244 Chinese students from Southwest China’s Chongqing Municipality flew to Manchester in the United Kingdom on Saturday via Hainan Airlines, a Chinese airline.
This chartered flight by a domestic airline is the first in 2021 that enables students to return to their studies. An Airbus 330-300 is planned to operate until late October, the latest, Erudera.com reports.
A student surnamed Li told Xinhua at the Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport that there are no direct flights between China and the UK at the moment, which would facilitate the return of Chinese students to their education institutions in the UK, adding that moving to third countries first increases the risk of getting COVID-19.
According to Hainan Airlines, the municipal government of Chongqing and the Chinese Embassy in the United Kingdom will help sending more students to the UK by September and October via charter flights. The airline also told the Global Times on Saturday that tickets will only be sold to Chinese students who must attend UK education institutions.
Since the end of 2020, direct flights between China and the UK have been suspended due to COVID-19 developments. The lack of regular flights between the two countries has pushed universities in the UK to arrange charter flights for the second year in a row, with the assistance of the British higher education company INTO University Partnerships and the local travel agencies.
INTO’s director of operations for China, Sam Clews, announced that that four flights from Hong Kong to London have already been scheduled for September, and a total of 1,200 students have so far booked their seats, exceeding last year’s number when 1,000 INTO students traveled from China to the UK via charter flights.
INTO University Partnerships cooperates with many institutions and has proposed the idea of charter flights to 50 of them. Clews emphasized that students are paying for the direct flights.
The Director for the Business Unit UK and Ireland at Studyportals, Jennifer Bruce, said that students were ready to pay for the charter flights because they want to enjoy the study experience on campuses in a new country, although she added that there has also been a willingness among Chinese students to study online.
According to HESA, China was the top sending country of international students to the UK in 2019/20, followed by India and the United States. In 2019/20, there were 101,855 Chinese students in the UK, 39,360 from India, and 11,255 students from the United States. Meanwhile, according to the Chinese Embassy in the UK, around 216,000 Chinese students are currently studying in the UK.