Flights to Asia: A guide to air­line ser­vices to North­east Aisa

Con­nec­tiv­ity to North­east Asia, with the neon pin­board of ur­ban China at its heart, is on the rise, and also act­ing as a link to South­east Asia and Down Un­der. ex­plains

Selling Travel - - Contents - Ben Ler­will

They may be half a world away on the map but the key North­east Asia air hubs aren’t hard to reach. From Bei­jing to Tokyo and from Hong Kong to Seoul, the re­gion’s big-name cities are all served by mul­ti­ple di­rect flight op­tions from the UK, many of them op­er­at­ing sev­eral times a day.

This level of con­nec­tiv­ity is likely only to in­crease. Re­cent route launches such as China Air­lines’ Gatwick-Taipei ser­vice have been com­ple­mented by an over­all rise in North­east Asia’s pop­u­lar­ity as a travel des­ti­na­tion.

“More Brits are trav­el­ling to the re­gion, as ev­i­denced by our own sales and of­fi­cial statis­tics,” says John Warr, Global Sales Di­rec­tor of Wendy Wu Tours. “It’s be­com­ing more ac­ces­si­ble and flight costs are in keep­ing with the the dis­tance flown – more ex­pen­sive than Europe but less than Aus­tralia!”

The CEO of Nor­we­gian Air, Bjorn Kjos, re­cently an­nounced he wanted to ex­pand his air­line’s non-stop of­fer­ing from the UK to in­clude Tokyo and Bei­jing, while Fin­nair has also un­veiled am­bi­tious plans to drive the num­ber of its flights be­tween Europe and

Asia, hav­ing lately in­creased the fre­quency of sev­eral of its ser­vices to the re­gion.

And in the view of Matt Spiller, Agent

Sales man­ager of In­sid­eAsia Tours, the de­mand is very much there, with Ja­pan be­ing in­dica­tive of a wider trend.

“Ja­pan has seen a huge in­crease in pop­u­lar­ity, and de­mand from the trade has also kept on trend,” he says. “2017 saw close to a 40% in­crease in sales on

2016 for us, and Jan­uary 2018 is al­ready

40% up on the same month in 2017.”

Turn over for a map of di­rect flights from the UK and a run-down of the re­gion’s hubs, with the best of the in-di­rect flights and re­gional car­ri­ers too.


There will soon be six cities in main­land China ser­viced by reg­u­lar di­rect flights from the UK: Bei­jing, Shang­hai, Guangzhou, Chongqing, Qing­dao and Wuhan. All ser­vices de­part from Heathrow, with the ex­cep­tion of Tian­jin Air­lines’ (tian­ji­nair­ Gatwick-Chongqing route and Hainan Air­lines’ (hainanair­ Manch­ester-Bei­jing route. Flights typ­i­cally take be­tween 10 and 11½ hours.

The new­est, China South­ern Air­line’s ( Heathrow-Wuhan ser­vice, takes off on May 30.

Bri­tish Air­ways stopped its non-stop Lon­donChengdu ser­vice last year, but the over­all out­look for UK-China flights is a pos­i­tive one. Au­thor­i­ties agreed a fresh deal in De­cem­ber to in­crease the num­ber of per­mit­ted pas­sen­ger flights be­tween the two coun­tries by 50%, to 150 per week.

The ex­ist­ing routes all hold ap­peal for cor­po­rate trav­ellers, but leisure travel is also on the up. Bei­jing and Shang­hai in par­tic­u­lar – one full of mag­nif­i­cent im­pe­rial trea­sures, the other buzzing with old-meet­snew dy­namism – are mag­nets for cul­tural tourists, as well as be­ing es­tab­lished gate­ways to at­trac­tions else­where in the coun­try.

A num­ber of lesser-known air­lines fly be­tween Bri­tain and China too. On their re­spec­tive UK-China routes, China East­ern ( op­er­ates a three-class ser­vice on Boe­ing 737s (and of­fer on­board wifi), China South­ern (csair. com) op­er­ates a three-class ser­vice on Boe­ing 787s, while Tian­jin Air­lines, Hainan Air­lines and Bei­jing Cap­i­tal Air­lines ( all op­er­ate a two-class ser­vice on Air­bus 330s. All pro­vide meals and seat­back en­ter­tain­ment as stan­dard.

