Flying higher

Source:Global Times Published: 2015-1-29 18:38:02

BA sees opportunities in China


 Andrew Crawley, chief commercial officer at BA Photo: Courtesy of BA

Performers play instruments to celebrate the launch of a direct route between Chengdu and London on May 6, 2014. Photo: CFP


As the first airline to open a direct route between London and Chengdu, Southwest China's Sichuan Province, British Airways (BA) is hoping to expand its services in China even further.

"China is one of our fastest-growing markets, and we see great opportunities here," Andrew Crawley, chief commercial officer at BA, said in an interview with the Global Times in Beijing on Monday.

Crawley's visit to China comes ahead of the upcoming "GREAT Festival of Creativity," which will be held in Shanghai in March this year and aims to show UK innovation in sectors such as fashion, luxury retail, technology and entertainment.

During the festival, BA and VisitBritain, the UK's national tourism agency, will host a "best of British" garden party, inspired by a mix of heritage and modern innovation.

In March 2014, BA announced that it had signed up to VisitBritain's new initiative, the GREAT China Welcome Charter, which aims to establish Britain as the most welcoming destination in Europe for Chinese travelers.

As an airline that has operated in China for more than three decades, the company provides direct flights to London from Beijing, Shanghai and Chengdu. Currently, it provides daily flights to London from Beijing and Shanghai.

2015 marks the 10th anniversary of BA opening its direct route from Shanghai to London.

In May 2014, BA started using the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner for its direct service between Chengdu and London and increased the frequency of flights on the route from three to five per week.

"We are not satisfied [with the numbers] … and three cities are not enough," Crawley said. "We see the growth of the Chinese economy, the huge [demand for] international travel," he noted.

In an indication of the particular importance and size of the Chinese market, BA listed China as separate from the Asia-Pacific region from September 2014.

To woo more Chinese travelers, the company has adopted measures such as serving Chinese meals onboard and recruiting Chinese-speaking pilots, cabin crew, and customer services staff. Its official website,, also has a Chinese-language version.

Meanwhile, new simplified rules for Chinese people to get UK visas could offer a boost for tourism to the country, industry insiders said.

In the past, Chinese people traveling to the UK for business were recquired to provide bank statements and household registration details, along with other paperwork, but now these visitors will only need to provide an application form, an invitation letter and a letter of proof of employment for their visa application.

However, BA officials have also said they are facing strong competition from global rivals, including Chinese carriers.

In October 2014, Air China, the country's flag carrier, increased the frequency of its direct flights from Beijing to London to twice per day. As early as in 2004, China Eastern opened a direct route from Shanghai to London.

British carrier Virgin Atlantic also provides direct flights from Shanghai to London.

"We face very strong competition, but we remain optimistic about the market," Crawley said.

Global Times

Posted in: Companies, Insight

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