It’s not uncommon to find posts on frequent flyer message boards complaining about an inability to spend Avios or Virgin air miles on high quality redemptions. It does require some effort behind the keyboard, and it helps to be flexible on travel dates and/or destination, but I’ve never had trouble spending my miles on both personal redemptions and group bookings. This Hong Kong trip is for the latter during half-term break, a trip booked entirely with Virgin miles and using cabin upgrade vouchers from the now defunct MBNA Virgin Black card to secure five seats in the Premium Economy cabin. Hong Kong is the only remaining eastern route flown by Virgin now; after the acquisition by Delta, their focus being firmly on trans-Atlantic. Transport is courtesy of a Boeing 787 Dreamliner which Virgin operates on this 6000 mile route. Flight time is roughly 12 hours.
Heathrow T3 to Hong Kong
It’s Friday evening at the start of school holidays. Virgin fly from Heathrow T3, and the whole terminal is heaving. T3 is not lacking airline lounges, but Virgin’s not in the OneWorld alliance, so the American Airlines, BA, Cathay and Qantas lounges are all out of bounds, and with just Premium Economy tickets so too is the excellent Virgin Clubhouse . There are two Priority Pass lounges, but unfortunately they’re both at capacity and denying entry. By some miracle there’s a table for five at the Bridge Bar and Grill.
The Premium Economy cabin on the Dreamliner is 2-3-2 seating with comfortable seats, and decent recline and legroom. The higher cabin pressure and better quality cabin on the 787 are both welcome. It’s a long flight, but I manage to sleep the better part of the way.
The flight lands on time at Hong Kong International Airport. This airport opened in 1998 and lies on the island of Chek Lap Kok about 25 minutes by express train south of Hong Kong Island. Travel around Hong Kong and Kowloon as very easy, with a decent metro system and a number of boats which can transport you between the islands and Kowloon on the mainland. It uses a card system called Octopus which is similar to Oyster in London.
Hong Kong is a fantastic place to spend a few days. The sights, sounds and views are all magnificent. Get fed up of the hustle and bustle of Central, and you can retreat to the relative sanctuary of Victoria Park at the Peak, or take a walk across Lamma Island.
Hong Kong to Heathrow T3
Many flights from Hong Kong to the UK depart late in the evening. We’re on VS207 which departs at 23:55 and is scheduled into London at about 04:15. There’s a very handy luggage checkin facility at Central if you’re taking the express train to the airport; simply check your luggage in the 24 hours before departure, and you can have the whole day unencumbered in the city before taking the train to the airport in the evening.
Again, with only Premium Economy tickets on a non-OneWorld carrier, we’re forced to rely on Priority Pass for lounge access. The comfortable Plaza Premium lounge in Terminal 1 provides some respite from the terminal.
We board on time, and the late departure makes it easy to sleep. Unlike some of the shorter overnight “red eye” flights from the Eastern US, the timing, duration and arrival time of this Hong Kong to Heathrow flight somehow makes it easy to get back into sync with GMT. Shortly after landing at Heathrow, I’m on the tube City, ready for a full day in the office.