China Airlines lands in London for first time in five years

By Angus McNeice in London | | Updated: 2017-12-05 01:00

A China Airlines passenger plane landed at a London airport on Friday after taking off in China. It was the first such flight for five years, offering what one airport executive described as a "vital trade boost" during a "critical time" for the United Kingdom economy.

The A350 touched down at Gatwick Airport in the afternoon, following a 13-hour non-stop flight from Taipei in Taiwan province. The plane, which can hold 306 passengers as well as freight, departed on the return leg to Taipei's Taoyuan International Airport that night.

The new route is the only non-stop service from the UK to Taiwan. China Airlines previously flew between Taipei and London's Heathrow Airport for two years between 2010 and 2012.

Gatwick Airport is the second-busiest airport in the UK and one of six international airports that serve the London Metropolitan area.

The majority of UK airfreight is exported in the hold of long haul passenger aircraft.

Greg Hands, the UK's international trade minister, said the new service – which will run four times a week – will provide both British and Chinese businesses with fast access to both markets, in addition to carrying business and leisure passengers.

"This renewed direct flight between London and Taipei is another vote of confidence in the British economy," Hands said from Gatwick Airport.

Guy Stephenson, chief commercial officer at Gatwick Airport, said the service will provide a new link between the UK and China during "a critical time in our economic history".

The health and nature of Britain's trading relationships with major economies, including China, is the subject of debate due to the UK's pending exit from the European Union.

"The new route will boost trade between our two enterprising economies and help our businesses to get goods to market as quickly and efficiently as possible," Stephenson said.

The UK economy has benefited from increased air traffic from China in recent years. Hainan Airlines launched a direct route between Beijing and Manchester, in Northern England, in June last year.

Since then, exports from Northern England to China have almost tripled, to 200 million pounds ($270 million) a month, and the amount spent by Chinese tourists in Manchester has doubled to 138 million pounds a year, according to a report by the Manchester China Forum and Manchester Airport.

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