UK missing out on growth due to lack of Chinese connections

Heathrow Airport, China Southern aircraft coming in to land, February 2014.

Direct flights from Heathrow Airport to China are worth £510 million per year but the UK is missing out due to a lack of connections, a report claims.

As Prime Minister Theresa May flies off on a trade mission to China, the report from New Frontier Economics says direct flights contribute £510 million per year to GDP to the UK economy, creating 14,550 jobs, and that an additional flight could generate an additional £16 million per week to GDP.

It says the £16 million would come from increased business travel and stimulation for increased trade and investment between the UK and China whether it is on an existing route or a new one.

The Frontier report says Heathrow plays a role as a port of higher value, higher tech commodities such as aircraft and spacecraft, optical and photographic instruments, pharmaceuticals and electronics and in facilitating trade in sectors ranging from manufacturing to artificial intelligence.

Heathrow Airport chief executive officer, John Holland-Kaye says this further reinforces the need for a third runway, saying: “Heathrow is proud of its role as a gateway to these vital Chinese markets; enabling global trade as the UK’s largest port by value, acting as a catalyst for thousands of jobs for the local community and contributing billions to the UK economy.

“Expansion of Heathrow is a chance to deepen relations between China and the UK; as the report highlights, just one extra route could contribute hundreds of jobs and millions to the UK’s GDP.  As the country prepares to leave the EU and China’s economy continues to grow exponentially, this is an opportunity the UK cannot afford to miss.”

Increasing capacity would support an additional 530 jobs annually, and could accommodate up to 40 new long haul routes and increase trade.

There are more than 100 direct flights between the UK and China every week, with 55 going to Hong Kong, 22 to Shanghai, 20 to Beijing, 10 to Guangzhou and two to Qingdao.

Of the £510 million figure, Hong Kong is the most valuable city worth £315 million, followed by Beijing and Shanghai, but European Union (EU) rivals have links to 14 other Chinese destinations.

The 14 cities the report highlights that are served by EU rivals but not Heathrow are: Changsha, Chengdu, Chongqing, Hangzhou, Kunming, Nanjing, Sanya, Shenyang, Shenzhen, Tianjin, Urumqi, Wuhan, Xiamen and Xi’an.