• Major boost for the North as flights to and from China set to restart this Monday from Manchester Airport
  • The service will operate weekly each Monday arriving at 10:00 and departing at 15:00
  • The route’s return is being praised by various organisations across the North including in Merseyside, Cheshire, North Wales, Lancashire, Yorkshire, Greater Manchester, Cumbria
  • The outbound route will initially operate via Dalian, where passengers quarantine for seven days, in line with Chinese regulations. The inbound service will be direct from Beijing
  • Hainan Airlines will use an A330 aircraft with both economy and business classes
  • For more information see: www.manchesterairport.co.uk / www.hainanairlines.com

The North is set for an economic boost as it was confirmed direct air links with China will be restored for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

Hainan Airlines has announced it will resume its Beijing-Manchester service from Monday 22nd August.

The airline started flights from the Northern hub in 2016, with the route going on to unlock hundreds of millions of pounds in trade, investment and tourism benefits.

The UK and Chinese governments last week agreed Manchester-China was one of the air corridors that could resume after a two-and-a-half year hiatus, and Hainan has moved quickly to start operating the popular service again, in time for the busy student season.

The news has been hailed as a major boost to the North and the UK’s levelling-up ambitions, with Manchester Airport becoming the only gateway outside of London with a direct service to mainland China.

Chris Woodroofe, Managing Director of Manchester Airport, said:

“Today’s announcement is clear evidence of the vital economic role that Manchester Airport plays, both in the North and the UK as a whole, as we emerge from the pandemic.

Prior to 2020, the Hainan service provided vital connectivity to one of the world’s most important economies and I am sure this news will be welcomed by the hundreds of thousands of people across the North who travel to and from China each year.

“It is extremely positive to see critical routes like this return to our departure boards and we look forward to working closely with Hainan Airlines to build on the previous success of this route.”

Pre-pandemic, there were around 100,000 people a year who travelled between Manchester and Beijing from the airport’s catchment area. Economic impact studies showed the route led to a 38% increase in Chinese visitors to the North, with an average spend per visit increasing by 94%, and export values grew by 41%.  The return of the route will also be incredibly encouraging for the more than 40 universities across the airport’s catchment area that welcome thousands of Chinese students each year. Due to policy in China, the outbound service to Beijing will initially stop in the Chinese city of Dalian, but the inbound service will be direct from Beijing.  From October the service will operate on a Tuesday.

Tao Zhu, the CEO from Hainan Airlines said:

“It is great to bring Hainan Airlines back to Manchester. Hainan Airlines is a 5-star Skytrax rated airline and we will operate an A330 aircraft on the route offering both economy and business classes. The flight arrives in Manchester at 10:00 each Monday and departs at 15:00. “At the beginning of the resumption of flight, it will travel via Dalian first. After completing the seven days quarantine, passengers will be able to fly to other destinations within China according to their preferences.” "

The route resumption has been welcomed by organisations across the North.

Rhys Whalley, Executive Director, Manchester China Forum (Acting CEO, MIDAS), said:

“We are delighted to see the return of Hainan Airlines to Manchester Airport. This is welcome news and signals our journey back to improved connectivity with Mainland China.

“Over the past couple of years, MCF has worked hand-in-hand with Hainan Airlines, the University of Manchester and wider partners to support students with the continuation of their studies through the operation of charter flights.

“The resumption of scheduled services between the UK and China is a very welcome development and one that will serve to accelerate post-pandemic recovery and engagement with the world’s leading growth economy.”

VisitEngland/VisitBritain CEO Patricia Yates said:

“We want to deliver a world-class welcome for returning Chinese visitors and the resumption of services making it easier for them to get here is a crucial part of our competitive tourism offer and recovery post-covid.

"In 2019 China was the UK’s second most valuable inbound market, worth £1.7 Billion and Hainan’s direct route to Manchester will not only act as a gateway to the greater North West but also make it easier for visitors to come and explore regional Britain spreading the economic benefits of tourism growth across the UK.”

