British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have announced the resumption of flights to mainland China after a two-year absence due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Flights between Heathrow and Shanghai will be operated by British Airways from April 23 and by Virgin Atlantic from May 1.
British Airways will reopen its Heathrow-Beijing route from June 3.
The airline began operating a regular passenger service to China in 1980 and continued doing so until the sharp drop in demand caused by the virus crisis.
Flights are being restarted following a relaxation of China’s travel restrictions, with borders reopened to foreign nationals for the first time since 2020.
Western airlines have been reluctant to resume operations to and from Asia because of tough rules for visitors.
Virgin Atlantic’s chief commercial officer, Juha Jarvinen, said: “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.”
The airline will double capacity on its Tel Aviv service this summer, and open new routes to the Maldives and Turks and Caicos later this year.
British Airways’ head of sales for the Asia Pacific region, Noella Ferns, 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 restored its flights between Heathrow and Hong Kong on December 5 2022.
The was two months after Virgin Atlantic announced it would not resume flights on the route in March 2023 as planned due to the closure of Russian airspace following the conflict in Ukraine.