It’s On! Cathay vs. Hong Kong Airlines, Round One

Hong Kong Airlines has now published their introductory fares for flights between Hong Kong and Vancouver, and they’re spectacular.

Screen Shot 2017-01-11 at 2.44.20 PM.png

Yep. You saw that right. Hong Kong Airlines are now offering flights to Vancouver from HK$3,700 in Economy Class. That’s the price of a Cathay Pacific Economy Class ticket to Bangkok! Business Class is priced at a very reasonable HK$16,130, which is cheaper than several Premium Economy fares for travel between the two markets.

With such cheap fares to all of its destinations, one has to wonder if Hong Kong Airlines is making any money on their flights. I imagine they’re a little like the La Compagnie of Asia, with a screw-it-lets-just-sell-our-souls strategy on pricing their tickets. While it’s a wonder how they’re still operating, Hong Kong Airlines is wholly owned by mainland China’s HNA – which acts as a huge cash cow for the airline.

Now, let’s take a look at Cathay Pacific’s fares for travel during the summer high season in Economy Class and Premium Economy…

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OUCH! That’s a good twice more than Hong Kong Airlines’ fares. No wonder people are calling Cathay overpriced for offering some very reasonable fares for a 12-hour long flight to the other side of the world. Hey, at least Cathay’s going to at the very least break even!

IMG_0112Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300ER Hong Kong Airport

Would I Pick Hong Kong Airlines?

There’s no denying that Cathay Pacific runs a smoother operation. Hong Kong Airlines was recently ranked as one of the worst airlines for delays, much of which is attributed to poor aircraft scheduling and delays due to air traffic control restriction controls in Mainland China. Hong Kong Airlines has also had it’s fair share of safety related scandals, giving the public perception that it’s not particularly the safest airline.

While it’s generally accepted that Cathay has higher safety standards when compared to Hong Kong Airlines, it’s worth noting that if Hong Kong Airlines was truly unsafe, then it wouldn’t be an airline. 

Image result for hong kong airlines site:youngtravelershongkong.wordpress.comHong Kong Airlines Airbus A330-300 

I personally wouldn’t fly Hong Kong Airlines as I have Cathay Pacific elite status, which I find to be extremely valuable. Cathay Pacific’s Marco Polo Club not only offers perks on much more expansive and global route network around the globe but also provides me with access to benefits on oneworld carriers, which I find to be incredibly valuable.


Even if I weren’t a member of the Marco Polo Club, I’d argue that Hong Kong Airlines offers an inferior product to Cathay.

Hong Kong Airlines offers a pretty standard staggered Business Class product. Although the seats look perfectly comfortable, they don’t offer nearly as much personal space, privacy or storage as Cathay’s Business Class seat. The seats also don’t feature legrests – which certainly isn’t ideal for lounging. Additionally, it looks like someone took inspiration for the cabin from a bowl of curried cow sh*t. The cabin is filled with red. A. Lot. Of. Red.

The overuse of red is also seen throughout the Economy Class cabin, which is decorated very similarly to their Business Class cabin, with red walls, seat covers and headrests.

Image result for hong kong airlines site:youngtravelershongkong.wordpress.comHong Kong Airlines A330-200 Business Class Cabin

Speaking of Economy Class, Hong Kong Airlines’ Economy seats aren’t nearly as good as Cathay’s seat. Setting aside from the poorly thought out colour scheme, the seats just aren’t as comfortable as Cathay’s seats. While I haven’t personally flown the product, the seats only feature 31″ of seat pitch when compared to Cathay’s more generous 32″, which makes a significant difference on a long haul flight. Cathay’s seat also features a handy storage nook, something that I find is really useful on long-haul flights.

Hong Kong Airlines A330-200 Economy Class 

In regards to catering, I’d argue that both airlines are equally matched. In Business Class, both airlines don’t feature dine on demand, while in Economy – I wouldn’t exactly worry about having a gastronomic experience. Hong Kong Airlines appears to have larger portions, but I wouldn’t say that their food looks better than Cathay’s. I had a pretty pathetic pork roll a couple of years ago on a short hop to Guiyang, which tasted like it was cooked 7 days ago. Granted – the flight was a while ago so they may have very well improved their catering in the time since I’ve flown them. However, I’ve heard that it still kinda sucks.


Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A320-200 Economy Class

A big difference that you’ll see, however, is the difference in service between both airlines. In my experience, Cathay Pacific’s crews are generally more experienced and are more polished. Meanwhile, Hong Kong Airlines crews are generally much younger and perhaps as a result colder. Hong Kong Airlines flight attendants also have much less experience on long-haul flights, given that the airline hadn’t begun its global expansion until last year.

My personal experiences with Hong Kong Airlines’ crew have been pretty disappointing. On both of my flights with them, the cabin crew were distant and unfriendly. While they weren’t actively rude, they lacked the friendliness that you’ll see with Cathay crews.

Additionally, while many Cathay In-flight Services Managers have up to 20 years of service with the airline, many Hong Kong Airlines Senior Pursers often have little more than a couple years of experience. That’s a huge difference in the level of experience in dealing with any issues that may arise in-flight.

Cathay’s cabin crew are generally more experienced than Hong Kong Airlines’ crew

Bottom Line

While I personally wouldn’t fly Hong Kong Airlines and consider them to be inferior to Cathay, their fares are incredible – especially when compared to how expensive many Cathay Pacific fares can be. It’s fantastic value for money.

All things considered, they’re not a bad airline. While my experiences with them haven’t been good, you’ll be much better off with flying Hong Kong Airlines than – say – American.

Even then, I see this as a big threat to Cathay Pacific – especially when Hong Kongers don’t see much other than price and how crappy Cathay is.

Update: At the time of writing this, I hadn’t realised that Cathay is going to be introducing increased seasonal frequencies to Toronto, in what I assume is an attempt to further establish their dominance in the Canadian market. 


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