Heathrow welcomes China’s largest airline, and a new trade route to Guangzhou

China Southern, the largest Chinese airline, has now been able to get take off and landing slots at Heathrow for 3 flights a week to Guangzhou. This is the first direct flight to Guanzhou from the UK, though there are many other flights to Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, from where connecting flights can be made to all the regional Chinese cities.  BAA complains that it is limited in how many flights it can provide to China, that its European rivals have more, and that they have more direct routes. BAA says Paris, Frankfurt or Amsterdam airports will boast direct flights to Chengdu, Hangzhou, Wuhan, Xiamen, Nanjing, Shenyang and Qingdao this year. However, Heathrow manages around 21 flights per day to Miami, and large numbers to other non-business but profitable routes.  Heathrow appears to have many more passengers each year travelling to China (Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong) than Frankfurt, Paris or Schiphol. See Comparison.


27 February 2012  (Heathrow Airport press release)

  • China Southern will operate the first ever flights between London and Guangzhou from June
  • New route expected to boost trade
  • But UK falls further behind France, Germany and Holland in race for new routes to China

China Southern Airlines will begin flights on 6 June 2012 between Heathrow and Guangzhou, China’s third largest city. There will be three flights a week from Terminal 4 and Heathrow will be the only UK airport served by the airline. China Southern Airlines is the largest airline in China and the sixth largest in the world, operating a fleet of more than 300 aircraft.

The new route will be the first between the UK and Guangzhou and is expected to boost trade.  More than 25% of all global economic growth over the next five years is expected to come from China and Guangzhou is the country’s third largest city. A recent report by Frontier Economics found that UK businesses trade 20 times as much with Emerging Market destinations that have a direct daily flight to the UK as they do with those countries that do not.

The deal has taken eight years to come to fruition with BAA first talking to the airline in 2004.  Because Heathrow is full, operating at 99.2% of its permitted capacity, China Southern has had to wait for suitable take-off and landing slots to become available from other airlines before it has been able to add the new route.

The UK has missed out on trade, jobs and economic growth because of the Government’s cap on flights at the UK’s only hub.  In the meantime the airline has flown to Paris, giving French companies an eight-year head start in building new trade links with China. Even now, Paris will have four times as many flights to Guangzhou than the UK.

While the UK is adding one new route to the world’s most important emerging market in 2012, its European competitors will serve a further seven additional routes to China’s interior. Paris, Frankfurt or Amsterdam airports will boast direct flights to Chengdu, Hangzhou, Wuhan, Xiamen, Nanjing, Shenyang and Qingdao this year, in addition to the flights to Guangzhou, Beijing and Shanghai served from the UK. [These flights to Paris etc don’t yet exist – all currently involve having a stop over, as do the flights from Heathrow].

Other airlines from major emerging economies would like to add new routes at Heathrow, but are unable to do so because of a lack of take-off and landing slots. A recent report by Frontier Economics found that there were twenty-one emerging market destinations with daily flights from Continental European hubs but not from Heathrow. This lack of connectivity is estimated to be costing the UK economy £1.2bn a year in lost trade.

Colin Matthews, Chief Executive Officer of BAA, said

“It is great news for the UK that China Southern is opening up a new route between Heathrow and Guangzhou. We are delighted that China Southern has chosen Heathrow, and we would like to welcome more flights from China Southern and other airlines that could bring jobs and growth to the UK. The centre of gravity in the world economy is shifting and Britain should be forging new links with economies like China. Instead a lack of hub airport capacity is causing us to fall further behind the rest of Europe.”



Number of passengers to China from Heathrow and its rivals

The data  below  show that there are many more passengers flying to China from Heathrow, (considering Hong Kong as China) in years for which data can be found. Though Heathrow may lack a few direct flights to a couple of regional airports in China, it appears to have more passengers travelling to and from China  than Frankfurt, or Paris, or Schiphol. Figures below are for Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong (not other regionals).

About 1,113,000 passengers for Paris Charles de Gaulle airport.

About 757,100  passengers for Frankfurt Airport. (2010)

About 1,061,500 passengers for Schiphol (2009)

And 2,074,826 passengers to China including Hong Kong in 2011 for Heathrow.

And 1,993,593 passengers to China including Hong Kong in 2010 for Heathrow.  And 2,065,130 passengers  in 2009.


 AirportBeijingShanghaiHong KongTotal
2011275,058331,7561,386,564 2,074,826
Paris CDG ? 2010? 2011??512,000601,0001,113,000
Frankfurt 2010270,500264,900221,700 757,100
Schiphol 2009???1,016,518

Details  below



Total annual passengers at Heathrow and its European rivals

For total passengers using the airports, in the 2008 ranking, Heathrow was 3rd in the world, behind Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta with 90,039,200 and O’Hare Chicago  69,353,600.  Heathrow has many more than even its nearest rival inEurope, Paris Charles de Gaulle.


