Gatwick Airport’s long-haul network continues to grow with Air China launching flights to Chengdu on 3 July, the UK’s only non-stop link to the capital of Sichuan province.
Air China will operate three flights a week on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays leaving at 22.00h, and arriving in Chengdu at 15.40h using an Airbus A330-300, providing over 1,500 tonnes of cargo capacity per year.
Chengdu is China’s fourth largest city, located in the geographic centre of the country and is developing the country’s largest western transport and logistics hub.
This development is boosted by the nation’s ‘Belt and Road’ initiative to stimulate trade and economic growth across Asia and beyond into Europe.
The city is also home to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, and Sichuan Province is home to around 80 per cent of China’s wild panda population.
Gatwick Airport chief commercial officer, Guy Stephenson says: “Chengdu is a strategically important destination and a major logistical hub so this new route – the UK’s only direct flight – opens up a range of opportunities to access markets throughout central and western China, be it by air, road or rail.”
He adds: “This new service is Gatwick’s 67th long haul route. Our growing long haul network looks set to play an increasingly important role connecting the UK to global markets at this vital stage in the country’s history.”
Air China UK and Ireland general manager, Chen Hongbing says: “Air China’s Gatwick-Chengdu route is the 30th route opened by Air China between China and Europe. We hope to set up an air bridge through this route to provide passengers with more convenience and choice.
“We hope to promote the friendly exchanges between the people from our two countries and promote the political, economic and cultural exchanges between the two cities and the two countries.”
Gatwick Airport has also released its annual results for the 12 months ending 31 March 2018, reporting revenue growth of 5.4 per cent to £764.2 million, while profit before tax was £233.7 million.
The airport has gained a number of long-haul routes including Qatar Airways flying to Doha, China Airlines flying to Taipei, and Norwegian providing connections to Singapore, Buenos Aires, Chicago, Austin, Denver and Seattle.
Cargo increased 20.4 per cent and research by Oxford Economics found that £7.5 billion worth of goods were transported between the UK and overseas markets through flights at or departed from Gatwick in 2017.
Gatwick chief financial officer, Nick Dunn says: “Our increased network drives increased cargo capacity – another example of the vital role Gatwick plays for Britain. As the country prepares for Brexit, it is critical that we continue to grow our long-haul links in addition to connections within the UK and Europe.”