London Gatwick has welcomed new routes to India and China – fantastic news for South East businesses who exported £1.9bn of goods to these countries in 2022.

London Gatwick Airport has seen an influx of new carriers and destinations since the turn of the year, particularly to key long-haul markets, with more scheduled to arrive in the coming months.

Alongside recent announcements of important new routes to cities such as Washington DC, San Francisco and Frankfurt, Gatwick has welcomed a number of new services to Asia, with Air India and Air China now operating from the airport.

Air India began operating from Gatwick at the end of March and now flies three times a week to each of Goa, Kochi, Amritsar and Ahmedabad. This is particularly exciting news for businesses across the South East who, according to the latest Government figures, exported £479 million of goods and services to India in 2022 – more than any region outside London. 

The new Air India flights will also support tourism in both countries and provide convenient journeys for passengers from the large Indian communities in London and the South East to visit friends and family in India.

Jonathan Pollard, Chief Commercial Officer at London Gatwick Airport said: “These exiting routes open up a wealth of new opportunities for our passengers. Some will take advantage of the wonderful cities and beaches India has to offer. Others will benefit from the multiple connections between two of the world’s largest economies, while many of our passengers will use the new routes to visit friends and family.”

Campbell Wilson, Air India Managing Director and CEO said: “We have ambitious yet focused plans to restore Air India to its rightful place as one of the world’s foremost carriers.

“Our substantial investment in customer service, new aircraft and the brand overall will enable us to gain market share on key routes from the UK to India as well as drive more business and leisure travellers to visit India itself. We are pleased to be launching services from London Gatwick, enabling our passengers to have even more choice on how they enter India.”

Brett North, Chair, Gatwick Diamond Initiative, added: “The new Air India routes are very timely and important for the Gatwick Diamond region. As we rebuild the local economy post-Covid, establishing strong relationships across the globe will ensure the Gatwick Diamond continues to be an important business powerhouse. 

“On the back of the UK-India trade relationship, which is worth £34bn to the UK economy, and the creation of a technology envoy in the Indo-Pacific region, the opportunities for businesses within the Gatwick Diamond to further develop strong trade routes to India and the wider region couldn’t come at a better time.”  

At the same time, Air China, which previously flew from Gatwick before Covid shut down international travel, has returned with daily services to Beijing. These new flights support increasing demand for travel between the two countries.

The flights provide an economic boost to the tourism industry in London and the South East, with Chinese visitors spending £1,828 per visit and £1.8 billion in 2019, according to Visit Britain.

The new connection is also a positive development for the business sector across London and the South East. 30 Global 500 companies (compiled annually by Fortune magazine based on revenue) are located in Beijing – more than any other city across the world. In second place, London boasts 28 Global 500 companies. According to the latest Government figures, businesses across the South East exported £1.4 billion of goods and services to China in 2022.

China sent a record 151,690 students to the United Kingdom in 2021/22 – more than any other country, according to data from Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA). This is an increase of 41% since 2017-18 and accounts for the majority (22.3%) of international students in the UK.

Stephanie Wear, Vice-President Aviation Development, Gatwick Airport said: “We are delighted to welcome Air China back to London Gatwick, providing a vital connection between two of the world’s most influential capital cities. China is the world’s second-largest economy, so by offering direct flights between London and Beijing, Gatwick is providing an important service to people and businesses across the South East.”

She continued: “It is also great news for tourism and hospitality across the region. Chinese visitors are traditionally high spenders so the return of regular flights will help support these sectors, which suffered so badly throughout the pandemic.”

The airport’s long-haul network – which currently serves nearly 50 global destinations – has been shown to support the economy by facilitating increased exports and imports. The vast majority of cargo handled at the airport goes in the belly of long-haul passenger aircraft, such as these Air India and Air China flights. Cargo volumes are also forecast to more than double – from 150,000 tonnes in 2019/20, to 350,000 by 2047 – if Gatwick’s plans to bring its Northern Runway into routine use come to fruition.

The airport wants to invest in its long-term future and is preparing a planning application to bring the airport’s Northern Runway into regular use, for departures only, alongside its Main Runway. This low impact plan will improve resilience, reduce delays, and provide a significant boost to the regional economy by supporting trade, tourism and new jobs. 

Over the coming months, Gatwick will welcome more new routes to several destinations across the USA, alongside Saudi Arabia and Mauritius, as the airport continues its long-haul recovery. The new airlines – which include big names such as Delta – and routes demonstrate demand for Gatwick’s slots is as strong as ever.

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