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What is the future of Hong Kong in the Unitedís Asia Route Network? Alternatives?

What is the future of Hong Kong in the Unitedís Asia Route Network? Alternatives?

Old Aug 28, 22, 8:37 am
  #136  
 
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Would someone please explain to me what "fifth freedom" means. Thanks!
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Old Aug 28, 22, 8:40 am
  #137  
 
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Originally Posted by JNelson113 View Post
Would someone please explain to me what "fifth freedom" means. Thanks!
In short, a flight which neither start or end in the airline's county - e.g. SQ JFK-FRA

Can we please update the thread title to remove HKG as a hub?
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Old Aug 28, 22, 12:15 pm
  #138  
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Originally Posted by lsquare View Post
Why? Would love jsloan's take as well.
The long-and-thin model is a compromise between offering point-to-point service and a hub-and-spoke model. It comes down to economics and plane design. When the backbone of UA's international fleet was the 747, the NRT hub was extremely valuable. For one thing, SFO-SIN wasn't reachable nonstop on a 747. For another, there wasn't enough traffic on any of the individual routes to fill a 747 at a profitable price point. So, UA operated NRT-SIN and NRT-HKG, and between them they could offer one-stop service to passengers to/from JFK, ORD, and SFO. Combined with local traffic on those routes, the entire system served its purpose. (CO's rationale for the GUM hub was somewhat similar, but also relied upon Air Mike -- Continental Micronesia -- to be a profit center on its own for flying around the North Pacific).

However, when they introduced the 777, and especially the 787, the game changed. The 777 and 787 are smaller aircraft and considerably more fuel-efficient. That means that you can operate smaller flights more profitably -- you don't need to fill ~370 seats (747), but rather ~250 (789). And you can operate them profitably at a lower price point, because each burns less fuel on a per-passenger basis than the 747. Thus, UA de-hubbed NRT in favor of SFO-SIN and nonstop flights to HKG. And it's continued; UA's CTU flight would have been via NRT without the 787; they probably wouldn't have added BNE; etc. That's long-and-thin: long refers to the range, and thin refers to the passenger demand.

Originally Posted by SPN Lifer View Post
GUM is overdue for a nonstop flight from the U.S. mainland, perhaps SFO or IAH.
I've wondering for years why they haven't done this. I can't imagine they'd start with IAH, though, it'd be SFO. GUM-SFO is only 5800 miles and well within the range of the 788. GUM-IAH is 7400 miles and likely requires the 789. And SFO is a better connecting point for traffic; the IAH-GUM great circle passes almost directly over SFO anyway.

Originally Posted by SPN Lifer View Post
The very factors that are causing Hong Kong's decline are moving toward greater demand for nonstop service to GUM from the U.S. mainland by U.S. military and government personnel.
I mean, the military does have its own supply of planes. But, yes, I agree; I expect the flights would be popular with Guam-based families as well as defense contractors who need to get to the island.

I can also tell you that while I appreciate a good nonstop flight as much as the next person, the best antidote for bad airline food is to to stop at an airport. While an airport food court isn't fine dining by any means, when I regularly flew through HNL and GUM on CO, I rarely ate much onboard except for the sundaes. (It's hard to mess up ice cream. D).

Originally Posted by Repooc17 View Post
In short, a flight which neither start or end in the airline's county - e.g. SQ JFK-FRA
Precisely. And that's actually another reason that GUM makes a better hub for UA -- flights to/from GUM are 3rd/4th* freedom flights, because United is a US carrier. It's a lot easier to get permission to fly 3rd/4th freedom than it is 5th freedom, and it's a lot less controversial.

* 3rd freedom: right to take someone from an airline's home country to another country; 4th freedom: the inverse. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedoms_of_the_air
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Old Aug 28, 22, 12:58 pm
  #139  
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Except that nobody needs or wants to go to GUM unless they have to.

Any compare of GUM to HKG (or NRT) for utility is a joke.

If GUM is the only hub option, give me long and skinny direct all day.

2x daily SFO-HKG seems like another world
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Old Aug 28, 22, 1:58 pm
  #140  
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Originally Posted by uastarflyer View Post
Except that nobody needs or wants to go to GUM unless they have to.

Any compare of GUM to HKG (or NRT) for utility is a joke.

If GUM is the only hub option, give me long and skinny direct all day.

2x daily SFO-HKG seems like another world
I know, right? I can't believe that doesn't exist anymore. Despite HK's problems, and despite the predicted demise of HKG, I wonder if HKG as a leisure destination will be enough to bring back the route?
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Old Aug 28, 22, 2:11 pm
  #141  
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Originally Posted by lsquare View Post
I know, right? I can't believe that doesn't exist anymore. Despite HK's problems, and despite the predicted demise of HKG, I wonder if HKG as a leisure destination will be enough to bring back the route?
I am sure UA will be back in HK, but not 2X SFO. I guess it will be one SFO frequency and if traffic demands it, EWR will be added.

