The pandemic brought great challenges to Beijing Capital Airlines – the only airline operating a direct line between Portugal and China – but the company is confident that with the reopening of the country it will be able to resume its routes between Lisbon, Beijing and Xi’an, indicates the general director of the company in Portugal
It was in July 2017 that Beijing Capital Airlines inaugurated its first direct air link between China and Portugal, a 13-hour flight between Lisbon and Beijing, with three weekly departures, complemented by a connection to Hangzhou in the east of the country.
Also read: China suspends direct flights with Portugal
At once, Portugal would be connected to the Chinese capital and the capital of Zhejiang province, one of China’s most prosperous and one of its most important technological centers.
A good part of the Chinese community living in Portugal also comes from this province, as well as many Chinese living in other European countries.
The company transported more than 80 thousand passengers in its first year, with the connection at the time being recognized as an important step in the “One Belt, One Road” initiative promoted by the Chinese President.
“Lisbon-Xi’an was a great route for tourism, as it allowed us to develop a still quite young market, Portuguese tourism to China, as well as Chinese tourism to Portugal. At the same time, it also allowed us to strengthen the Silk Road between the two countries. In that sense, we think our journey has been very successful,” emphasizes the company’s general manager in Portugal, Coral Chen.
Also read: Direct flight between China and Portugal resumes
In 2017, the number of Chinese tourists visiting Portugal had increased by 40.7 percent, to 74,268, compared to the previous year, and Portuguese tourism authorities predicted an exponential increase in that number in the coming years. Two years later, in 2019, the company would replace that connection with a Lisbon-Xi’an-Beijing route, in an attempt to increase tourist flows to one of the country’s historic capitals, known for its Terracotta Army.
That year, the flight was also marked as a celebration of the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, and of 40 years of relations between the two countries.
However, the route would then be suspended repeatedly during the pandemic, with flights to China subject to a “circuit breaker” policy, whereby connections could be suspended for between two weeks and a month, depending on the number of cases detected on a flight.
Established in 2010, e Capital Airlines is a Chinese low-cost airline based at Beijing Daxing International Airport
Beijing Daxing International Airport, and a subsidiary of Hainan Airlines, part of China’s HNA group, one of the country’s largest airlines.
Also read: Covid cases lead China to suspend direct flight from Portugal for a month
When the first Capital Airlines link was established, HNA was a shareholder in TAP, through the Atlantic Gateway consortium, and the Brazilian company Azul. Following the bankruptcy of its previous owner, Hainan Airlines was placed in early December 2021 under the management of a new investor, Liaoning Fangda Group Industrial.
Hainan Airlines pointed out that rising fuel costs, geopolitical tensions, and unpredictable pandemic prevention policies in the country were its biggest challenges in 2022. In the first nine months of the year, Hainan Airlines reported losses of 20.8 billion yuan compared to 3.4 billion in the same period of the previous year.
In September this year the route would resume, but only between Lisbon and Hangzhou, with two weekly flights for now.
“The flight leaves on Fridays from Hangzhou and on Saturdays from Lisbon. In the future, depending on the market, we hope to increase the frequency,” Chan indicates to PLATAFORMA.
Also read: China announces nationwide loosening of Covid restrictions
“The pandemic brought us many new challenges and we had to adapt. We hope that our new route between Lisbon and Hangzhou will be as successful or more successful.
According to the CEO of Capital Airlines, the price of a ticket for a flight from Lisbon to Hangzhou in low season is around 1,900 to 2,200 euros, reaching up to 3,000 euros in high season.
“From Hangzhou to Lisbon the price ranges from around 950 euros in low season, up to 1,300 euros in high season. However, the market is always changing, with prices fluctuating according to the market,” he notes.
REOPENING OF THE SKIES
In November of this year, Chinese authorities cancelled the system of suspending flights from entering the country, one of many signs of an expected gradual reopening of the country to the outside world after nearly three years of tight preventive measures.
“The regulations were changed [in November], we will see how they will affect the market, but we hope that we can operate steadily and steadily in the coming months.”
Asked whether the Chinese airline plans to add new routes between the two countries, Chen replies that Bejing Capital Airlines remains focused on its one current route, but that it will “evaluate the possibility of increasing the frequency” of the Lisbon-Hangzhou connection and look into resuming previous routes with Beijing and Xi’an.
“Many of our international routes were suspended during the pandemic, so first we will stabilize our Hangzhou-Lisbon flight, and then maybe evaluate the reopening of our other long-suspended routes,” Chen tells PLATAFORMA.
“We also have a great partnership with TAP, so passengers can always buy connecting tickets between Lisbon and all TAP destinations.”
Este artigo está disponível em: Português