In­di­rect flights: One-stop op­tions in­clude Bei­jing via Abu Dhabi with Eti­had, Shang­hai via Am­s­ter­dam with KLM, Shang­hai via Dubai with Emi­rates or Bei­jing via Kaza­khstan with Air As­tana, which will of­fer daily, non-stop flights from Lon­don to As­tana from June 1 and has an in­no­va­tive Econ­omy Sleeper op­tion, giv­ing pas­sen­gers a full row to lie out with a mat­tress on plus Busi­ness Class priv­i­leges like lounge ac­cess. Fin­nair will soon of­fer ser­vices via Helsinki to Nan­jing, Xian and more.

Hong Kong

A flight time of around 11½ hours links the UK with the su­per-sized neon jun­gle that is Hong Kong. Full of street-level at­mos­phere and bold modern ar­chi­tec­ture, it’s a city packed with di­vert­ing ac­tiv­i­ties, good food and cul­tural sights. There’s am­ple choice of di­rect flights from the UK, with Cathay Pa­cific (cathay­pa­cific. com) alone of­fer­ing 49 ser­vices a week. De­mand looks likely to con­tinue too, with Gatwick re­cently an­nounc­ing a 42.4% year-on-year in­crease in pas­sen­gers to Hong Kong.

The pres­ence of a num­ber of multi­na­tional com­pa­nies in Hong Kong sees it draw large num­bers of both busi­ness trav­ellers and leisure vis­i­tors. And in ad­di­tion to the ex­ist­ing ser­vices, it’s also been re­ported that the fast-ex­pand­ing Hong Kong Air­lines – based in the city – will be in­tro­duc­ing non-stop flights to Lon­don later this year, as well as to New York and San Fran­cisco.

In­di­rect flights: One-stop op­tions from the UK are nu­mer­ous, in­clud­ing via Mum­bai with Jet Air­ways, via Helsinki with Fin­nair, via Emi­rates with Dubai and via Kuala Lumpur with Malaysia Air­lines. Two-stop op­tions ex­ist with Air As­tana.


There are no di­rect flights be­tween the UK and Ma­cao – a sit­u­a­tion which is un­likely to change any­time soon – but the Por­tuguese colony is still sim­ple to visit. Ac­cess via neigh­bour­ing Hong Kong is the most ob­vi­ous way of get­ting there, with two com­pa­nies run­ning reg­u­lar ferry ser­vices across the Pearl River Es­tu­ary.

The jour­ney takes as lit­tle as 55 min­utes.

This year is due to see the com­ple­tion of the multi­bil­lion-dol­lar Hong Kong-ZhuhaiMa­cao Bridge, which will pro­vide a di­rect road link be­tween Hong Kong Air­port and Ma­cao. The des­ti­na­tion it­self is fa­mous for its rich cul­tural mix of Chi­nese and Euro­pean in­flu­ences, as well as its Ve­gas-style casi­nos.

In­di­rect flights: Ma­cao has its own in­ter­na­tional air­port so there are plenty of one-stop op­tions for Brits wish­ing to ar­rive by air. Hubs such as

Bei­jing, Shang­hai, Sin­ga­pore and

Bangkok all con­nect tp Ma­cao.


Seoul’s In­cheon In­ter­na­tional Air­port un­veiled a new sec­ond ter­mi­nal in Jan­uary to co­in­cide with the Win­ter Olympics. The air­port cur­rently han­dles di­rect daily flights from Heathrow with three dif­fer­ent air­lines, in­clud­ing both coun­tries’ re­spec­tive na­tional car­ri­ers and the Korea-based Star Al­liance mem­ber Air Asiana (fly­ Flight time from the UK is around 11 hours.

Seoul it­self is an eco­nomic pow­er­house and im­mer­sive des­ti­na­tion, full of sharp tech­nol­ogy, teem­ing mar­kets and colour­ful fes­ti­vals.

In­di­rect flights: Plenty of Euro­pean air­lines of­fer flights to Seoul: via Paris with Air France, via War­saw with LOT, via Mos­cow with Aeroflot and via Helsinki with Fin­nair.


