What’s my best option to fly to Hong Kong from UK?
Q I am hoping to make a short trip to Hong Kong at the end of the month to see friends from my pre-pandemic time as an expat there. Fares from Heathrow are predictably much higher than the £500-£600 I fondly remember paying. But I see fares are much cheaper on Cathay Pacific via Manchester. Can I just buy one of these and board the plane in Manchester, which is equally handy for me here in Leicester?
A You are quite right about the high fares: on Cathay Pacific nonstop flights from London Heathrow, a test booking out on 24 March and back on 29 March reveals a fare just £8 short of £1,000 return. One reason for the increase is the sharp rise in the journey time due to the closure of Russian airspace: add a couple of hours to the length of the flight compared with preUkraine war, pre-Covid times.
British Airways, on those dates at least, is priced at more than twice as much for what many would say is an inferior product. So let’s stick with Cathay Pacific. As you say, there is a £130 saving on the same dates if you fly out on the 7am British Airways departure from Heathrow to Manchester, with a threehour-plus stopover before the 11.25am onward flight to Hong Kong – which, because you first flew in the opposite direction, will take an additional 20 minutes on the long haul to east Asia.
I imagine Cathay Pacific is doing this because of poor loads from Manchester and has a deal with its alliance partner British Airways for carrying passengers from Heathrow. You might imagine that forgoing the first leg – just turning up at Manchester airport to check in – would do everyone a favour but I am afraid it would result in extreme disappointment. You will be regarded as a no-show from Heathrow and your full booking cancelled. If this sounds mad, let me explain. The product you are buying on the outbound flight is a one-stop flight from Heathrow, competing with everyone from Air France and Lufthansa to Turkish Airlines and Qatar Airways who offer flights via their hubs. You would expect to pay a premium for a nonstop flight, and £130 looks about right.
I naturally checked the fare for Manchester-Hong Kong on those dates, and I can offer you a deal of £962 – with the catch that on the inbound leg you fly from Hong Kong to Heathrow and connect with BA to Manchester. Simpler to take the flights you first thought of, from and to Heathrow.
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