 Zheng Xiyuan, Consul General of the People's Republic of China to Manchester, said:

“On 23 October 2015, President Xi Jinping announced at Manchester Airport that Hainan Airlines would launch a direct flight from Beijing to Manchester, which would build a new bridge of cooperation between the two cities and the two countries.

"The route was suspended due to Covid-19, but even so, Hainan Airlines continued to send tens of thousands of Chinese students to Manchester on charter flights during the pandemic.

"Used mainly by Chinese students, the route is their way to pursue knowledge and their way home, and the bridge of white clouds carrying the longing of countless parents for their children, and the profound friendship between Chinese people and British people.

I am very pleased that this route has been successfully re-launched, and it is the best way to mark the 50th anniversary of the establishment of China-UK ambassadorial diplomatic relations.”

"Hainan’s on-board service is highly-rated. Lie flat beds in business class provide optimum comfort and relaxation. Hainan Airlines chooses only fresh ingredients for its on-board meals. Passengers can sample the tastes of the world as they fly to China. Delicate and delicious Chinese food allows them to experience a taste of China.

"However, other world foods are also on offer, allowing passengers to experience their taste of home thousands of miles away. International award-winning beverages enhance the culinary experience. Furthermore, an extensive entertainment service is also available for passengers to enjoy as they while away the hours onboard. ”


Supportive comments from other organisations across Manchester Airport’s catchment area:

 Emma Degg, CEO, North West Business Leadership Team, said:

“Our universities and businesses are world leading and this sign that we are once again beginning to open up to international students and investors is really welcome after such a tough period in our history.  The North West will continue to contribute to world leading research and innovation and Manchester Airport is a really important part of that mix.” 


Damian Waters, CBI North West Regional Director said:

"Access to key global markets is vital to the future prosperity of the North West. China is already a key market for many businesses in the region, while many others will be seeking to forge trade links over there in the coming months and years as they continue to recover post-pandemic. Because of this, having the direct flight service return from the region's primary international gateway to Beijing is of strategic importance, and should deliver real economic benefits to all parts of the North West."


Sheona Southern, Managing Director of Marketing Manchester, said:

“This is very welcome news for Greater Manchester and the wider north of England, marking a major milestone for the return of the international visitors who play a significant role in supporting our hotels, restaurants, attractions, retail and wider visitor economy.


“The direct route with Hainan Airlines was already a brilliant success pre-Covid, with the China Dividend report on the first two years of the route revealing an 80% increase in passenger numbers between Beijing and Manchester. It also created a £260 million boost to our local economy, and had a longer-term impact as Chinese visitors saw the benefit of choosing Greater Manchester as a desirable place to live, work, study, or invest. We look forward to revisiting the opportunities that the reinstatement of this route will provide.”


Paul Walters, Head of International Trade at the Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, said:

“The Chamber is delighted to hear of the return of Hainan Airlines flights to Manchester from Beijing.

“China is an important trading partner for the region and whilst there are still some restrictions on travel to the region this is an important first step. Our members welcome the ability to visit both customers and suppliers in China.”


Jennifer Cormack, Sales and Marketing Director for Windermere Lake Cruises and Chair of The English Lake District China Forum, says:

“We are delighted that direct flights between Beijing and Manchester Airport are resuming. Before the Covid pandemic disrupted travel, the Lake District saw incredible growth in the number of tourists coming from China. It helped create jobs and brought success to our local businesses.


“Direct flights open an entirely new itinerary for Chinese visitors and we will see more independent travellers, students and group tours wanting to experience The Lake District during their stays in the UK.

“Visitors from China will be hugely significant to our economy as businesses across the Lake District and the wider north of England look to recover after the pandemic.


“In 2019, Windermere Lake Cruises welcomed record numbers of tourists from China with a report showing how visitor numbers from the country had increased by a massive 286 per cent since June 2016. We are working hard to drive our appeal to overseas markets and we are confident the resumption of direct flights will help.”  


Sue Clarke, Marketing Manager at Cumbria Tourism, comments:

“We’re thrilled to welcome back such a key travel route to the region. Pre pandemic international tourism made up over 10% of the overall visitor economy in Cumbria but for some businesses this could be up to 25% and China was one of our biggest markets.


