Today I was deeply saddened and pained to hear about the death of The Queen, Britain's longest-serving monarch, who away earlier this afternoon at the age of 96 after 70 years on the throne. Buckingham Palace said the Queen “died peacefully” this afternoon at Balmoral. The Queen's eldest son, Charles, who has now ascended the throne and will be known as King Charles III, paid tribute to his much-loved mother. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will be remembered as a stalwart of our times. She provided inspiring leadership to her nation and people.
The King and Camilla, now the Queen Consort, will remain at Balmoral on Thursday night and return to London on Friday.
Buckingham Palace had confirmed on Thursday lunchtime that Queen Elizabeth II had been under medical supervision after her doctors had become "concerned" about her health. Tributes poured in following the death of the Queen earlier this afternoon on a dark, gloomy, and rainy day in the UK. Listening to the bulletins as rain pours down felt fitting. Feels as if even god is crying. She served the country so dutifully all the way to the end.
My thoughts are with her family at this time. Her Majesty’s decades of dedication and service have been unwavering, and your legacy will live on. This is an end of a great era in global history, and I am not sure anyone can quite match the long service and dedication that she gave. Ma’am, thank you for everything. We will be forever indebted to you.
Holiday From Your Holiday!
You need a holiday to recover from your holiday because holidays are exhausting. You may have just returned from somewhere really amazing, like we did from a week in Dorset, and with two young kids in tow (1 and 4), and where you had the best time. However, after a week or two of "What shall we eat?", "Whatever you want", "Daddy, can I have this/that?", "Daddy/Mummy, I want to go back home...", "Meh, you need a holiday!".
When I was single, I used to get exhausted when travelling because of my annoying need to only have the most authentic experience, and to stay away from multi-national brands like KFC, Starbucks, MacDonald's etc. everywhere, and sometimes, sadly it never comes true because the world has become too small, connected, congested, and globalized. Now, as a father to two adorable yet very demanding and attention-seeking toddlers, as a parent it is natural for me and my wife to become exhausted just because of a lack of sleep and because of the "always-on" mode with kids.
But one thing is for sure, when I travel, with my family on holidays or even on business, I want to know that I have experienced the same food and lifestyle as the locals, and not the over-priced and under-valued rubbish they serve tourists. The internet has no doubt made holidays even more exhausting because it is somewhat full of great insider tips that will lead me to the best local food. Nevertheless when I get to the restaurant, I discover it's the usual tourist rubbish and then I wonder why I even trusted any celeb or influencer to know anything about the destination. Don't trust them, I say. Go and get lost in the place and discover the undiscovered yourself, I say.
Occasionally, I do stumble onto the authentic experience like I did on my trips to Nepal or Malta for example. Generally if you are looking for an authentic and genuine food experience then, as most Brits know, a long queue or a large crowd is often a good sign. In the UK you can find two identical restaurants right next to each other where one is packed and the other is more or less empty, and nobody really knows why but the vide is different between the two.
The air show was delayed for two years during the pandemic
This week saw the welcome return of the Farnborough Air Show. Running from 18-22 July, visitors were treated to displays, press releases, panel roundtables, exhibitions from the aviation industry, including aerospace, defense. Issues such as Environmental, Governance and Sustainability (ESG) were high on the agenda, with aircraft manufacturers and airlines promising smarter technology, cleaner fuel, and greener business. This means more room for highly fuel efficient and quieter aircraft, and hopefully less expensive to operate.
As an example, Airbus and CFM International are collaborating to flight test CFM’s cutting-edge open fan engine architecture on board an Airbus A380. The Flight Test Demonstrator is aimed to mature and accelerate the development of advanced propulsion technologies, as part of CFM’s Revolutionary Innovation for Sustainable Engine (RISE) demonstration programme.
