The North is set for an economic boost as it was confirmed direct air links with China will be restored for the first time since the start of the pandemic.
Hainan Airlines has announced it will resume its Beijing-Manchester service from Monday 22nd August.
The airline started flights from the Northern hub in 2016, with the route going on to unlock hundreds of millions of pounds in trade, investment and tourism benefits.
The UK and Chinese governments last week agreed Manchester-China was one of the air corridors that could resume after a two-and-a-half year hiatus, and Hainan has moved quickly to start operating the popular service again, in time for the busy student season.
The news has been hailed as a major boost to the North and the UK’s levelling-up ambitions, with Manchester Airport becoming the only gateway outside of London with a direct service to mainland China.
Chris Woodroofe, Managing Director of Manchester Airport, said:
“Today’s announcement is clear evidence of the vital economic role that Manchester Airport plays, both in the North and the UK as a whole, as we emerge from the pandemic.
“Prior to 2020, the Hainan service provided vital connectivity to one of the world’s most important economies and I am sure this news will be welcomed by the hundreds of thousands of people across the North who travel to and from China each year.
“It is extremely positive to see critical routes like this return to our departure boards and we look forward to working closely with Hainan Airlines to build on the previous success of this route.”
Pre-pandemic, there were around 100,000 people a year who travelled between Manchester and Beijing from the airport’s catchment area.
Economic impact studies showed the route led to a 38% increase in Chinese visitors to the North, with an average spend per visit increasing by 94%, and export values grew by 41%.
The return of the route will also be incredibly encouraging for the more than 40 universities across the airport’s catchment area that welcome thousands of Chinese students each year.
Due to policy in China, the outbound service to Beijing will initially stop in the Chinese city of Dalian, but the inbound service will be direct from Beijing. From October the service will operate on a Tuesday.
Tao Zhu, the CEO from Hainan Airlines said:
“It is great to bring Hainan Airlines back to Manchester. Hainan Airlines is a 5-star Skytrax rated airline and we will operate an A330 aircraft on the route offering both economy and business classes. The flight arrives in Manchester at 10:00 each Monday and departs at 15:00.
“At the beginning of the resumption of flight, it will travel via Dalian first. After completing the seven days quarantine, passengers will be able to fly to other destinations within China according to their preferences.”
VisitEngland/VisitBritain CEO Patricia Yates said:
“We want to deliver a world-class welcome for returning Chinese visitors and the resumption of services making it easier for them to get here is a crucial part of our competitive tourism offer and recovery post-covid.
In 2019 China was the UK’s second most valuable inbound market, worth £1.7 Billion and Hainan’s direct route to Manchester will not only act as a gateway to the greater North West but also make it easier for visitors to come and explore regional Britain spreading the economic benefits of tourism growth across the UK.”
Rachel McQueen, Chief Executive of Marketing Lancashire said:
“This is great news for our county-wide plan to increase international leisure and business visits to Lancashire, and will also help those already trading with China and businesses looking for new markets to build even stronger ties. Our universities have established links through their student communities and partnerships such as UCLan’s collaboration with Hebei University and the research and activities of Lancaster University’s China Centre, a focal point for people interested in China and its relations with the UK and the rest of the world.
“Lancashire is blessed with two areas of outstanding natural beauty, an amazing coastline, historic cities and some of the finest places to eat and stay in the UK, as well as the proposed Eden Project North planned for Morecambe – all within easy access of Manchester Airport. Our work promoting the destination on a global level goes hand in hand with our support for tourism and hospitality partners in Lancashire; helping to equip them with the knowledge and tools to maximise the opportunities that regular links with major international destinations provide.
“We look forward to working with MAG and sector colleagues across Lancashire and the North West, to welcome back visitors from Beijing and beyond.”
Hainan’s on-board service is highly-rated. Lie flat beds in business class provide optimum comfort and relaxation. Hainan Airlines chooses only fresh ingredients for its on-board meals. Passengers can sample the tastes of the world as they fly to China. Delicate and delicious Chinese food allows them to experience a taste of China. However, other world foods are also on offer, allowing passengers to experience their taste of home thousands of miles away. International award-winning beverages enhance the culinary experience. Furthermore, an extensive entertainment service is also available for passengers to enjoy as they while away the hours onboard.
The route resumption has been welcomed by organisations across the North.
For more information see www.manchesterairport.co.uk or www.hainanairlines.com. The outbound route will initially operate via Dalian, where passengers quarantine for seven days, in line with Chinese regulations. The inbound service will be direct from Beijing