There are a few reasons why I decided to go to Hong Kong for my holiday. Relatives, culture, shopping, food, gadgets, China, Macau and Disneyland were all factors. The biggest factor, however, was a new airline called Oasis Hong Kong that was selling return tickets for £275 (including everything).
£275 is significantly less than flights to most US cities. You could probably get cheaper flights to New York at certain times, but certainly not the west coast, which is approximately as far from London as Hong Kong is. Canada would be tricky. Europe is obviously much cheaper, but I felt like going somewhere further afield, and I didn’t like the idea of dealing with Easyjet or Ryanair, schlepping to some remote airport hours from where I wanted to be.
There’s a great deal of curiosity about Oasis flights. Whenever I tell people that I travelled on Oasis, they can be counted on to say one of three things:
- Don’t they only have one plane?
Not true – they have at least two. It’s pretty much necessary if you’re going to do daily flights to and from Hong Kong and you don’t have a way to teleport aircraft. But it does mean there’s only one plane per direction.
- Did you hear about the delays?
Oasis had a spectacularly bad launch day; they didn’t get permission to fly over Russia for their first flight, which delayed things for hours. Let’s say it didn’t paint a good picture of their competence. Having said that, their on-time record seems to be perfectly fine these days.
- Sounds awfully cheap…
So it must be nasty, right? Not so.
Particularly in Hong Kong, a lot of people asked me how the flight was. This is a little odd since the airline’s been running for about nine months now, so you’d think there’d be plenty of reviews and stories, but I’ve only been able to find one substantial review and that was for business class on the inaugural flight – hardly representative, but it was positive. So, I feel like it would be useful to talk about my experience on Oasis. If you can’t be bothered reading the whole thing, then there’s a:
Summary: Very respectable, considering the price. Yes, you get free meals and entertainment. Now, onto the real review…
Buying the tickets
I did this online, and it was no more difficult than buying tickets from any other airline. In fact, it was easier, but that was mostly because there’s only one departure per day, at 8:40pm in London and 0:50am in Hong Kong. There are few ticket options that allow you more flexibility, and obviously there are some days that have cheaper tickets than others, but there are no real surprises.
I opted for the cheapest tickets possible, which wasn’t a problem with my 10 day stay. Like other airlines, Oasis use e-tickets.
A couple of weeks before the flight, I got an email telling me that the flight from Hong Kong had been moved from 1:30am to 0:50am. This suited me fine, and I received two more emails and a text message informing me of the change. No problems there.
Departing from London Gatwick
You didn’t think they used Heathrow, did you? Gatwick is actually more convenient for me, since I live in south London. I don’t feel that Gatwick is particularly more difficult to get to than Heathrow for most people, mainly because there are two very good train services that depart from Victoria and get right to the airport in 30 minutes. A return ticket cost me about £15 – take that, Heathrow Express!
I’d already checked in online a couple of days earlier, which was perfectly easy. I even got to choose my seat so that I could sit next to my girlfriend. You can pay to sit in exit rows or up front, but I sorely doubt anyone bothers doing this because it cost something like £35.
Dropping off my baggage at Gatwick was fine. I arrived about two and half hours early, and the queue was non-existant. The attendant was helpful, although there was a strange exchange where she wanted to make sure I had a return ticket and seemed troubled by the fact that I didn’t have a printout of my e-ticket. I prefer not to print stuff out if I don’t have to, and in any case I had the reference number, which did the job. I wasn’t sure why she couldn’t do a lookup using my passport though.
Anyway, it took all of two minutes and I was off… to wait in an hour-long security queue. There’s no point discussing Gatwick Airport here – it’s a mediocre place at best and really has nothing to do with Oasis. We left about half an hour late, but no big deal – we arrived in Hong Kong on time.
The flight to Hong Kong
First things first – yes, you do get free meals. They’re fine. I’m sure you’d get marginally better meals on Cathay or BA, but would they be worth paying £100 more for? I doubt it. In any case I thought it was quite nice that the options were between Chinese and English meals (not that the Chinese meals were particularly intimidating to anyone – noodles was as adventurous as it got).
