Hong Kong Airlines chooses Vancouver to launch first North American route

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      Vancouver will be first North American destination for the young but rapidly expanding Hong Kong Airlines.

      In an interview with the Georgia Straight at Sun Sui Wah Seafood Restaurant, commercial assistant director Wayne Wang explained that his company recognizes the huge demand, citing such factors as Vancouver's large Chinese Canadian community, the number of Hong Kong residents who moved to Vancouver, and the number of Canadians in Hong Kong.

      The airlines celebrated its 10th anniversary in November and has received a four-star rating from Skytrax, an independent airline review site, for six consecutive years.

      Last year, the company expanded to 11 new destinations, including Gold Coast, Australia; Auckland, New Zealand; and Seoul, South Korea. It now has 36 destinations and 13 codeshare partners in Hong Kong.

      Wang said that as they are authorized to have three more flights in Canada, they will either add more flights to Vancouver or possibly expand to Toronto. He added that they're also considering expanding to Los Angeles, New York City, and other U.S. cities.

      Daily flights between Hong Kong and Vancouver will begin on June 30 with an A330 aircraft featuring18 business class and 246 economy seats. (Wang said they will introduce an A350 aircraft in August.)

      What's unique about the flight is that both business and economy classes will each have a SkyBar, a bar which serve drinks and snacks, and will allow passengers to get up and stretch their legs on the non-stop 12-hour flight.

      Craig Takeuchi

      Wang said they will serve Hong Kong food and drink, such as Hong Kong–style milk tea and dofuhua (bean curd).

      For flights from Hong Kong, the airlines is partnering with Intercontinental Grand Stanford Hotel Hong Kong's Hoi King Heen restaurant for business class meals. Wang said they're still searching for a partnership with a Vancouver restaurant for meals on Vancouver departures.

      The airlines also offers a number of special services to take note of.

      "The millennials, or the younger generation, they want experience," corporate communications general manager Ming Chan told the Straight. "They might not be like the older generation that want to buy luxury goods or buy designer brands to satisfy themselves."

      For families, the Sweeten You Up service provides a special check-in area and Happy Angel attendants are trained to take care of children during flights. A number of special services are also available for occasions such as birthdays or anniversaries, including cakes, complimentary entry to their VIP lounge, cards, and more.

      Chan said their new VIP lounge, double the size of the original one, will open in June at the Hong Kong International Airport. She said they're considering introducing a breastfeeding area in the lounge as well.

      In response to an incident when a classical guitarist's guitar was damaged, the airlines launched a program to offer free special cases to musicians that are designed to protect instruments in baggage during travel.

      HX is the airline code for Hong Kong Airlines.
      Craig Takeuchi

      At a pre-launch event at Sun Sui Wah for the new Vancouver flights, Vancouver Airport Authority president and CEO Craig Richmond talked about the economic benefits to our city.

      "The new daily service will generate approximately 430 jobs in British Columbia, both at the airport and in the tourism industry; $15.5 million in wages; $8.6 million in taxes; and $24 million in gross domestic product," he said.

      While HK Airlines will compete against established carriers such as Cathay Pacific and Air Canada, they'll also be giving them a run for their money.

      HK Airlines is offering flights at a special introductory price starting at C$500 return for economy fares, or C$3,150 for business class, for flights from August 15 to October 28. Introductory economy fares during peak season (June 30 to August 14) will start at C$750, if purchased during March. However, bookings must be made before March 31 for these prices (all plus taxes and other charges).

      A number of airlines have increased the number of flights from China to Vancouver over the past few years. Air China, China Eastern, China Southern, Sichuan Airlines, Xiamen Airlines, and Capital Airlines all provide service from mainland China while Cathay Pacific, China Airlines, and EVA Air all fly from either Hong Kong or Taiwan to Vancouver.

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook