Virgin Atlantic and China Eastern strengthen travel links with codeshare

Virgin Atlantic and China Eastern have announced a strategic partnership through a new codeshare agreement, reinforcing vital business and leisure ties to East Asia and expanding access to various destinations within China.

In the initial phase of this collaboration, passengers booking through Virgin Atlantic can seamlessly connect from the airline’s Heathrow to Shanghai services to multiple destinations in China, such as Chengdu, Changsha, Qingdao, Shenzhen, and Xi’an. Tickets for these flights are now available.

In reciprocation, China Eastern customers, pending government approval, will soon be able to connect via Heathrow to Caribbean and African destinations, including Jamaica, Nassau, Lagos, Cape Town, and Johannesburg. Both airlines are members of the SkyTeam alliance, with Virgin Atlantic having joined last year. The two carriers have been co-located at Shanghai Pudong Terminal One since November, providing benefits such as SkyPriority services for Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Gold and Silver members and China Eastern Miles members, encompassing priority check-in, boarding, and additional baggage allowances.

Juha Jarvinen, Chief Commercial Officer at Virgin Atlantic, commented, ‘China and East Asia is an incredibly important region for Virgin Atlantic and we were delighted to welcome back our Heathrow to Shanghai service last year, providing vital links to one of the UK’s largest trading partners, for both passenger and cargo services.

‘Our new codeshare with China Eastern, a fellow SkyTeam partner, will serve continued demand for travel to the region and strengthens our commitment to China and East Asia. We know these agreements bring plenty of benefits to our customers, from increased network scope to China and beyond, to reciprocal loyalty rewards for our Flying Club members.’

The expanded codeshare not only facilitates a smoother travel experience but also offers Virgin Flying Club members accelerated rewards, with opportunities to earn both Virgin Points and Tier Points on every codeshare flight with China Eastern. The option to redeem Virgin Points is anticipated to be available shortly.

Virgin Atlantic resumed its Shanghai services on May 1, 2023, post the global pandemic, recognizing China’s significance as one of the UK’s most crucial trading partners. Shanghai, being the country’s largest city and a renowned commercial and financial hub, plays a pivotal role in fostering international connectivity and economic relationships.

Hainan Airlines expanding China flights at Edinburgh Airport

Edinburgh Airport is set to witness a substantial increase in flights to China in 2024, as Hainan Airlines bolsters its operations in the Scottish capital.

This development underscores Edinburgh’s enduring appeal to international travellers and signals substantial growth for Hainan Airlines at Edinburgh Airport. Notably, Edinburgh Airport stands as the sole airport in Scotland offering direct flights to China, highlighting the city’s strategic importance in fostering global connectivity.

Hainan’s extended schedule will include flights between Edinburgh and Beijing from May 17 to October 26, 2024, marking an expansion of nine weeks compared to the previous year. During the peak summer months, from June 1 to September 30, there will be four flights per week, with an additional two flights per week during other times. Hainan Airlines will deploy the Airbus A330-300 for these operations.

Gordon Dewar, Chief Executive of Edinburgh Airport said: ‘It’s great to see our partners at Hainan Airlines grow their presence at Edinburgh Airport and maintain that crucial direct connectivity between Scotland and China.

‘We know there is a continued attractiveness and allure of Scotland as an international destination, and that is acutely felt in China where our stunning scenery, our world-renowned food and drink, and our well sought after educational institutions are all highly regarded. These additional flights will also offer people in Scotland more opportunities to experience China and increase the potential for closer working and investment prospects for businesses both at home and abroad.’

Malcolm Roughead, VisitScotland Chief Executive, said: ‘The return and increased capacity of this direct route connecting Beijing to Edinburgh is further evidence of the undeniable demand for our world famous offering. Scotland is perfectly placed to benefit from increased interest from Chinese visitors who are often looking for unique and exciting experiences the whole family can enjoy.

‘We know that making it as easy as possible for people to come here makes Scotland a more enticing destination. Overseas holidaymakers tend to stay longer and spend more. They are an increasingly important part of the visitor economy, helping to attract investment, create jobs and sustain communities.’

The extended flight schedule is slated to operate from May 17 to October 26, 2024, with services on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays during peak summer. Additionally, flights will run on Mondays and Fridays during other periods, providing a consistent and accessible link between Edinburgh and Beijing throughout the specified timeframe.

