Heathrow arguing, as ever, about need for single hub airport, due to benefits of transfer passengers

The Sunday Telegraph reports that Heathrow’s first tranche of evidence to be put before the Airports Commission will say that only a single hub airport allows for a sufficient number of vital transfer passengers. This, of course, is what one would expect them to say, from self interest. The Telegraph says that at present 1 million  long-haul business and 1st-class passengers travel through Heathrow every year, which is nearly 85% of all such traffic that leaves the UK. Heathrow relies on transfer passengers from other international destinations to support the number of flights that leave Britain to vital business centres in China and the USA. Heathrow says if there were two hubs (as happens in New York), such as Heathrow and Gatwick, or Heathrow and Stansted, the transfer traffic that makes these flights profitable would be lost. And “The number of destinations served will therefore be cut, at a cost to British businesses.” The first stage is for the Airports Commission, under Sir Howard Davies, to decide whether a single hub is necessary – or whether there is enough capacity already and traffic needs to be more efficiently spread between airports.



Kamal Ahmed tries to regurgitate Heathrow’s transfer passenger
argument. Not a single piece of analysis by #poorjournalism !

Heathrow says Percentage of transfer passengers in 2011: 34.6% (24.0 million)  This compares to 36% in 2010 and 38% in 2009. So the number is going down.

Heathrow says single hub is vital for Britain

Up to one million long-haul business and first-class passengers flights which leave the UK every year could be put at risk if the Government does not maintain a single hub airport, Heathrow will argue this week.

Kamal Ahmed

By , Sunday Telegraph Business Editor

11 Nov 2012

In the airport’s first tranche of evidence to be put before the Davies Committee, Heathrow will say that only a single hub airport allows for a sufficient number of vital transfer passengers.

At present 1m long-haul business and first-class passengers travel through Heathrow every year, nearly 85pc of all such traffic that leaves the UK.

The airport relies on transfer passengers from other international destinations to support the number of flights that leave Britain to vital business centres in China and the USA. [So this contradicts their claims that we hardly have any key routes to China !]

The report will say that if the hub is split, for example between Heathrow and Gatwick, that essential transfer traffic will be lost. The number of destinations served will therefore be cut, at a cost to British businesses.

At this stage Heathrow will not say where the single hub airport should be sited, believing that it has to first win the argument that such a hub is necessary.

Other airports such as Birmingham and Stansted claim that they could take more of the forecast passenger traffic increase, taking pressure off Heathrow and meaning there would be no need for more runways at the congested airport west of London.

But the Heathrow report will argue that such a plan would never work at “point-to-point” airports which rely on leisure traffic because they do not receive enough transfer passengers.

“Direct and transfer passengers have to work together,” said one source.

Although Heathrow will not rule out a new hub in the Thames Estuary, the preferred option of the London mayor, Boris Johnson, the airport’s owners will make it clear that if the hub moves, Heathrow will largely close.

Although some have said Heathrow could operate as a slimmed down airport, officials pointed out that the site had huge transfer facilities which would have to be moth balled.

Thousands of jobs would therefore be at risk.




Looking at the globe it is hard to locate nations which would find UK an especially convenient/appropriate staging-post on the way to any of the BRIC nations.


Some of the comments are interesting:

  • There is no real logic or sense behind this argument. This is merely the Heathrow management making claims for a status quo that was worn out a decade ago.
    Many transfer flights are to more local destinations – either in Britain or Europe. There is no earthly reason why they should get themselves clogged up in one grotty airport. Add to that the people then have to get out of London if they continue by train or car.Having several hubs in the UK would mean that if one was closed because of bad weather you would have others that could carry the capacity. There are more arguments for diversity than against.


  • Isn’t the concept behind Boeings new Dreamliner to produce smaller, very long distance aircraft that will reduce the requirement for hub airports in future?


  • Three years ago the Competition Commission identified that BAA’s ownership of Gatwick & Stansted was holding back their development and ordered them to be sold. Gatwick’s new owners (GIP) have identified the need for a second runway.

    The sale of Stansted has been delayed by appeals and cout action, so will not now take place until next year; the cynical may suspect BAA of deliberately sabotaging  Stansted’s chances of a second runway in order to promote their own chances of a third at Heathrow.

    Hopefully the Davies Commission will recognise another one of BAA’s  dirty tricks campaigns and make allowance for their anti-competitive behaviour in any proposals they make.


