Edited by Mike Aquino.
Hong Kong International Airport is a long way from either Hong Kong Central or Kowloon; what if you’d like to linger a little in either place before flying out? What if you want to hit a Hong Kong market or dine at a cheap Michelin-star eatery just before your flight, without dragging your luggage behind you?
The In-Town Check In Service at two MTR stations – Hong Kong Station and Kowloon Station – is just the ticket, saving you both time and stress.
The service allows you to check-in for your flight at the station, sometimes up to a day in advance. Not only does that mean that you can then arrive at the airport a little later on your day of departure, but you can also check your bags at the station, so no need to hump them all the way to the airport!
Why Use In-Town Check In?
The In-Town Check-In Service offers an extra level of convenience and value-for-money to the Hong Kong traveler.
Convenience. You can just check in, leave your luggage, and enjoy an additional day’s exploring. Once you’re done, just come back to the station you checked in to, then ride the Airport Express all the way to HKIA.
Kowloon MTR Station and Hong Kong MTR station are both located in major transport hubs within Tsim Sha Tsui and Hong Kong Island, respectively. You can either ride a connecting MTR line to these stations, or take advantage of MTR’s free Airport Express Shuttle Bus Service.
This service runs between major hotels in Hong Kong Island and Kowloon to the closest Check-In-equipped station, from 6am to 11pm. Only Airport Express and High-Speed Rail passengers are permitted to ride. Visit the official MTR page for further details, including its Hong Kong hotel stops.
Value. As far as airport transportation goes, the In-Town Check-In service beats every other option. You get free shuttle service from select hotels (see above), then pay about HKD100-115/US$12.80-14.72 per adult, or HKD50-57.50/US$6.40-7.36 per child, to ride the Airport Express.
By comparison, a taxi ride from Hong Kong Island to the Airport will cost you about HKD330-400 (US$42-51), depending on the traffic.
To pay for your ride, you can choose between using your existing Octopus card (ensure it has sufficient balance for the transaction); or buying a single-use “smart” ticket. (The latter costs about HKD5 more than the former.) Visit the official Hong Kong Airport page for details.
How to Use In-Town Check-In at Kowloon and Hong Kong Station
In town check in operates from Hong Kong Station or Kowloon Station on the Airport Express MTR line. You will need a valid Airport Express ticket or Octopus Card to access the check-in service.
Look for your flight number on the departure screen, and the corresponding check-in counter; or look for a sign with a list of airlines and their respective desk number. Given space limitations, many airlines share physical desks. At the desk, you’ll check in with your passport as you would at the airport.
You’ll leave your check-in luggage at the counter (they’ll ship the luggage to the airport in time for your flight), but you’ll need to keep your carry-on luggage with you.
When Does In-Town Check-In Operate?
The general operating hours are between 6 am and midnight, but each individual airline desk will have its own opening times. The latest you'll be allowed to check in is 90 minutes before your flight and the earliest is twenty-four hours.
Check-in at these stations takes considerably less time than comparable queues at the airport.
You'll be issued with a boarding pass at the desk. From here, you can head straight to the Airport Express level (look for the elevator that indicates access to this floor). Alternatively, you can leave the station to squeeze some additional exploring time. (Don’t lose your boarding pass!)
Make sure to return to the station you checked in to at least 2-3 hours before your flight. Trains leave every ten minutes, taking 24 minutes to cover the distance from Hong Kong Station to HKIA.
What About Bags?
All airlines that offer In-Town Check-In also allow you to check in your bags at the same time, although there are limitations on how late you can check in with bags for certain airlines. There is no additional fee for checking bags.
There are limitations on the size of bag you can check in at the station – although these are quite generous. The total size of the bag can't be larger than 145 x 100 x 85 centimeters (57 x 39 x 33 inches) and the total weight can't be heavier than 70 kilograms (about 150 pounds).
List of Airlines Offering In-Town Check-In at Hong Kong Station
Almost all airlines flying from Hong Kong airport offer In-Town Check-In at both Hong Kong Station and Kowloon Station. The full list of airlines can be found below, classified by region of origin. Airlines in italics may permit check-in on the day before your flight.
- North America: Air Canada, American Airlines, United Airlines
- Great Britain & Western Europe: Air France, British Airways, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Lufthansa, Scandinavian Airlines, SWISS International Air Lines, Virgin Atlantic Airways
- Greater China: Air China, Cathay Dragon, Cathay Pacific Airways, China Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern, Hong Kong Airlines, HK Express, Juneyao Airlines, Mandarin Airlines, MIAT Mongolian Airlines, Shandong Airlines, Shanghai Airlines, Shenzhen Airlines, Sichuan Airlines, Xiamen Airlines
- Korea & Japan: Air Japan, Air Busan, Air Seoul, All Nippon Airways, Asiana Airlines, Japan Airlines, Jeju Air, Korean Air
- Southeast Asia: Bangkok Airways, Garuda Indonesia, Jetstar Asia Airways, Malaysia Airlines, Myanmar National Airlines, Philippine Airlines, Royal Brunei Airlines, Scoot, Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways, THAI Smile, Vietnam Airlines
- South Asia: Air India, EVA Air, Nepal Airlines
- Australia & New Zealand: Air New Zealand, Qantas Airways, Virgin Australia
- Middle East: EgyptAir, EL AL Israel Airlines, Emirates, Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways, Royal Jordanian, Turkish Airlines
- Russia and Eastern Europe: Aeroflot Russian Airlines, Air Astana, Finnair
- Africa: Air Mauritius, Ethiopian Airlines, South African Airways
If your airline is not on this list, you will only be allowed to check in at the airport itself. Alternatively, you can use the Left Baggage services at either Hong Kong MTR or Kowloon MTR stations – but you’ll need to return to bring your own luggage to the airport via Airport Express.
Remember, each airline will have its own opening times (some close on certain days) and baggage rules for In-Town Check-In. If it's your first time using the service, do check with your airline to get the details. More details on the official MTR page.