queues here are often short to non-existent, don’t expect a separate check-in queue for business or first class from most airlines.

Take our tip: if your counter’s line happens to be long, your flight departs within the next few hours and you’re entitled to priority check-in, consider checking-in at the airport instead: but if you’re arriving early, be patient at the station to grab your all-important boarding pass.

Also read: Traveller's tips: the Hong Kong Airport Express

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Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!

jesse16246

jesse16246

26 Jul 2013

Total posts 14

When we were in Hong Kong last we asked the taxi to take us to the train station to go to the airport.

and we couldn't believe that you check your bags in at the trainstation.

it is a excellant idea, we caught the train and walked around the airport without the hassle of lugging our baggage.

I look forward to other cities doing the same thing.

spinoza

spinoza

01 Feb 2012

Total posts 370

They've had this feature since the airport and airport express lines opened.. which is almost 20 years ago. When I first used it I thought the same thing - amazing, hope everyone else does this soon.

Almost 20 years later, no one. Well almost no one apparently. Most surprised that Singapore hasn't copied this since they like to follow everything HK does :)

AJW

AJW

16 Nov 2011

Total posts 513

Heathrow had it, you could check in at Paddington. Was ideal for Aussie flights as most of these left late at night, so could check out of hotel, drop bags spend your day, get to the airport, refshen up in the lounge and away you go. And if I recall unlike Hong Kong you didn't need a train ticket to get to the check-in desks so you could make your own way to the airport.

But long long since gone circa 2003/2004 if I recall.

AnthonyvB

AnthonyvB

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards Plantium

19 Jun 2013

Total posts 120

Agree with Jesse - have used this service a few times now and WOW it is fantastic.  Great idea and also wish other cities would look at this option.  Makes flying out of Hong Kong a breeze

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2951

Also a fan of the similar service offered in Kuala Lumpur, although only a few airlines support it rather than almost all of them as in Hong Kong.

Serg

Serg

QFF

12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1446

Thanks Chris, very useful for people like me who never been in Hong Kong.

aldrigsomandre

aldrigsomandre

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

31 Aug 2015

Total posts 126

This is a great idea for a tourism revenue boost because most intercontinental flights are overnight and you have to check out early from the hotel and most people would remain stationary and get bored for the whole day guarding their luggage. I'm sure the cost of this is well compensated by the final day tourist/business traveller expenditure. (Purely speaking out of personal experience.)

asw

asw

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

08 Aug 2012

Total posts 34

COEX in Seoul also offers a similar down-town check-in service.  Used it many times.

colin5353

colin5353

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

03 Jul 2011

Total posts 180

There is also a free shuttle bus service is available, taking passengers from Kowloon or Hong Kong stations to most major hotels and transport interchanges. 

We found it by accident when staying in an AirBNB near Holiday Inn Hong Kong Island.

Livewireshock

Livewireshock

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

17 Mar 2016

Total posts 40

The ability to check in 24 hours in advance is fantastic in Hong Kong. After spending a month or two in Mainland China, I will catch the train from the border to Hung Hom then catch the Airport Express shuttle bus to Kowloon MTR station or might go straight to Central MTR. Check in costs about HKD$99 using my Octopus card, then I can go do whatever I want for the next 24 hours, I often stayed with friends or family without the hassle of lugging around my bags. The next day, it only then costs HKD$1 to then get the train to the airport or catch an airport bus for about HKD$29 from whereever I am staying, knowing that my bags are already taken care of.

Inner city check-in is fairly common in many Chinese cities but it is hard for non-Chinese speakers to know where to go, many are connected to bus shuttle services rather than HK's example.

Nick Sydney 2

Nick Sydney 2

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Jul 2015

Total posts 223

Now if London can do something similar it would make my 4 x a year trips a bit easier.  

gumshoe

gumshoe

04 Nov 2012

Total posts 216

I have been droppng off there for years, it allows time for lounge hopping too. With the Octopus card can hand in and get refund for porion not used too.

notwelltraveled

notwelltraveled

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

15 Jun 2016

Total posts 1

I used this two weeks ago, so much quicker than waiting in the queue at the airport and flying the Cathay the airport queue is always massive, yet here, we were the only ones checking in at Central. Our hotel ran a shuttle bus to Central so it was even easier than normal. Only wish all airports had this

anna100

anna100

23 Jul 2012

Total posts 21

And, just one floor down, right underneath the in town check in, is the Tim Ho eatery - the Michelin 1 star Dim Sum place. 


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