China Airlines

A China Airlines flight flying out of Heathrow Airport

Heathrow to China routes boost UK economy by £510m, report shows

A new report released to coincide with Theresa May’s latest trade mission to the Far East shows direct flights from Heathrow to China contribute £510m per year in GDP to the UK economy.

As Theresa May sets off on a trade mission to China, research out today (30 Jan) underscores the value of frequent, direct connections between Heathrow and China.

The report, by Frontier Economics, reveals Heathrow’s direct flights to China already contribute more than £510m annually to the UK economy and combined create nearly 15,000 jobs.

It also calls for urgent action to add capacity to these routes in order to support the Government’s trade strategy.

It is predicted that just one extra flight per week will provide a further cash injection of £16m a year as a result of increased business travel, and stimulation for increased trade and investment between China and the UK.  

Heathrow acts as a vital link between China and the UK, offering more than 100 direct flights to China every week. Of these, 55 go to Hong Kong, 22 to Shanghai, 20 to Beijing, 10 to Guangzhou and two to Qingdao.

Of the £510m annual contribution by existing routes, £315m is made up by Hong Kong, followed by Beijing and Shanghai. While connections to Chinese cities are clearly valuable to the UK, rival EU hub airports with capacity to cope are able to fly to 14 other Chinese destinations, opening up more trade and investment to their respective countries.

Frontier Economics points out the role Heathrow plays as a port of higher value, higher-tech commodities such as aircraft and spacecraft, optical and photographic instruments, pharmaceuticals and electricals and in facilitating trade in sectors ranging from manufacturing to artificial intelligence. 

John Holland-Kaye, chief executive of Heathrow Airport, said: “Heathrow is proud of its role as a gateway to these vital Chinese markets; enabling global trade as the UK’s largest port by value, acting as a catalyst for thousands of jobs for the local community and contributing billions to the UK economy.

“Expansion of Heathrow is a chance to deepen relations between China and the UK; as the report highlights, just one extra route could contribute hundreds of jobs and millions to the UK’s GDP. 

“As the country prepares to leave the EU and China’s economy continues to grow exponentially, this is an opportunity the UK cannot afford to miss.”

The planning process for Heathrow expansion is already underway, with the airport carrying out its first public consultation on its emerging plans starting this month.

Parliament is expected to vote on a National Policy Statement in the first half of this year, which will set out the policy framework for Heathrow’s final planning submission.