Virgin Australia to fly Melbourne-Hong Kong from July

Virgin Australia to fly Melbourne-Hong Kong from July

Virgin Australia will begin direct flights between Melbourne and Hong Kong on July 5, going up against incumbents Qantas and Cathay Pacific as the challenger spreads its international wings.

The flights will run five days a week – on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday – and adopt an unusual split schedule with some flights leaving Melbourne mid-morning and others shortly after midnight.

The return flights will all be overnights, departing Hong Kong shortly before 8pm to reach Melbourne at 7.20am the following day.

Here's the official roster, for which tickets will  go on sale Wednesday March 22.

Virgin Australia flights from Melbourne to Hong Kong

  • flight VA87 will depart Melbourne at 10.25am every Monday, reaching Hong Kong at 6.05pm; and 9.40am every Wednesday, landing in Hong Kong at 5.20pm
  • flight VA89 will depart Melbourne at 12.35am – yes, that's half-past midnight – every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, arriving in Hong Kong at 8.15am

Virgin Australia flights from Hong Kong to Melbourne

  • flight VA86 will depart Hong Kong at 7.50pm every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday, arriving into Melbourne at 7.20am the following day

Virgin Australia has yet to advise which lounges at both Melbourne and Hong Kong its business class travellers and top-tier frequent flyers will be able to use, although it's expected that Hong Kong Airlines' Club Bauhinia lounge will be on that list.

The China connection

The VA89 flights which arrive into Hong Kong of a morning will dovetail neatly into routes from Hong Kong to mainland China on Hong Kong Airlines and Hainan Airlines, which are part-owned by Virgin stakeholder and Chinese aviation colossus HNA Group.

There will be some connections to China after the early evening arrival of VA87 but they'll see you checking into your hotel close to midnight – so this flight is more likely to find favour among travellers staying put in Hong Kong, at least for that first night.

Virgin is expected to codeshare its flights with Hong Kong Airlines, and Virgin Australia CEO John Borghetti considers the inbound market from Hong Kong and China as integral to the route's success.

“Virgin Australia’s entry into Hong Kong and Greater China is a key pillar of our international strategy, allowing us to tap into Australia’s fastest growing and most valuable inbound travel market" Borghetti says.

“Melbourne is an international city in its own right and hosts some of Australia’s biggest and most spectacular events. We look forward to showcasing this great city to inbound visitors from Hong Kong and beyond."

Taking on Qantas, Cathay Pacific

"Cathay and Qantas have got (Hong Kong) by the throat" says Virgin Australia group CEO Borghetti.

"We intend to break that duopoly and bring competition not only from the price side but also from the product side."

Virgin will roster Airbus A330 jets onto the route, tempting corporate travellers with the promise of modern and spacious business class seats with direct aisle access for every passenger.

Providing the necessary number of aircraft for Melbourne-Hong Kong means that the Brisbane-Perth route will lose its sole A330 service, leaving all of those transcontinental treks running on the smaller and less comfortable Boeing 737.

Qantas has its own Airbus A330 and similarly-spec'd Business Suites running daily between Melbourne (departing 11.15am ) and Hong Kong (arriving 5.40pm).

However, during peak travel seasons Qantas shifts to the larger Boeing 747 and its inferior previous-generation Skybed seats.

Eating into Cathay Pacific's share of the market will be a challenge for Virgin, as the Hong Kong flag carrier not only boasts a similarly well-appointed business class seat but has more flexibility to suit the traveller's own timetable through three daily flights – one of which is its new Airbus A350.

Business travellers on a budget may also lean towards Cathay Pacific, as it's the only carrier regularly offering premium economy on the route.

None the less, Melbournians will consider Virgin's move as a welcome break to the entrenched Oneworld duopoly – and be watching for the inevitable price war sparked by the arrival of a new player.

 

46 Comments

  • DBPZ

    DBPZ

    21 Mar, 2017 09:23 am

    Okay it is final. Happy to see that the timetable is all what I wanted -- Friday night MEL departure, and for return, weekday morning arrivals in Melbourne. Hope to book one soon.

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  • tm_smile

    tm_smile

    21 Mar, 2017 09:28 am

    Ummmmm right... that schedule is not at all confusing. Different times of the day, throw in a bit of after midnight. On to a winning formula there!

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  • John Phelan

    John Phelan

    21 Mar, 2017 10:59 am

    Now all they need to do is use different lounges on different days!

