But some fear the Brexit vote may threaten growth of aviation links between China, UK
More direct flights are becoming available between Britain and China, highlighting growing mobility between the countries thanks to stronger economic, tourism and education ties.
In June, Tianjin Airlines launched a direct flight between Tianjin and London Gatwick Airport, stopping in Chongqing. Hainan Airlines also added a direct flight between Beijing and Manchester.
British Airways started to use the Boeing 787 Dreamliner to provide direct flights between London and Chengdu, Sichuan province, in 2014. Provided to China Daily
However, analysts fear the British referendum vote in favor of leaving the European Union could hit bilateral air traffic between Britain and China, as Chinese investors become reluctant to invest at a time when the British economy faces such uncertainty.
"I fear the adverse consequences of the decision to leave the EU will damage our economy for years to come, making it more expensive for British travelers to holiday or to transact business in China, while also making businesses less attractive to Chinese investment," says Paul Argyle, managing director of Flight Directors, an aviation industry sales and marketing company.
A variety of direct flights already exist between China and Britain, including services between London and Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Chengdu. Manchester Airport also has direct flights to Hong Kong.
"We've witnessed rapidly growing trade, investment and cultural exchanges between China and Britain in recent years," says Wu Hao, vice-chairman and executive vice-president of Tianjin Airlines.
According to statistics from VisitBritain, the official tourism board, more than 1 million passengers traveled between Britain and China last year, an 11 percent increase on 2014. Last year, the number of Chinese tourists visiting Britain grew by 40 percent.
Meanwhile, Chinese student numbers have grown rapidly in Britain. In the 2014-15 academic year, their number exceeded any other nationality, with 89,540 Chinese enrolled in higher education in Britain.
China-UK trade and investment relations remain strong, and a further boost was achieved in October during President Xi Jinping's state visit, which saw the signing of more than 30 commercial deals worth 40 billion pounds ($52.5 billion; 47.8 billion euros).
Robert Goodwill, the British minister of transport, says he hopes the increased connectivity brought by direct flights between the two countries will help to grow an understanding of each other's culture and politics.
London Gatwick's chief commercial officer, Guy Stevenson, is optimistic about the airport's future providing direct flights between China and Britain.
"More than ever, as a country we need to be outward-looking, to establish trade and investment relations with countries like China," he says.
"We will do our best to make (the Tianjin route) successful, and we hope the service will grow from a twice a week service to a daily service in time."
Currently, British Airways is the only domestic airline with direct flights between Britain and China. Chinese airlines flying between the countries include Air China, China Southern Airlines, China Eastern Airlines and Cathay Pacific.
Dan Elliott, head of aviation practice at the Frontier Economics consultancy in London, says Chinese airlines enjoy two potential advantages from flying these routes.
First, he says, they are likely to have a cost advantage. They may have lower labor costs, and with shorter histories compared with Western airlines they are likely to have a younger fleet, meaning their aircraft are more fuel-efficient.
Second, he adds, although Chinese and British airlines can provide exactly the same services to customers, the so-called brand default theory suggests that passengers flying from China and back are more likely to choose a Chinese airline, while those flying from Britain are more likely to choose a British airline due to familiarity with the brands.
( China Daily European Weekly 07/29/2016 page8)
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