Photo: Toby Melville/Reuters
British Airways and Virgin Atlantic will resume daily flights to China, two years after stopping scheduled services during the Covid-19 pandemic.
BA’s first flight to Shanghai from Heathrow will start on April 23, while Virgin Atlantic will leave the city on May 1.
Both airlines are returning to daily services to China’s business and financial hub after the country lifted quarantine requirements for travelers into January – removing one of the last pillars of its strict zero-Covid policy – even as dealing with a surge in cases.
Related: China reopens borders as Lunar New Year travel begins amid Covid surge
BA, part of the International Airlines Group (IAG), will resume Beijing flights from Heathrow from June 3, operating four a week.
European and US airlines have been reluctant to resume operations to China and other Asian destinations due to severe pandemic restrictions on visitors.
However, BA and Virgin Atlantic changed tack after Beijing’s Communist government last month lifted quarantine requirements for visiting foreign nationals at the start of the Chunyun season, a travel period around the Chinese lunar new year.
Noella Ferns, BA’s head of sales for the Asia Pacific region, said: “We know [customers] looking forward to reunite with family and friends, come to study in the UK and resume business between China and the UK.
“Flying to mainland China has an incredibly rich history, having connected the two countries for over 40 years. We look forward to starting these routes again.”
BA, which began operating a regular passenger service to China in 1980, stopped flights in January 2021 after a sharp fall in passenger demand during the pandemic.
Virgin will resume daily flights between London Heathrow and Shanghai on May 1 for both passenger and cargo operations; Fares start from £669 per person. It stopped flights to China on 23 December 2020.
Virgin Atlantic’s chief commercial officer, Juha Järvinen, said: “The return of our Shanghai services has been a long time coming and I am delighted that it is finally a reality.
“Shanghai is the last way back after the global pandemic, bringing our flight program back to full capacity.”
Incoming travelers will no longer be required to quarantine upon arrival in China but will still be required to show proof of a negative PCR test before entering the country, taken within 48 hours of travel, in together with a health declaration form. Passengers arriving in the UK from China must have a negative PCR or lateral flow test.
Virgin will also double capacity on its Tel Aviv route this summer, operating a twice-daily service, and will open new routes to the Maldives and the Turks and Caicos Islands southeast of the Bahamas later this year.
BA resumed flights between London Heathrow and Hong Kong on 5 December. The move came two months after Virgin announced it would not resume flights on the route in March as planned because Russian airspace has been closed following Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.