Beijing Capital Airlines is seeking to further grow its long-haul network with flights to the UK city of Birmingham in 2016, according to information released by aviation regulator, Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC). The airline, part of the HNA Group, has requested rights to introduce weekly services from Beijing and the first direct link to the UK from the Hangzhou, the capital and largest city of Zhejiang Province in Eastern China.
The airline entered the long-haul market in September this year having introduced a first Airbus A330 into its fleet. The aircraft, a former Garuda Indonesia A330-200, has been used on weekly flights from Beijing and Hangzhou to the Danish capital, Copenhagen in partnership with Chinese tour operator and fellow HNA Group company, Caissa during September and October.
Its debut in the UK will see it replicate this Copenhagen operation at Birmingham with weekly flights from both Beijing and Hangzhou from April 2016. The Beijing route has been served in the past two summer schedules by China Southern Airlines and Hainan Airlines, but Hangzhou will be a new market not just for Birmingham, but the UK. In fact alongside the airline’s flight to Copenhagen, KLM is the only other carrier to link the city to Europe, via its Amsterdam Schiphol hub.
Although Beijing Capital Airlines has made an official application to the CAAC to serve Birmingham, it is understood to have only held informal discussions with the airport’s management and no agreement has yet been reached should it get the green light from Chinese authorities to serve the market. CAAC is seeking formal replies to the request before ruling on the application after November 10, 2015.
In an interview with the Chinese media following the arrival of the A330 in China in July this year, Xu Xin, chief executive officer, Beijing Capital Airlines said that over the next five years the carrier intends to purchase at least 30 widebody aircraft to open more international routes between Chinese cities and major overseas tourist destinations.
"My company focuses on tourism market so we must open more overseas routes, which requires us to maintain a fleet of large jetliners," he said.
Alongside the flights to Copenhagen, Beijing Capital Airlines has also applied to the CAAC to serve the Finnish capital Helsinki from Beijing, again through a partnership with Caissa. . It is also seeking permission to begin flights between Hangzhou and Madrid from December 2015 and Qingdao and Melbourne in July 2016.
Although these flights will initially operate as charter packages it is understood to be Beijing Capital Airlines goal to develop them into scheduled operations in the future. It is now the seventh mainland Chinese carrier to introduce long-haul flights after Air China, China Eastern, China Southern, Hainan Airlines, Sichuan Airlines and Xiamen Airlines.