UK and China allow more direct flights

Updated 2017-12-14 09:34:11 China Daily
A British Airways captain poses for photographs on a panda-themed airplane at the Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport in Sichuan province. (Photo by Xie Minggang/For China Daily)

A British Airways captain poses for photographs on a panda-themed airplane at the Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport in Sichuan province. (Photo by Xie Minggang/For China Daily)

The United Kingdom and China have agreed to raise the limit on the number of direct weekly flights between the two nations to 150 from 100. The UK government said the move was the first of several "open skies" deals struck in an effort to increase trade post-Brexit.

The deal follows an agreement in October 2016 to raise the limit from 40 to 100.

Such services are regulated internationally, typically through bilateral agreements that limit the number and type of flights.

Currently, despite the deal allowing up to 100 flights a week, there are only around 60.

UK Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said the new agreement is an "important part of preparing Britain" for its future outside the European Union.

"It just underlines that Britain will do well, regardless of the outcome of the Brexit negotiations," Grayling said.

Several new services have been set up recently, including a direct route between Manchester and Beijing operated by Hainan Airlines, and China Airlines' renewal of a London-Taipei link.

Zheng Lei, director of the Center for Aviation Research at the University of Surrey, said the UK government may be anticipating continued growth in the number of visitors from China. Between January and June, 115,000 visitors from China arrived in the UK, an increase of 47 percent on the same period in 2016.

"They are possibly expecting more demand," Zheng said. "China is in the process of negotiating traffic restrictions with countries in continental Europe as well, including France. So, the UK is trying to get ahead and be more proactive."

Zheng said demand is what will ultimately lead to airlines and airports establishing new routes.

"Eventually, it's down to the airlines to decide whether or not to utilize the new traffic rights," he said. "If there is no demand, the airlines won't operate the route, otherwise they will lose money. Profitability is really the main concern."

Local authorities in several large UK cities, including Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Birmingham, have lobbied extensively for direct links with China.

Denise Hill, head of market strategy at VisitScotland, welcomed the news.

"The relaxation of restrictions on flights between China and the UK is great news and we are confident that, when this results in a reappraisal of the options open to them, airlines will be encouraged by the strong performance delivered by Scotland," Hill said.

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