In this guide, I outline what to expect and how to book award seats on these flights.
Routes, aircraft and cabins
Virgin Australia has been flying daily to Hong Kong from Melbourne (ends 10 February 2020) and Sydney from mid-2017 and mid-2018, respectively.
On the outbound, flights from both cities depart mid-morning and return overnight.
Virgin Australia employs Airbus A330s on these routes, featuring its upgraded ‘The Business’ suites, which launched in August 2015.
This aircraft features 20 lie-flat Business Class seats in a 1-2-1 configuration and 255 Economy Class seats.
Operating these services to Hong Kong has taken some A330s away from existing routes between the East Coast capitals and Perth, as well as peak-period services to Fiji.
Virgin Australia competes with Cathay Pacific’s four and Qantas’ two daily flights to and from Sydney, with three and one from Melbourne, respectively.
Connections to other airports in Mainland China and Asia are made possible through Virgin Australia’s partnership with the two HNA Group airlines currently serving Hong Kong, namely full-service Hong Kong Airlines and low-cost HK Express.
And passengers bound for London can connect onto the Virgin Atlantic service, although there is a 6-7-hour layover westbound or a more palatable 3 hours on the way home.
How many points are needed?
Here is a comparison of the points pricing for a one-way flight:
|Program||Business Class||Economy Class|
Even though these routes are not included on Etihad Guest’s Virgin Australia redemption table, I called the program to confirm you can book these flights.
Taxes are AU$85-90 departing Australia and AU$75-90 returning from Hong Kong. They should be the same across all programs.
Do note that Business Class redemptions between Australia and Hong Kong attract an extra $50 Carrier Charge one-way when booking through Velocity.
How do I search for and book an award seat?
If you cannot see availability for Virgin Australia flights under the Other partner airlines tab on the KrisFlyer website, then you can phone KrisFlyer to make your booking.
You will need to phone Etihad Guest to book Virgin Australia award flights.
When does award calendar availability open up?
You can book these seats up to 330 days (~11 months) before departure.
More on the Virgin Australia-Hainan Airlines relationship
Hainan is one of the world’s ten 5-star airlines, along with carriers such as ANA, Asiana, Cathay Pacific, Etihad, EVA Air, Garuda Indonesia, Lufthansa, Qatar Airways and Singapore Airlines.
Virgin signed a bilateral agreement with Hainan Airlines, involving codesharing, reciprocal frequent flyer programs and shared lounge access. It is designed to capitalise on the growing Chinese inbound market and to funnel that traffic onto domestic VA flights.
A Hainan Airlines 787 Dreamliner
Back in 2016, Virgin Australia applied to the International Air Services Commission for permission to commence flights to Beijing, however, these plans have not yet eventuated.
If they do, travellers in Australia are likely to fly from Sydney or Melbourne to Beijing on a Virgin Australia flight and benefit from increased connectivity from Hainan’s secondary hub in Beijing (after Haikou) both within China and on services to North America and Western Europe.
Virgin Australia’s expansion into Hong Kong and Mainland China is an exciting development and is giving Qantas and Cathay Pacific a run for their money.
These flights are served by an excellent Business Class product, however, due to the restriction of only one flight a day (at most) from each city, award availability may be hard to come by, so booking well in advance will help to increase your chances of securing a seat.
What is your take on Virgin Australia’s expansion into Hong Kong and Mainland China? Have you or do you plan to take one of these flights?
Supplementary images courtesy respective airlines.