Take Offs & Landings
Long a prime gateway to Asia, today’s Hong Kong airport connects the world
Today’s Hong Kong International connects the world. Plus Denver’s South Terminal Redevelopment Project rises. United extends its lease with Newark Liberty. Etihad unveils its new premium lounge at IAD. First scheduled passenger service at Dubai Al Maktoum planned for October.
Hong Kong International possesses little of the intrigue of its predecessor – the infamous Kai Tak, with its singularly improbable innercity placement. The old HKG had the most astonishing approach on the planet, one in which fliers pressed their noses to cabin windows in fatalistic fascination as they gazed gape-jawed at the vision of laundryladen apartment houses flashing by – so close you could almost read the logos on the T-shirts.
Kai Tak’s been closed for some fifteen years now, an all-but abandoned scar jutting into Victoria Harbor. Business travelers going to, and through, Hong Kong have it far better than former fliers. While it may not have the panache of its ancestor airport, this iteration of HKG gets you where you’re going in a way the old Kai Tak never could. In place of the drama, what passengers get is predictability – not to mention consummate connections.
North America connects nonstop to Hong Kong via seven airportals. United and Cathay Pacific both fly nonstop from Chicago O’Hare. Cathay also makes the trip nonstop from Los Angeles. From New York Kennedy it’s Cathay again, while United does the duty out of its Newark gateway. San Francisco’s got the most competition to Hong Kong: Cathay Pacific, United and Singapore Airlines. From Toronto you can make the 7,793-mile sojourn on Cathay or Air Canada. Those two carriers also compete nonstop from Vancouver, at 6,367 miles as the Boeing flies, the closest North American gateway to Hong Kong International.
When you get to Hong Kong, the Asian options are legion. Cathay Pacific and subsidiary Dragonair choreograph much of the mainland Chinese connections here. The former feeds Hong Kong from the wider world. The latter funnels fliers to China and Southeast Asia – to the likes of Beijing, Chengdu, Chongquing, Da Nang, Janjing, Ningbo, Phonom Penh, Wuhan, Zengzhou and other far away places with strange-sounding names. Hong Kong connects to more than 50 mainland Chinese cities, and a total of 170 across the globe. Consider: half of the world’s teeming population is less than five flying hours away.
Hong Kong International, like the city it serves, is a creature of geography. That’s good, and sometimes not so good. Flanked to one side by mountains, winds can on occasion be tricky at the airport. The other side of the field abuts the sea, specifically the Pearl River Delta. That’s the good part. From HKG’s SkyPier you can hop a ferry to eight ports arrayed around the Delta, including Shenzhen and Macao.
Getting to Hong Kong Island or Kowloon isn’t nearly as daunting as you might think for an airport that lies 21 miles away from the banking and commerce centers of the city. The Airport Express is one of the fastest, cleanest, most convenient airport trains this Business Traveler reporter has ever ridden. The express will rocket you to Central in a scant 24 minutes. The fare to Hong Kong Island is HK$100 ($13), while the tab for a trip to Kowloon is HK$90 ($11.60). Airport Express offers gratis in-town check-in at both those stations.
Taxis are more than a tad more expensive, and not as fast – especially
Opposite page: Hong Kong International Airport Left: The old HKG