  • Well I never, Heathrow thinks that one main airport is crucial. I bet they do! However, we don’t all live in the south east (and those that do need far better links to their 4 airports) and the next main runway should be somewhere in the north (Leeds/Manchester for example) and connected by HST to other main centres. Let’s forget the self interest of the airport owners and start thinking about who wants to fly where! Putting even more capacity in the SE is plain daft.

  • It is to be hoped that Heathrow presents a more convincing argument to the Commission with a better analysis of where and when these transfer passengers are going and which  invaluable routes  they are supporting. The data underpinning the requirement that only a single hub will do needs to be transparently available rather than a summary factoid spouted ex-cathedra from the vested interests in West London.






    • BAA rebrands as ‘Heathrow’     15 Oct 2012
    • Majority backing for third Heathrow runway     04 Nov 2012
    • Boris: Third Heathrow runway could cost Tories the election     02 Nov 2012
    • Aviation chief attacks policy ‘prevarication’     08 Nov 2012
    • Britain’s business leaders back third Heathrow runway     13 Oct 2012
    • Heathrow rejects Gatwick rail link plan     29 Oct 2012
    • .

    • .

    • Heathrow’s website at  http://www.heathrowairport.com/about-us/facts-and-figures  says  Percentage of transfer passengers in 2011: 34.6% (24.0 million) :
    • Destinations and airlines

      • Number of airlines: 86
      • Number of destinations served: 183 (in 90 countries)

      Most popular destinations

      • New York (JFK)
      • Dubai
      • Dublin
      • Frankfurt
      • Amsterdam

      Passenger numbers

      • Number of passengers arriving and departing per day: average 190,100 (split 50/50 between arriving and departing)
      • Number of passengers arriving and departing in 2011: 69.4 million
      • Busiest day ever recorded (passenger numbers): 31 July 2011 with 233,561
      • Busiest month ever recorded (passenger numbers): July 2011 with 6.9 million
      • Busiest year ever recorded (passenger numbers): 2011 with 69.39 million
      • Percentage of international passengers in 2011: 93% (64.7 million)
      • Percentage of domestic passengers in 2011: 7% (4.7 million)
      • Percentage of business travellers in 2011: 37.1% (26.0 million)
      • Percentage of other leisure travellers in 2011: 62.9% (43.4 million)
      • Percentage of transfer passengers in 2011: 34.6% (24.0 million)

      Percentages of domestic, European, North American and other long haul passengers in 2011

      • Domestic – 6.8%
      • Europe – 41.0%
      • North Atlantic – 22.8%
      • Other long haul – 29.4%
      • .

      • .

      • CAA Air Passenger Survey Finds High Proportion Of Foreign And Transfer Passengers At Heathrow

    • http://www.caa.co.uk/application.aspx?catid=14&pagetype=65&appid=7&newstype=n&mode=detail&nid=2063
      • Heathrow had the highest proportion of connecting passengers using the airport to change planes in 2010, at 36% of its passengers, a decrease from 38% in 2009 but up from the 2008 figure of 35% and the 2007 figure of 34%. By comparison, Doncaster, East Midlands, Humberside and Leeds Bradford all saw less than 1% of their passengers changing planes.
      • .

      • .

        Connecting passengers at UK airports  – Civil Aviation Authority  – November 2008


        Two paragraphs of which say:

        There is evidence that connecting passengers help to maintain the wide range of services and level of frequency at Heathrow, including some routes where demand from local traffic alone may be insufficient for them to be economically viable. They therefore support the benefits that accrue to UK passengers (particularly business passengers) who place a high value on frequency of service and range of destinations.
        • At capacity constrained airports, increasing demand over time for travel from the local market tends to displace connecting passengers, since, in general, point to point traffic is higher yielding than connectors. This effect probably explains the reduction in connecting passengers at Heathrow during the periods between 1996 and 2001 and 2002 and 2006. However, the opportunity to carry connecting passengers may help network airlines to weather periods of weaker local demand with less need to reduce services.
        (Also called ‘transfer traffic’. This is not the same as transit passengers, who arrive and depart on the same flight, normally remaining on board the aircraft. Transit passengers form less than half of one per cent of the UK’s passengers and, therefore, are not considered in this paper.
        Connecting passengers are counted as two passenger movements at the airport, once on arrival and once on departure. ‘Local’, ‘terminating’ or ‘point to point’ passengers are only counted once as a passenger movement, either as an arrival or a departure. When reference is made to passengers in any statistics in this paper, the term refers to passenger movements unless otherwise stated.)