Ja­pan Air­lines ( is in­vest­ing $10 mil­lion into de­vel­op­ing a new-gen­er­a­tion su­per­sonic air­craft – there’s talk of it en­ter­ing ser­vice in the mid-2020s. This sense of am­bi­tion and fu­tur­ism sums up what makes Ja­pan such a spe­cial travel propo­si­tion. There’s ar­guably nowhere on the planet quite so as hy­per-modern as Tokyo, but the coun­try also clings tightly to its time­honoured tra­di­tions. It all makes for a thrilling place to visit. Ja­pan Air­lines, Bri­tish Air­ways and ANA ( all of­fer di­rect ser­vices from Heathrow to Tokyo – some flights ar­rive into Tokyo Narita Air­port, while oth­ers ar­rive into Tokyo Haneda Air­port. The for­mer is larger, the lat­ter is closer to the city.

In­di­rect ser­vices: Var­i­ous op­tions ex­ist for Bri­tish trav­ellers look­ing to save money (or oth­er­wise ben­e­fit) by tak­ing a one-stop ser­vice to Tokyo. These in­clude via Rome or Mi­lan with Al­i­talia, via Is­tan­bul with Turk­ish Air­lines and via Mos­cow with Aeroflot.


This ad­ven­ture-packed, un­der-vis­ited and haunt­ingly beau­ti­ful coun­try made it onto Lonely Planet’s Best of Travel list for 2017, partly thanks to the work tak­ing place on a ma­jor

new in­ter­na­tional air­port for cap­i­tal city Ulaan­bataar. The fa­cil­ity re­cently an­nounced a sched­uled open­ing date of 2019 – al­though whether it re­sults in any di­rect flights from the

UK re­mains to be seen.

In­di­rect ser­vices: Brits want­ing to ex­pe­ri­ence

Mon­go­lia’s vast land­scapes and no­madic cul­tures can reach the coun­try with­out much prob­lem. One-stop ser­vices in­clude via Mos­cow with Aeroflot, via Seoul with Korean Air and via Bei­jing with Air China.


China Air­lines launched a di­rect Gatwick-Taipei route in De­cem­ber 2017, ini­tially fly­ing four times a week into the Tai­wanese cap­i­tal but in­creas­ing to five times weekly in March. It’s a pos­i­tive move for the des­ti­na­tion, which wel­comed more than 60,000 Bri­tish hol­i­day­mak­ers for the first time last year. Peo­ple tend to visit for the nat­u­ral scenery of the coun­try­side, the ur­ban buzz of Taipei, the ex­cel­lent food and a cul­tural of­fer­ing – from hot-spring

re­sorts to abo­rig­i­nal fes­ti­vals.

In­di­rect ser­vices: EVA Air serves Taipei from Heathrow with a stopover in Bangkok. It’s also pos­si­ble for Brits to reach Tai­wan via Hanoi with Viet­nam Air­lines, via Dubai with Emi­rates and via Am­s­ter­dam with KLM.

Re­gional ser­vices

North­east Asia is well served by re­gional flights, with China, Hong Kong, Tai­wan and Ja­pan all home to mul­ti­ple re­gional air­lines, mak­ing it sim­ple to get from one hub to an­other, or to travel do­mes­ti­cally.

Key re­gional car­ri­ers in­clude Juneyao Air­li­ne­sand China Ex­press Air­lines in

China, Cathay Dragon and Hong Kong

Air­lines in Hong Kong, ANA Wings in

Ja­pan and UNI Air in Tai­wan.

The bam­boo for­est, Ky­oto. Above: Gyeong­bok­gung Palace, Seoul, Korea

Above, clock­wise from top left: The Great Wall of China near Bei­jing; Qing­dao Bay; the Por­tuguese-style ar­chi­tec­ture of Ma­cao; Hong Kong’s Big Bud­dha; shop­ping in Shang­hai

Clock­wise from top left: a Chi­nese Bud­dhist tem­ple in Ma­cao; Ja­pan’s Mount Fuji; Tai­wanese bao buns; Mon­go­lian na­tional cos­tume; Bei­jing’s fab­u­lous For­bid­den City

Above: The moun­tain town of Ji­ufen, Tai­wan. Right: Guangzhou Opera House, China

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