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  • FLX

    FLX1

    21 Mar, 2017 02:40 pm

    Pretty obvious why the VA arr timings(And therefore dep timings) for MEL->HKG are all over the place across the wk:

    The dreaded shortage of HKG slots these days especially during the morning peak per VA89 schedule.....

    I'm actually surprised VA managed to secure 3 wkly arr slots between 0730-10:30 in HKG.....local buddies HX & HA must hv helped VA tremendously to achieve that arr timing. 
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  • tmsmile

    tmsmile

    21 Mar, 2017 05:49 pm

    Is it that necessary to fly to HKG if you can't get decent timed slots and have to have your planes sitting on the ground doing nothing? All I see this exercise doing is continue to bring down yields and drive up VA costs. Neither of which they can afford.

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  • colin

    gsx

    21 Mar, 2017 09:28 am

    Why does the Virgin Flight take 2 hours longer in flying time than the QF service ? i.e. the Wednesday departure. Virgin really needs some additional aircraft to fill the needs for this expanded international service  they are 1 777 short for the LA route and looks like they need 2 more A330's for these expansions

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  • DBPZ

    DBPZ

    21 Mar, 2017 09:31 am

    Maybe they can borrow some from HNA, but it is unlikely if they can secure funds to buy new/nearly new ones when they're continuously losing money.

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  • Dave

    Grannular

    21 Mar, 2017 09:30 am

    I hope Virgin do well on this. They certainly need it to. However with such a messy schedule, I don't foresee this being successful. 

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  • russell

    russell

    21 Mar, 2017 09:33 am

    Gee, Virgin are now mirroring their lounge policy when it comes to flight schedules.....confusion reigns!

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  • log0008

    log0008

    21 Mar, 2017 09:40 am

    VA clearly struggled to get slots in HKG - how long until that 3rd RWY is built?*


    *It hasn't really started yet 
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  • FLX

    FLX1

    21 Mar, 2017 03:01 pm

    @log0008:

    "*It hasn't really started yet "
    Not really true.  Just a few mths after approval last yr, construction began 1Aug 2016 with foundation-related work.  Today, any pax flying into/out of HKG can clearly see work in progress in that reclamation zone adjacent to the north rwy.

    Official target completion & commission date is in 2024 per the 8yrs project schedule.
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  • thelongroad

    thelongroad

    21 Mar, 2017 09:54 am

    Redeye in both directions on some days.  Long time for the aircraft to sit on the ground.

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  • FLX

    FLX1

    21 Mar, 2017 05:05 pm

    @thelongroad:

    "Long time for the aircraft to sit on the ground."
    Agree.  8hrs per day is significant for such relatively new+pricey asset of a company carrying a weak balance sheet.

    It's far better than the 17hrs ground time @ HND endured by QF everyday to sustain SYD-HND but those 744s probably reached zero book value /scrap value yrs ago.
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  • djcz

    djcz

    21 Mar, 2017 10:00 am

    It's great to see VA giving MEL-HKG a go, It will be hard for them to take some customers from QF and CX but a thumbs up if they do. I feel like they could of had more successful out of BNE with technically only 2 daily flights, not including the CNS connection & with CX's non-stop flight being pretty much a midnight departure. 

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  • DBPZ

    DBPZ

    21 Mar, 2017 10:16 am

    As local airlines, HNA and its subsidiaries have advantage on flying into small cities in China (small cities in China's scale) because they maintain better relationship with local govs, and also because small cities sometime have joint civilian/military airports, where foreign airlines are impossible to land.

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  • FLX

    FLX1

    21 Mar, 2017 03:35 pm

    DBPZ:

    "...small cities sometime have joint civilian/military airports, where foreign airlines are impossible to land."
    A myth which is entertaining for foreigners unfamiliar with  smaller Chinese airports but patently untrue /completely busted.

    e.g., DLC(Dalian) is still technically a joint civil-military facility but 8 foreign carriers, including CI owned directly by the old civil war political rival in Taipei, hv regular yr-round schedules @ that airport.  In fact 10yrs ago when I use DLC @ least 4 times a mth across 18 mths for my biz trips, I routinely saw rows of MiGs parked on alert/stand-by right nex to the only active rwy @ DLC even when my flights were operated by NH, JL, KE or OZ and taxiing no more than 30m away fm those Communist war birds.
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  • cssaus

    cssaus

    21 Mar, 2017 10:14 am

    Interesting to see that the arrival and departure times from HKG will actually allow connection with the Virgin Atlantic flights to and from LHR.
    I wonder if VA will be entering a codeshare arrangement with VS for SYD-HKG-LHR return?

