UK. London Gatwick Airport has introduced a new thrice-weekly long-haul connection to Shanghai.

The new flights to China’s largest city, and a global financial centre, will bring more Chinese spending power to the airport and strengthen the UK’s links with a destination which is seen as central to China’s economic growth.

Shanghai is the largest city in China and a global financial centre.

Shanghai’s importance is emphasised by its status as the leading city driving the Yangtze River Economic Zone – a region accounting for 20% of China’s GDP and responsible for a third of the country’s imports and exports.

As a result of the new Shanghai route, China Eastern – the country’s second biggest airline – will be providing an annual capacity of over 70,000 seats.

The timing of London Gatwick’s announcement coincides with the airport reporting the busiest July in its history, with year-on-year long-haul growth of +20.8%.

Gatwick’s Asia routes grew +134.8% compared with July last year, while the airport’s US connections also showed very strong growth, with stand-out destinations including New York (+67.5%), Boston (+58.7%) and Las Vegas (+32.5%).

Tampa saw a +5.3% increase in passenger numbers in July, ahead of the launch of new Norwegian flights from Gatwick to the Florida city this October.

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Gatwick Airport CEO Stewart Wingate said: “I’m delighted to welcome China Eastern to Gatwick and look forward to the start of this vital new link to Shanghai which, like London, is undoubtedly one of the world’s most important cities and business hubs.

“Starting from such a strong position gives this new route every chance of success, as it will be popular with business passengers travelling between the two economic centres, as well as leisure passengers keen to sample the excitement of China’s largest city.

“July’s traffic figures demonstrate that Gatwick’s long-haul network is driving the airport’s growth. These connections to China and other non-European countries will take on extra significance in a post-Brexit Britain as we become more reliant on them to generate vital growth through trade and by exploiting the other business opportunities that they provide.”

The new China Eastern Airlines service to Shanghai will begin on 7 December 2018. The Airbus A330-200 will depart from Gatwick on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays at 12:00 and will fly to Shanghai Pudong Airport.