UA will likely add ORD before consider second daily SFO flight. SQ and CX are already serving SFO from HKG.

I am just happy being realistic if they can start 3x weekly SFO flight once HK does away with quarantine.
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Old Aug 28, 22, 2:19 pm
  #142  
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Originally Posted by UA_Flyer View Post
I am sure UA will be back in HK, but not 2X SFO. I guess it will be one SFO frequency and if traffic demands it, EWR will be added.

UA will likely add ORD before consider second daily SFO flight. SQ and CX are already serving SFO from HKG.

I am just happy being realistic if they can start 3x weekly SFO flight once HK does away with quarantine.
It's unlikely this year, but if it does happen and even then, it'll likely be for VIPs this fall when HK hosts a banking conference. All the invited Western banks have said no senior executives will attend the conference unless they're exempt from quarantine measures. Apparently, the HK government is thinking about how to pull this off. I'm actually interested in the details whenever they announce them.

Did ORD-HKG have strong traffic pre-COVID?

Last edited by lsquare; Aug 28, 22 at 2:38 pm
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Old Aug 28, 22, 2:36 pm
  #143  
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Originally Posted by lsquare View Post
It's unlikely this year, but if it does happen and even then, it'll likely be for VIPs this fall when HK hosts a banking conference. All the invited Western banks have said no senior executives will attend the conference unless they're exempt from quarantine measures. Apparently, the HK government is thinking about how to pull this off. I'm actually interested in the details whenever they announce them.

Did ORD-HKG have strong and pre-COVID?
Even before Covid, HKG was a weak spot for UA’s Asia network.

When I first started flying to HKG thirty years ago, HKG was the gateway to China. Since then there were up to 12 United flights a day into China on certain days (4xPEK, 5xPVG, CTU, XIY and HGH). There are also close to a dozen daily US flights operated by Chinese airlines while Japanese and Korean airlines also offer competitive fares with one-stop itinerary to the U.S. through ICN and NRT/HND.

HKG’s status as IFC is also diminishing, and UA wrote off close to $300 million for its HKG routes.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/willhor...mpairment/amp/

I would say the first 15 years of this decade, ORD-HKG was constantly packed and doing well. Since 2015, it started to go south, and then roof collapsed during student movement.

70% of listed entities on the HK stock exchange are Mainland Chinese companies or companies with most of operations in Mainland China. To be a true IFC, it is not just about international money, the whole financial ecosystem has to be international as well.
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Last edited by UA_Flyer; Aug 29, 22 at 6:17 am
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Old Aug 28, 22, 2:47 pm
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At one point, and for several years, ORD-HKG was 2x daily, initially both 744, then one each 747/777, then both 777. Same with NRT.
Canít remember when it went to 1x daily (2010?)
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Old Aug 28, 22, 2:58 pm
  #145  
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Originally Posted by lsquare View Post
I know, right? I can't believe that doesn't exist anymore. Despite HK's problems, and despite the predicted demise of HKG, I wonder if HKG as a leisure destination will be enough to bring back the route?
My perspective is that the quarantine and difficulty of getting from HK to the mainland (e.g. lottery system for land crossings or hard to book flights) are two of the most significant current bottlenecks. Once these are addressed, the outlook seems decent to me for at least one UA flight.
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Old Aug 28, 22, 3:53 pm
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Originally Posted by uastarflyer View Post
Except that nobody needs or wants to go to GUM unless they have to.
While harsh - there is truth in that statement, at least from the continental US. As in, although I'm sure some FT's would raise their hand and fly a SFO-GUM as a bucket list destination - Guam would otherwise get almost none leisure traffic for what would be an 8-9 hour flight and it just isn't comparable to Hawaii (sorry Guam)

Originally Posted by jsloan View Post

I've wondering for years why they haven't done this. I can't imagine they'd start with IAH, though, it'd be SFO. GUM-SFO is only 5800 miles and well within the range of the 788. GUM-IAH is 7400 miles and likely requires the 789. And SFO is a better connecting point for traffic; the IAH-GUM great circle passes almost directly over SFO anyway.

I mean, the military does have its own supply of planes. But, yes, I agree; I expect the flights would be popular with Guam-based families as well as defense contractors who need to get to the island.
Not only would Guam get almost no leisure traffic from SFO or anywhere else on the Continental US - it has far less of a military presence than I think people realize (12,000 active military in Guam vs over 40,000 in Hawaii). The HNL-GUM flight is rarely very full (today - Sunday for instance looks about 50% full although they are running UA's biggest plane on the route). And a lot of the military and military contractors are based in Hawaii that go to Guam.

