This weekend, Heathrow welcomed its first flight arriving directly from the Chinese megacity of Chongqing.
Operated by Tianjin Airlines, this thrice weekly service will be able to transport up to 81,000 passengers a year and offer space for 3,744 tonnes of annual exports and imports to this megacity in the Chinese interior.
According to census data, Chongqing is the most populous Chinese municipality and is still growing.
It is a popular tourist destination, used as a launching point for scenic boat trips down the Yangtze River, through the Three Gorges Dam.
Visitors can get lost in the maze of back streets in Chongqing’s Cíqìkǒu Ancient Town, which features buildings dating back to the Ming dynasty.
For those with adventurous culinary tastes, Chongqing offers its famous hotpots, tongue-numbing, spicy broths that have grown so popular that they have their own dedicated festival in November.
Tianjin airlines will fly an Airbus A330-200 on the service, which will depart from Heathrow on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.
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.
Last year 2.8 million passengers – an increase of nearly two per cent from 2016 - and 137,000 tonnes of cargo – an increase of more than ten per cent from 2016 - travelled directly to and from China from Heathrow.
While connections to Chinese cities are valuable to the UK, rival EU hub airports with spare capacity are able to connect directly to eight other Chinese destinations, including mega cities like Hangzhou, Chengdu, and Kunming, facilitating more tourism, trade and investment to their home countries.
Ross Baker, Heathrow chief commercial officer, said: “We are tremendously pleased to welcome our tenth direct connection to China – and direct link to some of the most stunning scenery and culinary experiences China has to offer.
“Heathrow is proud of its role as the UK’s Hub airport and biggest gateway for Chinese passengers and cargo going between our two countries.
“But we have much further to go, and now that Parliament has voted unequivocally in favour of Heathrow expansion we will ensure London, and the UK, become the destination of choice for Chinese trade, tourism, and investment.”