Update: Virgin Australia has confirmed a July 5 launch of direct flights between Melbourne and Hong Kong. Click here for full details.
TALKING POINT | Virgin Australia is counting down to the start of flights to Hong Kong, with a flurry of test schedules entered into online booking systems and exposed by Google ahead of an expected launch next week.
Flights from both Sydney and Melbourne to Hong Kong have been tagged, although some of the data is undoubtedly dummy entries – for example, a 'VA80' flight from Sydney to Hong Kong shows as departing Sydney at 1.35am, well after the airport's nightly curfew kicks in.
You can see these entries for yourself by typing 'flights Sydney Hong Kong' and 'flights Melbourne Hong Kong' into Google.
(This is a favourite tip at the AusBT office, letting us quickly check timetables and flight frequencies without digging into an airline's own website.)
Here are the details for an alleged return flight VA81 from Hong Kong to Sydney.
And here's how the Melbourne-Hong Kong route is looking – again, based on what Google has picked up rather than anything announced by Virgin Australia, so there is no suggestion this schedule is the real deal.
VA87 lists as departing Melbourne at 9.40am to reach Hong Kong at 5.20pm and two hours later bounce back to Australia as VA86, landing in Melbourne at 7.20am the next day.
We're not entering into speculation on any of this: and for those getting excited by the prospects of a 'leak', our advice is simple: chill.
We expect an official announcement from Virgin Australia soon, in all likelihood very soon, and that's when all the details will be laid out. There's no sense getting all het up over what might not be.
That said, these 'pop-up' details do make for some interesting reflection when it comes to flight timings.
Consider the current duopoly of Qantas and Cathay Pacific, for example – a duopoly which Virgin Australia CEO John Borghetti has said he intends "to break, and bring competition from the price side but also from the product side."
Flight schedules: Qantas vs Cathay Pacific
Qantas has one flights a day out of Sydney and Melbourne to Hong Kong which follow the same schedule: departing at 11.15am to reach Hong Kong around 5.30pm, with the respective return legs being overnights (out of Hong Kong at 7.50pm, arriving back in Australia around 8am, the following day).
From Sydney Qantas has a second flight which most days leaves in the early afternoon to reach Hong Kong around 8pm.
However, the Red Roo's Oneworld partner and frenemy Cathay Pacific offers four daily flights between Sydney and Hong Kong, and three between Melbourne and Hong Kong.
For example, Cathay's Sydney schedule allows an 8.40am departure to reach Hong Kong at 3pm, and another flight which pretty much matches Qantas; a third daily service leaves Sydney in the late afternoon to reach Hong Kong at 10pm, followed by an overnight flight departing Sydney at 10.20pm.
That's a flexibility which certainly appeals to many business travellers.
So, looking at these alleged Virgin Australia timings to Hong Kong and back – and forgetting about Sydney or Melbourne as being the Aussie anchors for the route – how well would these schedules work for you, the Australian business traveller?
Choosing between a flight departing Australia in the earliest hours of the morning to reach Hong Kong at 8.15am (VA81) or one that'd be wheels-up at 9.40am for an arrival into Hong Kong at 5.20pm (VA87), which would be best for you?
Would you prefer to fly into Hong Kong in the morning, to launch straight into meetings or perhaps catch a connecting flight into China?
Or is an afternoon arrival – checking into the hotel, dinner and drinks with local contacts and customers, and a good night's sleep before tackling the next day head-on – is that more your style?
Share your preferences on business travel flight timings between Australian and Hong Kong in the comments below.
[Please limit your comments to this aspect of Virgin's forthcoming Hong Kong flights – other posts will be edited or deleted at our discretion in the interest of keeping the discussion on topic.]