Heathrow today has welcomed Air China’s thrice-weekly service to Chengdu, home to the Giant Panda Breeding Research Base and Sichuan Cuisine. The launch of the service comes as new CEBR research shows a remarkable rise in the value of Chinese exports via Heathrow.
Heathrow’s new route to Chengdu is the airport’s 12th direct connection to China. The number of Chinese connections via the UK’s hub airport has more than doubled since the start of 2018 when there were just five routes available. To fly to Chengdu, Air China will use an A330-200 aircraft facilitating the transport of 80,000 passengers a year and 3,744 tonnes of cargo between China and the UK.
Heathrow’s latest Trade Tracker, by economic analysts CEBR, shows that while China’s own exports have decreased, the exports to China from Heathrow are not showing any sign of slowing down. China is now the third most valuable export destination from the airport, following the US and the EU. Exports via Heathrow to China have grown in value by 135% in 2018 compared to 2017, totaling over £7 billion. The same analysis shows that, on average, every operational hour at Heathrow sees nearly £10 million of exports fly out across the world.
An analysis of Heathrow cargo data value reveals the top exports flying via the airport to China in 2018. The top annual export, pharmaceuticals, was valued at an astounding US$461.05 million. Other top exports by value include:
1. Aerospace materials – US $334.24 million
2. Art – US $151.9 million
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3. Computers – US $67.69 million
4. Clothing and fashion accessories – US $29.8 million
5. Footwear – US $12.6 million
By identifying efficiencies and gaps in schedules, Heathrow has been able to accommodate new routes to China. However, this is a limited and piecemeal approach. Expansion of Heathrow, the UK’s only hub airport and biggest port by value, will allow Britain the opportunity to build and maintain the vitally important trade connections to China the country needs, especially with a future outside the EU.