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Heathrow still missing out as LCA gets expansion boost

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Airport control tower

LONDON: The ongoing dispute over the expansion of Heathrow airport is causing the airport to lose out on unserved markets. This comes as it was announced that London City Airport would be expanded.

Heathrow, the UK’s only hub airport, is missing out on serving some of the busiest routes in air travel. This is according to OAG, a UK-based company that provides data for the aviation and travel industry and has ranked the top 50 unserved international routes.

The most recent report produced analysed figures from 2015. The report takes into account all routes that are currently operating with a stop at a third party airport.

The standout route to and from the UK was Orlando, with only 3,000 direct flights being operated from Heathrow to the popular tourist destination.

Heathrow’s senior press officer, Weston Macklem, said, “Heathrow is the UK’s only hub airport and has been constrained for over a decade - operating at near capacity. This has a knock on effect on the destinations airlines can serve from.”

The actual number of flights from the capital to Orlando is much higher and nearer to 6000,000 due to the route being served from London Gatwick.  Meaning the lack of capacity at London Heathrow is preventing London's main airport from getting in on a huge direct market.

Mr. Macklem added that while the airport was operating at 100% capacity there was huge demand to fly from Heathrow, “Competition for slots is fierce and there are currently over 30 airlines in the queue waiting.”

Other routes that make a noticeable appearance on the list are Heathrow to Manila, with one-stop flights far outweighing the number of direct flights; and Phuket to Heathrow which currently does not serve a direct route but did have a considerable amount of bookings from the UK in 2015.

The debate over whether to expand Heathrow is still ongoing due to the change of Government in the UK but this report will be welcomed by supporters in favour of adding an extra runway to Heathrow.

The report was quickly followed by the UK government's decision to give the go-ahead to the expansion of London City Airport in a deal that is expected to be worth £344 million. The news of the expansion to LCA is expected to give a boost to those hoping work on a third runway at Heathrow will be announced in the near future.

A Heathrow spokesperson said, “It’s great news that London City Airport has been granted permission to expand. The announcement signals the Government is committed to ensuring Britain has the 21st century infrastructure it needs to compete in the world, and we look forward to a final Government decision on the Airports Commission's clear recommendation for a third runway at Heathrow.”

There are a number of reasons why these routes continued to go unserved. Capacity at airports plays a role but the size of the fleets being operated by airlines and the focus on the use of favoured hub airports is something that also has a significant effect on the routes being operated by airlines and airports. 

Source: OAG