“New propulsion technologies will play an important role in achieving aviation’s net-zero objectives, along with new aircraft designs and sustainable energy sources,” said Sabine Klauke, Airbus Chief Technical Officer.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, astronaut Tim Peake, and British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps visited the show in the first two days. The Prime Minister met some of the 1,500 exhibitors at one of the world’s biggest aerospace and defense trade shows. In a speech, Mr Johnson said: "I’m glad that I finally made it to Farnborough, this famous air show, in the climactic weeks of my time as Prime Minister."
The photos in this blog were taken over the five days, in a period in which we experienced the hottest day ever in the history of records in the UK (40.2C) on Tuesday July 19, followed by the obligatory rain showers. Hence why you seen a blue sky in some photos and a dark grey in others.
Were there many orders?
With this being the first show in four years (and with a delay due to the Pandemic), it seemed and came across as a quieter affair compared to previous shows. There wasn't the much anticipated fanfare that happened in previous years. But one thing was clear: Boeing seemed to do quite well in terms of orders. Though Airbus, meanwhile, managed to conduct just two sales on the premises of the airshow, one for the A220 and one for the A321neo. However, it had secured a big win just ahead of Farnborough, with China’s top three carriers ordering almost 300 A320 family aircraft on 1 July, 2022. This chart from AeroTime shows a breakdown of the orders made in this year's show, and Boeing has certainly made more orders in 2022:
The Boeing 737 MAX 10
The largest of the 737 MAX family, the Boeing 737 MAX 10, made its international debut at the Farnborough International Airshow 2022. During the show, the aircraft ran on a blend of sustainable aviation fuel. Before the show, Boeing had already received more than 3,300 net orders for 737 MAX narrow bodies, and kicked off the Farnborough Airshow with firm order signings with Delta Air Lines, Inc. for at least 100 Boeing 737 MAX 10 jets and with All Nippon Airways parent ANA Holdings for twenty 737 MAX 8s, along with two Boeing 777-8F cargo variants.
Also, Qatar Airways made official an order for 25 Boeing 737 MAX 10 aircraft, with options for a further 25 of the type. "We are honored that Qatar Airways has decided to add Boeing’s single-aisle family to its fleet, deepening our relationship with this world-class airline," said Stan Deal, President and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes. "The 737 MAX 10 is ideally suited for Qatar Airways’ regional network and will provide the carrier with the most capable, most fuel-efficient airplane in its class," he added. The order, worth $3.4 billion at list prices, capped a largely one-sided show dominated by Boeing's efforts to shore up the MAX 10, whose future lies partly in the hands of regulators and Congress.
Qatar Airways displayed its Boeing 777-300ER (FIFA World Cup 2022 Livery), 787-9 Dreamliner and Qatar Executive Gulfstream at the airshow.
The Boeing 737 MAX 10 leaves Farnborough after the show back to Seattle via Reykjavik. The 737 MAX 10 will continue test flights and obtain its type certificate before it can begin scheduled operations. The delay, caused by the problems of the 737 MAX 8 and the extended scrutiny of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), is a major stumbling block in its commercialization. Photo Copyright Navjot Singh
The Boeing 777X
One of the highlights of 2022’s edition of the show was the huge Boeing 777X, the world’s largest and most efficient twin-engine jet, which the manufacturer showed off in both static and flying displays. With new breakthroughs in aerodynamics and engines, the 777X will deliver 10 percent lower fuel use and emissions and 10 percent lower operating costs than the competition. The 777X is based on the original 777, but is much larger, more powerful, and is ready to serve the next generation of long-haul air travel, and generally passengers prefer large aircraft, and this will not disappoint!
Even though the 777X has been delayed by over five years, we are in this interesting period where the airlines that were affected by the delay have almost got over that part now. The COVID-19 Pandemic, if anything, has helped that cause. With any new aircraft, airlines are usually cautious. It is going to be great for the passengers and great for the airlines, too!
Warm champagne anyone?
The show also saw the introduction of some interesting features that we may see. Thanks to the team at Turningleftforless for taking this video of a "Champagne on Demand" as demonstrated by Adient collaborating with Boeing to explore improved comfort, functionality of commercial aircraft seating and interiors. My mate, James Nixon (ex- A380 captain), queried "Why does any airline exec think passengers want to drink warm champagne?".
