5 Fifth-Freedom Flights From Hong Kong I’d Like To Try

Sometimes airlines find profit in flying a plane to a certain destination via another, so to fulfil two low-demand destinations. These flights were instrumental to the economic viability of longhaul flights prior to the 80s, since planes didn’t have the range to fly ultra-longhaul. Nowadays, with profitable aircraft such as the A350 or 787, there’s much less need for fifth-freedom flights – which makes them all the more fun when you actually get to fly them.

Fifth-freedom flights these days are normally run when there’s insufficient demand for a flight to be run to a single destination, so airlines “tag” the flight onwards to sell the fifth-freedom segment as well (for example, Egyptair can’t justify the demand to operate a direct flight between Cairo to Hong Kong, so they route their twice-weekly flight via Bangkok to generate revenue between Bangkok and Hong Kong as well). Other airlines operate “novelty” fifth-freedom flights, where they’ve sustained a fifth-freedom flight for years and are unwilling to give it up despite the fact that a direct flight may be more viable. Emirates is a good example of that (continue reading to find out more).

Thai Airways’ flight between Hong Kong and Seoul allows the airline to compete on the Hong Kong to Seoul segment (this isn’t one of the more interesting fifth freedom routes out of Hong Kong in my opinion – I’d much rather fly Korean Air or Asiana business class, which is usually reasonably priced)

Believe it or not, I haven’t actually had the chance to fly any fifth-freedom routes. The closest I’ve gone to flying one is Singapore Airlines’ flight between Singapore and San Francisco via Hong Kong – however, I flew the Singapore to Hong Kong segment, whereas the Hong Kong to San Francisco segment would’ve been the fifth-freedom flight. So I thought I’d list a few of the fifth-freedom flights I’d like to try in the coming years.

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Comparing Cathay Pacific and Hong Kong Airlines’ A350 Business Class Seat

Last month Hong Kong Airlines introduced their new A350 business class product, which I had the chance to tour and extensively write about. Hong Kong Airlines’ newest A350s all feature reverse herringbone seats in business class, which Cathay Pacific has operated on a majority of their longhaul fleet since 2011 (including on their A350s, even though they evolved their reverse herringbone seat in 2016). Reverse herringbone seats are my favourite business class configuration out there, due to the smart balance between privacy, comfort, and storage, so you’ll have a comfortable flight either way.

However, as you’d expect, having installed this seat quite late in the game, there are definitely many features to Hong Kong Airlines’ reverse herringbone seat on their newest A350s that differ from what you’d find on Cathay Pacific.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A350 Business Class Cabin

IMG_0580Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 Business Class Cabin

I thought I’d put these two seats head-to-head, and decide which seat is more comfortable for a longhaul flight. Both of these seats will be deployed on flights of over 12 hours, so nuances in seat design can really catapult your experience in a business class product on such a long flight.

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British Airways Fires All Hong Kong-Based Cabin Crew

Despite making a profit, British Airways has decided to close its outstation at Hong Kong by October 31, 2018. This won’t affect their two flights to and from Hong Kong, though it means 85 Hong Kong-based cabin crew are losing their jobs. British Airways has justified this change by saying that the Hong Kong base has been “commercially unviable for them”.

British Airways Boeing 777 Hong Kong Airport

I’m quite surprised by this news, considering Hong Kong’s quite a big market for British Airways, and it makes sense for the airline to hire local workers as well. At the same time this makes sense. Having ground crew at Hong Kong means they’ll have to comply with Hong Kong’s labor laws and costs, which are ever-increasing, and the airline didn’t see this as a worthy investment.

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SNEAK PEEK: Cathay Pacific’s NEW Business Class Dining Concept

I’m a fan of Andrew from Expatriate Days’ photos on Instagram. Earlier this month he had the chance to fly Cathay Pacific’s inaugural flight from Hong Kong to Washington Dulles on the new A350-1000, which included Cathay Pacific’s new dining concept. I reached out to Andrew to see if he could provide his thoughts in a post, and he was kind enough to oblige.

Here they are below. While all opinions below are his, I largely agree with them (I’ve been more critical of Cathay Pacific’s current premium product than he has, though). Thanks, Andrew! 🙂


In September, I had to fly from New York to Shanghai for business. The month of September must be a busy travel time as premium cabins were largely full on more desirable carriers — JAL, ANA, Cathay, even the U.S. carriers.

I couldn’t book myself onto one of the five Cathay flights from New York, but luckily space was available on the flight from Washington D.C.— Cathay’s longest flight by distance — and on the inaugural flight no less. The flight nicely coincided with the dates that I needed to fly, so as a result, I got to experience two new Cathay features: the A350-1000 service (with updated reverse herringbone seating and inflight WiFi) along with the new Cathay business class dining concept.

