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 April 23, and Virgin Atlantic’s first departure to the city will depart on May 1.
Both airlines are resuming daily services to China’s commercial and financial hub after the country lifted quarantine requirements for incoming travelers in January, removing one of the last pillars of its strict zero-COVID policy, even as it battled a increase in cases.
Related: China reopens borders as Lunar New Year travel begins amid Covid surge
BA, part of the International Airlines Group (IAG), will also 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 tough pandemic restrictions on visitors.
However, BA and Virgin Atlantic have reversed course after Beijing’s communist government last month lifted quarantine requirements for foreign visitors at the start of the Chunyun season, a travel period around Chinese Lunar New Year.
Noella Ferns, BA’s sales manager for the Asia Pacific region, said: “We know [customers] I have been looking forward to reuniting with family and friends, coming to the UK to study, and resuming business between China and the UK.
“We have an incredibly rich history of flights 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, halted 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 May 1 for passenger and cargo operations; rates start from £669 per person. It stopped flights to China on December 23, 2020.
Virgin Atlantic commercial director Juha Järvinen said: “The return of our services in Shanghai has been a long time coming and I am delighted that it is finally a reality.
“Shanghai is the final route to return after the global pandemic, restoring our flight program to full capacity.”
Incoming travelers will no longer need to quarantine after arriving in China, but will still need to show a negative PCR test before entering the country, taken within 48 hours of travel, along with a health declaration form. Passengers arriving from China to the UK 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 Turks and Caicos islands southeast of the Bahamas later this year.
BA restarted flights between London Heathrow and Hong Kong on December 5. The move came two months after Virgin announced it would not resume flights on the route in March as planned because Russian airspace was closed following Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.