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Air China launches UK’s only flights to Chengdu

The route is a major transport and logistics gateway into central and western China.

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Air China will start flying the UK’s only non-stop service between the UK and Chengdu – the prosperous capital of Sichuan province – next week (3 July), Gatwick Airport said today as it announced its 67th long haul route.

Three flights a week will connect the UK with China’s fourth biggest city which – located in the geographic centre of the country – is developing the country’s largest western transport and logistics hub. This development is boosted by the nation’s “Belt and Road” initiative to stimulate trade and economic growth across Asia and beyond into Europe for generations.*

The new service has the capacity of over 45000 seats and over 1500 metric tonnes of cargo per year. Business passengers can take advantage of opportunities in a city hosting over 270 Fortune 500 companies – and one known as a hub for scientific and technological innovation – and a current focus on attracting foreign start-up companies to take up residency.

Culturally, one of the city’s biggest attractions is the world famous Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding where visitors can view endangered giant pandas in a natural habitat. Sichuan Province is home to around 80% of China’s population of wild pandas. Other famous attractions include:

• Spicy food – previously a Unesco city of Gastronomy (2011) – the city is famous for its spicy hotpot and the mouth numbing Sichuan peppercorn
• Changing Faces Chinese Opera where performers switch from mask to mask
• Teahouse culture and ceremonies
• A lively nightlife frequented by locals, students and expat populations
• Archaeological treasures at Jinsha and the Leshan Giant Buddha

Air China – the country’s flag carrying airline – will fly an Airbus A330-300 on the service which will depart from Gatwick on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Three cabins are available – Business, Premium Economy and Economy class – with highly competitive fares, especially for the first week of travel currently on offer.

The flights depart Gatwick at 22:00 and arrive at Chengdu at 15:40 the next day where passengers have 50 onward domestic connections available, in addition to international connections to Bangkok, Colombo, Hong Kong, Kathmandu, Osaka, Singapore, Sydney, Seoul, Taipei and Tokyo.

Passengers making one of these international connections can also stop over and enjoy the local attractions for 72 hours visa free. Those travelling in the other direction can benefit from Gatwick’s quick links into central London – including brand new fleets of trains leaving every three to four minutes to Victoria, London Bridge and beyond.

Guy Stephenson, Chief Commercial Officer, Gatwick Airport, said:

“Chengdu is a strategically important destination and a major logistical hub so this new route – the UK’s only direct flight – opens up a range of opportunities to access markets throughout central and western China, be it by air, road or rail.

“UK visitors now also have a fast, direct route to Chengdu, one of China’s most culturally significant destinations and one that attracts millions of tourists from around the globe every year.

“This new service is Gatwick’s 67th long haul route. Our growing long haul network looks set to play an increasingly important role connecting the UK to global markets at this vital stage in the country’s history.”

Mr Chen Hongbing, General Manager UK and Ireland, Air China, said:

“Air China is proud to be the only flag carrier in China, and as a member of the Star Alliance, represents the image of China. Air China has always been committed to providing convenient, high-quality services to global travellers and has become a link between China and the world.

“Air China’s Gatwick-Chengdu route is the 30th route opened by Air China between China and Europe. We hope to set up an air bridge through this route to provide passengers with more convenience and choice. We hope to promote the friendly exchanges between the people from our two countries and promote the political, economic and cultural exchanges between the two cities and the two countries.

“In the selection of flight schedules, we fully considered the rationality of the arrival schedule of passengers arriving in London and Chengdu, and the convenience of onward flights and transits. We have confidence that this route will be the best travel option for travellers to flying between London and Chengdu and beyond.”

“I welcome all passengers onto this new flight”

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Gatwick launches UK’s first electric car sharing service

The 100% electric vehicles produce zero emissions which supports Gatwick’s carbon neutral status.

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Ten 'Blue City' electric cars on Gatwick's airfield.

In a UK airport first, passengers, staff and local residents can now reserve and pick up a 100% electric car at Gatwick – and return it to any of 300 compatible pick up/ drop off points across London or back at Gatwick – the airport announced yesterday.

The service – similar to schemes popular in other parts of the world – is being rolled out in partnership with Bluecity, the only company to operate a pan-London electric vehicle car sharing service with 100 cars currently available in total.

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Discussions are also ongoing with local authorities and business groups about expanding the network further in London and in areas surrounding the airport.

Operating in a similar way to existing cycle schemes across the capital, ten cars and charging points are currently available on Gatwick’s South Terminal forecourt. This is Bluecity’s first airport hub and discussions are in progress to increase capacity.

The new point to point service gives people using the airport a convenient, zero emissions travel option for getting directly on and off the airport and is purposely designed to be easy to locate and use, with customers able to reserve a car in seconds via the Bluecity app.

Local residents are also encouraged to use the service and Gatwick staff have also been offered the opportunity to trial the service for free.

A standard journey in a Bluecity car from central London is also an affordable travel option to the airport. The four-seater’s drive from Central London to the very front of the airport will cost around £15 in moderate traffic.

The service is also flexible and works both ways, so that those travelling to Gatwick from the capital can pick up a car at any of the London-based charging points and drop it off at the airport.

Car sharing is also growing in popularity in the UK and this new partnership represents another first in Gatwick’s journey to be the UK’s most sustainable airport. Gatwick is accredited as a carbon neutral airport, uses 100% renewable electricity and 44% of passengers currently get to the airport by public transport.

The 24,000 staff on Gatwick’s airport campus and local residents are also being encouraged to use the new electric car sharing service.

Gatwick Airport’s Chief Commercial Officer Guy Stephenson said:

“Gatwick leads the way on airport innovation and this UK airport first not only offers a new, flexible option for getting on and off the airport, it also improves air quality.

“When it comes to electric car sharing schemes, few companies have experienced the success of Bluecity and its parent company. Given the popular demand for similar electric car sharing services in other parts of the world, this new service has the potential to take off in the UK and we are proud to be at the forefront of this transport revolution.”

Bluecity’s Managing Director Christophe Arnaud said:

“We are particularly proud of this milestone agreement with Gatwick Airport and look forward to our collaboration for years to come. We believe this new service is a fantastic solution for travellers. Our cars are powered exclusively with 100% renewable energy making the service the greenest and most affordable transport option to and from Central London.”

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