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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

British Airways to suspend London to Chengdu flights

(China Daily) British Airways is suspending its regular London to Chengdu flight in January after having tested the waters for three years, despite booming numbers of people traveling between the UK and China.

A BA spokeswoman confirmed the news to China Daily on Tuesday.

"We have a proud tradition of flying to China but, despite operating this route for three years, it is not commercially viable," she said, requesting anonymity.

The final service from Heathrow will be on Jan 12 and the last BA fl ight out of Chengdu will be on Jan 13. BA added the London-Chengdu flight in 2013, initially flying the route five times a week. It reduced the service to three fl ights a week in 2014.

Meanwhile, BA also flies from London directly to Hong Kong and also to Shanghai and Beijing.

The company's announcement came at a time when Chinese airlines are adding new flights to London, fuelled by growing visitor numbers.

The latest additions were made in June, when Tianjin Airlines launched a flight between Tianjin and London's Gatwick airport that stops in Chongqing. Hainan Airlines also added a direct flight between Beijing and Manchester.

Chinese airlines expressed immediate interest last week when Britain's Department of Transport announced a deal with its Chinese counterpart that means each country can authorize up to 100 flights a week, compared to 40 previously.

Restrictions on destinations have also been lifted. Hainan Airlines said last week it would consider increasing the frequency of its Manchester flights while considering new flights between second-tier Chinese cities and London. Tianjin Airlines also welcomed the agreement.

Paul Argyle, managing director of Flight Directors, an aviation industry sales and marketing company, said Chinese airlines have an advantage because traveler number growth is originating from China, as opposed to the UK.

"More Chinese visitors are wanting to visit the UK than UK visitors wanting to visit China, so Chinese airlines enjoy a brand advantage, because Chinese visitors are already familiar with their brands," Argyle said.

He added that the important thing to note about BA's statement is that, with the Chengdu route considered to be unviable commercially, the airline is now free to use those landing slots to fl y to more profitable locations.

Currently, landing slots are hard to get because Heathrow is operating close to its capacity. The industry is awaiting the UK government's delayed decision on whether to add another runway at one of the capital's airports, boosting capacity.

Argyle added that another factor that would have made Chengdu less profitable for BA was its lack of a local partner airline there that could participate in its One World Alliance. In comparison, BA passengers flying to Shanghai and Beijing can more easily connect to other destinations through partner airlines, making those destinations more attractive.

According to statistics from VisitBritain, the official tourism board, more than 1 million passengers traveled between Britain and China last year, an 11 percent increase on 2014. Last year, the number of Chinese tourists visiting Britain grew by 40 percent.

Source: By Cecily Liu (China Daily UK)

from China Travel & Tourism News


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