Oasis Hong Kong Airlines officially launched its low-cost long-haul offering this week, with a headline-grabbing fare of £75 (plus £68 taxes and charges) one-way from London to Hong Kong.
The Asian carrier will commence services on October 25, flying a Boeing 747-400 from London Gatwick to Hong Kong, and promises customers will be able to "fly big and pay small", with fares on average 30 – 40 per cent lower than traditional carriers. The airline states that at least 10 per cent of seats on each flight will be available at the lowest fare.
Business class fares will start from £470 plus taxes and charges of £88 each way, with over 20 per cent of the aircraft set aside for premium travellers. Seat pitch in business class will be a comfortable 60' and 32' in economy which compares well with rival carriers. Said Stephen Miller, CEO:
"There will be 81 seats in business class [out of a total of 359 seats] – we realised that this market was not being served for individual travellers, SMEs, and premium leisure travellers looking to scale up."
While comparison will inevitably be made with short-haul budget carriers like Easyjet, the carrier will be offering some frills such as in-flight entertainment and hot meals (two per flight, with deluxe meals served in business class) – "Of course we'll feed you," said Miller, "we're not going to be Ryanair for twelve hours."
Many of the extras will be just that though – amenity kits will be available on a paid-for basis in both classes, as will lounge access (£16 irrelevant of class of travel). Business class passengers will enjoy a dedicated check-in area and complimentary advance seat assignment (£15 for economy passengers), and will also receive alcoholic and soft drinks (both these will be charged for in economy, although water, tea and coffee will be provided free of charge).
Referring to Gatwick as its choice of airport, Miller said that Oasis Hong Kong Airlines was looking to operate into primary population areas but secondary airports. "These airports provide us with better cooperation and slot availability, and of course Gatwick is the already home and hub for several low costs carriers, which we are in discussions with regarding onward travel for our customers." Miller added that Oasis had considered Stansted but felt that the airline's business-heavy model did not suit the airport.
The inaugural flight on October 25 will leave Hong Kong at 1300, arriving at Gatwick at 1810, with the return departing Gatwick at 2010 and arriving in Hong Kong at 1430 the next day. From October 29 the service becomes four times weekly (Tues, Thurs, Sat and Sun) and from November 25 this increases to a daily service, with flights departing Gatwick at 2010, arriving in Hong Kong at 1540 the next day, and the return leaving the Asian hub at 0130 and arriving at Gatwick at 0620. The generous time spent on the ground at each airport should ensure any delays are absorbed into the timetable, but of course aircraft make money only when they are in the air, so the carrier will undoubtedly seek to increase productivity, with routes to Oakland (California), Chicago, Milan, Berlin and Cologne all in the pipeline. The airline currently has a fleet of two aircraft, with plans to increase this to five by the end of 2007, and 25 within five years of launching.
For more information and to book tickets online visit oasishongkong.com.
Report by Mark Caswell