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British Airways and Virgin Atlantic announce their return to mainland China

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Both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic made announcements on Thursday about their long-awaited return to mainland China.

At present, a negative PCR test is required to enter China – although there is no requirement to show covid vaccination – and a negative PCR or lateral flow test is required to return to the UK. A health declaration form must also be completed before your outbound flight.

British Airways and Virgin Atlantic resume flights to Shanghai

British Airways resumes flights to mainland China

British Airways has relaunched two routes into China.

Flights to Shanghai will resume on 23rd April. There will be one daily flight using a three-class Boeing 787.

Flights to Beijing will resume on 3rd June. It is currently scheduled with a three-class Boeing 777.

There will be four flights per week to Beijing Daxing, departing on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and returning to London on the following day.

Flights are wide open for Avios redemption.

British Airways resumes flights to Shanghai Beijing

Virgin Atlantic returns to Shanghai

Virgin Atlantic will return to Shanghai a week after British Airways.

Flights will resume on 1st May, using a Boeing 787-9. They will operate daily.

Shanghai is the final Virgin Atlantic route to return following the pandemic.

Onward connections will be available via Virgin Atlantic’s new SkyTeam partner China Eastern. Virgin’s SkyTeam membership is expected to go live within the next six weeks or so.

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Comments (56)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • mnlbay says:

    Worth noting that Upper Class availability is wide open on VS to and from Shanghai. Taxes just £200 on the PVG-LHR leg for 14 hours which is very attractive.

    • BJ says:

      VS already dropped HKG, I think I’d be hesitant to trust them with a PVG reservation unless it was close in.

      • Jonathan says:

        It was rather weird that HKG got dropped, I always assumed that it was good route for them, although since Covid, entry requirements have been strict…
        But VS would still need to look at how well the route sold prior to December 2019

        • Sam says:

          Same here what I’d expect is that there’ll be interline itineraries to Hong Kong with a stopover in Shanghai, via China Eastern’s partnership with Virgin.

      • DavidZ says:

        VS has been flying cargo-only flight to PVG even during the height of pandemic and I don’t think they will cut PVG given that PVG is a Skyteam hub (connect to MU/KE for the whole China and East Asia), unless HK where most passengers terminates.

  • G says:

    Nothing on Seoul, KL or BKK.

    • bafan says:

      Low yield destinations. Seoul was always marginal. They haven’t just coincidentally forgotten about these places.

      • sigma421 says:

        And I imagine the lack of Russian overflight will have killed the margin. Traffic generally came from the Seoul end and BA doesn’t have big brand presence there. In addition, London isn’t the most useful entry point to europe for a Korean doing a tour as it’s at the far end of the continent from them. Finnair always made more sense.

        • Londonsteve says:

          I had a Chinese colleague when I was working in an EU country who explained that the requirement to get an expensive and stringent visa for the UK meant that most Chinese tourists coming to Europe skip the UK entirely. A Schengen visa from any Schengen zone EU country was comparatively straightforward and of course afforded access to a great variety of appealing destinations for one fee. She also felt that the loss of tax free shopping in the UK would adversely affect the number of Chinese visitors. While the BA and VS connections might be able to remain profitable by demand from UK visitors to China seeking to travel with a familiar airline, the UK will struggle to establish and maintain air links with China while we make it so expensive and difficult for Chinese tourists to visit the UK.

    • BJ says:

      I’ve been told by somebody at BA that BKK will not return even for winter 2023-24. So far the info I have got from them has been 100% reliable.

      • Hbommie says:


      • Rhys says:

        This is not a surprise, given the lack of aircraft and the fact that pre-covid Bangkok got the grottiest planes because it was a low margin route!

        • jjoohhnn says:

          That’s not entirely fair as they had planned to use the 789 to BKK in Summer 2020 although it never happened obviously.

          • Rhys says:

            Yes because the previous grotty planes (777) being used would have been refurbished with Club Suite!

