British Airways has confirmed it is to suspend its London Heathrow – Chengdu route from Tuesday 12 January 2017.
The last outbound flight from London Heathrow (Flight BA88) will operate on Tuesday 12 January, and the last inbound flight to London Heathrow (Flight BA89) will operate on Wednesday 13 January.
Whilst airlines regularly review their route networks and suspend under-performing routes and it has been known for some time that the Chengdu route is underperforming, the announcement is significant.
China has long been a target market for BA. However, after Chengdu, it serves just two cities in mainland China (Beijing and Shanghai). This is significantly fewer than many European airlines.
BA has been stymied by the lack of local Chinese airline in the Oneworld alliance. Heathrow is too far west to attract connecting traffic to China from mainland Europe. BA has also long complained that the UK visa regime has deterred visitors from China to the UK.
The suspension is also politically significant in that a key argument for the expansion of London Heathrow by adding a third runway is to allow airlines to open new routes to emerging markets in Asia.
This announcement also comes just days after the UK government announced a relaxation of bilaterial agreements between the UK and China which increase the number of permitted flights between the UK and China from 40 to 100 a week.
On a more positive note, BA has recently announced a codeshare arrangement with China Eastern airlines and is now offering connections to Kunming, Xi’an, Nanjing, Hangzhou and Chongqing from Shanghai.
BA has announced initial rebooking options for connecting passengers.
Affected passengers have the option of a full refund, travelling directly to Chengdu on British Airways on an alternative date prior to the route being cancelled, travelling to another BA destination in mainland China (Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai, with any onward travel at your expense)
Passengers can also be accommodated on indirect routes on the following airlines:
1. Etihad Airways from Abu Dhabi to Chengdu
2. Hong Kong Airlines from Hong Kong to Chengdu
3. Dragonair from Hong Kong to Chengdu
4. China Southern from either Beijing, Shanghai or Seoul to Chengdu
5. Asiana from Seoul to Chengdu
In all cases passengers must connect to/from a British Airways operated flight from London Heathrow.