Hong Kong is back and buzzing – and so too is the city’s famed In-Town Check-In service. Here at Hong Kong Station – some 35km from the airport itself – Cathay Pacific operates an airport-like check-in service. Passengers can print their boarding passes, sure. But more excitingly, suitcases can also be tagged and checked in.

That’s right – in Hong Kong, you don’t have to lug your luggage out to the airport. You can literally leave it right in the city centre, and it magically makes its way onto your flight. And once your bag is taken care of, you can hop straight onto the train to the terminal – or come back later. It’s up to you.

I’ve used Hong Kong In-Town Check-In many times over the years. It’s a great service, and my bag never fails to appear at the other end (touch wood…). I had the chance to use it again recently ahead of a Cathay Pacific flight to Melbourne. Here’s what to expect when doing the same in 2024.

Who can use Hong Kong In-Town Check-In

In previous years, Hong Kong In-Town Check-In was available to passengers of several airlines – including Qantas to Australia. But after its closure during pandemic travel restrictions, it’s only recently reopened and for now, only serves passengers flying Cathay Pacific. Cathay Pacific codeshare flights operated by other airlines are not eligible. As to exactly how early you can stop by, it depends on where you’re flying to.

  • Flights to all destinations in the United States: Up to 24 hours before the flight’s scheduled departure time.
  • Flights to all other Cathay Pacific destinations: One full day prior to the flight’s scheduled departure.

Wherever you’re headed, you’ll be able to use the service until 90 minutes before your flight’s scheduled departure time. But don’t leave it to the last minute. You don’t want an unexpected queue to derail your travel plans.

I’m flying to Melbourne on CX105, which departs at 12:20 am – so just after midnight. I have no issue completing check-in around lunchtime on the day prior. But why is this service so helpful? Well, it’ll depend on each journey.

If you’re already taking the train to the airport, it’s handy to be able to rid yourself of luggage before the journey. When you arrive at the airport terminal, you waltz off the train and straight to security. It’s easy. In fact, being able to part ways with your suitcase so early means more time enjoying the lounges, if you’re eligible.

You might even use Hong Kong In-Town Check-In to help maximise sleep. If you have an early morning flight, plan ahead and drop your suitcase off the night before. It’ll be tagged – you’ll already have your boarding pass – and in the morning, you won’t need to be up as early, given the biggest formality is already done.

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Where to find Hong Kong In-Town Check-In

Traditionally, In-Town Check-In has been offered at both Hong Kong Station and Kowloon Station. For now though, the service is only available on Hong Kong Island – that’s Hong Kong Station. It’s not yet known when Kowloon could resume. The MTR website does tip that it’s not ‘yet’ available in Kowloon, hinting at its possible return.

As for Hong Kong Station, In-Town Check-In opens daily at 6 am and closes at 11 pm. Unless you’re staying right by that station, you may find it convenient to get here via the local MTR (Mass Transit Railway – the local subway). Hong Kong Station – where this service is located – is linked with Central Station on the Island Line.

I simply take the MTR to Central Station and follow the signs for Airport Express. As I get closer, the signs start to show ‘In-Town Check-In’. It’s easy.

Be aware though, Hong Kong’s In-Town Check-In desks are located on a different floor from the train itself. But the signs help you find where you’re going.

Cathay Pacific check-in

So you know how to find the In-Town Check-In service at Hong Kong Station. But how do you actually check in for your flight when you’re nowhere near an airport?

Your first task is getting through the ticket barrier. Because this service is operated in conjunction with the MTR, you’ll need a ticket for the Airport Express train. You can buy a standard ticket or just use an Octopus card. That’s always my go-to move – because when you use Octopus, any connecting MTR train journey is free.

For instance, I’ve taken the MTR from Tai Koo station on the Island Line. At first, that train journey is billed as normal. But when I tap in for the Airport Express, the airport fare is lowered by the amount I’ve already paid to get to that station. In other words, the total cost from the hotel to the airport is always HK$110 (~AU$21.50). It doesn’t matter where you come from in the city – that’s always the final overall cost.

Your fare is deducted when you enter the In-Town Check-In area. You then scan the same Octopus card (or ticket) to enter the train later on.

Within Hong Kong’s In-Town Check-In zone, it’s just like an airport. There are kiosks and service desks to print baggage tags and baggage belts to take your luggage away. You can also print your boarding pass on cardstock. The same is true of your Cathay Pacific lounge invitation – if eligible, of course.

There are always staff around to assist, too. I spot a glitch whereby my invitation says ‘Business Class’ rather than ‘First Class’ for lounge access. I’m entitled to the latter by way of my oneworld Emerald status, linked to the booking. Staff correct the error by hand and stamp the back. It works like a charm.

Bound for Hong Kong International Airport

Once you’re finished with Hong Kong In-Town Check-In, your time is your own. You could choose to head straight to the airport. You might want to spend a bit more time in the city before jetting off. Or if you’ve checked in the day before, you can enjoy the rest of your time in Hong Kong without being weighed down by a checked bag.

Remember. though, by entering the In-Town Check-In zone, you’ll have already been charged for a fare on the Airport Express, so you may as well take the train.

Take the train after Hong Kong In-Town Check-In
Seating on the Airport Express.

It’s a quick journey from Hong Kong Station. The train stops only at Kowloon Station and at Tsing Yi, before arriving at Hong Kong International Airport. The fare is already paid for, and there are no ticket barriers when you arrive at the terminal. You literally walk straight off the train, and you’re ready to fly.

Whether you’re planning a lounge hop or just want to minimise stress on your departure, Hong Kong In-Town Check-In is super handy. Wouldn’t it be great if we had something like this in Australia?

Also read: Your Australian passport unlocks Hong Kong’s time-saving e-Channel

Feature image and other photography by Chris Chamberlin, who travelled to Hong Kong as a guest of Cathay Pacific.

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Breeze past the airport queues with Hong Kong In-Town Check-In was last modified: April 30th, 2024 by Chris Chamberlin