3. Heathrow                              2008     67,056,200                        2011    69,433,230

5. Paris-Charles de Gaulle   2008     60,852,000                        2011   60,970,551

9. Frankfurt                               2008     53,467,450                        2011   56,440,000

11.MadridBarajas                   2008     50,823,100                        2011   49,662,512

14.AmsterdamSchiphol         2008     47,429,700                        2011   49,755,252

 (2008 data from Airports Council International)   (2011 data, Wikipedia)


How many flights does Heathrow actually have to the emerging economies?

March 5, 2012    There have been letters in the Sunday Times and in the Sunday Telegraph from lists of business people, in support of airport expansion in the south east, and demanding reconsideration of a third runway at Heathrow. They claim that Heathrow is lagging behind Schiphol, Paris Charles de Gaulle and Frankfurt airport in the number of flights to the emerging and rapidly growing economies. And that therefore the UK will be condemned to an economic backwater if vast amounts of concrete are not poured, and another runway is not provided. But what is the actual situation? Are there really not enough flights to emerging economies from Heathrow? Are the numbers to some destinations low just because there really is not the demand (however much UK business might like there to be the demand)? We investigate what flights there really are from Heathrow already.  Click here to view full story…



What destinations are served by Frankfurt, Paris and Heathrow airports, and how many passengers travel to Chinese destination?


This is the map, from Wikipedia, of destinations served by direct flights from Heathrow.



This is the map, from Wikipedia, of destinations served by direct flights from Frankfurt.




Paris Charles de Gaulle airport

? 2011 or 2010?

Busiest International Routes
New York1,634,000
Tel Aviv739,000
Hong Kong601,000
São Paulo527,000
Los Angeles525,000
Rio de Janeiro505,000
Mexico City398,000


So that was  601,000 + 512,000 =  1,113,000 passengers to China – including Hong Kong  – from Paris Charles de Gaulle in either 2011 or 2010.


Busiest routes at Frankfurt Airport (2010) [33]
RankAirportDeparting passengersAirlines
1Germany Berlin-Tegel802,000LufthansaAir Berlin
2Germany Hamburg745,100Lufthansa, Air Berlin
3United Kingdom London-Heathrow620,500British Airways, Lufthansa
4Germany Munich475,100Lufthansa
5Spain Madrid459,400IberiaLAN Airlines, Lufthansa, Spanair
6United States Chicago-O’Hare451,700American Airlines, Lufthansa, United Airlines
7Austria Vienna450,200Adria AirwaysAustrian Airlines, Lufthansa, Niki
8France Paris-Charles de Gaulle448,200Air France, Lufthansa
9Singapore Singapore429,500Lufthansa, QantasSingapore Airlines
10United States New York-JFK365,400Delta, Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines
11Turkey Istanbul-Atatürk355,900Condor, Lufthansa, Turkish Airlines
12United Arab Emirates Dubai337,700Condor, Emirates, Lufthansa
13United States Washington-Dulles334,900Lufthansa, United Airlines
14Thailand Bangkok-Suvarnabhumi330,900Lufthansa, Thai Airways
15Italy Rome-Fiumicino320,300AlitaliaEthiopian Airlines, Lufthansa
16Japan Tokyo-Narita302,600All Nippon AirwaysJapan Airlines, Lufthansa
17Spain Barcelona295.055Lufthansa, Spanair
19Canada Toronto-Pearson289,100Air CanadaAir Transat, Lufthansa
20Turkey Antalya285,000Condor, Pegasus AirlinesSky AirlinesSunExpressTUIFlyXL Airways
21Netherlands Amsterdam282,200KLM, Lufthansa
22Spain Palma de Mallorca280,000Air Berlin, Condor, TUIfly, Lufthansa
23United States San Francisco277,300Lufthansa, United Airlines
24Denmark Copenhagen276,400Lufthansa, Scandinavian Airlines
25Switzerland Zurich272,700Lufthansa, Swiss International Air Lines
26ChinaBeijing-Capital270,500Air China, Lufthansa
27China Shanghai-Pudong264,900Air China, China Eastern Airlines, Lufthansa
28Sweden Stockholm-Arlanda264,000Lufthansa, Scandinavian Airlines
29United States Newark255,000Continental, Lufthansa
30Portugal Lisbon253,900Lufthansa, TAP Portugal
31South Korea Seoul-Incheon236,400Asiana AirlinesKorean Air, Lufthansa
32Greece Athens228,100Aegean Airlines, Lufthansa
33Brazil São Paulo-Guarulhos223,500Lufthansa, TAM Airlines
34Finland Helsinki222,700Finnair, Lufthansa
35Hong Kong Hong Kong221,700Cathay Pacific, Lufthansa
36Russia Moscow-Domodedovo220,500Lufthansa, S7 AirlinesTransaero
37Czech Republic Prague220,000Czech Airlines, Lufthansa
38Republic of Ireland Dublin214,700Aer Lingus, Lufthansa
39Norway Oslo-Gardermoen213,300Lufthansa, Scandinavian Airlines
40Israel Tel Aviv211,300El Al, Lufthansa, Sun d’Or International Airlines

So that was 270,500 + 264,900  + 221,700 = 757,100 passengers to China including Hong Kong in 2010.

