Hong Kong is one of our favourite cities. The arrivals queues at Hong Kong International Airport? Not so much – especially when we’re travelling with carry-on only luggage and desire nothing more than to sprightly step out of the airport, hop onto the Airport Express and zip into town.
Want to sidestep that queue? Your Qantas frequent flyer card could be just the ticket.
So might your shiny frequent flyer card from Air New Zealand, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Delta, Singapore Airlines, United Airlines or Virgin Atlantic, along with a score of other airlines.
Members of frequent flyer schemes from over 30 airlines qualify for free membership in the Hong Kong government’s Frequent Visitor programme.
This lets you use the Frequent Visitor e-Channel – an automated immigration lane similar to Australia’s SmartGate system – at Hong Kong airport, as well as the Shenzhen Bay immigration checkpoint and ferry terminals for Macau and China.
There are also seperate Frequent Visitor e-Channel lanes for departures from Hong Kong airport, so you can short-circuit the outbound passenger queue and spend more time relaxing in the lounge.
Which frequent flyer cards qualify?
Not every airline’s frequent flyer program enjoys the same fast track privileges, however, and for several such as Qantas it’s limited to top-tier Gold or Platinum status.
The Hong Kong government’s e-Channel website isn’t much help – it doesn’t specify which airline’s frequent flyer schemes are eligible, saying only:
“Frequent Flyer Programme membership card issued by airlines which have joined this scheme (please enquire with your airline)”.
So Australian Business Traveller contacted the Hong Kong Immigration Department and many airlines to collate this list – accurate as of October 2012 – of which airline's frequent flyer members can join the Frequent Visitor programme and fast-track your arrival and departure through Hong Kong airport's e-Channel lanes.
Where possible we've also listed what level of frequent flyer status is needed to enroll in the Frequent Visitor scheme, based on advice from each airline.
- Air Canada
- Air China
- Air France
- Air New Zealand: Airpoints Silver, Gold, Gold Elite
- Asiana Airlines
- British Airways: Executive Club Silver, Gold
- Cathay Pacific: all Marco Polo members
- China Airlines
- China Southern
- Eva Airways
- Hainan Airlines
- Hong Kong Airlines
- Hong Kong Express
- Japan Airlines: Mileage Bank Fly On Crystal, Sapphire, Premier, Diamond; JAL Global Club
- Jet Airways
- Korean Air: all Morning Calm members
- Lufthansa: Miles & More Frequent Traveller, Senator, HON Circle
- Malaysia Airlines: Enrich Silver, Gold and Platinum
- Philippine Airlines
- Qantas: Gold, Platinum, Platinum One, Chairman's Lounge
- Qatar Airways
- Royal Brunei
- Singapore Airlines: KrisFlyer Elite Gold and PPS Club
- Swiss: all Miles & More members
- Thai Airways
- United: MileagePlus Premier Silver, Premier Gold, Premier Platinum, Premier 1K
- Virgin Atlantic: Flying Club Gold
Your Frequent Visitor membership remains valid for as long as your passport does.
How to sign up for the Frequent Visitor e-Channel scheme
You’ll have to swing by the enrollment desks which are located past the arrivals counters at Hong Kong airport but before the baggage claim area – which means clearing immigration the old-fashioned way, this time around.
These offices are open from 10am to 6pm at the Arrival North Hall and 7.30am to 11pm at the Arrival South Hall.
You’ll need to present your passport and frequent flyer card, complete an application form, have your fingerprints and photograph taken and have a barcode sticker attached to the back of your passport.
Don’t worry if there’s a bit of a queue at the enrollment office – the staff seem pretty efficient and on our visit we were signed up inside of 15 minutes, despite being behind a handful of fellow travellers.
If you’ve got checked luggage, we suggest enrolling in the Frequent Visitor e-Channel scheme while you wait for your bags to hit the belt.
On your next visit to Hong Kong you’ll now be able to make a bee-line for the automated e-Channel gates, scan your passport, have your fingerprint verified and be on your way.
This video shows how quick and easy the process is.
For the latest news and updates for business travellers and frequent flyers, follow us on Twitter: we're @AusBT.
About David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.