Virgin Atlantic will resume daily flights from London Heathrow to Shanghai from 1 May 2023, the carrier announced on Thursday (2 February).
The move follows the reopening of China’s international borders last month and the relaxation of its strict ‘zero Covid’ policy.
The route will be serviced by a Boeing 787-9 aircraft and, after closing on 23 December 2020, will be Virgin Atlantic’s final route to be re-instated following the global pandemic as the carrier restores its network to full capacity. Fares start from £669 per person.
Virgin Atlantic chief commercial officer, Juha Jarvinen, said the return of the Shanghai service has been “a long-time coming”, and that the route provides a “vital link” between the UK and China.
However, rebuilding flight capacity to and from China will be a “slow process” for European and American carriers, warned John Grant, chief analyst at travel data company OAG.
Following the pandemic – and China’s prolonged closure – Grant argues that many carriers have re-oriented their aircraft to other international or Asian destinations and now face the “logistical hurdle” of finding capacity across all routes.
“For European airlines in particular, an eventual return to China means more than just going back to pre-2020 operating patterns, as they must continue to avoid Russian airspace,” he added.
Travellers from mainland China will be required to take a pre-departure Covid, while a “sample” of arrivals will also be tested for the virus as part of a monitoring process. This forms part of the UK government’s “temporary measures” imposed on passengers arriving from China, and follows similar restrictions introduced in several European countries.