Hoping to scare post-Brexit Britain into building its 3rd runway, Heathrow lists Gatwick’s long-haul failures

With the arrival of Theresa May as the new Prime Minister, a new Cabinet, and a new Transport Secretary (Chris Grayling replacing Patrick McLoughlin) the battle of Heathrow and Gatwick is hotting up.  Even further than before. There is a new flurry of announcements, and spurious polls, and surveys of various sorts – as well as just plain spin. Both airports are attempting to capitalise on uncertainty about Brexit and its (as yet unknown) consequences, and rather than suggest a sensible delay to consider how Brexit pans out, are trying to make out that their runway will be even more vital in a post-Brexit Britain. Especially threatened by Theresa May’s record of statements against a 3rd runway, Heathrow is pulling out all the stops. It has produced research proving how inferior Gatwick would be in terms of “connecting the UK to the world” and global growth and emerging markets etc etc.  Heathrow says, as is quite true and well known, that Gatwick has few long-haul flights, those it has are largely for leisure purposes, and many of its long-haul flights are not frequent.  Many airlines start long-haul routes at Gatwick, and transfer to Heathrow as soon as the chance arises. Heathrow says in the last 6 years, Gatwick lost 7 long haul routes to emerging markets, and gained 2, but in that time Heathrow lost 3 and gained 9 routes to emerging markets.



Heathrow’s press release:

New research confirms Heathrow expansion is essential for post-Brexit Britain

  • Frequent*, long-haul connections have increased at Heathrow since 2010 despite capacity constraints – whilst Gatwick has seen a net loss
  • Gatwick has consistently struggled to sustain frequent flights to emerging markets, despite having spare capacity

** ‘Frequent’ is defined as more than 100 flights a year or around twice weekly on average.

New research by Frontier Economics confirms that only Heathrow can sustain the frequent, long-haul routes to emerging markets that will be key to the UK’s strong economic future and the Government’s Brexit plan.

Gatwick Airport has long claimed it can provide the global connectivity needed to boost the British economy, heralding new emerging market connections as evidence that it is “in the premier league of long-haul airports”.

Yet the new research shows that it would be a gamble for the UK to stake its future connectivity on those claims. While Gatwick can sustain some frequent long-haul routes, mostly to leisure destinations, it cannot sustain the frequent long-haul routes to emerging markets that businesses in Britain needs for trading in a post-Brexit era.

Both Gatwick and Heathrow have lost and gained new long-haul routes in the period between 2010 and 2016:

  • Gatwick made a total net loss of four, frequent long-haul routes – despite having spare capacity.
  • By contrast, Heathrow, with capacity constraints, made a net gain of six new, frequent long-haul connections.

But it is the type of routes won and lost by Gatwick which shows it cannot adequately sustain routes to emerging markets. Between 2010 and 2016:

  • Gatwick lost 12 routes, seven of which were to emerging markets including Mexico City, Beijing and Jakarta. And while it gained eight new long-haul routes only two were to emerging markets: Lagos and Lima.
  • By contrast, Heathrow lost 10 long-haul routes, of which three were to emerging markets but it gained 16 new long-haul routes of which nine were to emerging markets including Jakarta, Guanghzhou and Chengdu.

Another clear differential is the frequency of services. Of the 83 long haul destinations served by Heathrow, 52 are daily connections, compared to Gatwick’s nine. Research has shown that one of the key factors to increasing trade with emerging markets is a direct air flight, which helps deliver up to 20 times more trade possible when there is a one.

The findings paint a clear picture as to why long-haul airlines overwhelmingly choose to operate from a hub airport like Heathrow. The demand created by a combination of direct and transfer passengers with freight makes such routes viable and more frequent. That’s why as the UK’s global hub, Heathrow’s connections allow British exporters to trade with all the growing markets of the world, strengthening Britain’s position as one of the great trading nations.

Commenting on the figures, Heathrow’s Director of Strategy Andrew MacMillan said:

“A global, outward looking, nation needs Heathrow expansion now more than ever. Even with Heathrow at capacity, this analysis clearly shows that Gatwick is unable to sustain long-haul, emerging market routes.

Whilst Gatwick is a great point-to-point airport, only Heathrow has the passenger demand and freight infrastructure that makes trading routes to Asia, Africa and the Americas viable long-term.

At a time of uncertainty, Heathrow expansion would create up to 180,000 jobs and up to £211bn in economic benefit, [These figures are very questionable.  AW comment] which is why a third runway is key to the Government’s Brexit plan. Any other option would be a high-risk gamble with Britain’s economic future.”

Many of the airlines providing new connections and with an increased frequency have waited years for available slots at Heathrow and some have switched from Gatwick because of the demand the hub provides. For example:

  • Garuda Indonesia switched its service from Gatwick to Heathrow in 2016 after a seven-year wait. In doing so it was able to increase its service frequency from three to five flights a week and introduced the UK’s first non-stop flight to Indonesia because of demand at Heathrow;
  • Charlotte Douglas, a major US financial centre and energy business centre and one of the fastest growing areas in the USA, was only served daily from Gatwick but it is now served in twice-daily in a joint venture between American Airlines and BA, since moving to Heathrow;
  • Hanoi was a twice-weekly service but is now served three times a week since Vietnam Airlines moved to Heathrow from Gatwick.

