As part of a multi-flight program to various English airports where 1,600 students from the country were brought over to begin or continue their studies at UK universities, the charter was the sixth and final flight on the roster to arrive in the UK.
“[These] ‘students only’ charter flights have provided a timely and useful alternative to UK-bound Chinese students, as many were having to take multiple connections at a significantly high cost to get to their universities in the UK,” said INTO’s director of operations for China, Sam Clews.
“Although scheduled flights are now operating between China and the UK, charter flights are exclusively for students are comparatively cheaper, and most students have found them to be hugely convenient,” Clews continued.
The company launched charter flights for Chinese students in 2021 when flights were disrupted during the pandemic.
The charter flights landed at Heathrow, Manchester and Stansted, using planes from Juneyao Air and Shenzhen Airlines, in a co-ordinated effort between INTO and over 40 UK universities.
One student at INTO University of East Anglia said she chose the chartered flight because it was “non-stop, with no need for layover on the way”.
“This reassured me a lot. I’m terrified of getting lost at the airport – the luggage I was allowed was 2x23kg, so I could bring a lot of things from China,” Jiayi commented.
The collaboration also engaged specialist travel agents to charter the flights, and the umbrella body for UK universities, Universities UK International, for the planning of the flights.
“Charter flights are exclusively for students are comparatively cheaper”
INTO said that all required permissions were obtained for these flights with authorities both in China and the UK, and booking details of the hired planes were “shared by participating UK universities with their enrolled students in China”.
The move comes as soaring prices and difficult connection paths mar the restarting of flights between the UK and China. While direct flights have been reported as restarting, they are often too expensive for groups like students.
The charter flights are not the only developments for INTO in the last month. On September 27, it announced a partnership with top-100 university in the US, University of Massachusetts Amherst.
The agreement will see the two organisations “work closely to further build the university’s profile” in international student mobility markets across 17 UMass master’s degrees.
The bulk of the programs are STEM-designated, and include business, science and engineering.
“With INTO’s unparalleled reach and market knowledge, we look forward to helping some of the best talent in every corner of the world join the world-class UMass community,” said Olivia Streatfeild, CEO of INTO on the announcement.
In terms of the charter flights, INTO’s recruitment VP for the UK Errim Mahmoud said that the world emerging from the pandemic will see the higher ed sector face a “challenging course of recovery”.
“It is vital that international students and UK universities are supported for a seamless return to on campus learning,” Mahmoud added.