Smart travellers looking for bargain flights know that snagging a good deal is not just about where you fly, but when. Looking ahead over the next couple of months, the best deals to be had for people in Hong Kong are after new year. If you haven’t yet booked flights for the Christmas holidays, you are unlikely to get a cheap deal at this late stage unless you are prepared to fly on Christmas Day. “We are seeing cheaper flights on December 25 itself. We speculate this is because people want to travel and arrive right before Christmas,” says Matthew Wong, country manager of fare aggregator and travel search website Kayak. “Among the top 10 destinations for Asian travellers, the best Christmas Day deals are to Manila , Sapporo and Taichung.” But there are some super-cheap deals to be had if you are prepared to wait until early January to get away. The absolute bargain destination is Taipei : fly on January 6 and the average economy return will set you back just HK$1,365. Good deals are also to be had flying to Tokyo (January 6, HK$1,856) and Osaka (January 10, HK$1,582). There are long-haul deals to be had, too. The cheapest day to fly to London is on December 29, with an average return economy flight going for HK$4,895. There are also bargain flights to Manchester (December 25, HK$4,157), Amsterdam (December 30, HK$3,447), Geneva (January 19, HK$5,222) and Paris (December 25, HK$4,953). Wong advises consumers to keep an eye out for last-minute promotions, especially in the current climate. “The political situation is pressuring airlines and agents to discount fares and they are offering a lot of deals. Airlines have more last-minute inventory and they are trying to push for cheap fares close to departure date,” he says. Hong Kong’s anti-government protests have seen far fewer people travelling out of the city, leading to airlines offering higher discounts, but Wong says fare reductions were being seen even before the start of the protests. Those booking short-haul flights 36 days in advance have seen the highest savings – a whopping 50 per cent discount. This is higher than last year when the best discount was 34 per cent for those booking 43 days in advance. “Hong Kong is getting more and more competitive in terms of travel and there are discounted fares from here, although other southeast Asian countries still offer cheaper fares,” Wong says. Anecdotally, he is aware of Hong Kong travellers taking a two-hour flight to Taipei to pick up a long-haul flight to Europe or the US at a better price than that offered in Hong Kong. “Bangkok is also a popular destination to fly to – and in and out of – with people going sometimes in a higher-class category,” he says. Flight prices are almost guaranteed to be inflated over Chinese New Year (starting on January 25 in 2020), but outside that, the generally perceived wisdom that the earlier you book the cheaper the flight will be does not always hold true, Wong says. “It depends on where you are going. Sometimes if you book too far in advance you do not capture the lowest price,” he says. We suspect that people may have explored many parts of Australia and are now keen to venture to New Zealand and not just Auckland, but Christchurch Matthew Wong, country manager, Kayak Three new destinations have emerged this year as popular options for Hongkongers. VietJet’s February launch of direct flights from Hong Kong to Phu Quoc – a Vietnamese island off the coast of Cambodia – saw a 371 per cent increase in Kayak searches for this destination. With a flight time of just 2 hours and 45 minutes, it makes for a good weekend beach getaway. “Hong Kong travellers like to explore new areas, especially if they are in Asia and close to Hong Kong so they can make it a short break,” Wong says. Christchurch, New Zealand, has also seen a surge of interest from Hong Kong travellers, with Cathay Pacific responding by increasing flights there to fours times per week during the country’s summer season from December to February. “We suspect that people may have explored many parts of Australia and are now keen to venture to New Zealand and not just Auckland, but Christchurch,” Wong says. Okayama in Japan, a country that is a perennial favourite with Hong Kong travellers, is also seeing increased interest following the addition of more direct flights from Hong Kong.