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  • Adam

    adamkiwi

    21 Mar, 2017 11:07 am

    Interesting, although it would be MEL-HKG-LHR

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  • kimshep

    kimshep

    21 Mar, 2017 10:45 am

    Given VAH applied for and were granted 7 slots to HKG, it will be interesting to see what happens to the 2 unoperated slots? What are the options?

    1. two services out of MEL to be added at a later date (subject to frame availability?
    2. two services to start elsewhere ie: BNE, SYD, ADL, PER, DRW or even CBR?
    3. "sit & hold"?

    Without daily service to HKG (ex MEL) and with an inconsistent timetable, I think that VA might be forced into an unproductive price war with the existing competitors to establish a serious presence in this market. How that will pan out will also bear watching IMHO.

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    melbtraveler

  • log0008

    log0008

    21 Mar, 2017 11:42 am

    I believe they were granted regulatory permission to operate daily flights to Hong Kong not slots at the airport. 

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  • Himeno

    Himeno

    21 Mar, 2017 12:46 pm

    That's right. They asked for, and got, 7 (of the total 70) rights to fly to HKG each week for Australian airlines.
    The ability to use a given runway at a given time is unrelated to the permission to fly.

    The permissions are a use them or lose them deal however. With this announcement, there are 2 rights remaining assigned to VA that aren't used. While they have the rights for 5 years, if they aren't used within a given time period, they'll have to give them back to IASC.

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  • Himeno

    Himeno

    21 Mar, 2017 12:49 pm

    "sit and hold" isn't an option. The flight slots will have to be handed back to IASC if they aren't used.
    The right limits don't apply to ADL, DRW or CBR (or CNS, OOL), they only apply to PER, SYD, BNE and MEL.
    If VA wanted to start CBR-HKG flights, they wouldn't need flight rights from IASC (just runway slots from HKG).

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  • Adam T

    AT

    21 Mar, 2017 11:04 am

    Inconsistency is the standard Virgin story, next I'll be reading you have to use a different partners lounge depending on which day/night you fly. 

    Planning to fly on VA comes with a logistics degree. 
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  • aklrunway

    aklrunway

    21 Mar, 2017 11:35 am

    I wholeheartedly agree!

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  • airADL

    airADL

    21 Mar, 2017 11:36 am

    I like the midnight flights but why couldnt they be at 10:00 or 11:00pm?

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  • FLX

    FLX1

    21 Mar, 2017 03:53 pm

    @airADL:

    "I like the midnight flights but why couldnt they be at 10:00 or 11:00pm?"
    U prefer to dep MEL 22:00/23:00 so U can arr HKG @ 05:30/06:30 instead of 08:15?  I guess some folks do hv really early work meetings/appointments in Hong Kong prior to the typical 09:00 office hrs.....

    On the other hand, VA will hv little to no problem to secure 0530/0630 arr slots in HKG.....plenty of these still available.
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  • airADL

    airADL

    21 Mar, 2017 04:17 pm

    Flx1 QF used to run one that got in at 6am off memory

    Melb to Hk. Used to train in, check in , shower at first meeting by 10am with ease.

    I cant stay awake till midnight these days!!!!
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  • julius-grafton

    julius-grafton

    21 Mar, 2017 12:27 pm

    I think it is a half arsed schedule - 5 flights with 2 timelines. You need daily at a given time to win, don't you?

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  • kiwiscanfly

    kiwiscanfly

    21 Mar, 2017 12:48 pm

    A friend of mine who is an air hostess on the west to east coast virgin A330 flights told me, her and some of her work mates that had previously worked on the Perth - Abu Dabi route had been asked if they were interested in applying for the new Hong Kong routes. The conditions were they had to relocate to Melbourne or Sydney, because that's where they would be flying from. Maybe Sydney is on the cards after all? 

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  • Patricka340

    Patricka340

    21 Mar, 2017 12:54 pm

    Your friend lied to you because VA axed the PER-AUH flights before they started...

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  • Isaac Barrell

    DownSouth

    21 Mar, 2017 01:15 pm

    Clearly they need to Launch the service with 5 services a week due to slot constraints in HK,and will build to daily as soon as they can. All new routes grow and develop over time.