Critical to Heathrow’s success in winning and sustaining long-haul routes is air freight – carried in the cargo hold of passenger aircraft.

As the Airports Commission report stated:

Heathrow is by far the largest and most important UK airport for freight.”

It went on to state that Heathrow is “better placed to accommodate high frequencies of less thick long-haul connections and … thus more attractive for freight handling. Another attractive feature of Heathrow for the freight sector is its central position on the strategic road network.”

By comparison “as there currently is only a limited freight-handling operation at Gatwick, any significant growth in the cargo sector at Gatwick would require a significant investment by third parties to develop freight-handling facilities. The scheme’s masterplan does not explicitly provide for additional freight-handling capacity”.

Only Heathrow has plans to significantly increase its cargo-handling capacity to exploit the opportunities that greater connectivity brings for British businesses trading with existing and new markets.

Andrew MacMillan added: “Quite simply, this new research confirms the same conclusion that the Airports Commission came to, that increased connectivity is best served by expanding Heathrow.”


-Ends –


Notes to editors:

The research is based on the industry standard Official Airline Guide (OAG) and International Air Transport Association (IATA) data between 2010 and 2016. Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) bought Gatwick in 2010.

‘Frequent’ is defined as more than 100 flights a year or around twice weekly on average.

During the period 2010 to 2016:

Gatwick lost 12 long haul routes, of which 7 were to emerging markets, they were:

  • Doha, Qatar
  • Hanoi, Vietnam
  • Seoul, South Korea
  • Mexico City, Mexico
  • Beijing, China
  • Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
  • Jakarta, Indonesia

Gatwick gained 8 new long haul routes, of which 2 are to emerging markets:

  • Lagos, Nigeria and
  • Lima, Peru.

Heathrow lost 10 long haul routes, of which 3 were to emerging markets:

  • Amritsar, India
  • Dhaka, Bangladesh
  • Taipei, Taiwan

Heathrow gained 16 new long haul routes, of which 9 were to emerging markets:

  • Bogota, Colombia
  • Guangzhou, China
  • Jarkarta, Indonesia
  • Chengdu, China
  • Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • Hanoi, Vietnam
  • Manila, Philippines
  • Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
  • Sylhet, Bangladesh




Britain’s airport war gets dirty:  Heathrow releases dossier of rival’s failures, as Gatwick woos new London mayor


15 July 2016  (This is Money)

Gatwick struck a blow in its bid to win the war for a second runway as it secured £200m from investors and the support of the London Mayor.

Britain’s second busiest airport announced it would pump cash in to expanding its north and south terminals, bring in new shops, bigger immigration halls and have more gates for airplanes.

The investment was unveiled by the capital’s mayor Sadiq Khan who gave Gatwick a further boost by calling on the Government to choose the airport as the home to a new runway.

It escalates the war between Gatwick and Heathrow over which should be expanded to boost the UK’s airport capacity.

A report by Sir Howard Davies recommended building at Heathrow to improve the UK’s airport capacity. It was hoped the publication of the Davies report would solve the crisis.

In February former Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said that he hoped the Government would finally make its choice by the summer.

Asked this week about the decision, new Chancellor Philip Hammond suggested no decision would be made until the Cabinet had reviewed the report.
The announcement by Gatwick comes a day after Heathrow launched an attack on Gatwick that attempted to torpedo its case for a second runway.
It produced a 20-page presentation in which it claimed Gatwick had lost 12 long-haul routes in six years, seven of which were to emerging markets including Mexico City, Beijing and Jakarta.

In that time Gatwick had only gained eight, Heathrow’s report claimed. Gatwick dismissed the claims.

Backing Gatwick, Khan said: ‘The new Prime Minister [Theresa May] has a very important decision to make regarding new airport capacity, and I urge her to rule as swiftly as possible in favour of a second runway at Gatwick, which would bring substantial economic benefits.’

The funding for Gatwick comes from private equity backer Global Infrastructure Partners. It brings the total investment over the coming five years to £1.2billion.
A quick decision on expanding the UK airport capacity is considered crucial to ensure continued economic growth following Brexit. The battle between the two airports is fierce.

Heathrow looked like it was a shoo-in following the Davies report but they face a new hurdle as the Prime Minister’s constituency is in Maidenhead under the flight path of Heathrow.

Gatwick might have the support of the mayor but it will have to overcome some hurdles. Heathrow will invest over £3billion at the airport, which is three times what Gatwick will spend over the same period.

Gatwick’s railway station is also bursting at the seams. Commuters already suffer one of the worst railway lines in the country, the Brighton main line.
Gatwick expansion will add 90,000 extra passengers a day to a line that is already at capacity.

A Heathrow spokesman said: ‘Britain leaving the EU means that Heathrow expansion is more vital than ever. ‘It will allow British exporters to trade with all the growing markets of the world, strengthening Britain’s position as one of the great trading nations.’ The spokesman added: ‘It’s essential we get this decision right and Heathrow is the right choice for a stronger economy.’