World Duty Free has apologised over a promotion its Heathrow Airport shop was running that required Chinese travellers to pay four times more than other travellers in order to receive a 20 per cent discount.

The shop reportedly required Chinese travellers to spend a minimum of £1,000/US$1,381 in order to get the discount, which was being offered to other customers after just £250/US$346 had been spent.

Users on China’s Weibo social media platform expressed their ire over the promotion after the imbalanced policy came to light.

In a statement published in both English and Simplified Chinese on the company’s Twitter page, World Duty Free stated that: “As a global company we are committed to treating all our customers with respect and in a consistent and fair way. We would like to offer our sincere apologies to our customers who were in any way made to feel this was not the case.”

The company also stated that the implementation of the promotion “has been confusing which we sincerely regret”, and has “taken urgent steps to correct the implementation of this promotion going forward”.

A spokesperson for Heathrow Airport told the Telegraph it has been made aware of the offer, which it described as “unacceptable” and was working with the company to ensure a repeat of the incident did not happen again.

The controversy comes as Chinese travellers to the UK are on the rise. In December, the UK and Chinese governments signed a new deal to increase the number of weekly flights between the two countries by 50 per cent, from 100 to 150.

Meanwhile last month, a study by Frontier Economics found that direct flights from Heathrow to China contribute some £510 million/US$706 million per year in GDP to the UK economy.;