The UK and Chinese governments have agreed that flights between Manchester and China can now resume after a two-and-a-half-year suspension, as Hainan Airlines has announced it will resume its Beijing-Manchester service from today (Monday 22 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, insisted Manchester Airports Group (MAG).
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.
China inbound market worth £1.7 billion to UK
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.”
The route resumption has been welcomed by organisations across the North such as the Manchester China Forum, VisitEngland/VisitBritain and Consul General of the People’s Republic of China to Manchester.
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.”