On July 22 Birmingham Airport welcomed the UK’s first direct flight from China into a non-London airport and inaugurated the use of its recently extended runway as the service departed for its 5,000 mile journey back to Beijing. The UK’s Tourism Minister, Helen Grant MP, visited the Airport to celebrate the historic flight and to congratulate Birmingham Airport on becoming the country’s first gateway to offer Chinese charter packages to the UK.
The flight was welcomed by Lord Popat of Harrow, Government Aviation spokesperson in the House of Lords, alongside dignitaries from the city. The China Southern A330-200 aircraft, operated by Chinese tour operator, Caissa Travel Management Co Ltd, arrived into Birmingham Airport fully laden with 248 tourists venturing into the UK on organised package tours. The charter flights are the first in the UK to operate from China and the sell-out tours demonstrate the enormous demand for more flights between the two countries.
“This is a historic day for Birmingham, and indeed the Midlands region. Never before has a commercial airliner touched down on a runway outside of the Capital from China and we are enormously proud to be the first to make this happen,”said Paul Kehoe, the Airport’s Chief Executive. “We have invested more than £200m in recent years to create an airport that can accommodate more traffic, particularly to and from long-haul markets, and today we saw the first use of our runway extension for what it was intended: to provide direct global connectivity from the Midlands,” Mr Kehoe added.
The airports says these flights are a result of three years’ collaborative working with Birmingham City Council, Marketing Birmingham, VisitBritain and the Government. The partnership forms part of the wider VisitBritain ‘GREAT China Welcome’ campaign, which was announced during the Prime Minister’s visit to China in November 2013 and aims to make the UK the most welcoming destination in Europe for Chinese visitors. Helen Grant, Minister for Tourism, visited the airport today to congratulate it on becoming the country’s first gateway to offer Chinese charter packages to the UK. The Tourism Minister, said:
“Our tourism industry helps us sell the country to the world and is contributing to our long-term economic plan. The new route opened today with a vital trade and tourism partner in China; this is great news for tourism businesses in the Midlands, making it easier and more attractive for Chinese visitors to explore all the fantastic attractions in the Midlands such as the Royal Shakespeare Company, Warwick Castle and the vibrant city of Birmingham itself.”
Lord Popat of Harrow, the Government’s aviation spokesperson in the House of Lords, was at the Airport to welcome the arrival of this historic flight and to greet the passengers, including Mr Ren Jun, Vice President of Caissa Travel Management. Lord Popat said:
“I welcome this inaugural flight from Beijing to Birmingham Airport. As the first direct flight from Beijing to a UK regional airport, this is a very significant moment. This is great news for Birmingham, the West Midlands and the UK, and underscores the role our regional airports have in generating growth as part of the UK’s long term economic plan.”
Birmingham Airport says its runway extension, completed in May this year, provides airlines with unlimited take off range, allowing jets to fly direct to China and beyond, adding: “This puts Birmingham in an ideal place to become an alternative gateway to the UK for long-haul air travel.”