Virgin Australia plans Sydney, Brisbane flights to Hong Kong

Virgin Australia plans Sydney, Brisbane flights to Hong Kong

Virgin Group's Sir Richard Branson wants to see his Australian franchise spread its wings even further into Asia with plans for Virgin Australia to fly from both Sydney and Brisbane to Hong Kong.

Speaking at the launch of the airline's Melbourne-Hong Kong route ahead of the inaugural service today, Branson affirmed that "we're hopeful to get the slots": Hong Kong being a notoriously busy airport with tightly-controlled flight schedules.

"We have to get into Hong Kong and that's tough – and that's being worked on – so we obviously have applied for 21 new slots in Hong Kong which would hopefully cover Sydney and Brisbane... we would hope to get enough slots to get that up and running," Branson added.

Having axed flights to the Abu Dhabi hub of partner Etihad Airways, Virgin Australia has redrawn its international network to focus primarily on the USA, with flights from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to Los Angeles – and now Melbourne into Hong Kong.

"This is the spearhead into Asia for us, Mainland China is next," Virgin Australia CEO John Borghetti told Australian Business Traveller. "Hong Kong is the start of our Asian expansion."

Virgin Australia is now flying its Airbus A330 aircraft five days a week between Melbourne and Hong Kong, a route which until now has been exclusive to Oneworld frenemies Qantas and Cathay Pacific.

"Competition is a wonderful thing, not just from a pricing perspective but also from the point of view of product and service," Borghetti continues.

His next step is to turn Melbourne into a daily service. "This depends on getting extra slots, but whatever we get, the first two will go towards making Melbourne daily."

Borghetti described the Melbourne-Hong Kong route as a "no-brainer", estimating that Cathay pacific enjoys a 70% market share due to running three flights each day.

"This is a route that's dominated  by one airline, and as good as they are, a bit of completion doesn't hurt... so if we can get to seven flights each week, which is what Qantas has got, then that's a pretty good position."

"Then, depending on how many more we get, we'll look at Sydney and Brisbane."

Borghetti says that Sydney Airport's curfew compared to Brisbane Airport's around-the-clock operation could tip the scales in favour of the Queensland capital.

"One thing to consider is going to be the slots we get  from Hong Kong, can we operate them within a curfew? There's no point in having slots if you can’t land your aeroplanes, so we’ll see how it goes."

Virgin also intends to launch a second series of flights between Mainland China and Australia later this year, although Borghetti refused to be drawn on which cities would anchor the route.

David Flynn travelled to Hong Kong as a guest of Virgin Australia

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.


  • LP


    5 Jul, 2017 10:27 am

    Has the economy cabin been spruced at all on the a332's ahead of HKG? While J is great, the back of the bus is pretty basic for a long haul flight to HKG, especially compared to the competition.
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  • reeves35


    5 Jul, 2017 10:55 am

    I doubt much will happen to Y class.  It is fairly competitive with an excellent IFE system and comparable space to that offered by both CX and QF.  
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  • Richard Burgess


    6 Jul, 2017 06:47 pm

    Those tacky pleather seats on the 330 are vile. Also no foot rests and lack of charging. Very Virgin Blue-esque
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  • FrequentFlyer


    6 Jul, 2017 07:46 pm

    I dislike the pleather too. Seems to be all the rage with most airlines, VA and QF included. VA's J cabin definitely 'looks' nicer than the roo's though hands down.
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  • aldrigsomandre


    5 Jul, 2017 10:35 am

    Does this mean they're going to invest in new aircraft? The widebody fleet they have is rather insufficient for that kind of expansion.
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  • Greg84


    5 Jul, 2017 10:38 am

    On first glance makes sense - tie up with Virgin Atlantic to London via HK, but hard to beat Cathay or Qantas onto another carrier for the onward flight.
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  • reeves35


    5 Jul, 2017 10:57 am

    Given VA's equity relationship with Hainan, they have excellent onward connection opportunities particularly into China with all that group's airlines including Hainan, Hong Kong Airlines and HK Express.
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  • Anthony Thompson


    5 Jul, 2017 11:43 am

    Whilst Cathay is great, Qantas is no longer a serious competitor, i am Plat with them but avoid them wherever possible, inedible food and wine on Qantas makes it a good diet option though!
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  • Yvan J Drake


    5 Jul, 2017 10:53 am

    Ten points to David for getting "frenemies" into an article. I owe you a beer, good sir. 
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  • Angus  Coventry


    5 Jul, 2017 11:08 am

    Virgin will need more planes though to achieve this growth 
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  • reeves35


    5 Jul, 2017 12:01 pm

    I believe there is a chance VA may acquire some more A330s via one of its equity partners.  SQ, HNA and EY all operate RR powered A330s and both EY and SQ are reducing their A330 fleets meaning some are becoming available shortly.  

    SQ only operate A330-300s which are bigger than VA's A330-200s but that may mean VA can add a Premium Economy cabin if they believe there is a market for this to Hong Kong and China.
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  • Morgan Judd


    5 Jul, 2017 11:42 am

    This may mean to east west a330's :(.....qantas will have this route to themselves 
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  • Morgan Judd


    5 Jul, 2017 11:44 am

    No east west a330's*
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  • Trogdor


    5 Jul, 2017 12:01 pm

    On the surface it seems like a good move - flights into China and HK are a destination in themselves (and plenty of Chinese coming here), whereas Abu Dhabi was really only a terminus to change planes onto Etihad.

