The latest air link between the UK and China took off on Friday with flights from Gatwick to Shanghai.

The China Eastern service will provide more than 70,000 seats in both directions a year.

The second-largest in China is flying to Shanghai Pudong airport three times a week on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays using an Airbus A330-200.

The new route to China’s second largest city is in response to increasing demand from passengers.

The number travelling to the country from Gatwick grew by 54.3% year-on-year during the first half of the current financial year.

Shanghai’s local government announced plans in September to increase its tourism revenue from £51 million in 2017 to £68 million in 2020.

The route will also help to continue the growth of inbound tourism from China to the UK.

A recent Oxford Economics report estimated that the spending of international tourists who arrive through Gatwick adds £6.1 billion to the UK’s GDP.

Gatwick’s long-haul network now comprises more than 60 routes, with one in six of its 46 million annual passengers now travelling long distances.

Chief commercial officer Guy Stephenson said: “The addition of one of the world’s biggest financial centres to Gatwick’s route network is very good news for the UK, particularly as connections to China and other non-European countries are set to take on extra significance in the new year and beyond.

“With China being one of the UK’s main trading partners, this is a vital business route connecting two of the world’s most important cities – but Shanghai is equally an exciting and much sought-after tourist destination.

“We’re pleased to welcome China Eastern to Gatwick for the first time and are delighted that our passengers now have direct access to everything that China’s largest city has to offer.”