A direct air link between Manchester and China is due to be restored today (Monday) for the first time since the start of the pandemic.
Hainan Airlines is to resume flights from Beijing after 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.
Due to policy in China, the outbound flight will initially stop in the Chinese city of Dalian where passengers must undergo quarantine for seven days, but the inbound connection will be direct from Beijing. The service will operate on Tuesdays from October.
Hainan has moved quickly to start operating the two-class service again using an Airbus A330 in time for the busy student travel season. More than 40 universities across the airport’s catchment area that welcome thousands of Chinese students each year.
The airline started serving the northern hub in 2016, with Manchester becoming the only gateway outside London with a direct service to mainland China.
Around 100,000 people a year travelled between Manchester and Beijing from the airport’s catchment area before the pandemic.
Economic impact studies showed the route led to a 38% increase in Chinese visitors to the north, with an average spend per visit rising by 94%, and export values grew by 41%.
Airport managing director Chris Woodroofe 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.”
Hainan Airlines chief executive Tao Zhu said: “At the beginning of the resumption of [the] 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.”
Zheng Xiyuan, consul general of the People’s Republic of China to Manchester, said: “The route was suspended due to Covid-19, but even so, Hainan Airlines continued to send tens of thousands of Chinese students to Manchester on charter flights during the pandemic.”
VisitEngland/VisitBritain chief executive 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.”