Airbus A350-900 XWB and the Airbus A220-300
Airbus brought its A350 test aircraft for display flights throughout the show. Also, Airbus showcased an ITA Airways A350-900 and an Air Baltic A220-300 aircraft on the ground.
Air Baltic's A220. One of the biggest orders for the aircraft came from Delta Air Lines, Inc. Delta Air Lines firmed up orders for 12 A220-300 aircraft, bringing Delta’s total firm order for A220s to 107 aircraft – 45 A220-100s and 62 A220-300s. The A220s will be powered by Pratt & Whitney GTF™ engines. Photo Copyright Navjot Singh
New British Airline: Hans Airways
Start-up carrier Hans Airways moved a step closer to launching flights between the UK and India, with the lease of an A330-200 aircraft and the start of crew training. According to the CEO, Satnam S. Saini, the aircraft is weeks away from launch.
The airline plans to launch flights between Birmingham airport and Amritsar as a key destination using an ex-Air Europa A330 and with a two class configuration – economy (branded Anand Class) with 274 seats and a seat pitch of 31 inches, and premium economy (Anand Plus) with 24 seats and a seat pitch of 56 inches.
Updating the media on progress Barry Humphries, CBE, Hans Airways’ board director and former head of air services policy at the UK Civil Aviation Authority, said:
“With the loss of flights operated by India’s Jet Airways and British inclusive tour operators Thomas Cook and Monarch Airlines, there is room for a third UK airline flying between UK and India (complementing British Airways and Virgin Atlantic.) All of us are working exceptionally hard and on schedule to be that third UK designated carrier.”
Supernal's eVTOL vehicle cabin
Black Eagles and the Boeing Stearman (Aerosuperbatics Wingwalkers)
Future is Boom?
Boom Supersonic announced the updated design of Overture with 4 engines. Carrying 65–80 passengers at twice the speed of today’s airliners, Overture will fly Mach 1.7 over water with a range of 4,250 nautical miles.
Boom further said that the new design is the culmination of 26 million core hours of simulated software designs, five wind tunnel tests, and the careful evaluation of 51 full design iterations resulting in an economically and environmentally sustainable supersonic airliner. Boom also announced a market-expanding alliance with Northrop Grumman to develop special mission variants for the U.S. Government and its allies.
The question here is, will it better what Concorde achieved and will passengers pay for and enjoy the experience? United Airlines have already proudly stated that they plan to offer services on Boom. But will it be a success? We shall see. Maybe a debut at future Farnborough Airshows?
Aircraft on display
Family is everything...
Helicopter lands at Dulwich College
Staycation in Bournemouth
My daughter and I were fortunate enough to spend around four hours touring the "Landor" livery Boeing 747-400, G-BNLY, belonging to British Airways on the Experience Day, 26th of June, 2021.
No parts of the aircraft were out of bounds, so although subject to strict numbers on board at any time to comply with COVID and safety regulations, it was great to get the chance to see everything close up. This was a rare chance to get close and personal with the 'Queen of the Skies' (or any aircraft for that matter) because if you want to take photos of aircraft at airports, then it is usually all rushed and not an enjoyable experience (especially for us aviation enthusiasts, and even airline crew after 9/11 are banned from taking photos with some airlines.).
We boarded adjacent to the Club World cabin, and we then see Club World and the World Traveller cabins, going towards the back of the aircraft. It was an added bonus to get to go up the ladder into the crew rest area, right at the back of the aircraft! With the aircraft being in storage since March 2020, and with limited amount of air conditioning or refurbishment/cleaning of the seats etc., so there was a slight pungent smell inside the cabin (similar to something you may have in a stuffy garage on a hot day.). But, never the less, the experience was priceless.
