Those who remember the daredevil approach of aircraft prior to landing at the old Kai Tak Airport don't need to guess why Hong Kong decided to build a new airport somewhere else. The Kai Tak Airport was the primary hub for air travel until the 1990s. Two runways too short, one terminal building too small, hills that made takeoff and landing tricky, and weaving so close to high rise residential buildings that passengers could see residents eating dinners during landings were just a few of the drawbacks.
A new airport was eventually built north of Lantau Island, joining three of its northern islands into what is now a world class airport. Designed by Sir Norman Foster, the airport opened in July 1998 and has since been named "World's Best Airport" by Skytrax eight times.
There are many direct flights to Hong Kong from every inhabited continent in the world. Most major cities in Europe and North America are all served with at least one daily flight, and flights between Hong Kong and other major cities in Asia and Oceania are frequent. Cathay Pacific operates one of the longest air routes in the world, between Hong Kong and New York City (JFK). Major carriers at the airport are Cathay Pacific, its subsidiary airline Dragonair (mostly operates routes within China as well as some routes to other parts of Asia), Hong Kong Airlines and Hong Kong Express.
Due to the special status of Hong Kong, flights to mainland Chinese cities are treated as international rather than domestic flights. As a result of the territory’s rather small size, all flights from the airport are international, and there are no domestic flights.
Check-In at MTR stations
If you have paid the fare for the Airport Express train, you can check-in your luggage and print boarding passes at the airport check-in desks at the Hong Kong and Kowloon MTR stations. Some airlines such as Cathay Pacific allow you to drop off your bags up to one day before travel and not have to deal with luggage as you enjoy your final day in Hong Kong. To enter the check-in areas, you must scan your airport express ticket or Octopus card and the fare will be deducted immediately. However, you do not need to enter the airport express station immediately. You can go and do other things, then the same ticket/card will give you free access to airport express on your next entry. Due to increased security measures required by the U.S. government, this service is not available to U.S.-bound Cathay Pacific passengers.
Hong Kong is one of the few major cities in the world where you can get between the city centre and the airport in less than 30 minutes via the Airport Express. There are also plenty of other cheaper options.
The Airport Express is the quickest and most comfortable way to get to either Hong Kong Station in Central (24 minutes, $100 single/same-day return, $180 return), Tsing Yi Station ($60 single/same-day return, $110 return), or Kowloon Station ($90 single/same-day return, $160 return). Trains run every 10 minutes . All stations have free porters to help you get heavy bags on and off of the train; there is no need to tip. Children aged 3-11 get a 50% discount. If you travel with other people you can get a group discount if you buy your ticket from the staff at the counter. If you take a taxi to reach the airport express, you are entitled to a 50% discount. Tourist travel passes sometimes include a return journey on the Airport Express and some airlines sell duty-free tickets during the flights. A cheap way to get to Central is to take the Airport Express to Tsing Yi, and change to the Tung Chung MTR line, which costs in total $72.5 one-way or $135 return. A free connection from the Airport Express to the MTR is offered if you use the same Octopus Card to change from the Airport Express to the MTR at Central, Kowloon, or Tsing Yi stations. The transfer is free no matter which station you exit the MTR. Free transfers to shuttle buses to area hotels are also provided for users of the airport express.
Tung Chung Line
If you want to save around $70, an alternative way is to take the S1 bus from the airline terminal to the nearby Tung Chung MTR station ($3.50, 15 minutes), where you can transfer to the Tung Chung MTR line to Kowloon ($18, 27 minutes) or Hong Kong ($24, 30 minutes). The Tung Chung line runs the same route as the Airport Express except it terminates at the Tung Chung station and has four additional stops. Note that the MTR system has luggage restrictions and in any case, carrying luggage on the MTR may be cumbersome. This method will take about 45-60 minutes more than the airport express.
