Officials welcome arriving students at Belfast International Airport on Saturday. (Photo: QUEEN'S UNIVERSITY BELFAST)
A chartered Hainan Airlines aircraft took off from Chongqing airport on Monday with 74 Chinese students headed for United Kingdom for studies. This was the first instance of a domestic airline sending Chinese students abroad on a chartered flight, since the novel coronavirus broke out.
According to an announcement on Hainan Airline's official website, the decision to send students on chartered flights was approved by both Chinese and UK authorities. Twenty-three universities had asked for such chartered flights and coordinated with Hainan Airlines to help Chinese students wanting to fly to the UK for their studies.
Media reports say, some 90 chartered flights will ferry 20,000 Chinese students during the UK's back-to-school season from September to November. The International Facts and Figures 2019 report issued in July 2019 by Universities UK, the representative organization of 139 universities, said 106,000 Chinese students are pursuing bachelor's degrees or above in the UK, accounting for 23.2 percent of the total overseas students in the country.
The Chinese media reports that in 2019 China became the biggest source of overseas undergraduate students in the UK, with more than 20,000 candidates applying.
After the sudden outbreak of the novel coronavirus at the beginning of this year, the safety of a large number of Chinese students studying abroad has become China and its citizens' prime concern. Responding to the demands of Chinese students stuck abroad and wishing to return home as the virus was raging in many countries, China arranged special chartered flights, effectively protecting the students' safety and health.
As a new semester approaches, there is now an equally strong desire among some Chinese students to go abroad to pursue higher studies. Such successful cooperation by China and the UK to arrange chartered flights will help the students reach on time for their new semester abroad. Apart from meeting the demands of Chinese students, it also sets a good example of international cooperation during a pandemic.