Chinese students from the University of Birmingham have welcomed the first direct flight from China into Birmingham Airport.
Tourism Minister Helen Grant MP visited the airport to celebrate the historic flight and to congratulate Birmingham Airport on becoming the country's first gateway to offer Chinese charter packages to the UK. Lord Popat of Harrow, Government Aviation spokesperson in the House of Lords, alongside dignitaries from the city, was also part of the welcoming party.
The China Southern A330-200 aircraft arrived into Birmingham Airport fully laden with 248 tourists visiting the UK on organised package tours. These charter flights to Birmingham are the first to operate from China and the sell-out tours demonstrate there is a demand for more flights between the two countries.
Other VIPs welcoming the service at the airport included the Lord Lieutenant for the West Midlands, The Lord Mayor of Birmingham and The Mayor of Solihull, as well as representatives from the Airport and the Midlands' Chinese community.
The runway extension, completed in May this year, provides airlines with unlimited take off range, allowing jets to fly direct to China and beyond. This puts Birmingham in an ideal place to become an alternative gateway to the UK for long-haul air travel.
To mark this historic occasion, the Leader of Birmingham City Council, Sir Albert Bore, hosted a Chinese-themed Civic Reception at Birmingham Council House for 150 guests.
The 12 volunteer students from the University of Birmingham who welcomed the aircraft were co-ordinated by Wei Wu, from Kunming, Yunnan Province, China. A PhD student based in the Birmingham Business School at the University, he said:
“Being a volunteer at the inauguration of direct flights from Birmingham to Beijing was a great privilege for me as an international student at the University of Birmingham. The growing business connections between the UK and China certainly have been a great asset for the Chinese diaspora in this country. Chinese students like myself are not only here to further our education, but also to consolidate the base of this Sino-UK business exchange.
“I was fortunate enough to see this historical moment as an inhabitant of the city of Birmingham. I look forward to the future where more people will hopefully have direct access to this region and can enjoy the wonderful experiences I have had as a student at the University of Birmingham and a resident of this fantastic region.”
Peter Clack, Director of International Relations at the University of Birmingham said:
“We are extremely proud our students were chosen to represent the University and the region during this historic occasion. Their roles in the welcoming committee were important, being on hand to assist the airport and the arriving Chinese tourists through the terminal.
“The University of Birmingham is home to 1,400 Chinese students at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Our Chinese students are integral to our thriving academic community, contributing to extracurricular events and activities, both on campus and within the local community, like this special event.
“Birmingham’s position as a destination for Chinese visitors has been growing steadily over the last few years. The University of Birmingham has contributed to this, through attracting more students from China and increasing our engagement with Chinese partners in education, health, business and government.”
The Beijing schedule will operate weekly through to the 5th August 2014, arriving into Birmingham at 0640 and departing for Beijing at 1200 each Tuesday.
2014 is a year of milestones for Birmingham Airport as it also celebrated its 75th anniversary on the 8th July. During this period, it has seen more than 200 million passengers pass through its doors.
Notes to Editors
• The University of Birmingham has been named The Times and The Sunday Times University of the Year 2013/4.
• The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions, its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers and teachers and more than 4,000 international students from nearly 150 countries.
• The University collaborates with partners across the world to produce ground-breaking research, deliver innovative teaching, and to create opportunities for students and staff to gain international experience. Although Birmingham’s partnerships are wide ranging and span all continents, the University has identified China, India, Brazil and North America as key strategic regions in which they wish to develop more focused engagement.
• The University’s aims with China include developing joint research, promoting education and engagement. To this end the University has established a centre in Guangzhou to host its activities in China, and the China Institute at the University of Birmingham to gather together their wide-ranging research activities with Chinese partners and concerning China more generally.
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