Prior to the pandemic, one of the rare opportunities for travellers in Asia to pick up a long-haul Airbus A380 travel experience on a short flight was the daily Emirates “fifth freedom” service between Bangkok and Hong Kong.
While we’re a little behind the curve on this one, the good news is that the service has once again been upgraded to superjumbo operation since 1st October 2022, having been downgraded to the Boeing 777-300ER over the last couple of years due to border restrictions.
That means it’s once again possible to score the airline’s First Class Suites, including two private inflight showers, plus the upper deck cocktail bar, on this intra-Asia city pair.
Emirates A380 First Class
While First Class Suites are nothing new (this Emirates version first appeared on the A340 in 2004!), the Airbus A380 boasts two standout features – inflight shower suites in First Class and a cocktail bar for both First and Business Class passengers.
This has led to the type still being favoured by many passengers, despite a newer fully-enclosed First Class Suite now featuring on some Boeing 777s.
While it’s only a three-hour flight, that’ is’s enough time to enjoy the service, catering and vintage Champagne, have a drink at the bar and also take a refreshing shower (just book your slot with the crew on boarding).
If visiting a bar in-flight is the main experience you’re looking for, a Business Class redemption on this route will set you back 32,500 Skywards Miles + S$28, though frankly at only 5,000 miles cheaper than a First Class award (37,500 miles), it doesn’t make any sense if First is available.
Here’s the daily schedule for this intra-Asia A380 service, which forms part of a longer Dubai – Bangkok – Hong Kong – Bangkok – Dubai routing for the aircraft.
Bangkok – Hong Kong
Now – 25th March 2023
Emirates has some of the highest fuel surcharges in the industry, levying taxes and fees of over S$600 one-way in First Class when redeeming from Bangkok to Dubai, for example, in addition to your miles outlay.
Thankfully the airline’s “fifth-freedom” routes are largely spared from these fees, with Emirates charging only 37,500 Skywards Miles + S$28 on a Bangkok – Hong Kong redemption in First Class.
Alternatively, First Class cash fares on this one-way route in November start at around S$820, worth considering too since you’ll then earn miles and enjoy wider date flexibility.
You can redeem award seats in First Class on these Bangkok – Hong Kong flights with the following frequent flyer miles.
Emirates First Class Award Rates
Emirates First Class Award Rates
* S$69 for a same-day return
As you can see Emirates Skywards is the best currency to use for these awards, with Qantas Frequent Flyer coming in 16% more expensive in terms of miles outlay.
Note that taxes and fees on a return BKK-HKG-BKK award come in at S$69 for a same-day return or S$91 for a return one or more days later.
That’s because no fuel surcharge is applied on the carrier’s intra-Asia tickets issued in Bangkok (THB), including for the HKG-BKK sector, so it’s not simply a case of adding the two one-way taxes and fees together (fuel surcharge is applied for tickets issued ex-HKG).
The Hong Kong Air Passenger departure tax is also not payable for a same-day return, for a S$22 saving.
Starting your journey in Bangkok, either as a one-way or return routing, is therefore the best value proposition for these First Class award trips.
There’s more good news when it comes to award space on this route, with Emirates offering redemptions in the 14-seat First Class cabin on quite a generous selection of upcoming dates.
Availability for the airline’s First Class does tend to open up closer to the departure date, in case you’re looking at securing an award in the coming months, but the peak Christmas, New Year and Chinese New Year travel season from mid-December to the end of January will no doubt lead to tighter availability.
With Emirates First Class awards – keep checking is the key to success!
First Class Menus
Here are the menus in First Class on board these Bangkok – Hong Kong – Bangkok flights, based on travel in November 2022, to give you an idea of what to expect on board.EK384-EK385-Menu
The route is also currently benefitting from Emirates’ latest Champagne addition in First Class – the rare Vintage 2003 Dom Pérignon Pléntitude 2, which retails at around S$600 a bottle, if you can even find it!
Don’t forget you’ll also get generous pours of Hennessy Paradis Cognac in Emirates First Class, which retails at over S$1,700 for a 700ml bottle in Singapore.
Hong Kong restrictions
One issue for most travellers heading to Hong Kong remains the strict pandemic-related arrival restrictions for visitors and returning residents.
Though Hong Kong has been relaxing its protocols in recent months, and now welcomes tourists without quarantine, there is still a significant testing burden and three days of movement restrictions after arrival.
- Pre-departure ART test within 24 hours
- On-arrival PCR test at HKIA (no need to await the result)
- Daily ART or PCR testing for seven further days
- Amber code for three days (no access to restaurants, bars, gyms etc.)
Crucially though, there is no obligation to stay in Hong Kong for any amount of time at all.
After the on-arrival test at HKIA, you can simply check in for another flight and leave the country straight away if you wish, or just stay for one night, for example.
For the latest details on Hong Kong’s entry requirements, see the official guide here.
A same-day return is possible
If your only reason for flying on this fifth freedom route is to luxuriate in the Emirates A380 First Class Suite and have a shower at 40,000ft, well there’s no reason the experience needs to end when you land in Hong Kong!
The very same Airbus A380 turns around and heads back to Bangkok just 3 hours 20 minutes after landing, so you can redeem miles and fly on both flights the very same day, for a total of 6 hours in this cabin at 75,000 Skywards miles, plus around S$69 in taxes and fees.
As mentioned above, Hong Kong’s recently relaxed restrictions mean that there is no longer any requirement to remain in the SAR for any length of time (until recently, a three-day hotel quarantine was mandatory).
For a same-day return, you can even secure a confirmed cash ticket in First Class for S$1,199 at the time of writing, based on travel in November, arguably better value than redeeming 75,000 miles.
Ideally, travelling with hand luggage only, ground staff in Bangkok should be able to check you in for both flights and print both boarding passes right from the get-go, avoiding the need to complete immigration formalities and arrival testing in Hong Kong.
You will still need a negative pre-departure ART test of course, in case they can’t do this.
If that’s the case, it’s not a big deal either. Simply proceed through immigration in Hong Kong, have the on-arrival PCR test (no waiting required for result), then head straight back upstairs to check in for EK385, returning to Bangkok the same evening.
Granted this isn’t quite as simple as pre-COVID times, but it may still be worth the hassle for a day of pampering, vintage Champagne, fine food and at probably two showers at 40,000ft!
Here’s a video review from someone who did just that on this route, prior to COVID-19.
In Bangkok Emirates passengers have access to the airline’s own lounge before departure.
You can read a pre-COVID review of the facility, which re-opened in early 2022, here.
It’s nothing too special, but shower facilities are available, as is Champagne (Moet) and a good food selection.
Emirates also has its own lounge for eligible passengers in Hong Kong, but this remains temporarily closed due to the pandemic.
Instead, customers are currently directed to the Plaza Premium Lounge near Gate 60.
Emirates has brought its Airbus A380 back on Hong Kong flights, which means the airline’s “fifth freedom” Bangkok – Hong Kong sectors also benefit from this daily upgrade.
That also means it’s once again possible to secure either cash or award space in First Class on these three-hour flights, including the opportunity to take a shower in-flight, then take a seat at the cocktail bar for a tipple or two before landing, not to mention some fine dining and suite-style privacy along the way.
Speaking of a tipple, this route also currently benefits from S$600-a-bottle Dom Pérignon Pléntitude 2 in First Class, and in our experience the crew will bring a bottle back to the Business Class bar for you to enjoy there too.
For 37,500 Skywards miles + S$28, this could be a very enjoyable way to spend an afternoon. Now if only Hong Kong’s entry requirements could relax a little more…
(Cover Photo: Shutterstock)