Gatwick Airport has announced the launch of the UK’s first ever direct flights to Chongqing – one of world’s leading urban centres and a major manufacturing and transportation hub in southwest China.
The twice weekly, year round flights will then continue to China’s fourth largest city, Tianjin, Gatwick said. The move comes as the latest figures from VisitBritain showed that tourist numbers to the UK from China were up 37 percent in the first nine months of 2015.
Starting from June 25, Chinese carrier Tianjin Airlines will operate an Airbus A330 on the new Gatwick-Chongqing-Tianjin route – the airline’s first long haul flights outside Asia, strengthening its existing network serving over a 100 cities across China. The new Gatwick route will depart from the airport every Wednesday and Saturday evening at 22:25.
Guy Stephenson, Gatwick’s Chief Commercial Officer, said: ‘By flying into two of China’s most important economic centres, Gatwick is providing vital direct connections for UK business people into some of the most exciting growth markets on the planet.
‘Tourists from both the UK and China will also benefit, as will non-exporting businesses located in the UK as Chinese visitors are some of the highest spenders. The number of tourists from China also grew almost 40% last year alone and these numbers are only going to rise.
‘The two new Chinese destinations compliment Gatwick’s growing long haul network which now boasts over 50 destinations on four continents.’
Patricia Yates, VisitBritain and VisitEngland Director, said: ‘China is the world’s largest outbound market and a huge tourism opportunity for Britain. We have ambitions to double the spend from Chinese visitors to GBP1 billion by 2020 and making it easier for them to get here is obviously a really important step in increasing our competitive tourism offer to this rapidly growing market.’
While Chongqing is well connected to the rest of China, Tianjin is located in northeast China and is the major gateway port serving the capital Beijing. It is also home to a Special Economic Zone. Both cities are currently not flown to from the UK.
To serve the new Gatwick-Chongqing-Tianjin route, Tianjin Airlines will operate an A330 aircraft designed to carry 260-passengers with 18 business class seats and 242 economy class seats, Gatwick Airport said in a release.