Then back to the main door and up the stairs to the upper deck - and a walk through to the Cockpit. Though we were not allowed to sit in the cockpit seats because the aircraft is still technically 'active' (i.e. it can be taxied and towed to other parts of the aerodrome etc., and also for insurance purposes.), it was still an amazing and rare experience to be able to spend quality time without being rushed (as you usually are when flying.).
There was also a chance to do a walkaround and get close to the under belly as well as the undercarriage bays - parts that passengers never get to see up close. This experience day was only open to the public for one day, and so this may be the last time I may get to be close to a 747 ever. You rarely see a 747 these days at airports (except for the occasional cargo aircraft, and even they are becoming rare.). So this was a very special day indeed and one that will go down in history.
It was a great experience - and I hope these photos provide some insights and maybe even bring back lovely memories for some!
A 747 has five turbine engines! Hiding inside the tail (shown here) is an extra engine called an Auxiliary Power Unit (APU). During on-ground operation, it provides bleed air for cabin conditioning from a low spool-driven load compressor, and electrical power from two gearbox-mounted 90kVA generators: Photo Copyright Navjot Singh
Yes, the moon does become pink!
When the news of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak was first broadcast in the UK, a lot of the media were using Chinese faces, people wearing masks, and this created a stereotypical and wrong image in some peoples minds, effectively fueling anti-Asian racism and xenophobia. Because my wife is Chinese, and so my daughter is of mixed race heritage, as I was walking back from the school run with her, I happened to experience something unpleasant.
I shared my experience in an interview with China's CCTV national news. Here is the link and below is the video. It was also published on Twitter.
Cargolux 747-8 over London
Morning jog in Dulwich
At Heathrow during the Pandemic
Heathrow Airport, arrivals (Terminal 2). Quite ‘busy’ this morning with flights coming in from China, India and the Middle East. Good job by the “COVID Marshalls” whose job is to remind people how to properly wear a facemask (you would think that is common sense!).
Super Blood Wolf Moon 2019
I am delighted to be awarded an Honorable Mention in the 2018 International Photography Awards for my work on content storytelling and photojournalism about Chikan Village (Jiangmen, China).
The story is about the old, tiny and sleepy market town of Chikan in China, which lies on the banks of the Tanjiang River, between the Guan and Situ, where this striking photo was taken.
It is located around 25 kilometres from downtown historic Kaiping, China. When you walk along the airy and narrow lanes of Chikan, you feel a mixture of wanderlust, and curiosity. Many of the locals are old aged pensioners whiling away their retirement doing not much as the younger generation have left for the big cities to make money. Captivating image of life standing still in time.
Theresa May’s China visit provides ample opportunities for trade with the UK, but there is still lots of work to be done
With the British Prime Minister Theresa May, or ‘Auntie May’ as she is affectionately know by the millions of Chinese people, completing a highly productive three-day marathon visit to the country, one can hope that it can only help to build better relationships and boost trade for the Chinese and British economies, especially as we are entering the post-Brexit era.
May's trip follows French President Emmanuel Macron's state visit to China earlier in January. This perfectly illustrates that both sides are eager to improve their ties in a time of rising global challenges and uncertainties. May was accompanied by her husband Philip, and leaders from 50 British businesses and commercial organisations. She came here to seek China as a major economic partner for post-Brexit Britain, and looked to improve on the “Golden Era” between the two countries.
Premier Li said this year marks China’s 40th anniversary of reform and opening-up, in a prior report to the 19th CPC National Congress, Beijing said it will continue to open markets.
In a press conference after their talks on the first day, Li talked about the efforts that China and the UK will make in boosting economic globalisation and fighting against protectionism.
Li and May also witnessed the signing of agreements covering trade and investment, financial services, scientific innovation, environmental protection, education and bio-science.
At her press conference with Li, May said a “significant number of major new commercial deals” were agreed during her visit, totalling around US$13 billion in value. In turn, Li made encouraging sounds about a future UK trade deal as well as opening Chinese markets more generally to UK agricultural products.
