Flying High... China Southern Airlines!

Birmingham does it better! After three years of preparation it was time to welcome the first ever direct flight from China to Birmingham, UK. China Southern Airlines will fly direct from Beijing Capital International Airport to Birmingham Airport return each Tuesday till the 5th of August. BHX isn't it your 75th birthday? Let's hope this Chinese connection becomes permanent! 加油! 

Ten minutes ahead of schedule, the inaugural China Southern Airlines flight CZ3001 made its final approach into Birmingham Airport. It was a historic moment being the first ever direct flight from China to have landed at a UK airport outside of London's Heathrow or Gatwick! Being from the West Midlands, I stood with absolute pride close to the runways edge as the Airbus A330-200 aircraft touched down at BHX that cool July morning. I was lucky enough to be part of the media team, reporting alongside the television news crews, it was a moment I will forever look back on. The energy was electric, a new era had begun with the arrival of the first direct China Southern flight. BHX wasn't ready for that slice of Far Eastern promise! With a whole new opportunity given to me, I took my passport to be cleared through the security checkpoint! Even still, I feel blessed to have been given the opportunity to experience such a momentous event at Birmingham Airport! More long haul flights to BHX are much needed! Yes!

Fresh from the Middle Kingdom, CZ3001 taxied towards Gate 41 on the International Pier to be welcomed by the adoring audience who were already waiting on the tarmac. Water cannons showered the arriving Chinese aircraft, Birmingham Airport welcomed the Oriental arrival with much happiness and warmth. Snapping like a paparazzo, I was fully in blogger mode, after being beside the runway myself and the media team had made our way to the apron surrounding Gate 41. We said '你好' to Birmingham Airport's newest long haul edition! Local dignitaries excitedly posed for photos at the foot of the aircraft welcoming China Southern. Birmingham Airport Chief Execuitve Paul Kehoe, Mayor of Solihull Kate Wild, Lord Popat of Harrow the Government's aviation spokesperson, Vice President of Caissa Mr Ren Jun were amongst the welcoming officials. It had been a long time coming but good things come to those who wait! I'm going to things optimistic but we can but see what will happen next? 早安好, 伯明翰机场! 是的! 

Now, I for one know that when I disembark from a long haul flight, I'm sometimes not in the best mood but the passengers who disembarked from flight CZ3001 from Beijing, China were beaming from ear to ear! 开心吗? It was a joyous and special occasion for Birmingham Airport with the first non-stop service from China, most passengers were taking photos of the festivities as they made their way to immigration control. With the early arrival of the flight from China, it gave the passengers the opportunity to make the most of their trip to the 'Heart of England!' It was quite a bizarre and crazy experience from one second to the next with the excitable first visitors from Beijing, China having just arrived. I shall remember the smiling faces of the China Southern passengers the next time when I decide to travel on a long haul flight. Well I flew on an inaugural flight to Bordeaux, France, the reception wasn't as joyous compared with CZ3001. I have my future set on a career in China, I'm excited to take my own China light! 我很高兴! OK!

It's now hopeful that if the six flights between Beijing and Birmingham go down as a success we could see a full service being announced in the near future? I'm really hoping so because constantly having to fly from London or Manchester airports just isn't fair! It's not! London doesn't have to be the answer to everything, I believe the catalyst for change for the West Midlands region was when Emirates announced their presence at Birmingham Airport! With the International Pier now open, the opportunity to accommodate the Airbus A380-800 can be done at Birmingham. I hope that securing the China Southern charter from Beijing stands as a sign of progression for the airport and the West Midlands region? Birmingham has been branded the 'Second City' but it doesn't reflect that title when it comes to International Air Travel! China is a growing market and a market that Birmingham Airport can offer limitless potential for business and tourism ties. BHX is much closer to Shakespeare's England than LHR/MAN will ever be! 

It was a dead cert to say that the lucky few who had landed on China Southern's flight CZ3001 were in for a treat! Through the joint partnership between United Travel and Caissa Touristic, both arriving and departing passengers will be able to enjoy guided tour packages in England and also in China, acting as an added cultural exchange to the current program for outbound and inbound passengers. It was really inspiring to see the once used drop-off and pick-up zones outside the arrivals busy again with at least five waiting coaches, ready to show the excitable Chinese passengers what our amazing region is really made of. Working with Shakespeare's England shows that Shakespeare still makes that paper for the UK economy! Amongst the busy environment that could be seen from the front of the main terminal building the presence of that media had been turned up one dial or so, emphasising on MG Rover Group and Nanjing Automobile Group as they both held mutual trade links between the nations. 我们已经是朋友了! 

It was amazing to see the usually disused drop-off bay being used outside of Costa Coffee at the side of the arrivals doors. Agreeing with the social media team from Birmingham Airport cemented the fact they also felt it was amazing to see such vibrancy return to that area after such closure. The morning had been full of excitement and some trepidation, as much as I love blogging I'm a self-confessed aviation geek so being beside the runway that morning to see the Airbus A330-200 touch down was something else! Central News and Midlands Today had made their recordings, they had interviewed officials such as; Chief Executive Paul Kehoe. I did see string of Chinese media on hand to catch their scoop! Looking back it was quite amusing to see the onlookers who were sitting at Costa Coffee with their morning cup, it's all about attracting the right attention. I have every faith that BHX will bring another long haul route to my regional airport! BHX, keep that 'long haul energy' because we are better than the North and South! BB!

It was time to bring the celebrations to the 'Hello China' event that was held at Birmingham's Council House in Victoria Square, Birmingham. Networking events as such are still quite new to me but I feel that I spoke to the right people. Let's just say the contacts that I made will hopefully have a positive outcome for my blog endeavours! The two officials from China Southern Airlines made their humbling speeches, both officials expressed the positives of securing Birmingham Airport as a successful route outside of London. Amongst the translations the words 'Beijing' and 'Guangzhou' sounded promising! Surely, BHX has a fighting chance to be a front-runner with the growing Chinese-UK business and leisure market? Praise was given to Caissa Touristic and United Travel for their extensive work to cement the charter. The 75th birthday celebration of Birmingham Airport signified the opening of a new long haul market for Birmingham Airport. It was inspiring to hear such news but to see actual plans happening would another thing. 快点! 

My time spent at the 'Hello China' event at Birmingham's Council House gave me another slice of escapism, life isn't exactly full of adventure for me at the moment but one day at a time. Lunch was lovely, we had a selection of starters and mains that were served with a range of wines. At my table I spoke with two representatives who were from 'Turner & Townsend', the construction company who had built the £40 million runway extension at Birmingham Airport. I have every faith that Birmingham Airport has a list of announcements to make in the near future. One lady who I spoke to said that China is like a lotus flower, it has been closed for sometime but as time moves forward the flower starts to bloom to become a beautiful open plant. From the early start when I saw the flight touchdown into Birmingham soil to the 'Hello China' event, it had all been amazing to be a part of! Maybe life might take me back to a career within an airport? For the moment, we can see if BHX snatches those much needed routes! BHX, it was an amazing day!

Pull Up, BHX!

Joseph Harrison

Comments

  1. I love that there were tour packages as well👌🏽 Helpful and encouraging for tourism🤗

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    1. This was before I went to China when the only China Mainland flights were from London. Birmingham is my local airport, the runway was lengthened for larger aircrafts to land.. no major airlines aide from Emirates or Qatar have pulled in .. pathetic

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