Edinburgh Airport resumes direct Beijing link with Hainan Airlines

Edinburgh Airport has announced that Hainan Airlines is resuming its direct air service between the capital cities of Scotland and China, reestablishing what it describes as the ‘Great Hall to the Great Wall’ link.

This service marks Scotland’s sole direct connection to China and will operate twice a week, with departures from Edinburgh on Mondays and Fridays, starting from June 26 until October 6. The flights will be operated on an Airbus A330.

The air service between Beijing and Scotland stands as a vital bridge, linking two diverse and captivating destinations. Besides the business possibilities, this connection opens up a world of opportunities for travellers seeking to explore the rich cultural tapestry of Beijing, visit ancient wonders, explore a fascinating culture, or take in breathtaking landscapes.

Gordon Dewar, Chief Executive of Edinburgh Airport, said: ‘We’re excited to be reconnecting Scotland and China and deliver yet more destination and experience choices for our passengers.

‘Our countries are both steeped in history and heritage, and this Hainan Airlines service will make it easier for people in Scotland and China to experience the very best of our countries. It’s also another signal of strength in Edinburgh as a destination for people across the world.

‘We know that there is a deep connection between our countries and this route will help to reconnect friends, families and businesses, as well as allow us to forge new economic relationships to the benefit of Scotland on a national and local level.’

Minister for Transport Fiona Hyslop said: ‘I warmly welcome the start of Hainan’s direct service between Edinburgh Airport and Beijing. This direct connectivity is great news for people and businesses in both Scotland and China, building strong links for business and exports, as well as making it easier for visitors and students to come and experience Scotland.

‘Our aspiration is for Scotland to be as well connected globally as peer nations and regions and this service is an important boost to our international connectivity, demonstrating growing confidence in the Scottish aviation market.

‘I wish Edinburgh Airport and Hainan every success with this service.’

British Airways restarts flights to Beijing

British Airways has announced the resumption of its flight services from London to Beijing since a pause in services in January 2020, when the route was suspended due to the pandemic.

The resumption will restore the airline’s exclusivity as the only British carrier operating a direct service between Beijing and the UK.

The British Airways flights will operate four-times-a-week between Beijing and London, departing Daxing Airport on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Tickets are on sale now, on: ba.com and all British Airways customers have the option to purchase premium carbon offsets from certified climate projects and sustainable aviation fuel.

Commenting on the resumption, Louise Street, British Airways’ Director of Worldwide Airports, said: ‘The restart of one of our most important routes after more than three years is a long-awaited moment for all of us at British Airways. Following the successful resumption of flights between Shanghai and London in April, we’re excited to be back in Beijing too, reuniting families and friends and facilitating international student and business travel once again. We are looking forward to working hand-in-hand with our joint business partner China Southern, to provide wider transit options and various benefits to our customers in China and the UK.’

British Airways and partner China Southern both operate from Daxing, giving customers greater connectivity between the UK and China, with a wide choice of onward flights.

Onboard, customers can now access the airline’s newly designed Club Suite (business class) cabin, with direct-aisle access, a suite door for greater privacy and flat-bed seats in a 1-2-1 configuration. The Suite has 40 per cent more storage, including a vanity unit and mirror, WiFi, 18.5-inch inflight entertainment screens, high-definition gate-to-gate programming and PC / USB power, new furnishings, new amenity kits and a reworked dining experience.

Virgin Atlantic relaunches flights to Shanghai

Virgin Atlantic has relaunched its services to Shanghai, re-establishing its business and leisure connections between the United Kingdom and China.

The daily service will resume today, May 1, 2023, with fares starting from GBP432 per person. The move comes after a relaxation in travel restrictions between the two countries, which sees the borders reopening to foreign nationals for the first time since December 23, 2020.

Following the restart announcement earlier this year, there has been strong demand for both business and leisure travel in both directions.

Known as China’s primary hub of modernity, innovation and futurism, Shanghai is today one of the world’s most promising cities. The city also offers UK tourists a melting pot of culture, from Pudong district’s futuristic skyline, the world-famous waterfront promenade, the Bund, to the traditional pavilions in Yu Gardens.

Juha Jarvinen, Chief Commercial Officer at Virgin Atlantic, commented: ‘The restart of our services to Shanghai is a major milestone for Virgin Atlantic. Shanghai was the first of our routes to be suspended in 2020 at the start of the global pandemic and the last to return, making it the final piece to restore our flying programme to full capacity.

