Air China launches nonstop flights to Gatwick
Updated: 2012-05-04 10:07
By Zhang Chunyan in London (China Daily)
Air China Ltd aircraft at Beijing Capital International Airport. The Chinese flag carrier runs daily direct flights from London Heathrow to Beijing that take about 10 hours. New flights between Beijing and London Gatwick Airport will be served by the state-of-the-art Airbus SAS A330-200 aircraft. [Photo/ China Daily]
Air China Ltd launched new nonstop flights between Beijing and London Gatwick Airport on Wednesday, increasing its capacity on the route by more than 50 percent.
The Chinese flag carrier already runs daily direct flights from London Heathrow to Beijing that take about 10 hours.
The four nonstop flights from Gatwick to Beijing will leave on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday at 1:15 pm London time.
The new flights will be served by the state-of-the-art Airbus SAS A330-200 aircraft.
Wu Xiaoming, UK general manager for Air China, told China Daily that there are "strong links and exchanges" between the two national capitals.
According to official figures, more than 1 million business people, students and tourists travel between China and the UK every year.
"This is a milestone for Air China and an ideal opportunity for the company to respond to ever-increasing demand", Wu said.
"We also provide more options as we expect more Chinese people to visit the UK and more British people to explore China's beauty," Wu added.
This year is the 40th anniversary of China-UK full diplomatic relations, as well as 60 years of the British Queen's reign and the London Olympics.
Although London's largest airport, Heathrow, is better known in China, it is operating at near-full capacity, making further expansion difficult.
Gatwick, London's second-largest international airport, saw this as an opportunity to attract airlines from emerging markets where the demand for quality flights is growing.
"Broadening trade links with fast-growing developing markets is a priority for the UK, but in order to achieve this, London needs to retain its status as one of the best-connected cities in the world," Guy Stephenson, chief commercial officer at Gatwick Airport, said.
"Gatwick not only has the capacity to grow to serve 40 million passengers by 2020 but also has the ability to serve London just as effectively as Heathrow (at) less than half the cost," Stephenson said.
Gatwick has invested to provide new, modern facilities, such as family and premium lanes at security checkpoints, and luxury retailers at the airport and minimized the use of bus boarding.
Gatwick's attempt to attract Asian airlines has so far been successful. Vietnam Airlines launched flights from Gatwick to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City in December, Hong Kong Airlines launched its first service between Hong Kong and London Gatwick in March, and Korean Air launched a London-Seoul service last month.