Virgin Australia to start Sydney-Hong Kong on July 2

Virgin Australia Airbus A330-200 VH-XFD operating the inaugural VA87 from Melbourne to Hong Kong on July 5 2017. (Virgin Australia)
Virgin Australia Airbus A330-200 VH-XFD operating the inaugural VA87 from Melbourne to Hong Kong on July 5 2017. (Virgin Australia)

Virgin Australia will launch its daily Sydney-Hong Kong nonstop service at the start of July.

The airline first announced plans to operate the route in February, without specifying a start date.

However, Virgin Australia said on Tuesday it will join Cathay Pacific and Qantas on the busy Sydney-Hong Kong route from July 2 2018.

It will operate Sydney-Hong Kong with its fleet of Airbus A330-200s featuring 20 business class seats with direct aisle access for every passenger and 255 seats in economy at eight abreast.

Once Virgin Australia commences Sydney-Hong Kong flights, its Melbourne-Hong Kong offering will drop back to five flights a week, from daily currently.

Flight timings for Melbourne-Hong Kong will also change from a daytime flight from Melbourne and red-eye return from Hong Kong to an overnight service in both directions.

It was understood the schedule changes were due to the availability of takeoff and landing slots at Hong Kong’s busy Chek Lap Kok Airport.

Virgin Australia’s two services between Australia and Hong Kong are supported by its alliance with HNA Group carriers including Hong Kong Airlines, which has its HX airline code on the Australian carrier’s services to Hong Kong.

There is also a codeshare arrangement with Virgin Atlantic, which in January received approval to add its VS airline code on Virgin Australia’s Hong Kong and Los Angeles services.

VIDEO: Virgin Australia kicked off its Melbourne-Hong Kong service on July 5 with a celebration at the terminal featuring Sir Richard Branson, as this video on Melbourne Airport’s YouTube channel shows.

Further, Virgin Australia announced on Tuesday it had established an interline arrangement with Hong Kong Express (another HNA Group carrier) for connections throughout Asia.

“Hong Kong is a vibrant and exciting destination but is also a gateway into Asia and Europe. We look forward to offering onward connections with our partners Hong Kong Airlines and Virgin Atlantic,” Virgin Australia group executive for airlines Rob Sharp said in a statement on Tuesday.

“Greater China is a key pillar of our strategy and the addition of Sydney services to our already popular Melbourne flights to Hong Kong strengthens our proposition immensely.”

The recent codeshare and interline agreements means means Virgin Australia will be able to sell flights to Asia either via Hong Kong (with connections from Hong Kong Airlines and Hong Kong Express) or via Singapore thanks to its alliance with Singapore Airlines (SIA).

Sharp told a recent industry conference the performance of its Melbourne-Hong Kong service that kicked off in July 2017 had given the airline the confidence to mount a new nonstop flight from Sydney to the Special Administrative Region.

“Melbourne from Day One had traffic flows of at least 50 per cent of the traffic coming straight down from the China peninsular and Hong Kong into Australia,” Sharp told delegates at the Routes Asia 2018 conference in Brisbane on March 19, in response to a question.

“Normally for new routes, you rely on your point-of-sale strength and in this instance our partner Hong Kong Airlines really brought quite a lot of traffic through and they have been a great partner up there.”

Having managed to secure the necessary slots at the busy Hong Kong airport to launch the Sydney flight, Sharp told the conference the airline was now working through the “very complex infrastructure aspects at Sydney Airport” in order to get the flights up and running by the middle of 2018.

“We are finalising those aspects and approvals through Hong Kong for being able to sell in the market. The usual logistics for a new route starting,” Sharp said.

With no orders for widebody aircraft, Virgin Australia has had to pull aircraft off some routes to expand its network, as it did with the start of A330-200 Melbourne-Hong Kong flights when some services between Perth and Australia’s east coast capitals were downgauged to 737-800s.

It will likely do so again in July the nonstop Sydney-Hong Kong flights commence.

Currently, Qantas operates twice daily between Sydney and Hong Kong using Boeing 747-400s and Airbus A330s, while Cathay Pacific has a peak schedule of up to four flights a day with a combination of Airbus A330-300 and Boeing 777-300ER equipment.


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  1. Lechuga says

    It’s good to see Virgin making a start on some international routes.

    Maybe somewhere like Singapore or Kuala Lumpur next?

  2. Darren says

    Wow! Glad to see Virgin Australia expanding,

    but i would like to see VA expand their fleet and therefore more routes!

  3. David says

    Congratulations Virgin. Good to see some More Australian capacity on the Hong Kong route.

  4. Dale says

    I feel sorry for all the Virgin customers flying Australia’s East/West transcon flights….. no more A330 or ‘The Business’ for you!

    Qantas must be loving that!

  5. Jessta says


    Spot on Dale, I for one will now be abandoning Virgin Australia flying to the East Coast from Perth and going back to Qantas. Always amazed me how VA could charge the same dollars or points for Business on the A330 and B737 when nowhere near the same product. Yes Qantas is the same but at least you still have a number of flights to choose the A330. With Virgin this will be down to possibly 1 but probably none. Qantas laughing all the way to the bank.

  6. Lechuga says

    Qantas are also getting rid of Trans con A330s…

    Hence why they’re starting more and more international A330 flights.

    Virgin is just getting their first. Both at 2 different ends of their strategy. QF going with the 787 and international whilst Virgin is going with a slightly more domestic approach with the Max. Expect Virgin to order and then run the Max 10 transcon and Mel-Syd whilst QF are building going outside Aus with their wide body aircraft.