        • anon says:

          For what it’s worth, the margin of a route doesn’t influence the selection of a refurbished/non-refurbished aircraft. Aircraft are selected on the balance of prem/non-prem capacity (i.e. does this market require a higher balance of prem seats to non-prem, or lower?) and the relative efficiencies of different aircraft over different differences… and then a large chunk of what’s practically fits in the schedule (i.e. where is the aircraft going next and does it ‘work’?).

    • Chris W says:

      I don’t expect BKK to ever return but I wish KUL would. It’s a OW hub, somewhat of a business destination, and was handy for redeeming Avios to Asia. Surely its just the sort of ‘long, thin’ route the 787-8 was designed for?

      • Jonathan says:

        You book redemption tickets to KUL via, you’ll just be in MAS plane !

        No CS seats though…

        • Nick says:

          KUL is a very expensive route to operate. Requires 4 x pilots, lost revenue from two J seats that BALPA insist be blocked for them (or more typically their daughters or mistresses), and more nights downroute than equivalent westbound flights. Yes that’s all the same as SIN of course, but that route has much higher yields to compensate.

          KUL is one of my favourite routes and I also hope it returns, but it’s unlikely in the foreseeable future. When 77Xs start to arrive and other aircraft are freed up it will likely be reassessed though.

  • Hardpack says:

    But no tourist visas being issued yet.

    • John says:

      You can do the 144 hour “transit” without a visa.

      • G says:

        The mind boggles why anyone would want to visit China anyway.

        • mnlbay says:

          Family, friends, business

        • S says:

          China is a fascinating country with a very long history and culture. Whatever one thinks about the PRC (I’m certainly not a fan) it is an interesting place to visit. Aside from anything else it serves as a warning sign for how dystopian authoritarianism can be…

        • AJA says:

          I would like to visit the Great Wall and am intrigued by Shanghai. I don’t agree with the politics of the country in the same way as I don’t agree with the politics of many Middle East nations but that alone is not a reason to avoid travelling to them.

          Same with Russia, Moscow and St Petersburg loom fascinating but I am no fan of the person in charge.

          Personally I don’t see the attraction of Dubai but plenty do travel there.

          I would prefer that we had the personal choice and not be prevented from visiting any particular country – the USA approach of forcing you to have a visa to enter the USA if you choose to visit Cuba is wrong in my opinion.

          • Londonsteve says:

            While in general I agree that tourism and politics should be kept separate, there is a threshold when it comes to governments and politics beyond which I feel it’s irresponsible to visit a country. Russia has crossed that threshold and I cannot in all good conscience approve of visiting for tourism, quite apart from which the ‘welcome’ for any western visitor from the authorities and many citizens alike is likely to be exceedingly hostile. I would feel incredibly nervous about visiting Russia as a tourist while travelling on a British passport, for example. When they’ve learned to behave like civilised members of the global community of nations we can reconsider.

          • Londonsteve says:

            It’s also interesting how different countries are judged by different yardsticks. The majority of people have no problems with visiting China yet perhaps half my friends and acquaintances have expressed reservations about travelling to Hungary because of the government’s belligerence and anti-democratic inclinations. We expect higher standards of European countries and those whose cultures are similar to our own (e.g. Russia), but we appear are more tolerant of cultures relatively alien to our own who choose to organise their societies in a different manner.

        • DmbG says:

          An aging relative perhaps….

        • JDB says:

          @G I guess you don’t realise what you are missing. We visited 12 times from the 2010 Expo in Shanghai to 2019 and will go back when things settle. It’s a wonderful country, the sights and vibrancy of the big cities, fantastic historic sites to visit all over the country combined with incredible natural beauty. Amazing, efficient transport systems, superb food with so much variety and the best five star hotels at a fraction of the prices found in other countries.

          • Oliver says:

            Cannot agree more. My partner has family in China, We visited every year before covid. It is such a vibrate country, every time we go there, they have new infrastructure, and the cities just changes so quickly. We have been to many developing countries, China is definitely feel much safer and convenient. The ordinary Chinese people are so nice as well. I have only been to major cities in five provinces, I would like to explore more.