And while I'm sure a GUM-SFO would be popular with the 169,000 Guam residents and their families - a very few percentage of families would actually afford to take that flight, the mean hourly wage is 30% less on Guam than it is on the Continental US.

You'd also have to make a cargo play - but it is a small island and air cargo is very expensive (for a low income island) versus shipping by cargo ships.
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Old Aug 28, 22, 6:46 pm
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Originally Posted by HNLbasedFlyer View Post
Not only would Guam get almost no leisure traffic from SFO or anywhere else on the Continental US - it has far less of a military presence than I think people realize (12,000 active military in Guam vs over 40,000 in Hawaii). The HNL-GUM flight is rarely very full (today - Sunday for instance looks about 50% full although they are running UA's biggest plane on the route). And a lot of the military and military contractors are based in Hawaii that go to Guam. And while I'm sure a GUM-SFO would be popular with the 169,000 Guam residents and their families - a very few percentage of families would actually afford to take that flight, the mean hourly wage is 30% less on Guam than it is on the Continental US.
When questioned by about their monopol-ous airfares back in the early 2000s, an Air Mike executive said on Guam's talk radio show: there are only 60 passengers a day originating on Guam flying to HNL and beyond. Then a 764 (now 772), they needed a feed of MNL/HKG/SPN passengers to fill the daily flight.

The DOD and the rest of the USGov are a major customer, but the traffic is spread between NRT, HNL and CONUS. So a GUM-CONUS flight will certainly rob frequency from GUM-HNL. Additionally, veterans and dependents (a sengment of local population) may be eligible for DOD space-a flights to HIK (HNL) and beyond. And UA is probably still the biggest private sector employer, so that's another big chunk of non-rev eligible population (even if those employees had transferred stateside).

If GUM-CONUS is to operate just like HNL, I'd say LAX T7 is more ready to route passengers to skip immigration and go straight to bag claim than SFO T3 or Intl-G.

Otherwise, a sealed HKG-GUM-SFO crew change is probably the easiest way for UA to resume servicing HKG, should the business traffic increases and UA runs out of patience on HKGov's crew quarantine policy.
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Old Aug 28, 22, 10:33 pm
  #148  
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Originally Posted by HkCaGu View Post
Otherwise, a sealed HKG-GUM-SFO crew change is probably the easiest way for UA to resume servicing HKG, should the business traffic increases and UA runs out of patience on HKGov's crew quarantine policy.
I would argue that a crew change in ICN is significantly easier than GUM because they've already worked out the kinks and ICN is 1000 miles closer to HKG than GUM is. With the 2100 distance, there is a very real possibility of crew timeouts.

That having been said, I'd be shocked if United decided to restart HK before quarantine rules are further relaxed...or they could convince crews to stay put in hotel rooms during their layovers. Don't both CX and SQ still fly SFO-HKG nonstop?
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Old Aug 29, 22, 1:04 am
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Originally Posted by UA_Flyer View Post
When and if UA restarts flights to HK, I expect it will likely not going to be the 4 or 5 flights it used to run. At most, I see two (SFO and EWR). It does not make sense to operate United Club with only two flights. UA could contract TG Lounge.

if LH and LX continue to contract United Club to serve their passengers, then there may still be a business case to keep it open.
As much as it pains me to say this, HKG will not regain its precovid position for a while to come. And maybe never. HKG needs a Star Alliance lounge.

Originally Posted by tcdtcd View Post
Probably more sentimentality than anything. Lots of biz/pers/family trips to and thru HKG over the years with good memories. Will miss the small IFL-turned-GS room off to the side.
The IFL, even though small, had showers! While I miss it, too, the service started to go down when they switched to contractors and not UA employees.

Originally Posted by lsquare View Post
I would really like to see UA bring back the two daily SFO-HKG flights in the near future. The TG Lounge was a disappointment as well. At the time I flew to HKG, I didn't have OW status, but since I flew CX J, I was able to try out all of their lounges. CX absolutely blows UA out of the water in terms of food and the interior design. It would be nice if *A actually operate a decent lounge with food that's comparable to what CX J offers.
There's always Plaza Premium. It's a superior alternative.
HKG is CX's home base, they better have a superior lounge to UA or we would be in some alternative universe.

But Plaza Premium superior to the UA IFL? No way.....

Originally Posted by IMissThe747 View Post
Here's how it worked during the time that Taiwan's quarantine restrictions for flight crew were super-draconian (late 2020 or early 2021 IIRC), forcing TPE-SFO and SFO-TPE to become TPE-GUM-SFO and SFO-GUM-TPE. One crew would fly SFO-GUM. Plane makes technical stop at GUM. All passengers required to stay on board, but full crew change. New crew goes GUM-TPE. At TPE, passengers and cargo unload and new passengers and cargo board, but flight crew never leaves the plane. Because flight crew never leaves the plane, they don't have to participate in any quarantine measures. Then crew flies TPE-GUM, technical stop crew change again, and new crew back to SFO.

