Over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, China has had some of the strictest and most notorious restrictions in place. Not only that, but it was one of the latest countries in the world to start lifting travel restrictions and quarantine and testing requirements.
In January 2023, China officially abandoned its zero-Covid policy, reopening borders for international travel. After three years of isolations, destinations around the world started reactivating direct air connections with China as soon as the restrictions were lifted. Although various cities like Beijing and Shanghai have been reconnected to the rest of the world as early as February 2023, the latest milestone in the country’s post-Covid reopening is marked by the first direct flight from Wuhan, where the pandemic is considered to have started from, to Europe.
China Southern Airlines flight CZ607, operated on an Airbus A350, took off from Wuhan Tianhe International Airport (WUH) shortly after the scheduled departure time of 3:55 am, local time, on 25 August. Despite spending a total of 11 hours and 13 minutes in the air, the plane touched down at London’s Heathrow Airport on the same day, at only 8:18 am local time, half an hour earlier than the foreseen arrival at 8:50 am local time.
The return flight left Heathrow airport the same day, around 12:55 pm local time and arrived back in Wuhan on 26 August, around 6:40 am local time. This was the first series in a route that will be served weekly from now on. The second journey, scheduled for Friday, 1 September, is bound to depart Wuhan earlier, at 2:15 am local time, and arrive in London at 7:10 am local time, although the schedule for the return flight remains unchanged.
The direct air connection between the two cities was first established in May 2018, with return flights trice a week, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. It was stopped in January 2020 as travel restrictions took over the world. Should China’s aviation recovery continue, paired with the continuous loosening of Covid-related travel requirements, like the recent scrapping of mandatory pre-departure testing, the frequency the Wuhan-London route is operated could soon return to its pre-pandemic level.