AMSTERDAM, HOLLAND — Dutch airline KLM has announced plans to restart flights to Beijing and increase flights to Shanghai during the summer months, while Swiss International Air Lines will be resuming passenger flights to Shanghai.

These developments mark the latest effort by European carriers to restore their passenger service networks to mainland China as travel restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic ease in the region.

KLM, operating through its SkyTeam partner Korean Air's base in Seoul Incheon, has been providing services to Shanghai since July 2020, with a frequency of three flights a week. The airline has now unveiled plans to increase its presence in Shanghai and restart flights to Beijing. Starting on March 26th, the airline will offer six flights a week to both cities, with the frequency increasing to daily by May.

"The Chinese market is important to the KLM network because of the level of demand from business travelers," the airline says.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, KLM, as a member of the SkyTeam alliance, served five destinations in mainland China including Chengdu, Hangzhou, Xiamen, Beijing, and Shanghai. This summer, the airline also plans to increase its frequency to Hong Kong to three flights a week.

KLM's sister company, Air France, has already announced its intention to resume daily flights to both Beijing and Shanghai starting from July 1st. Currently, Air France operates weekly flights to Beijing and has recently added a third weekly rotation to its Paris-Shanghai route. Prior to the pandemic, the airline also served Wuhan.

Swiss International Air Lines, a member of the Lufthansa Group, has announced plans to resume its weekly flights connecting Zurich to Shanghai starting March 3rd and increase the frequency to three flights a week starting in April. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the airline operated daily flights to Shanghai and four flights a week to Beijing.

Despite the easing of travel restrictions in China since early January, the restoration of air services to the country has seen a slow response from both European carriers and governments.

As China saw a surge in COVID-19 cases when it relaxed its zero-Covid policy, several European countries implemented new testing requirements for travelers arriving from the country.

At the same time, airlines, many of whom are struggling with a shortage of aircraft, took a cautious approach to restore capacity to China. Serving China has also become more difficult as route times have increased due to restrictions on European carriers' ability to fly over Russia. This restriction does not apply to Chinese airlines.

European carriers have begun to announce their plans to restore flight services to China, with a focus primarily on Beijing and Shanghai. British Airways has announced plans to resume daily flights to Shanghai and offer four flights a week to Beijing this summer. Meanwhile, another UK-based airline, Virgin Atlantic, plans to restore daily flights to Shanghai in May.

Austrian Airlines resumed its twice-weekly flights to Shanghai in January, just like its partner in the Lufthansa Group, Swiss. Both airlines served Beijing and Shanghai before the pandemic. Lufthansa, which served five destinations in China, including Nanjing, Qingdao, and Shenyang before the pandemic, has not yet revealed any further plans to increase frequency since the easing of travel restrictions in China.