UK could lose its European aviation crown within 10 years

UK could lose its European aviation crown within 10 years

Heathrow is Europe’s biggest airport for international traffic (photograph courtesy of Heathrow Airport Limited)

As the Airports Commission prepares to launch its 12 week consultation into the shortlisted options for how the UK can maintain its status as an international hub, John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow Airport’s Chief Executive Officer, has warned that the Britain could lose its crown as the home of the biggest airport for international traffic in Europe, within the next 10 years.

As one of only a handful of hub airports in the world, London competes with Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam for the transfer traffic which makes daily direct, long-haul routes to emerging markets – predicted to make up nearly half of global GDP by 2050 – viable.

With UK businesses trading 20 times more with emerging markets with daily direct flights than those with less frequent or no direct service, Britain needs more flights to more cities than France, Germany and the Netherlands to win the race for jobs and growth that will otherwise go to international competitors.

The most recent traffic figures from each airport show that whilst all four are recording increases in international passenger traffic, the UK’s hub is showing the slowest rate of growth.  Paris has increased most quickly in the 12 months since August, up 4%, followed by Amsterdam (3.8%), and Frankfurt (3.1%).  Heathrow showed the lowest growth rate, at 2.1%, and this is almost entirely based on higher loads factors and larger aircraft.

John Holland-Kaye said: “Britain benefits from having the biggest international hub airport in the world, one of only six airports in the world with more than 50 regular long-haul flights.  Heathrow gets British business people and their exports to the world’s growing economies – but lack of capacity at Heathrow means we are being overtaken by we are being overtaken by our European competitors – they are taking the growth that should be ours.  Britain could and should win the race for growth.

“We have a choice.  We can have the vision and confidence to develop Heathrow in to the world’s best connected airport, putting Britain at the heart of the global economy, or we can accept that in the future Britain will be on the branch-line to growth – having to fly via Paris, Frankfurt or Istanbul to get to emerging markets.

“With the Airport Commissions’ consultation imminent, we can’t sit idly by and hope the right decision is made.  It’s time to speak out in support of our hub.  It’s time to respond to the consultation.  We should hang our heads in shame if we let slip the competitive advantage handed down to us by previous generations.”