North of England boosted by fourfold increase in direct flights from Manchester to mainland China

Source: Manchester Airports Group 21 April 2023

Passengers will once again be able to choose from four flights a week between Manchester and mainland China, it has been confirmed.

Hainan Airlines launched its route to Beijing in 2016, which delivered a huge economic and cultural boost to the region in the years that followed.

Covid-related travel restrictions meant the service was paused, until a single weekly flight resumed in August 2022.

It has proven so popular with travellers, Hainan has now increased the service to four-times-a-week, from April. Flights will operate from Manchester to Beijing every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday, all by the Airbus A330 aircraft.

Manchester Airport Managing Director Chris Woodroofe said:

“The economic benefits of more regular flights between Manchester and Beijing will be significant, whether that be in terms of trade, tourism or inward investment.

“But the positive impacts go beyond that; Manchester’s Chinese community is part of the fabric of the city, and this increase in frequency will make it much easier for people to travel in both directions to visit friends and family.

“As the final international travel restrictions have been removed, it has been hugely exciting to see services like this return to full strength, underlining Manchester Airport’s role as the UK’s global gateway in the North,

“I look forward to working with Hainan Airlines to make this service as successful as possible.”

Manchester is home to one of the country’s biggest and most well-established Chinese communities. Manchester’s Chinatown was first established more than 100 years ago and the city’s first Chinese restaurant – the Ping Hong in Mosley Street – opened in 1948.

According to the 2011 Census more than 13,500 Chinese residents live in Manchester, more than any city in the UK outside London.

A further 8,000 Chinese residents live in Liverpool, 7,000 in Sheffield and 6,000 in Leeds. The routes between Manchester and Beijing have been popular with communities across the North.

The news has been welcomed by the Chinese community and civic leaders.

Rhys Whalley, Chief Executive of the Manchester China Forum said:

“We’re delighted to see Hainan Airlines confirming its plans to return to pre-pandemic frequencies with 4 flights per week between Manchester and Beijing. With COVID restrictions only having been lifted two months ago, this signals a remarkable recovery to a critically important long-haul route connecting the North of England into the capital of the world’s key growth economy.

“In its first two years of operation, the Manchester-Beijing route stimulated a 40% increase in export values as well as visitor numbers to the region. With International Monetary Fund estimates suggesting that China will represent a third of global growth in 2023 and its outbound tourism market expected to exceed US$163 billion by 2024, direct links will undoubtedly underpin the region’s ambitions to stimulate growth through enhanced connectivity with this key global consumer market.”

Henri Murison, Chief Executive of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said:

“This is great news not just for Manchester but the whole of the North of England. Manchester Airport acts as the North’s long-haul hub, giving us access to key global markets such as China which are absolutely vital for our economy, unlocking billions through trade, tourism and investment.

“It’s also critical for supporting the thousands of international students, who come to the Northern Powerhouse to study at our world-leading universities.

“Export values grew 41% to £1.29bn in the two years after the route first launched in 2016, while enquiries from China about investment in the Greater Manchester area doubled.

“Our own analysis found that inward investment into the North from Asia has grown significantly in recent years and now that regular flights have resumed, we hope this upward trend can continue.”

Further quotes from business and tourism leaders across the North:

Emma Degg, CEO, North West Business Leadership Team, said:

“The North West is a region built on trade and we need the right connections to the rest of the world to prosper and grow. We know that enquiries about investment in the area from China doubled in the two years after the route first launched from Manchester Airport in 2016.

“The news that flights between Manchester and Beijing are returning to pre-pandemic levels opens up new future opportunities for businesses and universities of great value to the North and wider UK PLC.”

Chris Brown, Marketing Liverpool Director, said:

“Hainan flights between Manchester and Beijing returning to pre-pandemic levels is great news for the North West. Increasing the access to key global markets like China is key to developing the regional economy and increasing opportunities for trade and tourism in Liverpool City Region.

“Before the pandemic we saw huge benefits from the regular flights from and to Manchester and are looking forward to continuing to offer a warm welcome to all visitors to the region.”

Liverpool China Partnership Chair Gary Millar said:

“This is tremendous news not just for the City Region and beyond, whilst giving the North an economic boost, this will also enable passengers to more easily travel to Beijing, with the additional benefit of connecting to Hainan’s 10 other hub cities across the People’s Republic of China.

“It is also good news for the region’s student and visitor economies, further opening up access for visitors to the Liverpool City Region, the North West, North Wales and the Isle of Man and is great timing for our partners as they ramp up support for their long term friendships and further develop our many successful city to city relationships.”

Rachel McQueen, Chief Executive of Marketing Lancashire, said:

“We’re delighted to hear of the return to pre-pandemic levels of flights between Manchester and Beijing, which will help boost existing trade and education links with Lancashire and provide opportunities to explore new partnerships with China.

“The increased frequency of flights will also support tourism recovery across the North West and in particular our own visitor economy plan to grow international markets; especially as we look forward to new multi-million pound developments such as the Morecambe Eden Project and Showtown in Blackpool, attracting visitors from all over the world to Lancashire.

“The North West has so much to offer with the delights of city, coast and countryside always within easy reach, and the very best of English culture, history and hospitality at every turn. This news is very welcome and we look forward to working with Manchester Airport to introduce many more visitors to Lancashire.”

