Birmingham welcomes first Beijing passengers

Extended series of Chinese flights into city airport.

Beijing BHX

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. Paul Faulkner, the new CEO of Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, has responded to the announcement, “The expansion of the Birmingham-Beijing links will be a tremendous asset to the region’s business community. The West Midlands continues to be the only UK region enjoying a positive trade balance with China and it is vital that we not only maintain that position but improve on it.

“The airport’s extra links will help enormously and even in this digital age, there is nothing like direct contact to create, promote and maintain trade. It will also encourage additional tourism between the two countries, further benefitting the regional economy.”

Robin Tjolle, the Chief Executive of Shakespeare’s England, added: “Shakespeare’s England is proud to support Birmingham Airport in connecting our region to the rest of the world, and China in particular. Tourism is such an important part of the local economy and the development of a direct route to Beijing will help us encourage more Chinese visitors to come to the region and experience some of our history and heritage along with our Shakespeare connections.”