 “The Lake District, Cumbria had become an established destination choice for the Chinese market who absolutely loves the history and culture the area has to offer and we were beginning to see increasing numbers of independent travelers exploring more widely and discovering the hidden gems dotted around our diverse county so this is great news and we look forward to welcoming them back.”


Adrian Ellis, General Manager at The Lowry Hotel, said:

“The return of this direct route from Manchester Airport to Beijing will be well received by many hotels and tourist attractions across Greater Manchester and beyond.

“At The Lowry Hotel we saw a noticeable increase in visitors from China when the route started several years ago, and we cannot wait to welcome them back once the route resumes next week.”


Jim Jones, CEO of North Wales Tourism, said:

“The news that Manchester Airport is to see the return of the Beijing route operated by Hainan Airlines is great news.


“As the main regional airport also serving North Wales, it has come at the right time and a sign, things are getting back to normal. 


“We very much look forward to welcoming our Asian visitors to the region of North Wales as they have been missed.” 


Ting Zhang, Founder & CEO of Crayfish.io, said:

“Face to face interaction is so important for building trust and maintaining partnerships in doing business in China, and the resumed direct flights from Manchester to Beijing will enable our clients and the wider UK-China business community to plan their 1st trip to China since the pandemic started. A personal visit will help their business succeed in China by a long way, not just in air miles! “


>Clive Memmott, CEO of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, said:

“The return of a direct air route to Beijing is key to unlocking more of the potential trade and investment opportunities that exist between the UK and The Far East.


"In particular, access to this route will provide greater scope for businesses across Greater Manchester and beyond to explore the potential of the Chinese market for export, whilst at the same time allowing Chinese visitors an additional gateway into the UK.


“The return has even greater significance in the light of the sharp decline in EU trade following Brexit, and it is vital we increase access to wider market opportunities across the globe.

 “I am sure the route’s return will be incredibly popular with many companies and organisations in the region and we look forward to it resuming next week.”


Rachel McQueen, Chief Executive of Marketing Lancashire

“This is great news for our county-wide plan to increase international leisure and business visits to Lancashire, and will also help those already trading with China and businesses looking for new markets to build even stronger ties. Our universities have established links through their student communities and partnerships such as UCLan’s collaboration with Hebei University and the research and activities of Lancaster University’s China Centre, a focal point for people interested in China and its relations with the UK and the rest of the world.

 “Lancashire is blessed with two areas of outstanding natural beauty, an amazing coastline, historic cities and some of the finest places to eat and stay in the UK, as well as the proposed Eden Project North planned for Morecambe – all within easy access of Manchester Airport. Our work promoting the destination on a global level goes hand in hand with our support for tourism and hospitality partners in Lancashire; helping to equip them with the knowledge and tools to maximise the opportunities that regular links with major international destinations provide.

 “We look forward to working with MAG and sector colleagues across Lancashire and the North West, to welcome back visitors from Beijing and beyond.”

Chris Brown, Director of Marketing Liverpool said:

“We are delighted to see that Hainan will be resuming their weekly services from Manchester Airport to Beijing, showing that confidence in international travel is returning to the region.


“The return of the route will not only benefit Greater Manchester but open up the North of England, including Liverpool, to further growth in our visitor economy and business tourism. We look forward to offering a warm welcome to business and leisure visitors to Liverpool to experience our exciting cultural offering.”


Joanne Roney OBE, Chief Executive of Manchester City Council, said:

"The agreement to reopen the air link between Manchester and Beijing is really encouraging and should fill us with optimism that we are continuing on a positive track of economic recovery following the pandemic. 


"This route is hugely important for trade and tourism for both Manchester and the North as a whole. It's worth hundreds of millions of pounds to our collective economies and it has a global significance for our region as the UK's only direct link to mainland China outside of the capital.


 "We also have a large number of students in the city who will rely on this link with China through Manchester Airport, and it will be welcome news that their route between home and university is open once again for the first time since the 2020."


