British Airways has launched its Chengdu route and is now flying to four destinations in China.
The capital of Sichuan province joins Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai as one of BA’s four Chinese routes. It launched its Bejing service in 1980 and its Shanghai operation in 2005.
The outward flight took off from London Heathrow yesterday and landed in Chengdu this morning (for a review, click here).
Touchdown: BA’s inaugural flight to Chengdu lands earlier today
Painted to look like a panda, the aircraft receives a traditional welcome
At the press conference in Chengdu, International Airlines Group CEO Willie Walsh said: “Chengdu is an extremely important destination for us. It has achieved an amazing expansion in economic growth in sectors such as the automobile industry, electronics, IT, software and pharmaceuticals.”
Walsh pointed out that there had been “significant investment at Chengdu Shuangliu airport”.
He added: “Aviation is a key economic driver and Chengdu has recognised this and embraced our industry with open arms. This, I believe, will benefit not only our industry but the city as well.”
Trade between the UK and China grew by 7.5 per cent in 2012 and IAG estimates that bilateral trade will increase to $100 billion (£62 billion) in 2015.
Willie Walsh (centre) hosts a press conference in Chengdu today
Walsh said the Chengdu government has assisted with the launch of the new route, providing marketing assistance in both Chengdu and the UK, and that without that assistance “the flight would not have been possible”.
Walsh also announced that, from next summer, the plan was for the aircraft deployed on the route to switch from a B777-200 to the B787 Dreamliner, and that the number of weekly flights would increase from three to five.