East Midlands Airport could link UK and China with direct cargo flights

East Midlands Airport

Chinese officials are looking into the option of using the UK’s East Midlands Airport (EMA), the UK’s second-busiest cargo hub (Heathrow tops the list), as a cargo destination for direct flights from China.

In October, a delegation from Leicestershire, including EMA’s managing director Karen Smart, had meetings in China with officials from the CPC Sichuan Provincial Committee, which owns key state assets including the airports and airlines. While in China, Smart also visited neighbouring Chongqing Airport to discuss opportunities for new commercial relationships.

The recent visit built on a UK strategy designed to boost trade and investment with China. The journey was unveiled at a special celebration event in 2018 to mark 30 years of twinning arrangements between Leicestershire and Sichuan – one of the longest UK-China twinning relationships.

As shown by the Manchester to Beijing route, direct air connectivity to China can bring significant economic benefits to a region. In the two years since passenger flights began between Manchester Airport and Beijing, levels of growth in trade and tourism in the UK’s northwest region are ahead of national averages.

“EMA is in an idea location for getting goods into and out of the UK, as well as European countries too,” the airport claimed. The airport handles 368,000 tonnes of goods a year, £11bn of which is to and from non-EU countries.

Karen Smart, EMA’s managing director, commented: “I was really encouraged by the response we had when visiting both Sichuan Province and Chongqing Airport. There is a real appetite for making this happen and there is recognition on both sides that there would be significant mutual benefit from direct flights, whether they’re to and from airports in Sichuan or Chongqing Airport. I look forward to continuing these discussions and playing a key role in ensuring we achieve this.”

Trevor Pendleton, cabinet member at Leicestershire County Council, added: “This continued partnership will lay the foundations of the future work between Leicestershire and Sichuan, which will further the economic growth and development of our county. We will continue to work closely with Sichuan to ensure the best outcomes for Leicestershire.”

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