Virgin Atlantic Airways is hoping to expand its London-to-Shanghai direct route to a daily service, in the face of surging traffic between the two cities. Britain and China are planning to hold a second round of talks this summer to discuss expanding air services between the two. Virgin chief executive Steve Ridgway said the airline would lobby for greater frequency to Shanghai, its only destination in the fast-growing Chinese market. Virgin is now flying the route three times a week, with a scheduled expansion to four weekly flights planned in the summer. 'At that point we'll reach the maximum frequency we can fly within the current bilateral [agreement],' Mr Ridgway said. 'There were talks two weeks ago when some Chinese delegations were in London. They were looking to increase passenger frequency between Beijing and Shanghai and also cargo frequencies. There was an outline of the plan of the agreement, but they were not able to reach the agreement,' he said. 'The next round will be in China, in early summer, and hopefully this time we'll be able to see an increase in frequency,' Mr Ridgway said. Virgin has been operating the route since 1999 after British aviation authorities split the mainland market between British Airways and Virgin. BA was restricted to operating the Beijing route from London. Mr Ridgway said he believed talks between Britain and Hong Kong would start in the spring but he warned there would be complications. He would not comment on what he believed were fair reciprocal rights for Hong Kong carriers in exchange for giving Virgin its access to Australia. But he said a big hurdle would be overcoming uncertainties posed by the European Court ruling in October against the legality of air services agreements made with individual European Union states. He said the Shanghai route had performed well for Virgin, given the increased economic linkages between China and Britain. The average load factor of the route was about 77 per cent last year, up about 8 per cent year on year. 'We have an even balance between inbound and outbound passengers . . . and have student, family and business components too,' he said. At present, there were about 200,000 mainland students in Britain, Mr Ridgway said. He also said Virgin had been working closely with the British Consulate in Shanghai to encourage more British-bound mainland tourists. 'We have . . . worked very, very closely with the consulate to build the visa base and process a huge number of visas, like a five-fold [increase]. Eighty per cent in the past were rejected but now 80 per cent are accepted,' he said. 'We certainly have a long-term plan to grow in Asia, particularly in China. In the medium term, Beijing is a logical choice,' said Mr Ridgway, although probably two to three years from reality. 'There are many emerging cities in China, which in time will benefit from the direct services. But again, we've only been flying for three years so far, it will take time.' Virgin interlines on mainland routes with Dragonair to link its British passengers to other destinations in China via Hong Kong. The airline's ultimate aim is to win fifth-freedom concessions from Hong Kong in order to complete the lucrative 'kangaroo route' between Europe and Australia with a stopover in the SAR.