Cathay Pacific Airbus A350-1000 Washington Dulles Airport

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EVA Air Releases New 787 Business Class Seat

EVA Air has long been quite a leader in their business class product. While the same can’t be said in their mediocre premium economy product and their latest 3-4-3 economy configuration, their longhaul fleet has reverse herringbone seats, and their soft product is also known to be outstanding, with generous amenities, good bedding, great food, and pajamas.

Well, EVA ordered a bunch of new 787-9s which have just arrived, and they seem to be changing their business class seats up on those aircraft. Here’s a quick walkthrough through the business class cabin on this aircraft (I really like this video):

EVA Air 787 Business Class Walkthrough

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RANKED: The Best Business Class Seats In 2018

Over the course of the last few years I’ve had the opportunity to sample every single “generic” business class configurations there is out there. By “generic”, I’m talking about business class configurations that a number of airlines operate. I’m effectively ruling out specific custom-made configurations, such as Qatar Airways’ QSuites, Delta’s Delta One Suites, British Airways’ weird forwards-backwards configuration, etc.. I plan to try those out soon, though for now I thought it would be fun to visit a quick ranking of all the business class seats we’ve flown here at YTHK so far.

(For the record, based on reviews alone I’d predict that QSuites and Delta One Suites are both ahead of the competition compared to all of the products listed below. Here’s to hoping I can prove that sometime soon.)

While economy class is all about the price these days, there is lots of competition for the best business class seat out there

I figured I’d start from the worst and move on up. So here we go:

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VIDEO + GIVEAWAY: Hong Kong Airlines’ New A350 (My New YouTube Channel)

As you know, last Tuesday I had the amazing opportunity to visit Hong Kong Airlines’ newest A350. While they currently fly four A350s, those were leased after Azul Airlines cancelled their orders, so they’re delivered with staggered seats. Meanwhile, Hong Kong Airlines’ newest Airbus A350s are delivered with reverse herringbone seats, and the economy class seat is also different from what they have on their current four.

Today I released a video detailing my time in Hong Kong Airlines’ newest A350, including footage of their new cabins, as well as interviews from CMO Mr. George Liu, General Manager of Inflight Services Mr. Chris Birt, as well as General Manager of Social Media Mr. Dennis Owen (he’s also a great friend, since I knew him back when he was working at Cathay Pacific). Thanks to them, as well as the airline’s Communications Manager Ms. Tracey Kwong, for making everything happen.

The video’s slightly thrown together, but I wholeheartedly recommend you at least skim through some of the exclusive footage of their new cabins, which I was lucky enough to get:

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Up Close With Hong Kong Airlines’ New A350 Economy Seat

Yesterday I got to tour one of Hong Kong Airlines’ own Airbus A350s. While Hong Kong Airlines currently already flies four A350s, they were meant to be delivered to Azul, so feature a different onboard product. So the rest of Hong Kong’s 21 A350s from hereon out will be delivered with a different product to the one on the first four.

The biggest hype was surrounding the business class product, so yesterday I gave an extensive tour of the airline’s new business class product. However, I realised that the economy class product was also different from what the airline offers on their other A350s, so I thought I’d be bereft in my duty not to check them out as well.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A350 Economy Cabin

So, how is Hong Kong Airlines’ newest A350 economy class product?

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Hong Kong Airlines’ NEW A350 Business Class

Today I had the chance to have a look at Hong Kong Airlines’ new A350 business class product. I’ve flown Hong Kong Airlines’ A330 with their staggered business class configuration, as well as their A330 with their ex-Singapore Airlines business class configuration. Hong Kong Airlines has a ton of different business class configurations, and this is the one that they’ve been planning to introduce on all of their future longhaul aircraft since 2016.

Reverse herringbone seats are some of my favourite seats in the industry – I actually prefer them to Apex Suites due to the extra storage space. I’m glad to say that Hong Kong Airlines’ newest A350s have a very nice iteration of reverse herringbone seats.

Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A350 Business Class 

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QSuites Coming To Hong Kong In October

I’ve long been a fan of Qatar Airways’ onboard product. Qatar Airways’ soft product is awesome, featuring dine-on-demand and consistently excellent service, though the main highlight has usually been the onboard product. Back when I flew them in 2017 they were flying their 787s between Hong Kong and Doha, and I had an awesome flight (I also connected to Munich with their LATAM-leased A350s, which I enjoyed as well).

Qatar Airways Boeing 777 Doha Airport

For years Qatar Airways operated their 787 between Doha and Hong Kong. However, as of October 2017 they moved both of their frequencies to 777s featuring a 2-2-2 configuration in business class. Since their 787s featured reverse herringbone seats, this was largely an unwelcome change.

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