Edinburgh Airport to confirm direct flights to China

Hainan Airlines will link the Capital with Beijing, a route Edinburgh Airport has sought for a long time, Picture: REX/Shutterstock
Hainan Airlines will link the Capital with Beijing, a route Edinburgh Airport has sought for a long time, Picture: REX/Shutterstock
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EDINBURGH Airport will today confirm direct flights to China are to take-off from the city.

The long-awaited air route will see Hainan Airlines operate a service between the Capital, Dublin and Beijing.

An industry source said: “It is a route which the airport has been seeking for a long time.”

Edinburgh has pursued direct Chinese flights for years because of their huge potential for bringing tourists to Scotland and developing business links.

Scottish ministers have described it as a “key priority” for route development.

Hainan Airlines applied to the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) to fly to new destinations in the UK and Ireland last month.

Destinations included the Beijing to Edinburgh to Dublin return route, flying twice weekly from June as well as Changsha to London three times a week and Guangzhou to Manchester three times weekly from December.

Currently, passengers flying to and from China cannot travel directly from Scotland.

Hainan Airlines route to Manchester, which started in June 2016 is claimed will be worth £250 million in economic benefits to the UK over the next decade.

Eager to capitalise on the valuable Chinese tourism, student and visitor economy, project Edinburgh-China Air Link was launched in 2015.

Delivered and funded by Marketing Edinburgh, Edinburgh Airport and the city council, the project aimed to make a high-value direct carrier route between Edinburgh and China a reality.

And just last May, Edinburgh Airport and Beijing Capital International Airport signed a ground-breaking partnership agreement.

They agreed to “collaborate to develop a shared understanding of markets and shared operational and commercial opportunities”.

A total of 41,000 visits were made from China to Scotland in 2016, which generated spending of £36m. Scottish exports to China reached £2.5 billion in the year to last September.

Now ranked in the top 12 of Scotland’s international inbound markets, ­Chinese visitor numbers to the country have increased by 230 per cent in the last ten years.

Edinburgh is the number one UK destination outside of ­London, attracting 82 per cent of Scotland’s total Chinese inbound visitor market, which reached a value of £25.78m in 2016, accounting for 71 per cent of Chinese visitor spend in Scotland overall.

A new deal struck in December also increased the number of permitted flights between the UK and China. It involved an extra 50 flights a week to and from non-London airports being allowed after the total from the UK was increased from 40 to 100 in 2016.

An Edinburgh Airport spokesman said: “We would not comment on any speculation.”

Council leader Adam McVey has welcomed the new direct flight path between the Scotland and China’s capital cities.

In response to the announcement, he said: “Edinburgh’s connections are being strengthened and expanded across the world. Great for business, great for the Capital.”

newsen@edinburghnews.com