British Airways and Virgin to fly daily from UK to China again

<span>Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters

British Airways and Virgin Atlantic will resume daily flights to China, two years after scheduled services were halted during the Covid-19 pandemic.

BA’s first flight to Shanghai will take off from Heathrow on 23 April, with Virgin Atlantic’s first departure to the city leaving on 1 May.

Both airlines are resuming daily services to China’s business and financial hub after the country lifted quarantine requirements for inbound travellers in January – removing one of the last pillars of its strict zero-Covid policy – even as it battled a surge in cases.

Related: China reopens borders as lunar new year travel kicks off amid Covid surge

BA, part of the International Airlines Group (IAG), will also reinstate Beijing flights from Heathrow from 3 June, operating four a week.

European and US airlines have been reluctant to resume operations to China and other Asian destinations because of tough pandemic restrictions for visitors.

However, BA and Virgin Atlantic have changed tack after Beijing’s Communist government last month lifted quarantine requirements for visiting foreign nationals at the start of the Chunyun season, a period of travel around the Chinese lunar new year.

Noella Ferns, BA’s head of sales for the Asia Pacific region, said: “We know [customers] have 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.”

BA, which began operating a regular passenger service to China in 1980, stopped flights in January 2021 after a sharp drop in passenger demand during the pandemic.

Virgin will restart daily flights between London Heathrow and Shanghai on 1 May for both passenger and cargo operations; fares start from £669 a 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’m delighted it’s finally a reality.

“Shanghai is the final route to return following the global pandemic, restoring our flying programme to full capacity.”

Incoming travellers will no longer need to quarantine after arriving in China but will still need to show proof of a negative PCR test before they enter the country, taken within 48 hours of travelling, alongside a health declaration form. Passengers arriving from China into the UK must take 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 open new routes to the Maldives and the Turks and Caicos islands south-east of the Bahamas later this year.

BA restarted 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.