Flights between the UK and China are set to increase following an agreement allowing more passenger flights between the two countries.
Talks were initiated by Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin who launched negotiations on improved air links during a visit to China in October last year.
The previous agreement, last updated in 2011, limited the passenger airlines of both countries to a maximum of 31 return services per week in each direction, serving up to six destinations in each country.
The new deal will increase the weekly maximum available to both countries to 40 direct flights in each direction, and allow UK airlines to serve up to three more Chinese cities than previously.
McLoughlin said: “Providing airlines from both countries the room they need to grow in this rapidly expanding market will ensure the UK can truly compete on the global economic stage. Chinese visitors to the UK contributed hundreds of millions to the British economy in 2012 and business ties are blossoming. Improved air services will provide a real boost to trade and tourism, both major drivers of economic growth.”
The new deal also allows UK airlines greater freedom to codeshare with Chinese carriers on routes within mainland China.
UK looks to increase number of UK – China flights through renewed bilateral agreement
http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/bilateral_aviation_agreements_re_2 “China—restricted to six points in the UK and six points in China since 2004 with a current limit of 31 passenger services per week by the airlines of each side allowed;”There is a separate agreement covering Hong Kong.
BAA challenged on claim that it is lack of runway capacity at Heathrow that is limiting flights to China
Also a long article from
Talks to increase the number of direct flights between China and the UK have beenannounced by Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin during a recent visit to Beijing. It was agreed to begin negotiations on an improved bilateral air services agreement with China in early 2014. But is the regulatory framework the main limit on growth from the UK as compared with other European countries?
UK and Chinese carriers currently operate a combined average of 41 weekly scheduled flights, a figure which has grown substantially over the last decade. In 2003 there were only seven weekly scheduled flights by UK airlines and four by Chinese carriers. With the addition of cargo flights the weekly total is closing fast on the existing cap of 62 in peak weeks of the year.
Source: Capstats, 2013
Analysis of other Europe-China markets gives a clear indication of the UK’s relatively weak performance and its high potential for future growth. There are an average of 76 weekly flights from Germany and 61 from France. The Netherlands offers two more Chinese destinations than the UK and even relatively small Finland is able to support four routes, the same number as the UK.
[This ignores the large number of flights the UK has to Hong Kong, dwarfing the other European countries].
|Country||Annual Flights||Weekly Flights||Destinations|
Source: Capstats, 2013
Lufthansa operates 35 weekly flights to China, Air France 33 and KLM 27. In comparison British Airways only operated an average of 14 weekly flights in 2013, although has recently risen to 17 with the addition of three new weekly flights to Chengdu from 22nd September 2013.
|Airline||Annual departures||Average weekly departures|
Source: Capstats, 2013
A new bilateral could permit new designated airlines to fly between the UK and China. The existing bilateral includes bmi as a UK designated carrier, which has now been superseded by events through the acquisition of bmi by British Airways. However, there doesn’t appear to be any obvious UK-based substitute airline that would have either the fleet or the desire to fly long haul services to China. A more likely area of growth may come from the addition of other Chinese carriers. The only other Chinese airline currently flying into Europe is Hainan Airlines which flies from Beijing four times a week to Brussels and three times a week to Berlin. The airline is limited to niche routes without direct competition, making Beijing-London not an obvious choice unless it was to consider airports other than Heathrow. Xiamen Airlines is another candidate as it will receive its first long haul aircraft, the Boeing 787-8, next year, but as a Skyteam member would most likely look to fly from its main base of Xiamen to either Paris or Amsterdam.
Although it may seem an obvious decision for British Airways to add more flights there are three main barriers to overcome. The first is the fact that the airline does not have any codeshare partners in mainland China: there are no Chinese airlines in the Oneworld alliance. This contrasts with Lufthansa in Star Alliance (with Air China and Shenzhen Airlines) and Air France/KLM in Skyteam (with China Eastern, China Southern and Xiamen Air). The impact of this can be seen at Frankfurt where Lufthansa and Air China between them have up to three daily flights to Beijing and two daily flights to Shanghai, whilst Air France and China Eastern have up to four daily flights from Paris to Shanghai. This makes it much more difficult for British Airways to easily justify adding services into China, without the benefit of onward connecting traffic. Chinese airline negotiations are complicated by BA’s close relationship with Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific, a core Oneworld partner.
A second issue facing any airline wanting to add services is the fact that Heathrow is severely slot constrained. Slots can be made available for new entrants but it is virtually impossible to secure consistent timings each day of the week. Of course, there are other alternative airports for London, but history shows that most services from these airports to the Far East have failed. Examples include the recently suspended Air China service from Gatwick to Beijing, Korean between Gatwick and Incheon, both Oasis and Hong Kong Airlines from Gatwick to Hong Kong and AirAsiaX’s services from both Stansted/Gatwick to Kuala Lumpur. At the Chinese end of the route, access to viable slots at both Beijing and Shanghai is problematic for overseas carriers.
The final constraint on UK-China market growth is the relatively complicated and expensive visa process for inbound Chinese tourists. After intensive lobbying from the travel industry the UK Government has recently promised a relaxation of the rules to enable Chinese visitors to the EU Schengen zone to apply for a UK visa, which should encourage more tourism.
There has been a rapid increase in direct services linking the UK and China over the past decade, within the constraints of the current bilateral agreement. However, although demand continues to rise, the likelihood of additional direct services appears fairly low, even if a new bilateral allows more frequencies to be operated in theory. Other constraints, such as the lack of a Chinese Oneworld partner, difficult access to slots and the China-UK visa regime will all need to be resolved if the UK is to match the connectivity offered from its European neighbours.
by Iain Smith