          • Michael C says:

            Completely agree, @JDB – follows on from your (great) post the other day about many amazing destinations still awaiting us: can’t wait to explore China more.

        • jingtan says:

          You gonna miss the most efficient public transport which this country needs most, on time post delivery etc.
          On the other hand, you gonna miss the culture like great wall or the thing in Xian etc…
          China is so big that you could fly 5 hours and still in China.

        • Harry says:

          We hired bikes and explored Hangzhou’s West Lake at twilight. Being next to the lake and going over all those ornate stone bridges with the moon shining down is one of my most treasured travel experiences. There’s more to China than the Great Wall…

        • masaccio says:

          Possibly controversial for some, but gonna say: best food in the world.

  • Richie says:

    If any HfPer has visited the newish Daxing airport, would be interested to hear your thoughts.

    • jingtan says:

      Been there once precovid, when BA was one of the first to operate from Daxing
      It’s one of the best airports basically, new modern, and like a tourism spot at that time and because it was so empty that you see more stuff than passengers.
      It’s designed that you don’t have to walk that long

    • The Original David says:

      I’ve flown through it 14 times, what would you like to know? It’s pretty big, the lounge BA used was fairly average, security was a pain (as with all Chinese airports), lots of good dining options in domestic departures (which you can also use on domestic arrivals), there’s a fun facial-recognition thing where the departure screen will tell you your flight, gate and seat number using nothing but your face. The Daxing Airport Express is good except that it only goes as far as Caoqiao and they don’t let you take aerosols on the train. PEK T3 is much more convenient for the city, but PKX is better once you get there. Daxing has Luckin Coffee, which PEK doesn’t.

  • r* says:

    Is it a good idea to go to china atm given their opaque covid reporting? What happens if you were to test positive somehow while you were there?

    • Rhys says:

      Not sure it’s issuing tourist visas just yet

    • HAN says:

      Most of my friends and parents got COVID in Dec and Jan after the Chinese government lifted the restrictions. And my friends who returned to China recently also got infected. If you get COVID in China right now, nobody cares to be honest. But I believe you need to be tested negative if you want to return to the UK.

      • Jonathan says:

        I think they’re strict on mask wearing, but yeah after the Chinese government realised that their policy of targeting Zero Covid cases was simply unfeasible and nearly impossible, they’ve apparently (bitterly) accepted that they’ll have to live with it, like just about every other country in the world

        I think there’s one or two countries in the remote Pacific Ocean that didn’t get stung by the virus

  • Novice says:

    Would love to go China one day and tour. It’s on my list.

    A lot of people bring countries’ issues, politics etc into their opinions but I think countries shouldn’t be bashed based on the problems otherwise a person shouldn’t leave their home because every country has issues.

    I read yesterday that HK are going to be giving free flights starting in March to attract tourists.

    • Novice says:

      I mean a countries’ history, culture, nature, sights, food etc shouldn’t be bashed when talking about travel. Policies should be argued and protested but that has nothing to do with travelling.

      • Londonsteve says:

        To a point. We all have choice about where we spend our money and it’s a big world out there. We’re not obliged to travel to countries that contradict our beliefs and values and it’s an emotional decision very personal to us. Some might not be bothered whereas others would refuse to travel even if the entire trip was for free. I think it’s sometimes also hard to separate tourism from politics in so much as the latter can sometimes impede or make impossible enjoyment of the former. Speaking personally there are countries I would refuse to travel to even for free, right now Russia is one of them.

        • Jet says:

          When Tony Blair bring this country to Iraq war, are you going to move abroad?

          • Londonsteve says:

            One conflict is now, the other was 20 years ago and who knows how many elections and PMs ago. There’s also a world of difference between choosing which countries to visit versus where we live, it’s not so easy to chop and change when it comes to the latter. But since you ask, yes I’m in the process of leaving the UK, not because of Tony Blair or the Iraq war however. They don’t even figure in my decision making process.

  • His Holyness says:


  • SteveW says:

    Yes, can you imagine the outcry from the left wing hypocrites if it happened in a “western” country.

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