After being known simply as Hong Kong’s “inferior” airline for quite some time, Hong Kong Airlines has been making quite a few expansion plans lately. I’ve been dying to try them (and have plans to, though further in the future), especially since they seem to have a solid hard product. Lately they took delivery of their A350, and announced plans to fly the A350 to Los Angeles, their first U.S. route.
Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330 Departing Hong Kong Airport
Hong Kong Airlines’ current longhaul destinations consist of Auckland, Vancouver and Los Angeles. However, a memo has been passed around on the internet that they’re about to add another route to their network.
Hong Kong Airlines will operate to San Francisco from March 2018
According to the reliable Danny Lee from SCMP, a leaked sales representative email on an aviation forum suggests that Hong Kong Airlines will start flying between Hong Kong and San Francisco from March 25, 2018. The flights will operate on Hong Kong Airlines’ A350, which is currently the crown jewel in Hong Kong Airlines’ fleet.
Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A350-900 Hong Kong Airport (courtesy of SCMP)
The route will run four times weekly (Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays) from March 25 to August 17, 2018, then daily from August 18 to October 27, 2018 (it is unclear whether the route is seasonal, or if the winter timetable simply hasn’t been finalised yet). The proposed timetable is as follows:
Hong Kong Airlines 60 Hong Kong to San Francisco dep 12:20 arr 10:15
Hong Kong Airlines 61 San Francisco to Hong Kong dep 12:00 arr 17:25
Hong Kong Airlines’ A350s feature two types of hard product – their first two planes will feature a staggered business class product, and the rest of their planes will feature a reverse herringbone business class product. Both are great ways to spend a 13-hour flight, though reverse herringbone seats generally feature more storage and privacy.
Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A350-900 Staggered Business Class
Economy class will be laid out in a 3-3-3 configuration, which is pretty spacious – the product seems remarkably similar to LATAM’s A350 economy class product, from the layout to the seat backs.
LATAM Airbus A350-900 Economy Class
How is competition on this route?
Cathay Pacific currently operates 16 flights a week between Hong Kong and San Francisco, with three flights running on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Two of these three flights are operated by four-class 777-300ERs, while the third is operated by a three-class A350.
Hong Kong Airlines’ reverse business class product will be the B/E Aerospace Super Diamond business class product, which shares the same structure as Qatar Airways’ 787 business class product that I tried a couple of months ago. I personally believe that Cathay Pacific’s A350 features a better business class hard product than Qatar Airways (and thus, Hong Kong Airlines), though the B/E Aerospace Super Diamond business class seat features more flexibility and space than the seat featured on Cathay Pacific’s 777-300ER.
Qatar Airways Boeing 787-8 Business Class
Singapore Airlines and United also feature competitive business class products on this route, as they both operate 777-300ERs. I haven’t tested these seats out in the past, but based on what I’ve heard, Hong Kong Airlines’ reverse herringbone seats will probably be on par with both of these products, which makes for a pretty competitive route.
Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-300ER Business Class
Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific both feature competitive economy class hard products, but Cathay Pacific will soon give up their competitive hard product for a 3-4-3 configuration on the 777. I’d say that both Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific have customised their economy class seats enough to beat Hong Kong Airlines in the market for now. (United, with a 3-4-3 configuration on their brand new 777-300ER, currently lags behind as the worst economy class product flying from Hong Kong to San Francisco, and will continue to do so until Cathay Pacific switches to a 3-4-3 configuration on their 777-300ERs.)
Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A350-900 Economy Class
Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-300ER Economy Class
Cathay Pacific Airbus A350-900 Economy Class
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300ER Economy Class
In addition, Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific both feature a premium economy class cabin on the route, while United and Hong Kong Airlines do/will not.
San Francisco is a nice addition to Hong Kong Airlines’ network, though it is a seriously competitive point-to-point market. Hong Kong Airlines is about to deploy a competitive product between Hong Kong and San Francisco, so I’m curious to see how the pricing will play out between the two destinations.
I have to try out Hong Kong Airlines’ A350 product, as it seems to be a potential pinnacle in terms of Hong Kong travelers’ travel choices. I sure hope to do so in the near future, and potentially try this new route.
Is anyone planning to fly Hong Kong Airlines between Hong Kong and San Francisco?