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When Etihad flight EY888 landed in Beijing this morning at 05:25 (local time) it was a significant occasion. After all the turmoil that the past two years have thrown up, EY888 signaled the start of the first regular non-stop international passenger service to Beijing by a foreign carrier since the Chinese capital’s authorities announced that services could resume.
If you’ve spent the past few months in the US, the UK, the Middle East, or Europe, you could be forgiven for thinking that the whole world has already made significant strides back towards the “normality” that we were all living before Covid came along. For some parts of the world, however, that’s not how things have been and as far as Beijing goes, there were talks of a new lockdown (possibly limited to specific areas) as recently as the second week of June.
That’s why today’s news from Etihad is so good.
For the airline, EY888 (numbered specifically to highlight a number regarded as being lucky in Chinese culture) was the first direct service between Abu Dhabi and Beijing since 23 March 2020. For everyone else, it is a sign that China may finally be back on track in its fight against Coid and, possibly, ready to end the cycle of lockdowns and false reopenings.
Tony Douglas, Group Chief Executive Officer of the Etihad Aviation Group, is quoted as saying the following:
“Today marks a significant moment in Etihad’s history as passenger flights resume to Beijing for the first time in over 800 days. The direct flights between Abu Dhabi and Beijing will undoubtedly facilitate the deepening of bilateral cooperation in various fields and promote stronger bonds among the people of the two nations.
“As global travel restrictions rapidly ease, Etihad is equipped to further increase operations to China and meet the rising demand from travellers in both locations to support the recovery of economic and social activities worldwide.”
I’ve checked the schedules of a number of major airlines and as far as I can see, the likes of Lufthansa, KLM, Air France, British Airways, Emirates, Singapore Airlines, JAL, American Airlines, Delta, and Qantas don’t have any non-stop flights scheduled to operate to Beijing in the next couple of weeks, and not even Qatar Airways – the airline that operated the most routes during the darkest days of the pandemic – appears to have any imminent plans to return to the Chinese capital.
Etihad, however, is back…albeit only on a twice-weekly schedule:
EY888 AUH 01:00 – 12:25 PEK (Wed)
EY889 PEK 18:35 – 23:35 AUH (Thu)
The route is being operated by a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner featuring 28 Business Class seats and 271 Economy Class seats, but don’t expect to see the new Etihad Business Class suite flying to and from Beijing just yet as the aircraft fitted with that cabin aren’t expected into the fleet until 2023.
Etihad has today become the first foreign carrier to resume a regular non-stop service to Beijing and will serve the Chinese capital twice weekly from its base in Abu Dhabi. Now we just have to sit back and wait to see which global airline (or airlines) will be the next to follow suit.
If anyone has details of any other airlines with plans to restart non-stop service to Abu Dhabi, let me know and I’ll update this article.
Featured image courtesy of Etihad