When we first flew into Hong Kong, the airport was in the middle of the city and it took only minutes to reach your hotel. This is no longer the case and it is now a 24-minute train ride to the city. Alas, there are no thrills any more either, as, in those days, the pilot had to dip the right wing on approach to the airport to avoid hitting an apartment building!
Known locally as Chek Lap Kok Airport and built on Chek Lap Kok Island that was created by a massive land reclamation project, Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) opened in July 1998. A second terminal was opened in June 2007, and this airport is now used by over 95 airlines to about 170 locations worldwide. With over 900 flights a day to and from Hong Kong, and moving nearly 60 million passengers in 2010, it claims to be the third busiest international airport in the world and maintains that it has the world’s busiest international cargo transit point.
In recognition of Hong Kong International Airport’s excellent services and facilities, it has been crowned the world’s best airport almost 40 times. This, together with HKIA’s location being within five hours flying time of half of the world’s population, makes it a very popular airport. HKIA is also the home airport for Cathay Pacific.
As typhoons are a risk in Hong Kong, the sides of the terminals are made from glass that is designed to break during high speed winds to relieve pressure from an intense typhoon. One assumes the airport will be closed at the time!
There are two terminals, Terminal 1 is one of the largest in the world and the smaller Terminal 2 is used by most of the low-cost airlines and some full service airlines. There is also a North Satellite Concourse and a new Midfield Concourse is being constructed.
A fast, driverless train system connects the terminals and the SkyPier ferry terminal. The Airport Express Line arrives in Central downtown in 24 minutes.
HKIA is a big airport and you must allow time to move around. The gates are a long distance from check-in, but travellators make it easy to reach them.
The airport hotel, the Regal Airport Hotel, is linked to Terminal 1 by a covered walkway and the newer Hong Kong SkyCity Marriott Hotel, located on 2.7 hectares (27,000 square metres or 6.67 acres) near the seafront, has a free shuttle bus to Terminal 2.
If you need help or information at the airport, we found the Airport Ambassadors to be very obliging. They can be spotted by the red coats that they wear.
The excellent airport facilities include free wi-fi, baggage storage, 280 shops and 80 places to eat, all open 24-hours. Some restaurants are very good value and for really cheap, try the 7/11. A good value bar is the one in the basement that has a happy hour in the evenings.
There were amazingly clean toilets everywhere and cleaning staff well in evidence.
A number of lounges that you can pay to use include the two Travellers’ Lounges (East and West), the Plaza Shower and Relaxation Lounge in Terminal 1, and the Plaza Premium Lounge (Arrival Lounge – non-restricted area) in Terminal 2. Showers are available at Terminal 1 in the Plaza Shower and Relaxation Lounge. There are also numerous airline lounges for eligible members.
A lovely place to relax is in the gardens, which has comfortable chairs, located near Gates 21, 34, 41 and 61.
To pass the time, search out one of the exhibitions and practical workshops that happen most of the time and change regularly. At the time of writing, there was good one on how to make Chinese tea.
Television lounges for kids, with cartoons and other family-friendly, televised shows, are near Gates 1, 15, 40 and 60. There is also a play area at the departures level, between Gates 23 and 25.
The huge 4D Extreme Screen with a 3D projection system is good fun. The Aviation Discovery Centre tells the story of aviation in Hong Kong with the SkyDeck, interactive exhibits and a cockpit simulator.
For sport fans and youngsters there are some excellent games at i-Sports with soccer, basketball, golf, boxing, skiing, car racing and shooting.
Asia Hollywood is an interactive area which focuses on the local film industry and has a D-Blue Screen and CentiStar.
You can even play golf at the nine-hole SkyCity Nine Eagles Golf Course very close to Terminal 2.
If travelling direct to China, there are coaches to cities close to Hong Kong. An alternative is to use one of the ferries that depart from the SkyPier and serve Shekou and Fuyong in Shenzhen, Guangzhou Nansha, Dongguan Humen, Zhongshan and Zhuhai Jiuzhou, as well as Macau.
The best way to reach Hong Kong is by the Airport Express that serves Tsing Yi, Kowloon, and Hong Kong and takes 24 minutes. You can check-in at Hong Kong and Kowloon stations.
The alternative is the Citybus, New Lantao Bus, Long Win Bus and Discovery Bay Transit Services, which all operate to different places in Hong Kong.
Urban taxis connect the airport with Hong Kong Island and Kowloon, New Territories taxis connect the airport with the New Territories and Lantau taxis connect the airport with the rest of Lantau Island.
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