Heathrow Airport welcomes 11th Chinese belly route

Heathrow Airport has extended its Chinese route network after last night welcoming its 11th belly route to the country when Shenzhen Airlines’ Airbus A330-300 flew in from Shenzhen.

The thrice weekly service will transport 3,120 tonnes of annual exports and imports to the city known as China’s tech hub and it is  latest in a growing list of new Chinese routes announced by Heathrow this year.

Over 2018, Heathrow has more than doubled its existing direct connections to China –  growing the network from five destinations at the start of the year (Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Qingdao) to 11 with the addition of Chongqing, Wuhan, Sanya, Changsa, Xi’an and now Shenzhen.

Shenzhen has a population of over 12 million people and one of the highest GDP per capita of any city in China. Home to tech giants like Huawei and Tencent  (owner of social media tools WeChat and Weibo), Shenzhen is known as China’s own Silicon Valley.

Heathrow’s latest Trade Tracker Report,  researched by economic analysts CEBR,  shows exports to China via Heathrow have grown by 330 per cent over the last year – with exports between April and June this year totalling £3 billion in value.

While connections to Chinese cities are valuable to the UK, rival EU hub airports with spare capacity are able to connect directly to Chinese destinations like Hangzhou, Chengdu, and Kunming, facilitating more trade and investment to their home countries

By identifying efficiencies and gaps in schedules,  Heathrow has been able to accommodate new routes this year, however it says this is limited and “piecemeal approach” and expansion of the biggest port by value, will allow Britain the opportunity to build and maintain the vitally important trade connections to China the country needs in the long-haul.

Shenzhen Airlines is part owned by Air China and is the 4th largest Chinese carrier. Its direct flight to Heathrow will become Shenzhen Airlines’ first long-haul route, and connect passengers from London, through Shenzhen City to its regional network of 210 domestic routes.

Heathrow’s chief commercial officer, Ross Baker said: “This year, we have focussed on strengthening Heathrow’s role as the UK’s gateway for Chinese trade, commerce and tourism.

“While our passengers and exporters will undoubtedly be pleased with our new Shenzhen connection, along with the other routes we have announced this year, we know that in order to achieve true transformational change for our culture and economy we need the additional capacity for cargo and passengers to reach greater benefits.

“It is the creation of this extra capacity, achieved through Heathrow expansion that will allow Britain to trade on a truly global platform whilst providing Britain with a front door that is the best connected in the world.”