The Secretary of State for Transport Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin MP has welcomed the first passengers on a flight from China in the first of an extended series of flights, which, if developed into a daily service, could deliver an additional £81 million to the UK economy each year, including £62 million per year for the West Midlands.
The Boeing 767-300 aircraft, operated by Hainan Airlines, arrived this morning with 233 passengers visiting the UK on organised package tours. This is the first in a series of flights that will see more than 4,000 Chinese visitors to the region over the summer months through packages offered by Caissa Touristic, one of China’s largest tour operators.
Secretary of State for Transport Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin MP said:
“Airports play a vital role in our long-term economic plan so this route between Birmingham and China is a great step forward.
“The new service will showcase the West Midlands to thousands of visitors and potential investors.
“Birmingham Airport’s work towards a daily service shows their commitment to creating opportunities and new jobs in the region.”
Paul Kehoe, CEO of Birmingham Airport, has joined business leaders in hailing the flights as a sign of continued growth in the region:
“Last year’s test of direct Beijing flights were the result of collaborative working with Birmingham City Council, Marketing Birmingham, VisitBritain and the Government. I am delighted that we have been able to push on from last year’s success to offer a series of 34 flights this summer.
“The Midlands is a powerful engine of growth at the heart of our country and needs direct aviation to succeed. As the only region to have a positive balance of trade with China, we know how much the Midlands tourism and manufacturing industries value this direct connection.
“All involved in the deal intend that these Hainan flights will build over the coming years, before becoming the first scheduled service between a non-London UK airport and mainland China.”
A daily scheduled route would offer significant potential economic benefits to the West Midlands. In a forthcoming report being undertaken by York Aviation, the transport analysts say that “such a flight could support additional Gross Value Added in the region of around £62 million a year and around 1350 jobs”. In addition, York Aviation say that the time savings for passengers in the West Midlands, able to fly from Birmingham to China rather than via Heathrow, would be worth £5 million a year to the economy.
Businesses across the region have been quick to welcome this development.