Tea, coffee and water was all free, but I was a little confused about whether I had to pay for soft drinks. Maybe you don’t, but I never found out.
As far as entertainment goes, Oasis have seat-back screens and free headphones. I should point out that this is lightyears ahead of many US domestic operators. There are about 16 channels, half of which are English and half are Cantonese. It’s fairly decent stuff – I recall watching The Shawshank Redemption and Mission Impossible 3. There’s the usual choice of music channels as well.
The planes are second-hand from Singapore, but they were clean and in acceptable condition. The service was solid, we had blankets, and most gratifyingly, they turned down the lights fairly early into the flight. Partly due to this, I managed to get a personal-record-breaking seven hours of sleep on the flight. I think the relatively subdued nature of my fellow passengers also helped. Are Oasis passengers quieter than passengers on other airlines? I thought so, but a sample size of 2 is not great…
There’s not much more to say. The seat pitch was average, they had blankets and pillows, but no in-flight magazine. All perfectly standard. The flight was fairly full, maybe 70-80%.
As I mentioned, we arrived in Hong Kong on time, and I felt oddly energetic thanks to my sleep. Hong Kong Airport is like a palace compared to anything that exists in the UK, and so all was sweetness and light.
Departing from Hong Kong
Instead of checking in online, I decided to check in at the Hong Kong MTR (metro) station. If you buy an Airport Express ticket, which costs £9 or something, then you can use their facilities to check in your baggage and get a boarding pass in town – not just at the Hong Kong MTR but also at Kowloon MTR.
This is nothing less than ultra-cool and highly convenient. I really didn’t want to be carrying my bags around all day or having to go back to the hotel to fetch them in the evening, so checking them in in the morning was a real boon. You can check in up to 24 hours in advance, although at 14 hours in advance we were the first to do so.
I think Oasis share their check-in desk at Hong Kong MTR with another airline, and so there was someone else in front of us who was futilely trying to check in for a flight that was only one hour away. Since it takes about 20-30 minutes to get from HK MTR to the airport, the attendants weren’t having any of it, but it was still an irritating wait. Once she’d disappeared though, the service was fine.
Oasis uses the new Terminal 2 at Hong Kong Airport. Terminal 2 appears to be larger than all of Gatwick Airport, or at least that’s how it seemed to me. It was also insanely clean. The thing is that, at least currently, Terminal 2 is basically just an additional set of check-in desks, security gates and shops – there aren’t any more gates there, and you have to take a little driverless subway car back to Terminal 1 to catch your flight. I don’t know why I say ‘just’ because Heathrow could certainly do with more check-in desks and security gates, but it was a little confusing to discover HK’s arrangement at first.
This time round, the plane left the gate on time. We had to wait maybe 10 or 15 minutes to take off, because BA and Cathay were running late; presumably they have priority.
The flight to London
Pretty much the same as before, except for three differences. Because the flight was later, they turned off the lights earlier – again, a good move. The second difference was that the meal was blander, but it didn’t bother me. Finally, a couple of the movie channels weren’t working, but I was asleep most of the time anyway.
From my personal experience of a single return flight, Oasis Hong Kong is a very solid airline that offers much better service than short-haul budget airlines like Easyjet or Ryanair. The flight experience is comparable to most average airlines, and so at its price, Oasis is a very good deal.
They clearly benefit from having a very simple route which reduces complexity and confusion, and it seems like they’ve gotten into a good routine now. The fact that they land directly in Hong Kong is a real bonus as well, since it’s one of the best airports in the world. As for Gatwick, well, at least it’s close to London.
How might they improve things? I would like more transparency about whether you can get free soft drinks with meals. I think the meals could be slightly better. And they might want to offer a better selection of newspapers. Apart from those fairly petty complaints, I can’t think of anything else that wouldn’t start raising prices. They should definitely try and do better marketing though – they’re clearly not doing a good job if everyone’s going around asking me whether it was terrible or not.
My advice: if you’re planning to go to Hong Kong, definitely try Oasis. And if you weren’t, you should think about it because Hong Kong is a tremendously amazing place, even if Shanghai is the new hotness. There’s plenty to see in Hong Kong and the surrounding regions, and Oasis makes it a lot easier to get there.