With the Airports Commission about to launch its twelve week consultation in to the short listed options for how the UK can maintain its status as an international hub, Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye has warned that Britain could lose its crown as home to the biggest airport for international traffic in Europe to Holland, within the next ten 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 while 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 twelve months since August, up four per cent, followed by Amsterdam (3.8 per cent), and Frankfurt (3.1 per cent).
Heathrow showed the lowest growth rate, at 2.1 per cent and this is almost entirely based on higher loads factors and larger aircraft.
Analysis of Heathrow’s winter schedule using data for the first week of February in 2014 and 2015 also found that of the four countries, only Heathrow has been unable to increase the number of airlines operating from it this winter.
By contrast, Paris has seen ten new airlines, Amsterdam seven, and Frankfurt five, with Paris now hosting over a hundred airlines compared to Heathrow’s 81.
Whilst Heathrow was able to add only one previously un-served destination to its schedule, BA’s flight to Austin Texas, Paris was able to add 18 new destinations from 13 different airlines, including to Brasilia, the capital of Brazil, and Xi’an, the largest industrial economy in China’s Shaanxi province.
Frankfurt was able to add seventeen destinations amongst eight different airlines, including Changsha, one of China’s major transportation hubs, and Gaziantep, Kayseri, and Elazig in Turkey – part of the MINT group of nations tipped as the next emerging economic giants.
Amsterdam was able to add nine new routes, including to Jakarta and Egypt.
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.”