Chengdu and London are getting a non-stop connection this summer with Chinese national carrier Air China launching a new service between Chengdu and London Gatwick on July 3.

The two cities have largely lacked a non-stop connection since the cancellation of British Airways’ London Heathrow-Chengdu service back in January 2017.

Air China will fly its new route three times a week, on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays, using its two-class Airbus A330-300 aircraft. Flights will operate with the following schedule:

Flight No. From To Departs Arrives Days
CA423 Chengdu (CTU) London (LGW) 1550 2000 Tue, Fri, Sun
CA424 London (LGW) Chengdu (CTU) 2200 1540+1

The airline configures its business class cabin on the A330-300 with 30 flatbed seats that recline to a full 180 degrees, laid out in a 2-2-2 configuration. Pitch in the business class cabin is 75 inches while width is 20.78 inches.

The 255 seats in the economy class cabin have a standard pitch of between 31 and 32 inches, along with a width of 18 inches and a 105-degree recline. There are, however, 16 seats in rows 31 and 32 that offer extra legroom, for a total pitch of 37 inches. These seats are rather erroneously labelled as “premium economy” on the airline’s seat map, as the product and layout is essentially the same as the rest of the economy cabin aside from the additional legroom.

Tickets are currently available to purchase, though only via the airline’s Chinese-language website (the route does not currently appear on its English-language sites).

Fares for the inaugural flights, after taxes and surcharges, are currently RMB8,584 (US$1,352) for a return economy class ticket and RMB16,539 (US$2,606) for a return business class ticket.

Chinese airlines have been ramping up their connectivity to London in recent months. Beijing Capital Airlines, Hainan Airlines, Tianjin Airlines and China Southern have each launched or are about to launch new non-stop flights to the British capital, connecting it with Qingdao, Changsha, Xian and Wuhan, respectively.

The growth of routes between the two countries follows an agreement back in December last year to increase the number of permitted flights per week between the UK and China to 150, up from 100.

So far, it has been airlines in China that have capitalised on this increase. British Airways currently only flies non-stop to Beijing and Shanghai on the Chinese mainland, while Virgin Atlantic only flies to Shanghai.

That being said, British Airways CEO, Alex Cruz, has indicated that the carrier intends to have a strong presence in the country. At a media roundtable in Hong Kong back in March, Cruz said the airline “cannot be a major player on the international stage and connect Britain to the world and not have a bigger presence [in China]”.

Currently, this means leaning on its partnerships with Cathay Pacific and Finnair as well as through its codeshares with China Eastern and China Southern.

“Chinese carriers are growing very fast and it’s incredible the number of destinations that are being opened all across Europe,” Cruz added. “We are benefiting together with some of our partnerships on that and we feed some of those airlines, at Heathrow for example. So we will be part of that picture.”