“The two-way opening up between China and the UK will go even further and China will open even wider to the UK,” he said. “In line with our agreement, China will expand openness to British products including agricultural products. China will import British products that are needed in the Chinese market.”
But how effective are these words and how much do they translate into actions? Well, according to figures, even after this trip, there will be a lot of work to be done by Prime Minister May and the rest of the British government.
Britain, the world's sixth largest economy, sends only a minute 3% of its exports of goods and services to China. Meanwhile, just 7% of its imports are from China - with the majority of those coming from Hong Kong and the Guangdong region.
Some of the success stories of this trip included announcements that bans on the exports of British beef would be lifted for the first time in decades, the extension of a Maths teacher exchange programme and a campaign to promote English language learning in China. The education deals are worth more than US$784 million and are claimed to create over 800 jobs in Britain.
LEARNING ENGLISH NOTHING NEW
While these trade deals sound great, it goes without saying that there is much more work needed to be done by Britain. You may think that something like starting an English language learning campaign is a great initiative for Britain because it is the home of the English language, but this is going to be a big challenge. Why? Because the English language market in China is highly competitive and many companies are competing for the same space. Another key factor is that American English is more popular in China than British English because Chinese people are exposed to a lot of American influence through movies and television programs. Go down any street in China and Millennials would know US series such as Friends, The Big Bang Theory, Gossip Girl, or This is Us, but they would have never heard about household British programs such as Coronation Street, Only Fools and Horses, Keeping Up Appearances or EastEnders.
It goes without saying that the American culture is part and parcel of the social fabric of the youth in China through contemporary TV shows. Since China opened up its economy in the 1980’s, American TV shows have been a way for Chinese people to practice English, while also learning about pop culture and getting entertained at the same time. When Friends aired in the 1990’s and 2000’s, it captivated the world, including Chinese audiences, with its charismatic yet accessible depiction of life for young, middle-class, upcoming Americans. This ultimately ushered in a new era with English learners who wanted to learn cultural alongside language. Whereas British English is seen by the youth in China to come across as too formal, not so cool and slightly old fashioned - though that may appeal to those who want to apply for British universities.
Mrs May said new agreements signed on her trip would "enable more children and more young people than ever to share their ideas about our two great nations", helping to ensure that "our golden era of co-operation will endure for generations to come".
However, the issue here is that this is just a small investment into a country such as China where the value of the English-training market is now about US$4.5 billion and some analysts predict that this market will continue to grow at a rate of around 15% over the course of the next few years.
A solid proof of this growth is the company Wall Street English, which until recently was owned by the British company Pearson, and is one of the largest private language institutions in China, is currently employing a US$16 million refurbishment plan, with new centres opening in many cities across China. I know this market because I used to work for Wall Street English and Disney English as a director and from my prospective, what the British government is doing is good but it seems a bit late that they are investing into this initiative. Wall Street English already has over 70,000 students in China, which contributes to 30% of its global business.
Another business leader on this trip signed a contract for a British company that can provide quality baby milk powder, because Chinese parents trust foreign-made infant milk powder as it is considered safer and of a better quality. Another bit of proof that attempts to woo Chinese investment are reined in by the need to keep America and Europe on side. But selling milk powder is also nothing new- many English-speaking countries are doing this. Australia and New Zealand are the leaders when it comes to selling baby milk powder to China.
UNCERTAIN FUTURE WITH BREXIT
The total annual value of UK-China trade is about US$84 billion, much less than the US$211 billion in trade between Germany and China. One thing that people would have noticed is that while countries like Germany sell China products such as cars made by BMW and Mercedes, and electronic products made by Bosch and AEG, and the US sells planes made by Boeing or entertainment by Walt Disney, it looks like we can only sell baby milk powder, university education, and English language classes - but that may not be the case. I totally agree that education is one the greatest treasures of Britain, but what is really required for Britain to be proud of is industrialisation and that is missing because sadly Britain is not the almighty great British Empire that it once was in the post-war industrialisation era.
