Heathrow has welcomed the first UK flight arriving directly from the Chinese economic powerhouse of Shenzhen.
Operated by Shenzhen Airlines, this thrice weekly service will transport up to 96,408 passengers a year and 3,120 tonnes of annual exports and imports to the city known as China’s tech hub.
The new route is the 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.
Located just over the border from Hong Kong, and only a short high-speed rail ride away, 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.
Shenzhen Airlines is part owned by Air China and is the fourth largest Chinese carrier by passenger numbers.
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.
Launching the route, Heathrow 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.”