BA And Virgin Atlantic Map Out China Return

Credit: Rob Finlayson

UK carriers British Airways (BA) and Virgin Atlantic have each confirmed their return to mainland China following Beijing’s decision to relax travel restrictions and reopen its borders to international visitors.

BA is restoring its two pre-pandemic routes to China, starting with flights from London Heathrow (LHR) to Shanghai Pudong (PVG). The service will resume on April 23, operating daily using Boeing 787-9 aircraft.

A second route from Heathrow to Beijing Daxing will recommence on June 3, running four times per week using 777-200ERs. Once both routes are operational, BA will be offering about 5,300 two-way weekly seats between the UK and mainland China.

Virgin Atlantic will also return to the Chinese market from May 1 with daily service between Heathrow and Shanghai using 787-9 equipment. At the point of the route’s relaunch, regular flights will have been suspended for a total of 859 days.

“Shanghai is the final route to return following the global pandemic, restoring our flying programme to full capacity,” Virgin Atlantic CCO Juha Jarvinen said. “Our focus for 2023 is on delivery, as we look forward to launching routes to new destinations.”

The UK-China market is served nonstop by five Chinese carriers at the present time. To Heathrow, Air China offers routes from Beijing (PEK) and Shanghai; Beijing Capital Airlines from Qingdao (TAO); China Eastern Airlines from Shanghai; and China Southern Airlines from Guangzhou (CAN). Hainan Airlines also served Beijing Capital-Manchester (MAN). All six routes are currently operating once a week, OAG data shows.

The return of BA and Virgin Atlantic to mainland China comes a week after fellow European carrier Air France announced plans to scale up its network. Service from Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG) to Beijing Capital is once a week at the present time, while Shanghai Pudong is operated twice a week.

From Feb. 3, frequencies to Shanghai will be 3X-weekly, with further growth planned. By July 1, the airline expects flights to Beijing and Shanghai to be operating daily.

David Casey

David Casey is Editor in Chief of Routes, the global route development community's trusted source for news and information.