LONDON — National carrier Air China has announced a new nonstop service from Chengdu to London-Gatwick, it will be the first non-stop flight to be operated from there since British Airways shut the service down in 2017.

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The flight will be operated on a three times weekly operation, departing Chengdu on Tuesday, Fridays and Sundays. The route will be operated by the carriers A330-300 aircraft, which is configured with 30 flatbed seats in Business Class that recline to 180 degrees, laid out in a 2-2-2 configuration, followed by 255 seats in Economy Class that offers a total seat pitch of 37 inches.

The route announcement has come as the airline continues to push for an expansion in the London market, it is part of the airline’s planes to compete with Beijing Capital Airlines, Hainan, China Southern and Tianjin Airlines, who have all started, or are due to start direct services to London’s airports.

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As these Chinese carriers continue to expand into the UK and European market, British Airways will need to rethink their strategy for accessing the Chinese market, the carrier has struggled in the past to expand in the Chinese market from its routes to Beijing and Shanghai, ever since they pulled out of Chengdu for the second time the carriers focus moved from expansion to a more conservative approach with the airline singing codeshares with companies like China Southern and Finnair, who they currently rely on to keep a presence in the market.

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In March British Airways CEO Alex Cruz said: “We cannot be a major player on the international stage and connect Britain to the world and not have a bigger presence [In China],”.

This statement was made in the same month that we saw the number of flights permitted between the UK and China increase from 100 to 150 a week, which further emphasizes the growth the Chinese market is going through.

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About 18.5% of the world population lives in China and the aviation is only now reaching a small percentage of that market, with the demand for air travel around the world increasing, China is at the forefront of mass development to not just meet this demand, but connect their country better than ever before.

With the Chinese airlines moving towards connecting the UK to more secondary airports, there has been no confirmation from IAG or British Airways on what their further expansion into the Chinese market will look like, but it will be important for that airline to potentially make that move soon, as companies like Hainan and Air China are now moving into more and more destinations with steady growth of flights into the UK market.