China Southern adds two belly routes into Heathrow Airport

China Southern has added two new direct Airbus A330 services from Heathrow Airport to the Chinese cities of Wuhan and Sanya.

Yesterday, the carrier started three-weekly service to Wuhan, a city referred to as the ‘Chicago of China’, and will begin two weekly scheduled services to Sanya on Hainan Island on 12 July.

Both destinations are a first for direct routes into Heathrow, the connection to Sanya is a first for Europe. These routes will allow for over 6,000 tonnes of additional cargo capacity.

Despite, the positive news and the boost it will provide exporters, the airport said European hub airports competitors are still flying to 10 more Chinese destinations and continue to have a competitive advantage in connecting to China.

Heathrow said while connections to Chinese cities are clearly valuable to the UK, rival EU hub airports with capacity to connect directly to other Chinese destinations, are facilitating more trade and investment to their respective countries.

There are 10 Chinese destinations served by European airports that are not served directly by the UK hub including Chengdu, Hangzhou, Kunming, Nanjing, Shenyang, Shenzhen, Tianjin, Urumqi, Xiamen and Chongqing.

In 2018, Heathrow has already started routes to Changsa and Xi’an adding to those serviced last year in China in the shape of Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Qingdao.

Last year’s services to China via Heathrow contributed £510 million to the UK economy, and supported up to 15,000 jobs, according to Frontier Economics.

The Government is expected to vote on a National Policy Statement on Heathrow’s plans for expansion over the coming weeks. Expansion will allow the airport the capacity to offer up to 40 new long haul destinations, as well as double its cargo capacity.

The news of these new routes comes as Heathrow’s Export Climate Index for Q1, carried out by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), reveals that the value of exports passing through Heathrow to non-EU destinations increased by £2.9 billion compared to Q1 in 2017.

However, the Export Climate Index has also shown growth in passenger numbers remains constant due the capacity constraints faced by Heathrow. Combined with the Index’s evidence that sea freight is declining, the airport said there is a risk that British exporters could look for alternative routes via European Hub airports to get their goods and services to long-haul markets.

Heathrow’s chairman, Lord Deighton said: “Today’s Export Climate Index results show that UK exporters are making the most of what they’ve got – and doubtless, they are excited about our new Chinese routes, and the untapped trade and investment opportunities these open up.

“However, our exporters also know they are at a disadvantage compared to their European counterparts, because Heathrow’s lack of capacity still means we are taking a limited and piecemeal approach to building long-haul trade routes.

“Heathrow is not only the country’s biggest airport, but also its biggest port by value – it is vital that we expand this key component of our trading infrastructure as we look for export opportunities outside the EU.

“A third runway will better enable British exporters to compete on a global stage, and we urge the Government to table its final National Policy Statement on expansion so that Parliament can vote and we can get on and deliver it.”