In actual fact, contrary to popular belief, Britain's main exports to China are not education and baby milk powder but cars (Aston Martin and Rolls Royce), petroleum products and tourism services, while it mostly imports Chinese manufactured goods, telecommunications equipment, clothing and electronics.
Prime Minister May sidestepped a proposed agreement for a formal endorsement of China’s US$900 billion Silk Road strategy and no memorandum was signed. This suggests that Britain is still thinking about the huge infrastructure project and it is still in its infancy stages. A UK government official said. “They both spoke positively about the potential impacts it could have. But it’s important it’s implemented in the right way. They are going to carry on talking.” Philip Hammond, the British Chancellor of the Exchequer, described Britain as "a natural partner" in the initiative while attending the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing last year.
Today, with Britain heading into an uncertain future with Brexit and with the constant threat of terrorism, the country is sadly not really a hot bed for innovation and success that it once was. Yes, there are great strides being made in oil and gas and in the finance sector, both of which were represented during this trip. However, what about the digital revolution and how can China work with Britain for that and vice-versa?
NEED TO FOCUS ON BRITISH DESIGN AND TECHNOLOGY
I do believe that May should strongly promote British design, technology, high-tech engineering, and environmental services. In China, Britain could be doing more for promoting British goods. It was very sad to see that Marks and Spencer and Tesco were not so successful in China, while the likes of Walmart and Carrefour are thriving there. Its things like this that make me feel that either Britain is behind what other countries are doing or is playing catch-up when it comes to trade with China.
The world is going through the fourth industrialisation and as China is investing heavily in Artificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual Reality (VR), e-commerce, wind energy, Machine Learning and Big Data, I believe that these are the key areas in which Britain should be focusing on because this is where the future is heading. People need to be open and embrace this change. While in China people are very mobile friendly and open for change but sadly in the UK this is not the case.
If Britain really wants to build better relations with China, then why not invest in educating British people how to learn Chinese and how to use WeChat or use AliPay? Education about China in the UK is lacking. That’s what is required.
Do you see British people scrambling to buy the latest products on Alibaba.com, the online and mobile commerce giant? No. As one of the very few Brits who has had the privilege of working for Alibaba.com, one of the most frustrating things that I find is that most people would think Alibaba is the name of their local kebab shop. In January 2018, Alibaba became the second Asian company to break the US$500 billion valuation mark. Its online sales and profits have surpassed all US retailers, including Walmart, Amazon and eBay, combined since 2015.
WECHAT IS IMPORTANT
Using technology to learn about China is the key to success. While there are nearly a billion users globally of the WeChat app, hardly anyone in the UK has probably heard of it. There are no restrictions to British people to use this app. All you need to do is download it for free and use it. I wonder how many of the 50 business leaders know how to use it or know how beneficial this app can be for their businesses? To be effective in doing business with China you have to use WeChat and be able to really understand the culture and the ways of communicating effectively. The vast majority of the people in the UK use Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, and except for a handful of people like me who have lived and worked in China, my educational guess is that if it is used in the UK, it will be by the Chinese or the Asian community.
In that sense, I do feel that our tiny island-nation, which is dependent on imports from the outside world, has to make deals with countries who would be willing to pump money into our economy.
In conclusion, it is fair to acknowledge that despite the productive meetings, it is early to say what impact the trip will have in the coming years. The China-Britain relationship has always been considered an exemplar for China-West ties in terms of putting aside differences and seeking the largest possible common ground. Both China and the UK now stand at the entrance to a new era. This is a strong fact that makes me feel proud to be British as well as value Chinese culture. I hope we'll be able to attract further investment and showcase what Britain is really good at.
This article was first published on ChinaPlus, part of the China Radio International (CRI). You can click here to read the original piece.