    A Virgin/Virgin Atlantic route to London makes good sense too.
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  • gumshoe


    5 Jul, 2017 12:46 pm

    its about time we had some daylight or early evening flights arriving back in OZ.
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  • DBPZ


    5 Jul, 2017 12:53 pm

    I'm more concerned with the connecting flights after hkg. When will HK air share some of its destinations?
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  • reeves35


    5 Jul, 2017 01:01 pm

    I think they will offer extensive interline with Hong Kong Airlines and other HNA carriers.  There are restrictions on codeshares into China so I think interlining is the best that can be offered currently.
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  • Adam T


    5 Jul, 2017 02:06 pm

    Great to see VA focusing on Asia & USA. I don't fly Virgin but I do like to see them succeed and be a great competitor. 
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  • StudiodeKadent


    5 Jul, 2017 02:14 pm

    Great news for Virgin and fantastic news for Hong Kong visitors. This will help break OneWorld's hold on the Hong Kong - Australia market.
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  • mcglynp


    5 Jul, 2017 03:03 pm

    Would love to see VA properly exploit HGK as hub to lead into HNA for China and VS for connections through to LHR.  I miss the days of being able to do London to SYD with VS.   Getting this sorted would give VA international a real shot in the arm.  
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  • johnaboxall


    5 Jul, 2017 04:26 pm

    Not too many free slots left at HKG, either VA will do some horse-trading or hours will be interesting - see
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  • apacau


    5 Jul, 2017 04:41 pm

    Re VS/VA, I was lucky enough to pick up one of the sub $4k J class fares they recently had on offer - VA to LAX, VS to LHR and back via HKG (could also be done in reverse or both ways via HKG). So there is some level of cooperation already there on joint fares etc. Plus the Velocity points and status credit benefits are there on VS services. The connection times were perfect too for LHR-HKG-MEL  on the day I'm booked to travel.
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  • rj


    5 Jul, 2017 04:49 pm

    I'm so glad to see VA expanding into Asia. They've got a fantastic product and I really hope they do well on these routes so we can see further expansion and really give QF a run for their money.

    Also great to see the support for VA on here for once as well. Seems like everyone is constantly hating on VA (sometimes justified, I'll admit). 

    Great news all round.
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  • smit0847


    5 Jul, 2017 05:35 pm

    The 2 things VA need to make HKG work:

     - More and better slot times;

     - More planes.

     What is their plan for either?

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  • highflyer


    5 Jul, 2017 06:14 pm

    With VA working out its partnership, Imagine the possibilities if "frenemies" Cathay and Qantas actually worked together. Apart from only being OneWorld alliances, CX are already at Capacity into Aus, and QF can't get enough slots into HK. Codesharing into the many destinations QF dont fly to in Asia, and actually working together... sigh... one can dream...

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  • reeves35


    6 Jul, 2017 08:04 am

    Given their combined dominance on routes between AU and HKG, it would be unlikely that any serious JV between CX and QF would get regulatory approval. 
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  • Himeno


    6 Jul, 2017 12:38 pm

    Same issue with QF and JL. Until NH reentered the AU market with their SYD-HND flights, QF and JL were the only airlines on the route and they are much friendly then QF/CX.

    There is a reason that QF/JL are only allowed to codeshare between AU and JP via SIN and not on their non stop flights.
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  • moa999


    5 Jul, 2017 08:04 pm

    Given they couldn't even get a regular schedule from MEL-HKG, good luck on another 14 slots
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  • Himeno


    6 Jul, 2017 12:35 pm

    The last request from VA to IASC about anything in Asia was to allow codesharing on the Hong Kong route with Hong Kong Airlines. There are no pending requests with IASC.

    Even if VA asks for more of the total 70 flight/week allowance between BNE/SYD/MEL/PER and HKG (half of which are now allocated to QF or VA), they'd be hard pressed to find usable slots at HKG prior to the 3rd runway being completed.
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  • aniljak


    6 Jul, 2017 06:42 pm

    Reported on today Singapore  Airlines  lease of four 10 year old a380s about to expire. Planes may be scrapped if no takers. Virgin should grab them and put them on Hong Kong route. Keep the Singapore  seating and you would have a great product compared to Qantas!

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  • ZT


    7 Jul, 2017 03:24 pm

    Will be interesting to see the reaction of the mainland Chinese passengers to book with an airline named after a person that has not had sex.
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  • mike kearney

    Bonzer Mike

    8 Jul, 2017 06:28 pm

    my mate works for cathay pacific and they are trying to get more flights into Australia as most flights in and out are 90% full.i wish virgin the best of luck slots will be very difficuilt to get I was on a ka/cx flight from shanghai recently and because we were 2 hours late out of shanghai [quite nlrmal these days]when we arrived hk airport we had wait for another 90 minutes before they could off load us on the tarmac and bus us in. Talking about slots.....
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  • Oliver Ward


    9 Jul, 2017 10:31 pm

    Fly BNE-HKG!!!! 
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  • gjspectre


    5 Oct, 2017 06:29 pm

    are the current hong kong flights full? im hoping they can that route through lack of take up and put the a330's back on the perth-east coast....737 on the midnight flight just doesnt work
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  • CityRail


    21 Jan, 2018 12:43 am

    2017 has passed and I just wondering when will they launch SYD-HKG direct? I think we are getting sick and tired of needing transfer via either Singapore or Melbourne, which latter requires the hassle of clearance of customs inbound.
    I am sure the demand for SYD-HKG is there as Qantas is deploying A380 and Cathay is deploying B77W there.
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23 Jul, 2019 09:01 am


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