‘After such a long hiatus, we’re looking forward to welcoming our customers back to Shanghai and providing vital links to one of the UK’s largest trading partners, for both passenger and cargo services.’

Virgin Atlantic’s Shanghai flights will continue to operate on a Boeing 787-9. Customers travelling to China will need to show proof of a negative PCR test before they enter the country, alongside a health declaration form.

Shanghai is also a hub to the airline’s new SkyTeam partner, China Eastern. Offering a wide range of connections throughout China and beyond, Virgin Atlantic customers will be able to connect to onward services. Flying Club members will soon be able to earn and redeem Virgin Points across China Eastern’s flying programme, alongside other SkyTeam partners.

Air China returns to London Gatwick Airport with services to Beijing

Air China has resumed operations at London Gatwick Airport with services to Beijing.

The Chinese flag-carrier operates four flights per week to Beijing Capital International Airport that started April 1, and will increase to daily services from April 24. It will be the first since early 2020 that flights have run between Gatwick and China, and will support increasing demand for travel between the two countries.

China sent a record 151,690 students to the United Kingdom in 2021/22 – more than any other country, according to data from Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA). This is an increase of 41 percent since 2017-18 and accounts for 22.3 percent of international students in the UK. The flights should also provide an economic boost for the tourism industry in London and the Southeast, with Chinese visitors spending £1,828 per visit and £1.8 billion in 2019, according to Visit Britain. They will also further open up the cultural adventure opportunity to visit China and explore its diverse beauty.

Stephanie Wear, VP Aviation Development, Gatwick Airport said: ‘We are delighted to welcome Air China back to London Gatwick, providing a vital connection between two of the world’s most influential capital cities.

‘China is the world’s second-largest economy, so by offering direct flights between London and Beijing, Gatwick is providing an important service to people and businesses across the Southeast

‘It is also great news for tourism and hospitality across the region. Chinese visitors are traditionally high spenders so the return of regular flights will help support these sectors, which suffered so badly throughout the pandemic.’

Jingjie Li, General Manager, Air China London said: ‘We are delighted to resume our direct service from London Gatwick to Beijing. We are well prepared to serve passengers travelling between the UK and China, and via our hub at Beijing Capital Airport to beyond.’

The return of Air China means Gatwick will offer passengers a choice of nearly 50 long-haul destinations this summer, and as an Air China hub, Beijing Capital International Airport also provides onward connections throughout China and more widely across Asia, Australia and New Zealand.

Virgin Atlantic confirms Shanghai relaunch date

Virgin Atlantic has said that it will restart its flights to Shanghai, re-establishing both business and leisure connections between the United Kingdom and China.

The move comes following a relaxation in travel restrictions between the two countries, which sees the borders reopening to foreign nationals for the first time since 2020. Shanghai is Virgin Atlantic’s final route to be re-instated following the global pandemic, having been closed for a total of 859 days at the point of its relaunch.

The daily service will resume on May 01, 2023, with fares starting from £669 per person.

As it did prior to the pandemic, Virgin Atlantic’s Shanghai flights will operate on a Boeing 787-9.

China remains one of the most important trading partners to the UK and as the country’s largest city, Shanghai is a world renowned commercial and financial hub, as well as a promising tourist destination, and a gateway to China’s incredibly diverse scenery and culture. Shanghai is also a hub to the airline’s new SkyTeam partner, China Eastern, which offers a wide range of connections throughout China and beyond for onwards travel.

Juha Jarvinen, Chief Commercial Officer at Virgin Atlantic, commented: ‘The return of our Shanghai services has been a long-time coming and I’m delighted it’s finally a reality. We’re looking forward to welcoming our customers back on board and providing vital links to one of the UK’s largest trading partners, for both passenger and cargo services.

‘Shanghai is the final route to return following the global pandemic, restoring our flying programme to full capacity. Our focus for 2023 is on delivery, as we look forward to launching routes to new destinations, welcoming brand new clean, green aircraft and getting back to our best for our customers and people.’

Customers travelling to China do not need to show proof of vaccination, however each passenger will need to show proof of a negative PCR test before they enter the country, alongside a health declaration form.

Passengers arriving from China into the UK must take a negative PCR or lateral flow test. Customers are advised to check https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/china for the latest travel advice.

British Airways resumes flights to mainland China

British Airways has announced that it will resume flights between the UK and mainland China this summer.

