Virgin Atlantic is returning to Shanghai for the first time since December 2020, following the easing of travel restrictions in China.

The airline will resume daily flights from London Heathrow to the Chinese city from May 1, with fares starting from £669 per person. The flights will be operated by a B787-9 aircraft configured with three cabins.

This is an important relaunch for Virgin Atlantic considering its imminent membership of Skyteam. Juha Jarvinen confirmed to Business Traveller that this will take place in March.

Shanghai is a hub to Skyteam partner China Eastern, and Virgin Atlantic customers will soon be able to connect to onward services, while Flying Club members will be able to earn and redeem Virgin Points across China Eastern’s flying programme.

Juha Jarvinen, chief commercial officer at Virgin Atlantic, commented:

The return of our Shanghai services has been a long-time coming and I’m delighted it’s finally a reality. We’re looking forward to welcoming our customers back on board and providing vital links to one of the UK’s largest trading partners, for both passenger and cargo services.”

He also told Business Traveller:

“We should not forget that China Eastern is one of the biggest alliances. Being in the same alliance, with Shanghai as their home hub, that gives us great opportunity to connect domestically in China but also regionally – they have a big network in Asia and down to Australia as well. It’s a great way to improve our domestic China position and regional position.”

There was no confirmation of future route launches in Asia, though Jarvinen said that Virgin was “exploring opportunities”.

This marks Virgin Atlantic’s final route to be reinstated following the pandemic, having been closed for a total of 859 days by the time it relaunches.

Earlier this year the airline announced that it will not reinstate its route to Hong Kong, owing to the closure of Russian airspace and commercial viability of the service.

Virgin Atlantic drops Hong Kong route

Customers do not need to provide proof of vaccination to enter China but must show proof of a negative pre-departure PCR test alongside a health declaration form. Passengers arriving from China into the UK must also take a negative PCR or lateral flow test.

Virgin Atlantic is also set to launch flights to the Maldives and Turks and Caicos in autumn 2023, while also doubling capacity to Tel Aviv this summer.