UK and China renew bilateral deal so each could have 100 return flights (up from 40) per week

The DfT has renewed the bilateral aviation agreement with China, to allow more weekly flights between the two countries. Until now, the limit had been 40 flights by UK airlines to China per week, and return 40 flights by Chinese airlines to the UK. This has been raised to 100 flights each. There will be no limit on the number of all-cargo services (but most Heathrow freight goes as belly hold, not separate freighter). Currently Chinese airlines operate 38 flights a week between the two countries, and UK airlines operate 29.  The only UK airports that have flights to  China are Heathrow and Manchester.  The earlier deal was that any UK airline could serve a maximum of 6 separate airports in China. Now UK airlines can operate to anywhere in mainland China. Laying on the hype, Chris Grayling, the Transport Secretary, said the deal was a “big moment for the UK”. However, airlines will have to decide whether it makes sense to use the extra capacity to offer new Chinese flights to and from China, with doubtful demand, when transatlantic routes are more profitable. The hope is probably for more UK business and UK exports. The DfT ignores the problem that the UK imports from China more than twice as much as it exports to China. More flights may exacerbate that. House of Commons Library data says that: “In 2014, UK exports to China were worth £18.7 billion. Imports from China were £38.3 billion. The UK had a trade deficit of £19.6 billion with China.”  Flights to and from Hong Kong are in a separate bilateral deal.



Summary – from the House of Commons Briefing on  “Statistics on UK trade with China”  Nov 2015

This note provides some key statistics on the UK’s trade with China.

They are taken from the Office for National Statistics Pink Book 2015 (see tables in Chapter 9).

• In 2014, UK exports to China were worth £18.7 billion. Imports from China were £38.3 billion. The UK had a trade deficit of £19.6 billion with China.

• The UK had a surplus with China on trade in services, outweighed by a deficit on trade in goods.

• China accounts for 3.6% of UK exports and 7.0% of all UK imports.

• China is the 7th largest export market for the UK and the 3rd largest source of imports


P 3 of

House of Commons Library. Statistics of UK trade with China  Cbp-7379


DfT press release

UK and China to increase flights between both countries in boost for Global Britain

11th October 2016

Chris Grayling, DfT

UK and China have agreed a deal to increase flights between the 2 nations.

The UK and China have agreed to more than double the number of flights allowed to operate between the 2 countries, following successful negotiations in London today (11 October 2016).

The move is set to boost tourism and trade opportunities for the UK – links which will be vital as we look to build a confident, Global Britain after Brexit.  [Of course, it will probably mean more outbound trips, and more inbound imports than inbound tourists, or outbound exports. This other side of the coin is never mentioned. AirportWatch comment].

Under the new deal passenger flights can now increase from the current maximum of 40 per week for each nation to up to 100. There will be no limit on the number of all-cargo services, creating new opportunities for UK trade and businesses. [Heathrow currently has almost NO pure cargo flights – almost all freight is belly hold in passenger planes. Link to CAA data  AW comment].

A restriction on the number of destinations that airlines can serve has also been lifted, meaning services can be operated between any point in the UK and any point in China. Up until now, airlines could only serve 6 destinations in each country.  [Are there really more than 6 UK airports needing direct links to China?  Is there that much demand? There are only two at present, Heathrow and Manchester. AW comment] 

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said:

This deal is a big moment for the UK. Strong connections with emerging markets like China are vital for us if we are to continue competing on the global economic stage. Hundreds of thousands of Chinese people visit the UK every year, spending hundreds of millions of pounds. Raising the number of permitted flights between the 2 countries will provide massive opportunities for our businesses, helping increase trade, create jobs and boost our economy up and down the country.

UK and China sign new deal to increase flights between both countries in boost for Global Britain.  Aviation Minister Lord Ahmad said:

I am delighted that talks between the UK and China have concluded successfully as a result of which flight limits will be increased, thereby enabling airlines to operate more services between the 2 countries. These new arrangements will further strengthen British – Sino relations. Post Brexit, improving trade links with key markets such as China will boost exports and tourism, as well as helping create jobs and strengthening our local economies. This deal demonstrates that the UK is very much open for business.

Visits from China are on the increase. Visits in 2015 were up 46% on 2014 to almost 270,000. Spend increased by 18% to £586 million during the same period, moving China into the UK’s top 10 most valuable inbound markets.  [Note – no mention of imports or outbound British leisure trips.  Just the exports and the Chinese visitors.  AW note]

Earlier this year Manchester Airport launched the first direct route between the UK and China from an airport outside of London, bringing an estimated £250 million in economic benefits to the UK over the next decade.

The final decision on additional flights is a commercial one for airlines.



See earlier:

Hainan Airlines direct flights (4 per week) from Manchester to Beijing start on June 10th

Hainan Airlines will start flying (4 times per week) from Manchester Airport to Beijing from June 10th, as the first direct service from the north of England to mainland China. There are already flights from Manchester to Hong Kong. Some businesses including tourism hope this “will deliver a major boost to the region.” The University of Manchester is reported to believe the link will be a significant benefit to students. Faster air links to emerging markets could boost UK exports (they could also boost UK imports, which generally exceed exports). There are the usual comments like: “The Manchester Airport expansion shows that the city is ready to become an outward looking economic powerhouse” and there is even an expectation that it “will deliver an economic boost to the UK worth £250m” (no details or time-scale given …. it never is). Currently, more than 100,000 people from the North (about 6,350 from North Wales) fly to mainland China every year but have to travel indirectly via London or other overseas hubs. Manchester hopes that the flights will bring “hundreds of thousands of tourists to this part of the world every year.” North Wales Tourism and Bangor University have both praised the new service to Beijing and hope it “will unlock new opportunities for the area.” Many thousands more people will not need to use Heathrow for their travel to China.

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Manchester airport hope its first direct flight to Hong Kong will bring business and tourism boost

There is now a new direct Cathay Pacific flight from Manchester to China (Hong Kong), avoiding the need to hub via Heathrow, or any other European airport. This makes Manchester the first airport outside London to offer a non-stop direct route to China – which may be a boost to the region’s economy. There will be 4 flights per week. The airport hopes rich Chinese visitors – as well as business people – will come direct to Manchester, rather than all going to London. Manchester’s “Airport City” has had key investment from the Beijing Construction and Engineering Group. It has taken Charlie Cornish, CEO of Manchester Airports Group, 3 years to secure the link. Mr Cornish has been appealed to the Airports Commission to ensure the country’s future aviation needs are met by a ‘network of regional airports’ – rather than money ploughed solely into Gatwick and Heathrow. The route will be operated by a Boeing 777-300ER, which can carry 300 passengers. From Hong Kong, passengers can connect to 22 cities in mainland China. As they have done successfully from flights from Heathrow for decades – without more direct city links from Heathrow. The UK has always had good links to Hong Kong, for historical reasons.

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UK/China agreement to raise number of return flights each is allowed from 31 to 40 per week, and from 6 up to 9 airports

Edit this entry.

Flights between the UK and China are set to increase following an agreement allowing more passenger flights between the two countries. These are controlled, as for all countries, by bilateral agreements to ensure the number is balanced and neither side has too much advantage. Talks were initiated by Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin who launched negotiations on improved air links during a visit to China inOctober 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. ie. nine. The new deal also allows UK airlines greater freedom to codeshare with Chinese carriers on routes within mainland China. The lack of air links to China is due to the limit on weekly flights, and by the level of demand. It is not limited by the number of flights permitted. The numbers of flights to Hong Kong are under a separate agreement from those to China.