Chinese Carriers Eye More European Routes

New services to Lisbon and Belgrade are planned.

Credit: Avpics/Alamy Stock Photo

Beijing Capital Airlines and Hainan Airlines have each scheduled new European routes as China begins to gradually ease its tough COVID-19 restrictions on international travel.

International capacity from mainland China remains about 95% down on 2019 levels but the country’s civil aviation administration is making moves to revive more overseas flights.

According to data provided by OAG Schedules Analyser, Beijing Capital plans to launch a new route to Lisbon (LIS) in Portugal from Hangzhou (HGH), a city in China’s Zhejiang province with a population of around 10 million.

The LCC intends to begin flights between the destinations on Aug. 26, operating once a week using Airbus A330-200 aircraft. Flights will take place on Fridays.

Beijing Capital already serves Lisbon from Xi'an Xianyang (XIY)—currently its only service to Europe—but pre-pandemic the carrier offered flights to Madrid (MAD), London Heathrow (LHR) and Moscow Sheremetyevo (SVO).

Hainan Airlines has also scheduled a new European route, which could launch as soon as July 16. The airline plans to begin nonstop flights between Beijing Capital (PEK) and Belgrade (BEG) in Serbia, flying once a week.

Hainan currently serves Brussels (BRU) from Beijing Capital, as well as operating from Chongqing (CKG) to Madrid and Rome Fiumicino (FCO). On July 12, the airline also resumed flights from PEK to Moscow Sheremetyevo.

Elsewhere, Air China has returned to Budapest (BUD) in Hungary after a suspension of two years. Flights from Beijing Capital will be once a week using 237-seat A330-200s on the 7,326 km sector.

The airline previously operated the route with a return stop in Belarus’ capital Minsk (MSQ), but BUD-PEK will now operate nonstop.

“More than seven years ago, Air China was the first airline for some years to link us to East Asia,” said Balázs Bogáts, head of airline development at BUD. “While restrictions remain for entry into China, the return of this link will provide vital opportunity for VFR passengers to return home after a two-year hiatus, as well as serving business passengers.”

Analysis of OAG data shows that there are currently 42 airport pairs receiving nonstop flights between mainland China and Europe. Total capacity is 19,126 two-way weekly seats. This compares with 142 airport pairs and 447,761 weekly seats at this time in 2019.