Foreign airlines ramp up international flights to China amid rising demand
Published: Feb 20, 2023 10:08 PM
Beijing airport Photo: VCG

Beijing airport Photo: VCG

A number of foreign airlines that have benefited from the rapid growth of China's outbound travel are working hard to restart flights serving the country as China has lifted the travel ban, bringing a fast recovery of demand.

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, a subsidiary of the Air France-KLM Group, said it will increase the frequency of flights connecting with China starting from March 26. It also plans to have three flights from Amsterdam to Hong Kong and to start six direct flights per week to Beijing and Shanghai on the same day, and increase service to a daily flight from May. 

Air France plans to increase the frequency of flights between Paris and Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong to one daily from July.

As a leading European airline group in China, Lufthansa Group has a long history. The first Lufthansa flight arrived in Beijing from Berlin in 1926.

After the reopening of the Chinese mainland, Lufthansa Group further increased its flight frequency. Starting from March, Lufthansa will double its flights to the Chinese mainland from five weekly flights to nine.

China is always a very important intercontinental market of Lufthansa, the company told the Global Times on Monday. 

Airlines in Southeast Asia, which are favored by Chinese tourists, are expanding more rapidly. AirAsia restarted the Guangzhou-Kuala Lumpur route on February 11, and it plans to increase service to eight flights per week from March 2. 

Emirates will increase flights between Dubai and Shanghai to daily from March, and will restart the Dubai-Beijing route on March 15. Qatar Airways announced that it will resume daily flight services from Doha to Beijing Daxing International Airport from March 26, while increasing services between Doha and Guangzhou to daily flights.

China-UK direct flights, which were interrupted during the COVID-19 epidemic, are set to resume soon.

According to British Airways, the route between London Heathrow Airport and Shanghai Pudong International Airport will be resumed operations on April 23, with seven flights per week, and British Airways will resume London Heathrow to Beijing Daxing International Airport on June 3. 

China has maintained a fast recovery of international flights, as resumed weekly fixed passenger flights have increased by more than 60 percent over the week before downgrading management of COVID-19 on January 8.

The number of fixed international passenger flights stood at 795 across 98 carriers from home and abroad from February 6 to 12, covering 58 countries and regions, the Civil Aviation Administration of China said on Thursday.

The number of flights was up 65 percent over the week from January 2 to 8, the week before China prioritized its COVID-19 management.

Although the return of international routes is accelerating overall, market analysts said it is difficult for domestic airports to see a sharp increase in a short time. 

By looking at routes longer than 3,000 miles, the number of flights departing from East Asian airports in the first quarter of this year was 41 percent lower than in the first quarter of 2019. The figure was partly influenced by the Chinese region, a report released by industry consultancy Cirium sent to the Global Times on Monday showed. 

Due to the reopening of China, there may be significant changes to flight schedules in the region. The China flight schedule for the first quarter of 2023 shows that while inbound and outbound capacity is roughly 82 percent below pre-pandemic levels, it is more than double that of the first quarter of 2022, Cirium said. 

Global Times