Hainan Airlines has just celebrated 8 months of service between Beijing and Manchester, which began on June 10 when A330-300 B-8287 landed at Manchester at 6:05am in the rain. To celebrate the occasion the aircraft had special 'Hai Manchester' markings displayed on the lower forward fuselage. Hainan Airlines flight attendants prepared limited-edition postcards and British-themed gift sets for each passenger. The 8,089 km route was announced in October 2015 by Xi Jinping as a four times weekly service to be flown by two-class 292 seat A330-300s (32 business and 260 economy). The schedule is as follows:
Flight No. Route Departure Arrival
HU7903 Beijing-Manchester 01:45 06:05 Every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday
HU7904 Manchester-Beijing 12:25 05:50+1 Every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday
The arrival of the first flight was met by Chinese Consul General in Manchester Li Yongsheng, Manchester Airport CEO Charlie Cornish and Hainan Airlines President Xie Haoming. Naturally there was a ribbon cutting, a cake, were speeches in front of a selection of government officials, local business representatives, HNA Group partners and the media. Later the group went to the National Football Museum to "experience the definitive football culture that the city of Manchester is known for". As an Aston Villa fan I take offence at the suggestion that Manchester has the 'definitive football culture' but hey the quote is from a media puff piece!
The route was a major filip for Manchester Airport Group (MAG) as it was the first direct scheduled Chinese service outside of London. Estimates suggested the route will be worth £250m to the UK over the next decade and would stimulate the northern economy, create a link for tertiary education institutions and provide an alternative for the 100,000 passengers per annum travelling to Beijing via Heathrow. As Ken O’Toole, CEO of Manchester Airport said:
“Today’s inaugural flight with Hainan Airlines is clear evidence of the vital economic role that Manchester Airport plays both nationally and regionally within the UK. Providing a direct link between the two cities unlocks significant trade and investment opportunities, which will serve as a shot in the arm to efforts to create a re-energised Northern economy.”
Others were equally as gushing. Xie Haoming, President of Hainan Airlines, said:
“We are delighted to commence our direct scheduled service to Manchester. “I am sure the route between Manchester and Beijing will be incredibly popular and we look forward to developing our relationship with the city.”
Sir Richard Leese, Manchester City Council leader, said the service would help Manchester compete on the world stage, while Rhys Whalley, executive director of the Manchester-China Forum, said it was a ‘significant milestone’ for the entire region.
Hainan's initial summer schedule had a strong 80% load factor assisted by recent changes to the visa term for Chinese national entering the UK from 6 months to 2 years. A ten year multiple entry via programme is also planned. Together these incentives have begun what has been called the ‘Golden Age’ of travel starting between China and the UK.
The Manchester service supports the Chinese "One Belt One Road" policy, an initiative to rebuild a modern equivalent of the ancient Silk Road route. This is part of China's 13th 5 year plan and its national development policy. The route also works both ways however as it too supports the UK's Northern Powerhouse programme designed ot boost economic activity in Northern England.
In addition to this route Hainan already flew in Europe to Berlin Tegel, Brussels, Moscow Sheremetyevo, Paris CDG, Prague, Rome Fiumicino and St. Petersburg. It has also been expanding rapidly across the Pacific opening new services to Los Angeles, from Changsha, and Calgary, from Beijing in 2016. Along with its sister HNA Group airlines (Hong Kong Airlines, Beijing Capital Airlines and Tianjin Airlines) Hainan seems set to be an increasingly major component of Asian traffic at major Western airports in the years to come.
2016, June. Hainan Airlines Makes Manchester, Anna Aero.
2016, June. Manchester's first ever direct flight to mainland China takes off. Manchester Evening News.
2016, June. Hainan Airlines Inaugurates Direct Air Service From Beijing to Manchester. PRNewsWire
I'm Richard Stretton: a fan of classic airliners and airlines who enjoys exploring their history through my collection of die-cast airliners. If you enjoy the site please donate whatever you can to help keep it running: