Crisis in Ukraine: Virgin Atlantic puts an end to Hong Kong

LONDON – Virgin Atlantic permanently focusing Hong Kong means growth opportunities disabled for long-haul carriers wishing to operate in Asia from the West.

The airline said the following in a statement, blaming the closure of Russian airspace as the main factor:

“After careful consideration, we have made the difficult decision to suspend our London Heathrow – Hong Kong services and close our Hong Kong office, after nearly 30 years of proudly serving this Asian hub city.”

Virgin also added that flight times would take around 1-2 hours longer due to the need to escape Russia, with additional costs incurred as a result.

Hong Kong was supposed to return to Virgin’s roster in March 2023 after the successful introduction of the Airbus A350-1000 it already has in its fleet.

However, Virgin has confirmed that these planes will be used on other routes where summer 2023 demand is expected to be high.

BA & Cathay Pacific Main competitors…


With Virgin pulling out of this route, that leaves only British Airways and Cathay Pacific as main competitors for services to Hong Kong from the UK.

British Airways will restart services to the region in December, with Cathay Pacific already flying to Manchester and London Heathrow.

This will potentially prove to be an advantage for consumers, as a price war could be initiated following this withdrawal of Virgin.

Especially with passengers wanting to fly direct rather than fly to the Middle East and connect, we could potentially see better value for money in the future.

Russian airspace…


Clearly, this particular route is on a list of many who have felt the pinch when it comes to trying to escape Russian airspace in the wake of such lockdowns prompted by the Ukraine crisis.

Finnair is a prime example of this, particularly when the airline needs to either reduce or upgrade its frequencies to other parts of the world.

Such bans on Russian airspace have forced airlines to think a bit off the beaten track and perhaps open new routes as a result.

There are, of course, some carriers who are happy to squeeze in a few extra flight hours, but there’s only so long that can remain sustainable, especially as we enter a global recession.

Globally…


It remains clear that Virgin Atlantic has safeguards in place that they can use instead of Hong Kong. In their case, it seems that the focus will have to be on flights to the United States

Looking ahead, particularly with the A330neos yet to be delivered, as well as their continued deliveries of A350-1000s, the airline appears to be able to shed the weak spots and move forward.

As we approach the summer of 2023, it will be interesting to see what further usage will look like in terms of increased frequencies.

Christi C. Elwood