Buses are cheap ($10-$40), more scenic, have longer operating hours but are slower. Depending on where you are going, they may be more convenient than the trains and they run 24 hours (unlike the Airport Express). A complete list of airport buses is available online. There is also an information board at the airport bus terminal. Two companies run buses from the airport: Citybus ('CityFlyer') and Long Win. Buses travel over the scenic Tsing Ma Bridge, the seventh longest suspension bridge in the world. Buses with routes beginning with "A" (Airbus) (cost: $20-40) have free Wi-Fi internet and take a more direct route than buses with routes beginning with the letter "E" (External) (cost: $10-20), which travel via the cargo terminals and airport offices. Buses with routes beginning with "S" (cost: $3-4) are shuttle buses - as noted above, the S1 bus operates bus service to the closest MTR station. Finally, buses with routes beginning with "N" are overnight buses. They tend to be more expensive, less frequent and take a less direct route (often going through cargo area, airline catering section and mail centre) before heading for the highway.
Taxis are a relatively expensive option, with a journey from the airport to Central costing $250-350. The taxi area is clearly signposted near the Airport Express and has separate queues next for each taxi colour:
- Red taxis are for destinations on Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, although they are also allowed to go to the local town of Tung Chung as well as Disneyland on Lantau island. If you are going to Hong Kong Island, asking the driver to driver to use the "Western Harbour Crossing" will avoid congestion, but will result in an additional $50 toll charge.
- Green taxis are restricted to the New Territories (other than Lantau island)
- Blue taxis serve Lantau Island only. Useful for getting to quickly getting to local Lantau sights before your flight, although there are not many of them and often there are none waiting at the airport. It is easier to hail a blue taxi at the nearby Tung Chung
The information desk after customs can provide you with an estimate to your hotel and maps to show the driver. See official taxi fare table.
Do not take private cars and vans operating as illegal taxis since they are not licensed and in case of accidents, your insurance will not cover you. Generally they are operated by non-Chinese and will be in white or black vans, rather than the ubiquitous blue and red Toyota Crown Comforts. They will approach you inside the airport.
Note that taxi queues are available at both Kowloon and Hong Kong stations, although the queues are very long at weekends.
There are no ferry services from the airport to destinations in Hong Kong. However, Turbojet operates a service ($254, 50 minutes) directly to Macau. Additional destinations include Dongguan, Guangzhou, Nansha, Shekou, Shenzhen Airport, Zhuhai and Zhongshan. You can land in Hong Kong and travel directly to SkyPier for onward destinations without having to pass through Hong Kong immigration as they are considered as in-transit passengers. If you do pass through immigration then the train journey to the Hong Kong ferry terminal will take you about another hour (with a significant connecting walk between trains in Central station), so taking this direct ferry is a great option.
The airport has two terminals, separated by the MTR station. When arriving at the airport via the Airport Express train, the doors on both sides of the train open. Terminal 1 is on the left and Terminal 2 is on the right. If you alight the train on the wrong side, it will take about five minutes to walk between the terminals. Before arriving at the airport, you should check which terminal your airline uses for check-in. Most of the well-established airlines use Terminal 1 while budget and low-cost carriers use Terminal 2.
Terminal 2 is a check-in only facility with no boarding gates. All flights depart from Terminal 1 or the new Midfield Concourse. You can clear security at either Terminal 1 or Terminal 2. Terminal 2's security line is often shorter due to After passing through security at Terminal, you will proceed to the Automated People Mover (APM) train in the basement, which will carry you to your gate at either Terminal 1 or the Midfield Concourse. North Satellite Concourse can only be accessed by shuttle bus connecting between Terminal 1 near gate 20 and the Concourse.
There are more shopping opportunities before security at T2, but its shops close earlier. There are lots of shopping opportunities airside as well.
Hong Kong Airport has an impressive IMAX cinema in Terminal 2 (land side). This is a great way to spend a couple of hours waiting for a flight. 3D glasses are provided for free. IMAX 3D films cost around HKD $120.
Located in terminal 2, the Aviation Discovery Centre is a museum showcasing Hong Kong-related aviation topics and development. There is also a SkyDeck which is a favourite place for planespotters. While the museum is indoors, do note that SkyDeck is outdoors with no shade area and that there is no water fountain or concession stands on the SkyDeck or the museum. You should be prepared if you plan to stay for extended time on SkyDeck.
