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New air deal paves way for more flights from China to Britain's regions
From:Xinhua  |  2017-12-11 06:33

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by Larry Neild

LONDON, Dec. 10 (Xinhua) -- Britain's regions are set for an economic boost after a landmark agreement for a 50 percent boost in the number of flights allowed between Britain and China, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling announced Sunday.

Grayling unveiled the deal, which will allow for a huge expansion in routes from regional airports, saying it will potentially boost local economies by hundreds of millions of dollars by opening up new business and tourism opportunities.

The Department of Transport (DfT) announcement builds on successful discussions in October 2016 that saw limits on passenger flights between Britain and China raised from 40 per week to a maximum of 100.

A spokesman for the DfT said: "The number of Chinese tourists visiting Britain has rocketed during the first half of this year. Between January and June, 115,000 visits were made from China to the UK, a rise of 47 percent on the same period last year. Spending also increased to 231 million pounds (310 million U.S. dollars), up 54 percent.

Grayling said: "These agreements are an important part of preparing Britain for a post-Brexit world and making sure we have access to key markets in the Far East, and they come at a time when our exports are growing and we continue to attract international investment. It just underlines that Britain will do well regardless of the outcome of the Brexit negotiations."

Under the current arrangement, agreed in October 2016, a maximum of 100 passenger flights per week can operate between the UK and China, with this figure set to increase to 150 under the terms of the new deal.

The DfT said Chinese tourists are some of Britain's highest spenders, staying longer and travelling more than visitors from other countries.

Last year, Manchester airport launched the first direct regional flight to Beijing, worth an estimated 335 million U.S. dollars in economic benefits to Britain over the next decade. Hainan Airlines has already added more flights to the Chinese capital from Manchester.

During the same year restrictions were relaxed allowing an unlimited number of cargo flights to operate between Britain and China. By the end of 2016 more than 74,000 tonnes of freight had been transported between Britain and China by air, an increase of 27 percent when compared to 2015.

At the start ofb December the carrier Cathay Pacific gave its Manchester to Hong Kong direct service a boost by introducing a daily service, marking three years since its inaugural flight in December 2014. The airline said it was increasing its service from five flights per week in response to customers' growing demand.