The resumption comes after a two-year absence following the Coronavirus pandemic. British Airways first flew to China in 1980 and continued to do so until the pandemic. As it resumes the services, tickets are now on sale for flights to Shanghai from April 23 and Beijing from June 3.

From 23 April, flights will operate daily between London Heathrow and Shanghai Pudong International Airport – flight numbers BA168/BA169. From June 3, flights will operate four times per week between London Heathrow and Beijing Daxing Airport – flight numbers BA88/89. The schedule is subject to operational change and regulatory approval, the airline said.

Noella Ferns, British Airways’ head of sales, Asia Pacific, said: ‘We can’t wait to welcome our customers back on board our flights from Shanghai and Beijing. We know they’ve been looking forward to reuniting with family and friends, coming to study in the UK and resuming business between China and the UK. We have an incredibly rich history of flying to mainland China, having connected the two countries for more than 40 years. We look forward to resuming these routes again.’

British Airways plans to move to Beijing Daxing later this year

British Airways has recently announced that all its direct flights to and from Heathrow and Beijing will move to the new Daxing airport from October 27, 2019.

British Airways is the first international airline to move all operations to Beijing Daxing, in recognition of the increasing travel between China and the UK.

The new airport is around 50km from both Beijing city centre and the Xiong’an New Area and around 80km from Tianjin. With over 52,000 square metres available for retail, food and beverage and services, Beijing Daxing boasts over 300 shops and restaurants and a brand-new partner lounge.

Noella Ferns, British Airways’ Executive Vice President in Greater China and the Philippines, said: ‘We are very excited to be moving to Beijing Daxing. Not only will the new airport offer our customers flying to and from Beijing a world-class experience, with state-of-the-art facilities including an improved lounge for our Club World and First customers; but it will also support our ambition to increase leisure and business travel between China and the UK.’

Beijing Daxing is set to open in September 2019, and will initially house four runways and one terminal building. The London to Beijing route will continue as a daily service, operated by a Boeing 787-9 in the winter and a Boeing 777-300 in the summer, with four cabins: First, Club World (business class), World Traveller Plus (premium economy) and World Traveller (economy). Return fares will start from £387 for World Traveller, £758 for World Traveller Plus, £1,899 for Club World and £2,199 for First. Customers who choose to cut the cost of flights, by using Avios part payment, could pay £187 plus 39,000 Avios. The airport move will also help British Airways to strengthen and develop its network through its code-share agreement with China Southern Airlines, which will also be based at the new airport. British Airways and China Southern Airlines launched a code-share agreement across 10 routes in 2017. In January 2019, the airlines signed a Memorandum of Understanding to expand the agreement on each other’s networks and implement reciprocal frequent flyer benefits, British Airways said in its release. on; \lsds

China Southern launches new direct route from Heathrow to Zhengzhou

London Heathrow has announced the launch of its first direct flight to Zhengzhou, allowing British passengers to fly directly to one of China’s eight Ancient Capital cities.

Zhengzhou is the capital of Henan Province in the central region of the People’s Republic of China. Now designated a National Civilized City, Zhengzhou is also a Chinese manufacturing hub, where nearly 70 per cent of Apple iPhones sold worldwide are manufactured.

A first direct service from Europe, the new Zhengzhou route operated by China Southern is Heathrow’s 13th direct connection to China. The flight will carry travellers into the heart of ancient Chinese culture, offering them opportunity to explore the famous Shaolin Monastery and Pagoda Forest, as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, considered the birth-place of the ancient martial art of kung-fu.

Zhengzhou is also one of the most important textile centres in the country, and British businesses and passengers will now be able to directly access the heart of industrial – as well as ancient – China, the airport said.

Ross Baker, Heathrow’s Chief Commercial Officer, said: ‘The launch of our new route to Zhengzhou is an exciting opportunity for passengers and will provide Europe’s only direct connection to this unique Chinese destination. At Heathrow, we are committed to opening-up more routes to China as part of our strategy to drive forward the UK’s global connectivity for years to come.’

China Southern’s Zhengzhou service will be operated twice weekly out of Terminal 4 and use a 787-800 aircraft. It will offer an annual 55,328 seats and 2,080 tonnes of cargo space.

The number of destinations available via Heathrow – the UK’s only hub airport – has allowed exports to China to increase by 135 per cent in value from 2018 compared to 2017, totalling over £7 billion, the airport noted.