As Prime Minister Theresa May sets off on a trade mission to China, research out today underscores the value of frequent, direct connections between the UK’s only hub airport, Heathrow, and China. It also identifies the urgent need to add capacity on these routes in order to support the Government’s trade strategy.
The research, carried out by Frontier Economics, reveals Heathrow’s direct flights to China already contribute more than £510m annually to the UK economy and creates nearly 15,000 jobs. Just one extra flight per week, on to these existing routes, will provide a further cash injection of £16m a year as a result of increased business travel, and stimulation for increased trade and investment between China and the UK.
This incremental increase in capacity could also support an additional 530 jobs annually, a small taste of the opportunities that will accompany up to 40 new-long haul routes and increased route frequency that Heathrow’sexpansion will create.
At a critical time in Britain’s future global trading relationship, Heathrow acts as a vital link between China and the UK, offering more than 100 direct flights to China every week. Of these, 55 go to Hong Kong, 22 to Shanghai, 20 to Beijing, 10 to Guangzhou and two to Qingdao. Of the £510m annual contribution by existing routes, £315m is made up by Hong Kong, followed by Beijing and Shanghai.
While connections to Chinese cities are clearly valuable to the UK, rival EU hub airports with capacity to cope are able to fly to 14 other Chinese destinations, opening up more trade and investment to their respective countries.
Frontier Economics points out the role Heathrow plays as a port of higher value, higher-tech commodities such as aircraft and spacecraft, optical and photographic instruments, pharmaceuticals and electricals and in facilitating trade in sectors ranging from manufacturing to artificial intelligence.
Heathrow provides regional connections to the North East, where Chinese company TusPark is in the process of setting up its first innovation centre – which will focus on strengthening links between UK and Chinese companies. Connectivity is also a key factor in continuing the growth of Chinese students studying in UK universities – which how grown by 14% between 2012/13 and 2016/2017.