    Also remember, whilst Virgin are doing their domestic fleet they’re also doing Tiger with no real money to work with.

  7. Pontious says

    Ouch. 10 or 11 hrs on the ground for a widebody is no way to make money. CLK really needs that 3rd runway.

  8. Scott says

    Qantas will be pulling some 330’s off transcon also, VA will always have transcon flights on the 330 they have said that recently. Do a webjet search, VA 330 J seat often avail for less than the QF737 J seat on the trans con routes. So the pricing issue is a mute one.

  9. Scott says

    @ Lechuga
    Exactly, any flights transferred to the 737 will have a similar suite seat to the 330 and it will be on a MAx 10 or 9. The product Virgin has said will be like for like if not better.
    I don’t see the need to jump at shadows.
    The trans con product Virgin has said WILL be maintained.

  10. Rocket says

    @ Scott – bit of a difference mate… VA have nowhere near the number of A330s Qantas have – QF could pull the same number of A330s out of their domestic fleet and still fly more A330 trans-con than VA.

    The other aspect is that QF’s operation is profitable, VA’s is not.

  11. Tony says

    The scheduling from and to Sydney is right on top of Qantas with very little separation in each direction. Is Virgin Australia able to do anything else but mimic Qantas? And sitting an aircraft all day in HK does little for utilisation. Surely they can do better?

  12. Patrick Donnolley says

    Now all is needed is for the slots and passenger numbers to start BNE-HKG

  13. Craigy says

    I understand that both Virgin and Qantas will maintain some wide body services across to Perth but at the end of the day, both airlines will allocate capacity to meet demand. Thats just economic sense.

    The unfortunate aspect of the new Sydney Hong King services is that it is a 2 aircraft operation. With the Melbourne Hong Kong services requiring 1 aircraft, on at least 4 days a week, there are 3 aircraft available for domestic services. This limits transcon options.

    AA a correction to your article re the aircraft Qantas uses on the Sydney Hong Kong route. Generally speaking the two daily services are serviced by A333 and B744 aircraft. However, when demand is there, either the morning service or afternoon service is met using the A380. Chinese New Year period an example of when the A380 was used in the route.

  14. Markie Mark says

    I flew QF A330 MEL – PER in business class just 2 days ago, superb it was, if I do say so.👍

  15. Steve says

    Whilst you may think the ground time is a waste in HKG. It actually isn’t. Critical maintenance can be achieved by either CX or Hong Kong airlines as use to be the case before mel got better slots

    As for Qf A330s on the trans cons. Where have you all been the past year? Qf have been replacing them with 737s steadily over the past 12 months.

    They have placed them on other international routes such as Asia and even trans Tasman whilst they have also got rid of two and sent them back to the lessor!

  16. Markie Mark says


    Qantas still fly bucket loads of A330 East – West on a daily basic, you can even catch a 789 daily between MEL-PER

  17. Craigy says

    @ Steve Apart from the two which were returned to the lessor in 2016 which were sold on to the RAAF, what other A330 aircraft have been returned to the lessor? Qantas debated over whether they would keep two but decided to keep the two A332 and are upgrading them to the same standard as the other 16. These two aircraft have been used on the Beijing route

    @ AA why is my previous comment still awaiting moderation?

  18. Steve says


    The conversation here isn’t that Qf don’t run wide bodies on the route….

    It’s that they also are reducing them on the transcons

    Go back a few years ago.

    Every single service from Syd and mel was operated by a wide body. This is not the case now

    Ofcourse they run the 787 on the trans con. How else do you think they get an aircraft to PER to operate to London!

    It’s all about logistics

  19. franz chong says

    About time too.I hope they can work on the schedules.With CX Changing their Adelaide timetables soon this might well be the only real option if the SA Market wants a daytime flight to HKG even if it means flying domestic to Sydney to link onto the VA flight to get to the other end at a reasonable time of the day.I would be happy with VIA MEL coming home too.whatever it takes to avoid the joke that is Adelaide immigration.

  20. random says

    Comments re VA and QF about wide-body versus single-aisle, and capacity to meet demand probably reinforces the value (for transcontinental Australian flight services) of the proposed MoM/NMA being a maximum size around the A310/B762 rather than the 250-275 pax mark being discussed.

    A highly efficient stubby wide-body with 2 class seating around 175-200 would actually give VA and QF exactly what they need on east-west-east domestic services, and would still provide the belly-freight capacity that has probably kept the B752 out of Australian carriers.

    Either way, it probably needs the range to take on 4000-4500nm sectors, allowing it to get up into Asia also (akin to the A330).

    It would seem that VA will be compelled to use some of its B73MAX orders in the -10 area to get more premium space without losing overall capacity. The single-aisle haters however will never be satisfied, mainly because there are never any bathroom mid-ships on a narrow body.

  21. Teddy says

    @ Random

    The B752 2 class often did have a loo behind business class which shows that the narrow-body can have a loo midship so to speak.

    Whether the design of the B73Max10 can accomodate this is yet to be seen.

    Obviously aisle access is another important feature for the serial business class travelers.

  22. Amanda says

    @ Tony
    If you think VA have any say in the schedule offered to them by HKG AA you are sorely mistaken. They take what they can get, there is no attempt to parallel schedule with QF.

  23. Tony says


    Airlines schedule. They negotiate slots with the Airport Co-ordinator or other carriers for slots and adjust the schedule if required in the light of negotiated slots. Perhaps VA need better negotiators?

    I didn’t say VA were indulging in parallel scheduling. I said there was little difference in the schedules. This is, from a consumer’s point of view, a poor show.