- Cathay Pacific has 5 lounges spread around the airport. All Cathay Pacific lounges feature a noodle bar where you can order noodle dishes such as their signature dan dan noodles. 'The Pier' lounge near Gate 62 is the newest and largest, and offers showers, barista coffee and gourmet tea blends by London-based luxury tea brand Jing. Generally lounges open at 5.30 am and close at 12.30 am, though 'The Wing', located near Gate 1, remains open until 2.00 am.
- Korean Air has a tiny lounge with seating and basic food and drinks. It does not have any shower or bathroom facilities.
- Qantas/BA has a large lounge with showers, food, internet terminals and plenty of drink.
- Plaza Premium Lounge has 2 pay-per-use lounges, one located near Gate 1 and one located near Gate 40, which are also available to people with membership in programmes such as Diners' Club and Priority Pass. All lounges feature a noodle bar where you can order hot dishes, including their signature fish ball noodles.
- American Express operates a Centurion lounge that is available to people with American Express Platinum or Centurion credit cards.
Hong Kong International Airport is known for housing a number of renowned eateries, some of them of Michelin quality. Virtually all of them, however, are landside. There are restaurants airside as well, but most of them fast food parlors such as McDonalds.
There are drinking water fountains in the departures area. A few of these are machines that offer a choice of cold, warm or boiling water.
- Ho Hung Kee (何洪記粥面專家), Arrivals Hall, Arrivals Level (L5), Terminal 1 (Non-restricted area/landside), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. 6AM - 12AM. A branch of the famous Ho Hung Kee restaurant in Causeway Bay, this eatery was awarded one Michelin star in 2010. The place is most prized for its noodles, especially for its beef chow foon and wonton noodles, but also offers an extraordinary selection of Cantonese food in general. If you arrive at Terminal 1, Ho Hung Kee is strongly recommended. HK$51 - HK$100.
- Hung's Delicacies (阿鴻小吃), Coach Station, Arrivals Level (L3), Terminal 2 (Non-restricted area/landside), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 7AM - 10PM. Hung's Delicacies, another Michelin one-star eatery at HKIA, is known for its exquisite but moderately priced Teochow and Cantonese food, especially for spiced marinated goose, strained goose, and braised vegetables. If you arrive at Terminal 2, you cannot miss Hung's Delicacies.
- Crystal Jade La Mian Xiao Long Bao (翡翠拉面小籠包), Arrivals Hall, Arrivals Level (L5), Terminal 1 (Non-restricted area/landside), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. 6:30AM - 12AM. Crystal Jade is a chain Shanghai restaurant that has been, at one point, included in the Michelin Guide for Hong Kong and Macau, although without receiving a star. The place offers a variety of Shanghainese foods, but is most famous for its Xiao Long Bao (juicy pork dumplings) and noodles. If you need a break from Cantonese food, you may give this place a try. HK$101 - HK$200.
- Yung Kee (鏞記), Food Court near Gate 40-80, Departures Level (L6), Terminal 1 (Restricted area/airside), ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 11AM - 11PM. An outlet of the once Michelin one-starred restaurant Yung Kee in Central, the place is prized for its charcoal-roasted goose and Cantonese double-stewed soups. However, besides its goose, Yung Kee is also well known for preserving traditional and authentic Cantonese flavors. If you need to eat airside, Yung Kee should be your top priority.
Hong Kong has no duty on most goods besides alcohol, therefore the concept of duty free in the airport itself is rather meaningless. Nevertheless there is the usual selection luxury brands on the air side, as well as opportunities for last minute souvenirs such as Chinese cookies and a large Disney store.
If you need to kill some time before checking in, then there are a variety of shops in and around the Terminal 2 check-in desks. Shops dedicated to toys, electronics and Hong Kong specialties can be found.
- Internet terminals: The airport has a total of 100 desktop computers offering free internet access. Most of these are located at 36 different locations, airside, at the Departures Level of Terminal 1 as well as the Midfield Concourse. There are also six computers at the Departures Level of the North Satellite Concourse.
- Post office: There is an efficient post office in the airport, providing boxes, wrapping material, scissors, and tape. Mailing items is sometimes cheaper and easier than paying airline baggage fees.
- Telephones: There are more than 150 pay phones and courtesy phones at the airport.
