British Airways’ first aircraft to fly to Chengdu, a Boeing 777-200, has been specially painted to look like a smiling Giant Panda. The special design marks the start of the new three times a week service to Chengdu on September 22. Chengdu is the fourth BA route to China and the first new destination for the airline to the country, since flights were launched to Shanghai in 2005.

BA will be the only UK carrier to offer a direct service between Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport and London Heathrow.

Reflecting the Chinese belief that eight is an auspicious number, the flight number for the service from Chengdu to London is BA88 and BA89 from London to Chengdu.

The route will be served by a four-cabin Boeing 777 with First, Club World , World Traveller Plus and World Traveller.