John Cooper, partner at Deloitte and board member of the Manchester China Forum, said: 

"We welcome the news that Hainan is resuming services from Manchester to Beijing after more than two years of the service being suspended. We can't underestimate the importance of direct routes in driving significant trade, investment and tourism and the resumption of the service will enable our commercial connectivity with China to continue to strengthen significantly.


 "The Manchester China Forum is committed to considering all elements of the relationship to help drive sustainable growth for both parties. In terms of levelling up, our connection to China is incredibly important. The Forum has put Manchester on the map as a best-in-class example for creating connectivity with China, and is demonstrating the importance of our city in terms of the regional, UK and global economies. We've already welcomed numerous Chinese officials to Manchester and, with the reopening of the Hainan service, look forward to showing more people and businesses what our city has to offer."


Ashley Young, Senior Marketing & Communications Manager at Make It York, said:

"York welcomes 8.4 million visitors per year to the city, which is worth £909 million to the economy and supports 28,400 jobs. International travel is a key aspect of this; China is York’s 2nd largest overseas market and historically our fastest growing market in terms of volume.  


“We have a sister city agreement with Nanjing for tourism, education and business activity and we run Visit York social media accounts on Weibo and WeChat, so we are thrilled to welcome the Beijing and wider Chinese travel market back to the UK and to continue reconnecting our region with the world; this is great news for businesses both big and small across the city. "


Henri Murison, Chief Executive of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said:

“The North of England has benefited from 175,000 passengers in its first two years of a direct flight between Manchester and China, supporting inbound tourism, international students, trade and foreign direct investment. 


“This is not just beneficial for Manchester. Out of roughly 700,000 passengers travelling to Beijing or Hong Kong from Manchester in the past few years, around 224,000 came from Yorkshire.

“Manchester is the national airport for the North of England and acts as our gateway to the rest of the world. Together with improving connectivity across the Pennines, we need to continue to internationalise our economy in order to raise productivity.”


Paul Stowers, Head Export Team, DIT Northern Powerhouse, said:

 “This is great news for Northern businesses.  We exported nearly £2 billion worth of goods exports to China from the North West alone in 2021, and this route will create more opportunities to build those important trade relationships.”


Paul Kallee-Grover MBE, Founder & MD of Ki Partnerships Ltd; Chair of Liverpool China Partnership and NPH Export Champion, said:

“The reopening of routes between Manchester and China is welcomed by the Liverpool China Partnership - the reopening of routes will enable our members to focus on the rebuilding of civic and business Sino-British relations to the benefit of the North West and beyond”


Joe Manning, Chief Executive for Marketing Cheshire said:

“Leisure and tourism is a key sector for Cheshire and Warrington and we’re looking forward to welcoming tourists and business visitors from Beijing back into our region, with the return of direct flights into Manchester.  This will provide a huge boost to our local businesses at a time when many are still recovering from the impact of Covid alongside the impacts of the cost of living crisis. 


 “Cheshire and Warrington has so many world leading attractions such as Chester Zoo, Jodrell Bank and even the world’s first Ice Cream Drive In at the Ice Cream Farm; we have wonderful countryside and heritage; and lovely towns and villages. Hopefully this will open up the chance for people from China to come and enjoy them for themselves.


 “As well as opening up opportunities for tourism this will also provide opportunities around investment and trade across the Cheshire Science Corridor, especially in areas such as life sciences and Net Zero where we can offer world leading infrastructure and technology.”


Kenny Murray, General Manager, Cheshire Oaks Designer Outlet, said:

“Chinese visitors were a significant market for Cheshire Oaks Designer Outlet pre-Covid. The launch of direct flights from Hong Kong and China drove strong sales growth, supported by our in-market sales and marketing teams, and close cooperation with Marketing Cheshire and Marketing Manchester. We welcome the news of Hainan Airline’s direct flight and look forward to when we can welcome Chinese guests back to our centre.”

Related Information

Manchester China Forum

Manchester China Forum is the city region’s special purpose vehicle for driving forward the Greater Manchester-China relationship.