- WiFi: There is a free Wi-Fi facility (after accepting terms and conditions) and a hotline (2188 7799). The WiFi is throughout the air-side areas and has a fast connection speed. The WiFi SSID is "#HKAirport Free WiFi". There are also free Internet terminals, but as of August 2013 they can be faulty and slow and the browsers do not work properly with some websites.
Services at Hong Kong International Airport are generally far better, or at least on par, with those at other major international airports. If you need help, visit one of the 11 customer service centres, approach an Airport Ambassador, or pick up one of the 220 courtesy phones located throughout the terminal.
- Baggage packing: Both Terminals 1 and 2 have a fast and efficient service to wrap up your baggage in cardboard or clingfilm and strap it up. Very useful if your airline restricts the items of baggage you can check in. A typical boxing costs around HK$230.
- Chemist: There are two 'Mannings' stores airside in the airport, each of which stock medicine, baby milk powder and chocolate. If you need any of these then one store is near the North immigration gate, and the other is next to Gate 60.
- Clinic: The Airport Medical Centre is a privately-run facility open 24 hours. It is located in the non-restricted area of Terminal 1.
- Hospital: In case of emergency, dial 999. The nearest hospital to the airport is the North Lantau Hospital, opened in 2013, in nearby Tung Chung New Town. It is a modern public hospital with a 24-hour accident and emergency centre. Hospitals offer bilingual (Chinese and English) service, while the Hospital Authority also offers an interpretation service for other languages on demand.
- Left luggage: There is a manned left luggage facility in the arrival hall, perfect for securely storing your luggage at the airport, for around $55–$80 per day (depending on duration). It is open from 6am to 1am. There is another left luggage facility close to the bus station between Terminals 1 and 2.
- Lost property: The Airport Lost and Found office is located at Shop 88, Level 5, Terminal 2. It is open from 7:00 to midnight.
- Nursing rooms: The airport has 39 nursing rooms equipped with changing and feeding facilities.
- Police: In case of emergency, dial 999. For non-emergency reports, call the Airport Police Station directly on 3661 2000 or visit one of the airport's two Police Reporting Centres, located in the Check-in Hall of Terminal 1 and the Coach Station in Terminal 2 respectively.
- Prayer rooms: There are prayer rooms in the departures area. These are completely devoid of any religious symbols, and can appear clinically bland.
- Smoking: Smoking in the airport is prohibited by law, except for in the smoking lounges in the restricted area of Terminal 1. At busy times you may have to wait to get in.
- Shower facility: For arrival or in-transit passengers, there is a free shower facility located in Terminal 1 near gate 20. The 10 shower stalls are available 24 hours a day.
There is only one hotel within the airport grounds, but there are also two others in the immediate vicinity. Via the Airport Express train, you can access more hotels in central Hong Kong very quickly.
- Regal Airport Hotel (富豪機場酒店), No. 9 Cheong Tat Road, ☎ . The only hotel within the airport grounds, connected to the terminal building via an enclosed footbridge. With 1,171 guestrooms, this hotel was the largest in Hong Kong when it opened in 1999. It also hosts a large conference centre, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, restaurants, and bars.
- Hong Kong SkyCity Marriott (香港天際萬豪酒店), No. 1 Sky City Road East, ☎ . Located beside AsiaWorld-Expo, an exhibition centre on the airport island. A complimentary shuttle service runs between the airport and hotel. Alternately you can take a taxi (HK$22), or travel one stop on the Airport Express (HK$5, two minutes) to AsiaWorld-Expo Station and then walk 200-300 metres. This hotel has 658 rooms and features five restaurants, a coffee shop, a bar, a spa, and a fitness centre that includes an indoor swimming pool.
- Novotel Citygate (諾富特東薈城酒店), No. 51 Man Tung Road, ☎ . Located in Tung Chung New Town, this hotel offers a complimentary shuttle service that runs at 15 minute intervals. The hotel is also a 10-minute taxi ride away, or you can also take franchised bus route S1 (HK$3.5) from the airport bus station to the terminus at Tung Chung Railway Station and then walk through the Citygate shopping centre, to which the hotel is attached.