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How frequent flyers can get fast-lane access at Hong Kong airport

By David Flynn     Filed under: Hong Kong, Hong Kong Airport, fast track security, frequent flyer programs

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 
  • ANA
  • Asiana Airlines
  • British Airways: Executive Club Silver, Gold
  • Cathay Pacific: all Marco Polo members
  • Dragonair
  • China Airlines
  • China Southern
  • Delta
  • Ethiopian
  • Eva Airways
  • Finnair
  • Hainan Airlines
  • Hong Kong Airlines
  • Hong Kong Express
  • Japan Airlines: Mileage Bank Fly On Crystal, Sapphire, Premier, Diamond; JAL Global Club
  • Jet Airways
  • Kingfisher
  • KLM
  • 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.

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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.

 

Have something to say? Post a comment now!

1 on 5/10/12 by moa999

I wouldn't be sure about it being efficient. Went through last time at 10am trying to swap out my APEC card (expiring in Dec) for my Qantas card.  Queue was about 10 people with one officer, and in the ten minutes I stood their, it didn't move at all.

2 on 5/10/12 by alaskaqantas

great to hear! of course they start this this programme after I stop flying to HKG a lot. My question is now that they have expediated departure areas will CX First Class passangers get fast track security/immigration lanes anytime soon?

1 on 5/10/12 by LHRBNE

with respect to immigration, the vast majority of frequent flyers would be using the HKG residents' automated queues anyway by virtue of APEC cards/the frequent visitor e-channel which is super quick. as for security, i suppose it would be a nice perk.

however (and honestly), given how generally efficient HKG is at processing security and immigration it means that, in my opinion, there's not a critical need for fast track (if you happen to work for BAA: please fix LHR up, as even the fast track queues aren't exactly fast!). so: would be nice, but not essential, which is why i suspect they won't be in a rush to introduce fast track for CX F/J/frequent flyers.

1 on 5/10/12 by Al

"the vast majority of frequent flyers would be using the HKG residents' automated queues anyway by virtue of APEC cards" - you reckon? I'd say there'd be a very small number of APEC cards, always has been, and especially now since the Govt tightened the qualifications needed to get one (see http://www.ausbt.com.au/10-000-aussie-business-travellers-to-lose-apec-cards-after-government-clamp-down).

2 on 6/10/12 by alaskaqantas

I'm with you on the BAA front... flew into LHR a month ago and the fast track line wasn't any longer than it has been in the past, but there were fewer people manning the desks and I watched people go through the normal line much faster. I fly into LHR and need to go straight to meetings, but I can never schedule it that way because of the unreliability of immigration. Yet with places like HKG I can actually schedule more into a day because i can rely on the airport to process everything at a pretty consistent rates, but with LHR that is not the case, sometimes I'm thru in a matter of 10 minutes, sometimes its an hour. and I've also waited 4 hours once when i wasn't in the priority lane... not what you'd expect when you're paying as much in taxes as you do flying via LHR.

3 on 11/12/13 by aerodude

I signed up to this last month and you need to make sure you have visited Hong Kong at least three times recently or else they won't give it to you. I presented a newly renewed aus passport and they said I should have use the same passport at least three times before I could get it. It did not bother me as I was frequently in Hong Kong and so on the third visit with the new passport I finally got it. Used it a couple of times on exit to macau and at hkg airport and it's awesome! No queues at all . Faster than an APEC card!

4 on 28/1/14 by Peter

I enrolled (with my Qantas Platinum card) when I arrived in Hong Kong last week. A few notes:

  • The enrollment office is really hard to miss. It's right next to the doors in each of the arrival halls before exiting to baggage claim. There's two doors per arrival hall and one enrollment booth next to each door. Only one booth will be manned, so walk across to the one that's open (without exiting through the doors).
  • Passengers may hog the seats in the enrollment office waiting area. However, they're probably not enrolling but are waiting for friends/family to pass through the immigration booths.
  • There's no longer any form to fill out. Just handover your passport (and frequent flyer card if that's how you're applying) and the agent will process your application, requiring you to supply fingerprints (no ink here) and to sign the piece of paper at the end.
  • The whole enrollment process took less than 5 minutes.
 

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