A second direct flight will be connecting Brussels and China from this summer, brussels airlines and Hainan Airlines have announced.
Starting 21 July, the bi-weekly flight operated by Chinese carrier Hainan Airlines will run on Wednesdays and Sundays to the south-eastern city of Shenzhen, near Hong Kong. This will be the second direct connection from Brussels Airport to China, the same airline running daily flights to Beijing.
The Brussels – Shenzhen connection was first introduced in 2018, but got suspended during the Covid-19 pandemic. Having some of the strictest travel restrictions around the world, China has only recently abandoned its infamous zero-Covid policy. Destinations around the world only started reactivating their direct air connections with China at the beginning of 2023.
A few weeks ahead the restart of the Brussels – Shenzhen route, two other important connections to Europe will also be reactivated, Edinburgh – Beijing and Dublin – Beijing, on 26 June and 27 June respectively. These will also be served twice a week, on Mondays and Fridays and on Tuesdays and Saturdays respectively.
With travel demand ramping up however, China’s aviation industry is facing a cabin crew shortage. After a three-year pause linked to the pandemic, once Chinese authorities decided to lift restrictions and started issuing visas again, airlines have been struggling to cope with the urgent need of hiring more staff.
According to data from the Civil Aviation Administration (CAAC), the total number of flight attendants in China fell by around 11,000, or an 11% drop from the pre-pandemic level of 108,955 in 2019. According to Reuters, companies such as Xiamen Airlines, China Southern Airlines and Spring Airlines are actively hiring. Hainan Airlines which plans to hire more than 1,000 flight attendants this year, has already received more than 20,000 applications, the airline told Reuters.
CAAC announced it is currently reviewing applications to resume international flights that have been halted since early 2020 or abandoned altogether. The agency admits that international flights will resume more slowly than the Chinese domestic market.
“If the market recovers well, the number of international flights (to and from China) by the end of the year is expected to reach about 80% of the pre-pandemic Covid-19 level, with about 7,300 flights per week,” CAAC Director Liang Nan said. “Chinese and foreign airlines are optimistic about international flights.”
Nan said several factors could slow the restart of international flights, including a shortage of capacity and uncertainty about demand. According to data from Flight Master, China’s domestic capacity surpassed 2019 levels from mid-March, International flights, however, have recovered to just 30% of pre-pandemic levels.