Recent UK-China Talks are a Boost to Tourism and Aviation Ties, but the UK is Still Playing Catch-Up
The past two weeks have been very good for UK-China relations, economically, politically and tourism wise as well. There has been much talking and dialogue been done over the years but not much execution of any concrete actions when it comes to increasing tourism and economic ties between the two nations. So, it was particularly nice to see a number of trade agreements being made when Chinese Premier Li Keqiang met with the British Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, carrying on their pledge to strengthen political trust and cooperate in a number of key areas, such as trade and investment.
“This year marks the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations at the ambassadorial level between China and Britain,” Premier Li said, noting that bilateral ties would develop on the basis of mutual respect and equality. He said Britain was a highly open economy, and China would advance its opening up. In particular this followed on from earlier in the week when the United Kingdom and China agreed to increase their weekly flight quotas with a 50% increase in the limit of weekly flights between the countries. The current bilateral agreement from 2016 sets the limit at 100 flights per week, while under the terms of the new deal the limit will be raised to 150.
According to the timetables I have seen on OAG Aviation, there are currently 59 weekly non-stop flights between China and the UK. FlightGlobal schedules data shows that Air China accounts for the highest seat capacity between the UK and China (30.2%), followed by British Airways (20.6%) and China Southern Airlines (12.5%). China Eastern Airlines are also leading when it comes to the total traffic between Europe and China with 130 flights per week and a strong 24.3% market share by capacity, although those numbers also include non-EU countries. There are also non-stop flights to second-tier cities including Tianjin, Qingdao and Chongqing.
Those in the aviation industry would have been waiting for this moment for years, and even though it is not too late for the UK to start operating more flights to mainland China, I do feel that the UK is playing catch-up with the rest of the EU and the world for that matter when it comes to competing for landing slots in destinations in the UK-China space.
If you look at some of the second-tier Chinese cities, they already have well-established non-stop routes to some European and Middle Eastern cities with other major carriers.
Air China, China Southern Airlines and Lufthansa are the biggest players on the Europe-China sector and this is reflected in the Star Alliance controlling almost half of the seats on these routes and Sky Team’s Air France and KLM both have strong positions in Amsterdam and Paris respectively. You can get non-stop flights to Amsterdam with KLM from Hangzhou and Xiamen and from Wuhan and Guangzhou to Paris with Air France. Turkish Airlines, voted by Skytrax World Airline Awards “Europe’s Best Airline” award for six consecutive years until 2016, and the “Southern Europe’s Best Airline” award for the ninth time in as many years, flies to all the major Chinese cities from Istanbul.
We also have the three Middle Eastern giants - Emirates, Emirates and Qatar Airways - operating numerous non-stop schedules to all the major Chinese cities for a number of years already and even to some destinations in China that most British and European people may have never heard of, such as Yinchuan and Zhengzhou which Emirates flies to. By contrast, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic find themselves in the most competitive Europe-China market and without a Chinese partner at the moment. Why doesn’t British Airways fly to Guangzhou or Chongqing or even Hangzhou? Hopefully, with the open skies agreement, things will change (but don’t hold your breath!).
China has the world’s second largest passenger aviation market with enormous growth potential in spite of some regulatory brakes. Both the domestic and international flight sectors present huge opportunities. If you take a typical short three-hour domestic flight from Guangzhou to Beijing for example, you may end up sitting in a Boeing 777 or an Airbus A380 with a full three-class cabin configuration and all flights are usually full. If you go to even some of the airports in the second-tier cities in China, such as Xi’an or Hangzhou, they make London’s Heathrow Airport look like a tiny regional airport. The key question here is why is it that some European countries are under-served to China by their home carriers, in particular Spain, Italy and the UK?
It is not an easy market to serve and yields remain low, but it is a must-do market. In 2013, British Airways excitingly opened the London Heathrow to Chengdu non-stop route, operating using a Boeing 777 aircraft with its nose painted as a panda’s face and traditional Chinese calligraphy on the fuselage. Much song and dance was made of the flight route, with even celebs endorsing the route. But less than three years later, the national flag carrier dropped the route because it is not commercially viable as there was not enough interest and flights were running below capacity. Even after having trimmed down the frequency and switched to a smaller, Boeing 787 plane, BA ended the service in January 2017.