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  • FLX

    FLX1

    21 Mar, 2017 04:27 pm

    DownSouth:
    "...will build to daily as soon as they can. All new routes grow and develop over time."
    Totally agree and in fact typical re new route launch on widebody by any carrier worldwide.  Progressively adding frequency only after seeing initial route financial performance is the norm.  Many folks forgot when QF launched SYD-DFW, it also wasn't daily fm the start.  Even for SYD-SFO recently 'restarted' by QF but already served daily by competitor for yrs, QF is still not daily today to match the competition. 

    For VA, the challenge is even greater+more complex than usual  because MEL-HKG is not just a new route.  It's a geog mkt(i.e. N.East Asia) they've never tried before and local connecting  partners(i.e. HX & HA) never worked with before.  Given the slot timings granted, incumbent dominance and mkt inexperience, I think it's pretty gusty for VA tor go 5wkly @ launch....I was expecting 4wkly by VA @ best.
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  • ashmidalia

    ashmidalia

    21 Mar, 2017 01:20 pm

    Will this qualify as "international short haul" for the purposes of the free upgrades to business for Platinum FFs?

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  • Graeme Bray

    Livewireshock

    21 Mar, 2017 04:42 pm

    It will be interesting in how much Cathay Pacific will want to fight and lower their prices on this route considering the hammering they just had from their stockholders from their last poor profit announcement. While a short term discount would be on the cards, a sustained price war is something CP would want to avoid.

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  • FLX

    FLX1

    21 Mar, 2017 04:47 pm

    Unless VA define "short haul' as sectors upto 9hrs or beyond like MEL-HKG.  If it does, VA would be the 1st in the industry to do that.


    Among most FFPs worldwide, I hv never heard of an airline defining anything beyond 5hrs as "short haul".  e.g. London-NewYork is around 8hrs(i.e. shorter than MEL-HKG) but I'm unaware of anyone nor any airline/FFP ever referring to that intercontinental route as 'short haul'.
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  • afloskar

    afloskar

    21 Mar, 2017 05:07 pm

    Agree with @djzc. I reckon BNE would have been a better choice for Virgin Australia. BNE have a lot less flights to HKG compared to Melbourne so Virgin have a lot better chance in succeding in the market. Anyway good luck to VA and hopefully it will last longer that 6 months!

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  • Graeme Bray

    Livewireshock

    22 Mar, 2017 12:05 am

    The problem with BNE is that their new partner Hong Kong Airlines operates 3 flights per week from OOL, so it might have been considered too close and might impact on each other's turf.

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  • tonyd

    tonyd

    21 Mar, 2017 07:52 pm

    And right on queue QF launches Rush Hour fares to HKG. Bring on the fare wars!

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  • pgcnewyork

    pgcnewyork

    22 Mar, 2017 12:53 am

    Any word on whether the VA flights will codeshare with VS or DL?

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  • Dave

    Grannular

    22 Mar, 2017 09:40 am

    If there was word, I am almost certain it would have been reported

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  • AwaywithMike

    AwaywithMike

    22 Mar, 2017 11:04 am

    So it appears their return flights will connect nicely with VS from LHR. Result. Now to find out if they'll code-share.
    David/AusBT do you know when today they're available - it's the 22nd today.

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  • wozcor1

    wozcor1

    22 Mar, 2017 11:16 am

    Quick one - there is or isn't PE on the proposed flights?

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  • gwilli1

    gwilli1

    22 Mar, 2017 01:51 pm

    There isn't PE. 

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  • FLX

    FLX1

    22 Mar, 2017 08:05 pm

    Fares & booking available now on VA website.  Done some playing around and noticed some interesting aspects re round trip J fares @ least for the mth of Jul(route launch mth):


    a) For MEL-HKG route, VA has the lowest fare but QF's is not far behind and CX's still hopelessly much much more pricey.
    b) For VA, MEL-HKG(At least 9.5hrs sector) is CHEAPER than MEL-PER(No more than 4.5hrs sector).
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  • julius-grafton

    julius-grafton

    23 Mar, 2017 07:44 am

    Just tried to book one way, HK to Melb, and the Virgin website refuses to cooperate. Looks like I need to call them....

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  • julius-grafton

    julius-grafton

    25 Mar, 2017 03:56 pm

    Called them for a fare quote from HK to Melb on 15 July. While the VA website shows return from Melb at around $1,700 each way in J, the quote one way out of HK was $3,300 EACH. VA seem to try this on, a return J to LAX can be less than the one way home from LA. How many other airlines do this?

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28 Mar, 2017 12:04 am

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