Tony Attard OBE DL, Group Chairman of Burnley-based textile firm Panaz, said:

“As one of Europe’s largest suppliers of antimicrobial medical textiles and a UK leader in the manufacture of safe and beautiful contract fabrics, the team at Panaz is pleased to hear this news.

“The Pandemic has restricted communications between the business community in the northwest and China since February 2020.

“That three-year gap has severely affected our trading opportunities and so it is of substantial benefit that the opportunity to travel more frequently with a significant trading partner, through Manchester Airport, has increased.”

Jennifer Cormack, Sales and Marketing Director for Windermere Lake Cruises and Chair of The English Lake District China Forum, said:

“It’s such fantastic news that flights between Manchester and Beijing are returning to pre pandemic levels. Before the travel disruption, China was our largest overseas international market so it’s hugely reassuring to see this happening.

“We have been working hard to drive our appeal to overseas markets and these flight routes will be a big help. We are already starting to see a small number of Chinese visitors returning to the region and the China Outbound Tourism Institute says the second quarter of 2023, and especially the second half of 2023, will see a wave of Chinese outbound visitors, looking for new experiences and new destinations. We look forward to visitor numbers here growing as word spreads again that Windermere and the wider Lake District are a world-class, must-see destination.

“These regular flights into the North West, with the tourists they bring, will impact the regional economy, create and support employment and help bring success to our local businesses.”

Sue Clarke, Marketing Manager at Cumbria Tourism, said:

“We are thrilled that flights from Beijing to Manchester Airport are returning to their pre-pandemic schedule and look forward to welcoming more of the Chinese market back to our beautiful county.

“China is a key market for our county, with pre-pandemic international tourism making 10% of the overall visitor economy in Cumbria. The Lake District, Cumbria has proven itself as a popular choice among Chinese tourists who are particularly drawn to the region’s rich history and culture, so we are delighted to welcome back frequent flights from such a key international travel trade market.”

Jo Lappin, Chief Executive of Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership, said:

“I am delighted to see flights between Manchester and Beijing returning to pre-pandemic levels, given that visitors from China have made up the greatest number of international visitors to the Lake District and the many attractions in Cumbria more widely.

“The visitor economy in Cumbria is now heading back towards its pre-pandemic value of £3.13billion and the return of Chinese visitors will provide a further boost to the sector’s full recovery from the aftereffects of the pandemic. Cumbria very much looks forward to welcoming Chinese visitors to sample all that our visitor economy has to offer.”

Terry Hayward, Chief Executive of North Cheshire Chamber, said:

“The news that Hainan Airlines are to increase flights between Manchester and Beijing to 4 per week, returning to pre-pandemic levels, is excellent news for the North West.

“China is an important trading partner and anything that makes it easier for businesses to connect is welcome.  Whether visiting partners, suppliers, manufacturers or customers, being able to fly directly removes barriers and increases opportunity.

“But there are also wider benefits to be had from a more regular direct service; for Chinese businesses looking to locate in the UK, for in-bound tourism from China and for Chinese students attending or choosing a university here in the UK, this new schedule makes our region a more attractive proposition.”

Philip Cox, Chief Executive, Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership, said:

“Leisure and tourism are key sectors for Cheshire and Warrington and we’re looking forward to welcoming even more tourists and business visitors from Beijing into our region, with the increase in direct flights into Manchester Airport.

“The four weekly flights will open up opportunities not only for tourism but also for investment and trade across the Cheshire Science Corridor, especially in areas such as life sciences and Net Zero where we can offer world leading infrastructure and technology.”

Kenny Murrary, General Manager, Cheshire Oaks, said:

“We welcome the news that Hainan Airlines is increasing its number of flights from Beijing to Manchester to pre-pandemic levels.

“This will support the ongoing recovery of Chinese tourism arrivals in the region in 2023 and beyond. Chinese visitors have always played an important role in our international customer mix and it has been great to finally see them return to Cheshire Oaks Designer Outlet since the beginning of this year.”

Sheona Southern, Managing Director of Marketing Manchester, said:

China is a key global market for Greater Manchester, and it is welcome news that Hainan Airlines will increase its direct flight frequency from Beijing to Manchester Airport with four flights per week.

“This increased route capacity will be hugely beneficial to Greater Manchester’s visitor economy, with pre-Covid spend generating a £260m boost to the local economy, and a wealth of other benefits such as increased opportunities for trade and tourism, offering a positive impact on accommodation bookings, retail, restaurants and attractions throughout the region, alongside an increase in Chinese visitors choosing Greater Manchester as a place to visit, live, work, study and invest.”

Adrian Ellis, General Manager at The Lowry Hotel and Chair of Manchester Hoteliers Association, said:

“The increase of this direct route from Manchester Airport to Beijing to pre-pandemic levels will be well received by many hotels and tourist attractions across Greater Manchester and beyond.

“At The Lowry Hotel we saw a noticeable increase in visitors from China when the route started several years ago, and we cannot wait to welcome even more visitors.”

John Cooper, partner at Deloitte and board member of the Manchester China Forum, said:

“International connectivity is essential in supporting the continued growth of the city of Manchester and wider region, bringing with it both trade and tourism opportunities.

“As the world continues to open up post-pandemic, increased access to the global market remains a priority for the region, helping to spread economic prosperity and support the levelling-up of the North West.”


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