The first direct, scheduled flight from outside of London to mainland China will launch today from Manchester Airport.

The four times a week Hainan Airlines service to Beijing is being hailed as a significant boost for the region and the government’s ‘Northern Powerhouse’ ambitions.

The flights will give the 100,000 passengers who travel each year between the two cities the convenience of direct scheduled services.

The Manchester-Beijing route is estimated to be worth at least £250 million in economic benefits to the UK over the next decade.

Two-thirds of this is expected to directly benefit the northern economy in terms of increased jobs, economic activity and tourism.

Transport minister Andrew Jones said: “The new route between Manchester and Beijing is a testament to the strength of the Northern Powerhouse, opening up the north of England to investment while benefitting the many thousands of people who currently travel between the cities each year.

“Not only will this add an estimated quarter of a billion pounds to the local economy over the next decade, it will open new opportunities for businesses in both countries, boost tourism between China and the UK and will encourage students in both countries to experience studying in a new and different culture. This is an exciting new development for Manchester, the North of England and the UK.”

Ken O’Toole, chief executive of Manchester Airport added: “Today’s inaugural flight with Hainan Airlines is clear evidence of the vital economic role that Manchester Airport plays both nationally and regionally within the UK.

“Providing a direct link between the two cities unlocks significant trade and investment opportunities, which will serve as a shot in the arm to efforts to create a reenergised Northern economy. ”

The service departs on Friday, Saturday, Monday and Wednesday, and will be served by an Airbus A330-300. The cabin will have 32 business class seats and 260 in economy. Return fares start from £487.

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