The airline has meanwhile increased its Shanghai frequency from six times weekly to daily and the airline, as well as other British airlines, look very under-represented in this large and fast-growing market. In spite of Finnair carving out a successful niche, Oneworld is an also-ran on Europe-China, with only a 10% share. But it is not just its current size that makes it attractive to foreign carriers, it is its potential.
I also believe that tourism agencies in the UK need to do more to sell China as a good destination for visitors from the UK. While Chinese tourists to the UK are at a all-time high; however, even with a slew of iconic sights, Britain has still lagged behind other European destinations due in large part to unfavourable visa policies. However, the post-Brexit weakening of the pound has given the UK a major boost in mainland Chinese arrivals. Chinese tourists are some of the UK’s highest spenders, staying longer and travelling more than visitors from other countries.
But the trend needs to go the other way around as well- except for Hong Kong, mainland China is not sold as a premium destination by British tour operators and airlines. From what I see, and I stand to correction from anyone, but the vast majority of the people who travel to Hong Kong and mainland China from the UK are students going back home for holidays, the Chinese Diaspora returning back to their ancestral homeland or business people. Hong Kong has traditionally been sold by British tour operators because it of its lure of being a great stop-over city for those going to Australia and New Zealand and for being a business hub. I am surprised that Hainan Airlines has not been selling Sanya, China’s version of Hawaii, as an exciting winter destination for Brits to visit. Even Thomas Cook Airline, which is known for taking people to exotic places, is losing out on this goldmine of a market.
According to a recent figures released by VisitBritain, tourism spend by Chinese travellers is also up in a big way, stripping past the decreased value of the British pound. Compared to the first quarters of 2016, tourism spend was up over 54 percent in 2017. It’s worth noting that with the growth of Chinese travellers to Britain, the country still lags well behind other European destinations. Britain’s best year for Chinese travel, 2015, saw 270,000 Chinese arrivals. In contrast, France saw over 2 million Chinese tourists in 2015. Even a small country such as the Czech Republic surpasses Britain in terms of tourism numbers. 285,000 Chinese tourists travelled to the Czech Republic in 2015, and 355,000 visited in 2016. So, it would be interesting to see which routes will be operated on these open skies between China and the UK and I do hope that Britain becomes a leader and not carry on playing catch-up with the rest of the world in this thriving market.
This article first appeared in the Huffington Post Blog and also on China Plus.
Opinion article on China Plus News: The Financial Research Industry Must Adapt to Disruption
With the Chinese Premier Li Keqiang meeting with the British Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond earlier this week in Beijing, and calling on the two sides to make use of London's advantage as a global financial centre to enhance financial cooperation, it is vitally important for British and Chinese companies, especially those in the financial research industry (such as Third Bridge) to adapt to digital disruption. I take a look at the reasons why.
I have also published a slightly modified version on my LinkedIn account.
Six hours in Edinburgh
2003 was the last time I was here. Not much has changed...except there is a new tram in place. Lovely place. Don't leave without trying traditional local food!
Rush Hour at Heathrow
Back to Heathrow
Winter Sunset in Sirmione
Only 30 minutes away from Verona (take the fast 15-minute train journey to Peschiera del Garda and then another 15-minute taxi ride to arrive at the tiny yet beautiful town of Sirmione on the shores of Lake Garda.
Nested in northern Italy’s Veneto region, Verona is a typical medieval old town built between the meandering Adige River. The city's claim to fame is that it is the setting of Shakespeare’s "Romeo and Juliet." Yes, it is a beautiful city. But romantic? That is debatable whether the city is actually romantic these days- it certainly did not feel on my trip. The strong smell of fertiliser coming from the fields around the town lingered in the cold air during our two day trip (actually one day is enough to see and smell the sights around this city). Here are some photos I took during my short trip. Enjoy!
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