Stansted in talks with airlines over direct flights to China
Direct flights between Stansted and China could soon be a reality, says the airport's chief executive.
Ken O’Toole was speaking at the Parliamentary launch of the East of England China Forum, which aims to stimulate inward investment, tourism spend, student links and export opportunities.
The event was held in the House of Commons’ members dining room and hosted by Cambridge’s Labour MP and shadow transport minister Daniel Zeichner, who was among speakers at the event.
It was attended by 150 political and business leaders, including a delegation from China’s Jiangsu province.
Mr O’Toole said: “Our expectation is that today’s launch will eventually culminate in the securing of a direct link between Stansted and China.
“Certainly on the basis of the discussions we are already having with a range of Chinese carriers, I see no reason why Stansted cannot be the Chinese gateway to the East of England for investors and tourists looking to take advantage of all the exciting opportunities available to them.
“As many of you will have seen first-hand, the East of England is increasingly playing a leading role in heralding a golden era of economic co-operation between the UK and China.”
The forum, facilitated by the airport, brings together business groups, local government, tourism agencies and universities. It aims to foster stronger links with China, which last year accounted for 30% of all global economic growth.
The country’s expansion has boosted UK-bound tourism and investment, and the combined value of imports and exports between the East of England and China was valued at £4.3bn in 2016.
Mr Zeichner said: “I want to thank Stansted and Essex County Council for hosting and establishing the forum, aspiring to emulate the success of similar initiatives in Manchester.
“I also want to note the recent decision that will allow expansion at Stansted and highlight the importance of Stansted within the regional economy; as a member of the Transport Select Committee, I also note the opportunities for Stansted given the shortage of capacity in the South East while the third runway at Heathrow continues to be considered; and most important of all for today, reflected on the huge growth of links with China in Cambridge.
“So for both Cambridge and the wider region, this is a very important opportunity to foster better links and hopefully direct communications with regions in China.”
Zhou Changqing, deputy director general of the department of commerce of Jiangsu province, said: “We are in a golden era of economic co-operation between China and UK and we need to further strengthen the local exchanges.
“Jiangsu and Essex have a long-standing relationship – we would like to further enhance the co-operation with the East of England. I strongly believe, based on practical local exchanges, there will be a brighter future for comprehensive China-UK co-operation.”
A similar forum involving Manchester Airport, where Mr O’Toole was previously CEO, helped to secure direct flights to Hong Kong in 2014 and Beijing in 2016. The Beijing route prompted exports from the north of England to China to increase by 260% to £200m a month, while the number of Chinese visitors to the north increased by more than 50%.
Businesses interested in joining the forum can contact eastchinaforum @stanstedairport.com.