It did change the flight times, I don't recall exactly by how much.

Even with light (almost zero) passenger loads, UA's cargo contracts were lucrative enough they were running 871/872 daily with those technical stops in GUM, plus a non-passenger cargo-only 77W daily for a while. I imagine if the economics made sense, they would do the same in HKG.
It was only a short time in May last year, I remember because I was on one of the of first flights impacted by the sudden change. I checked my reservation and had a heart attack, initially the SFO-TPE leg jkust disappeared!

This issue actually was instigated by the UA employee unions, not the Taiwan government. The usual airline quarantine hotel was closed for disinfection when a small outbreak occurred because some pilots (not UA) left their rooms for food deliveries in the lobby and talk with hotel staff. UA, and all airlines, switched to the nicest available quarantine hotel but was not great. Some UA crew filed complaints with their union which then claimed that UA was not upholding its end of the contract. With no better alternative immediately available, UA broke the flight into two legs. SFO-GUM and GUM-TPE with an immediate turnaround in TPE. The flight was not exactly full and I had a long conversation with the FAs about traveling during the time of covid and what was going on at UA. Within a few weeks a new quarantine hotel came on line and UA went back to the old schedule.
Originally Posted by emcampbe View Post
Reasonably full does not equal reasonably profitable. In fact, knowing you flew HKG-SIN on its own because the fares were cheaper than other carriers probably is decent evidence that they were not necessarily....at least compared to CX/SQ, which obviously also has advantages being local carriers from one end. My understanding, though I have no specific data, is that the HKG fifth freedom flights were not necessarily profitable, but were more about not having aircraft RON in HKG, which by comparison, was expensive (IIRC, most, if not all UAs HKG flights arrived in the evening, and didn't leave until the next morning or early afternoon (in case of SFO)). Maybe a carrier has to pay $10K in fees to overnight in HKG, but lose on average 'only' $5K on the HKG-SIN-HKG roundtrip - note these numbers are completely made up by me, but something close to how it could have worked.
We had a sales rep from UA when I worked in HK. She said the BKK flight was not expected to make money but the loss was smaller than the cost of keeping the plane in HKG over night. They gave us great offers for the flight which had very unattractive times. Arrive at 1 am and depart at 6 am.

Originally Posted by moondog View Post
1. Maui will never be a hub, but it is an established destination
2. I predict China will start to mellow out big time after mid October
Moondog, I so hope you are right about mid October.....

Originally Posted by lsquare View Post
It's unlikely this year, but if it does happen and even then, it'll likely be for VIPs this fall when HK hosts a banking conference. All the invited Western banks have said no senior executives will attend the conference unless they're exempt from quarantine measures. Apparently, the HK government is thinking about how to pull this off. I'm actually interested in the details whenever they announce them.

Did ORD-HKG have strong traffic pre-COVID?
I liked ORD-HKG, it was very conveninent for me for connections. In the winter it was basically a land flight because we were only over the Bering Sea for a few minutes before overflying the Seward Peninsula. Who would've thought?

Originally Posted by HNLbasedFlyer View Post
While harsh - there is truth in that statement, at least from the continental US. As in, although I'm sure some FT's would raise their hand and fly a SFO-GUM as a bucket list destination - Guam would otherwise get almost none leisure traffic for what would be an 8-9 hour flight and it just isn't comparable to Hawaii (sorry Guam)



Not only would Guam get almost no leisure traffic from SFO or anywhere else on the Continental US - it has far less of a military presence than I think people realize (12,000 active military in Guam vs over 40,000 in Hawaii). The HNL-GUM flight is rarely very full (today - Sunday for instance looks about 50% full although they are running UA's biggest plane on the route). And a lot of the military and military contractors are based in Hawaii that go to Guam.

And while I'm sure a GUM-SFO would be popular with the 169,000 Guam residents and their families - a very few percentage of families would actually afford to take that flight, the mean hourly wage is 30% less on Guam than it is on the Continental US.

You'd also have to make a cargo play - but it is a small island and air cargo is very expensive (for a low income island) versus shipping by cargo ships.
I think that if GUM-SFO was viable UA would have tried it by now. UA has huge lift out of HNL anyway, so it's not that bad for connections.
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Last edited by uanj; Aug 29, 22 at 1:12 am
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Old Aug 29, 22, 1:34 am
  #150  
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Originally Posted by uanj View Post

Moondog, I so hope you are right about mid October.....
To be clear, my mid-October prediction pertains mostly to the Zhongnanhai meeting (not to United flying nonstop to China or Hong Kong).
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Last edited by WineCountryUA; Aug 29, 22 at 11:12 am Reason: Stick to UA issues
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