535,400 without Hong Kong.



Busiest international routes at Heathrow[67]
RankAirportPassengers handled
Passengers handled
1 (1)United StatesNew York City – JFK2,969,5302,478,722
2 (2)United Arab EmiratesDubai1,787,5611,745,005
3 (3)Republic of IrelandDublin1,493,6131,604,044
4 (4)Hong KongHong Kong1,386,7791,528,886
5 (5)NetherlandsAmsterdam1,333,1241,509,787
6 (6)FranceParis – CDG1,299,7011,338,307
7 (9)GermanyFrankfurt am Main1,266,2401,201,354
8 (7)United StatesLos Angeles1,189,3091,235,549
9 (8)United StatesChicago – O’Hare1,138,0121,218,516
10 (10)SpainMadrid-Barajas1,093,5381,127,369
11 (13)United StatesNewark1,091,8181,003,041
12 (15)ItalyRome – Fiumicino1,032,872945,369
13 (11)SingaporeSingapore1,022,2201,123,503
14 (17)GermanyMunich975,465907,897
15 (21)IndiaMumbai957,439861,667
16 (12)CanadaToronto – Pearson940,4481,013,477
17 (14)United StatesWashington – Dulles920,5141,001,468
18 (25)IndiaDelhi918,196756,013
19 (19)SwedenStockholm – Arlanda912,362891,493
20 (16)South AfricaJohannesburg886,146921,194
21 (20)SwitzerlandZurich876,385888,246
22 (22)DenmarkCopenhagen870,072853,849
23 (23)United StatesBoston866,719850,620
24 (18)United StatesSan Francisco860,617892,735
25 (33)SwitzerlandGeneva859,143640,131
26 (31)TurkeyIstanbul – Atatürk855,071653,169
27 (24)United StatesMiami822,315846,211
28 (30)GreeceAthens784,308666,171
29 (32)AustriaVienna731,100649,007
30 (29)PortugalLisbon727,335697,460
31 (27)AustraliaSydney696,301741,583
32 (26)JapanTokyo – Narita683,186753,997
33 (35)ItalyMilan – Linate647,636599,415
34 (37)QatarDoha640,782583,380
35 (28)SpainBarcelona605,989725,005
36 (35)ThailandBangkok – Suvarnabhumi597,826599,574
37 (39)GermanyBerlin – Tegel596,543513,659
38 (33)NorwayOslo592,477610,700
39 (38)FinlandHelsinki578,543560,235

.                 Shanghai + Beijing (2010)            662,690

As Heathrow has such high numbers of passengers, the figures to Shanghai and Beijing are not shown in the top 39. But the CAA figure is 662,690.

Hong Kong alone had 1,386,779 passengers in 2010 from Heathrow. A much higher number than Frankfurt or Paris.


2011 figures from the CAA   link  show that there were 662,000 passengers travelling to Shanghai and Beijing, and 1,412,826 passengers to Hong Kong (all from Heathrow apart from 286).

That makes a total of 2,074,826 passengers to China including Hong Kong in 2011.

And 1,993,593 passengers to China including Hong Kong in 2010    link    

And 2,065,130 passengers including Hong Kong  in 2009.  (There were slightly less to  Beijing and Hong Kong in 2010 than in 2009, but more to Shanghai).


CAA international passenger figures for 2011

International Air Passenger Traffic To and From Reporting Airports for 2011
Comparison with the Previous Year




Amsterdam Schiphol

Guangzhou and Hanghou direct flights were added in 2011.

In 2009 there were 1,061,518 passengers to China.  No more up to date information is available.



World’s busiest airports – 2010 Statistics – figures show the total of airports serving the city combined.

London has by far the most.

The following list is generated from two lists compiled by CAPA Centre for Aviation based on data from Airports Council International, one ranking cities with multiple airports[1] and the other ranking individual airports.[2]


Airport(s) included
1.United Kingdom London127,353,419HeathrowGatwickStanstedLutonLondon CitySouthend[3]
2.United States New York City107,586,717JFKNewarkLaGuardiaWestchester[4]Long Island[5]Stewart[6]
3.Japan Tokyo98,024,708HanedaNarita
4.United States Atlanta89,331,622Hartsfield–Jackson
5.France Paris86,203,669Charles de GaulleOrlyBeauvais
6.United States Chicago84,302,427O’HareMidway
7.United States Los Angeles79,981,524LAXLong BeachBob HopeJohn WayneOntario[7]
8.China Beijing76,171,801CapitalNanyuan[8][9]
9.China Shanghai71,684,808PudongHongqiao
10.United States Dallas/Fort Worth64,867,419DFWLove Field


and it continues ….