Destination Doha once more as one jewel remains wrapped while another is set to sparkle

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Superfast wifi on Qatar Airways ensures that the website that never sleeps maintains its insomniac reputation

I’ve just opened my Interim Qatar Airways 817 Interim Bureau en route from Hong Kong to Doha. And what a superb Bureau it is, with fast-speed inflight wifi, superbly efficient and friendly staff, and (it has to be said) a nicely diverse wine list which in the interests of journalistic thoroughness, I have been studying intently.

After almost a year without international travel I’m off on my second extended trip in short succession, truly a flying Kiwi once more.

In fact I’ve been travelling so much in recent weeks that when I paid my twice-yearly visit to my Hong Kong dentist on Friday, I actually (and I swear this is true) went to fasten my seat belt as I sat in my chair. Given my aversion to dentists and what followed, I probably should have. “Cabin crew, doors to automatic and cross-check,” she instructed the hygienist (ok then, I made that bit up).

Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) is a little more lively than since my last departure three and a half months ago – no doubt helped by the new ‘3+4’ hotel/home quarantine policy introduced earlier this month – but it’s got a long, long way to go before reaching anywhere near pre-pandemic levels.

The sparcely populated flight information display screen mirrors the meagre passenger numbers
This pictures tells several stories within a story. It captures the almost eerie quietness of the arrivals zone; the closure of much of the airport’s food & beverage offer; and the vastness of the terminal, somehow rendered more magnifient by its comparitive emptiness. A cleaner quietly goes about her work, keeping the airport spic and span for those passengers and meeters and greeters still using it. Note too the giant advertising display from Italian watches and jewellery company Buccellati and the lovely digital installation to the left. {All pictures ©Martin Moodie}
Most of the landside shops remain closed
But in crisis there is always opportunity

I do believe, however, that 2023 is going to be HKIA’s year. I really hope so for the sake of Cissy Chang, Alby Tsang and all the fantastic commercial team here and for their colleagues across the whole airport estate who have suffered so much during this horrible and sustained period of darkness in Hong Kong’s history.

Beauty&You from The Shilla Duty Free has set up a landside shop offering heavily discounted beauty and accessory items

But being back home for a couple of weeks and then flying over Hong Kong tonight has reminded me of why I love the place so. It will be my home for a long time to come and in true Chinese spirit I intend to be patient. The ‘3+4’ regime has at least made my hectic late 2022 travel schedule a lot easier, a relief given a forthcoming flurry of events (TFWA World Exhibition, The Trinity Forum) and airport/retailer openings that I have committed to.

[Click on the YouTube icon to watch a quick video from Martin Moodie as he visits the Duty Zero by cdf store]

Having received my PCR test results from the on-site Prenetics testing centre at HKIA in an impressive 84 minutes, I was able to check-in early and, as always, check out the airport’s commercial offer. As I said, it’s a little, but not a lot, better than when I last flew. It was nice to see the Duty Zero by cdf store on Level 6 near Gate 5 now trading (it was closed last time through). Along with fellow anchor store retailer The Shilla Duty Free (trading as Beauty&You), which is operating out of a secondary store by Gate 35, the presence is still modest. Small but nonetheless important steps. Giant strides must wait a little longer.

[And now it’s time to visit Beauty&You, the only one of The Shilla Duty Free’s four stores at Hong Kong International Airport currently trading]

The signs by one of Beauty&You’s two main stores (both closed) point the way towards the shop by gate 35 that is trading

So must the openings of an impressive array of luxury stores, including the two duplex stores in waiting from Chanel and Louis Vuitton pictured below. Speaking of Louis Vuitton… no, that must wait for my next Blog. Doha here we come.


The Louis Vuitton duplex store remains elegantly clad for now, a jewel still waiting to be unwrapped. Opening must await the return of sufficient passenger numbers. The same applies for its luxury duplex neighbour Chanel, pictured below.

Back landside again and this wide-angle shot encapsulates the barrenness of the terminal
What a wonderfully nostalgic reminder of the allure of flight this is. The wood and fabric, French-made Farman was the first aircraft to fly in Hong Kong, where it was piloted in March 1911 by pioneering Belgian aviator Charles Van den Born. I must have taken scores of photos of it down the years but its fascination always tempts me to take another.

A Kiwi flyer meets a French flyer
While awaiting my PCR test results, I dined with my wife at the always reliable Crystal Jade restaurant. HK$284 (US$36) for an excellent four-dish meal represents very good value compared with many airport offerings.
Both these JCDecaux billboards speak of better times at Hong Kong International Airport. And they will surely come. 

(Above and below) Sweet Dreams have turned into a nightmare for Gebr. Heinemann. But perhaps the communication could be a little more elegant.

Luxury boutiques across the airport lay forlornly shuttered
Passenger volumes might be low but you cannot take away from the majesty of this airport with its many panoramic views
A really striking shot as a passenger makes his way to the far gates, the digital advertising for Dolce & Gabbana beckoning in the distance
Good to see O’Learys from SSP, always a popular stop at the end of the terminal. I have pitched up here many times over the years for a cold beer and to take in the views.
One of the things I love about airports is how you tend to make interesting new acquaintances