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The Manchester-China direct flight resumes

Flights between China and Manchester resume Monday after a two-year hiatus caused by a novel coronavirus pandemic.

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Written by Li Xueqing in London for chinadaily.com.cn, updated on 2022-08-23 03:50

After being grounded for over two and a half years due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, direct flights between China and the northern English city of Manchester resumed on Monday.

The Manchester Airport announced that the Beijing-Manchester route would be resumed by Hainan Airlines beginning on October 1.

The airport claims that due to Chinese policy, outbound flights to Beijing will make an intermediate stop in the city of Dalian, while inbound flights to Beijing will operate nonstop. The service will begin on Tuesdays in October.

Outside of London, Manchester Airport will be the only UK gateway with a direct service to the Chinese mainland.

Manchester Airport CEO Chris Woodroofe remarked, “It is extremely positive to see critical routes like this return to our departure boards.”

Prior to the pandemic, Woodroofe estimated that approximately 100,000 people a year passed through Manchester en route to Beijing.

He continued, “I am sure this news will be welcomed by the hundreds of thousands of people across the North who travel to and from China every year.” The Hainan (Airlines) service “provided vital connectivity to one of the world’s most important economies” before 2020.

The return of the flight has been met with excitement by groups across Northern England and beyond.

Marketing Manchester’s managing director Sheona Southern argued that the direct route would benefit the city in the long run because it would give Chinese tourists a chance to see why Greater Manchester is a great place to live, work, study, and invest.

She referred to the route’s “brilliant success” before COVID-19, citing an increase of 80 percent in passenger numbers between Beijing and Manchester in those two years.

It also resulted in a bolster of 260 million pounds ($305.6 million) to the regional economy.

“China is an important trading partner for the region,” Paul Walters, head of international trade at the Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, said. “This is a very necessary initial step. To be able to travel to China and meet with clients and vendors is a huge benefit for our members.”

North Wales Tourism CEO Jim Jones said the return of the routes was well received because the major regional airport also serves North Wales.

As Jones put it, “we have missed our Asian visitors, so we are looking forward to welcoming them to the region of North Wales.”

Starting in 2016, the direct line served as a vital corridor connecting China and Northern England for nearly four years before it was shut down at the outset of the pandemic due to lockdown measures in both countries.

However, Hainan Airlines continued to send tens of thousands of Chinese students to Manchester via charter flights even after regular flights were canceled due to the pandemic.

According to the Manchester China Forum, nearly 10,000 Chinese students were flown on 43 chartered flights to various universities in the United Kingdom in 2020 and 2021.

Executive Director Rhys Whalley called the return to regularly scheduled flights a “welcome piece of news” that demonstrates better connectivity with China.

Whalley remarked that “the resumption of scheduled services between the UK and China is a very welcome development” that will help speed up recovery from the pandemic and increase cooperation with the world’s leading growth economy.