25 years of flying to Hong Kong

By: Dave Gunner

February 21, 2019

Photo copyright Dannis Lau Flickr

Hong Kong holds a special place in our affections. For a start, it’s right at the top of our ‘amazing places to visit’ list. Consisting of 263 islands, Hong Kong is an intoxicating mix of culture, cuisine, geography and history, full of traditions and temples. With 353 skyscrapers, more than any other city, its skyline is a true urban wonder. It boasts everything from Disneyland and a dazzling nightlife to one of the oldest and steepest trams in the world and one of its longest cable cars too. Close by are beautiful beaches, unspoiled forests and spectacular mountains where you can enjoy watersports, adventure activities and world-class hiking routes. Whether you’re on holiday or on business, Hong Kong will steal your heart.

Alongside the city itself, Hong Kong Airport is also incredibly popular with our customers. That’s all down to our teams on the ground. Along with duty managers Amy So and Danny Hui, airport manager Stephen Chow looks after our customers as they arrive and depart this fantastic metropolis. While they do that, our Hong Kong-based marketing and sales team take care of our customers and corporate clients and make sure our name is known throughout the territory. Their knack for eye-catching marketing has established us as a well-known British carrier throughout Hong Kong, and it’s down to the passion and commitment of our airport, customer service and marketing teams that we’re celebrating 25 wonderful years of serving the Hong Kong route.

Here’s a gallery of some of our memorable marketing moments in Hong Kong:
  • 1994: Richard arrives in Hong Kong

  • 1994: The inaugural celebrations get underway

  • Richard Tai Chi with local children in the 90s

  • 1995: Early advert billboard

  • 1999: The Star Ferry in our colours

  • 2004: Richard at the Jumbo floating restaurant

  • 2013: Ice cream van 'Flying in the face of ordinary' campaign

  • 2013: the famous ice cream van

  • 2013: A return to the famous tram advertising

  • 2013: Opening our office in Hysan

  • 2015: The first Boeing 787-900 Dreamliner lands in Hong Kong

  • 2015: The Hong Kong team welcome the 787

  • 2018: Bubbles on the float

  • 2018: Our latest advert at the MTR entrance

  • 2018: Finding the God of Fortune in Victoria Park

  • 2018: Undiscovered Kingdom Trade Event

  • 2018: Introducing 3 new ways to fly.

  • 2018: With Virgin Australia announcing our codeshare

Customer comments:
"The staff are always very helpful and friendly."
"Hong Kong was very good and the staff were very much on the ball. Professional, pleasant, efficient".

But what was Hong Kong like back in 1994 when we first started flying there? We step back in time and meet some of the people who were there to welcome our first flights into the old Kai Tak Airport. In the 25 years since, we’ve not only painted the city red but the trams and the ferries too. And as we’re about to find out, lifelong friendships have been created. It’s a remarkable story about a remarkable destination and a brilliant team of people.

25 years of friendship. Amy and Paul in 1994 and 2019

Our first flight arrived into Hong Kong on 22nd February 1994, and Amy So joined in May that year. “Back then I was very young and fit!” says Amy. “I was excited by the new airline and intrigued by its name. I’d only heard the word Virgin from the Madonna song.”

Of those very early days, Amy remembers there were always challenges. At first, we didn’t have permission to fly over China. That led to longer flight times, weight restrictions and the occasional refuelling stop on the way. At the time, it was the longest flight in the Virgin Atlantic network. For the first four years, we flew into the old Kai Tak Airport with its spectacular approach (see the photo above), but most of all Amy remembers exploring an entirely new style and culture. Hong Kong hadn’t seen anything like Virgin Atlantic before.

Paul Manning, now one of our flight service managers, was part of the UK contingent that went to Hong Kong in 1994. “I went out to help with the start-up and loved it so much I stayed for two years,” he said. “I was only 19 years old and had the most amazing time ever. We had a great team who worked extremely hard and were full of true Virgin spirit. Myself, Amy and Eileen Chan have been friends ever since and I now class them as family.”

Flight service manager Anna Courtiour was cabin crew on the second flight. “We operated out the day after the inaugural flight, and when we landed there was a welcome party which we all attended in uniform,” she says. “Several champagnes later Richard asked if we’d do a photo shoot with him at 8am! I seem to remember we were in uniform for the whole 48 hours”.

We’d like to thank Stephen, Amy and Danny at the airport and Shirley Lo and Sonia Shek from our Hong Kong marketing teams for the great memories. There‘ll be fun at the gate in Hong Kong on the anniversary of our first flight in 1994, with all customers receiving a souvenir and certificate. Most of all we’d like to thank every customer who has ever chosen us to fly between Hong Kong and London. Without you, none of these wonderful memories would be possible.

Visit our website to book your flights and discover Hong Kong. 

A big thank you to Dennis Lau who let us use his wonderful photo of the Airbus A340-300 landing at Kai Tak Airport. You can see more of Dennis’ photo on his Flickr page

Amy’s Hong Kong album:
Dave Gunner

Dave Gunner

I love telling the story of our people, our planes, our places and our planet through Ruby Blog.

Categories: Our People Our Places