Evidence of falling numbers of Heathrow passengers on domestic flights casts further doubt on 3rd runway promises
The case for expanding Heathrow was dealt yet another blow this week as figures reveal the number of domestic passengers using the airport falling by 9% – almost half a million. Data from the CAA shows 471,000 fewer domestic passengers travelling through Heathrow Airport in 2016 compared to 2015. This compares to growth in domestic passenger at every other London airport, including 272,000 (8%) at Gatwick in the same period. The Government’s backing for plans to expand Heathrow was given on the basis of “support new connections to the UK’s regions, as well as safeguarding existing domestic routes”. The 8 existing domestic routes offered by Heathrow now are: Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Aberdeen, Belfast City, Manchester, Newcastle and Leeds Bradford. Heathrow proposed a further 6 new routes to Belfast, Liverpool, Newquay, Humberside, Prestwick and Durham Tees Valley to be added – but only if it gets a 3rd runway. It is likely that the survival of so many new domestic routes, despite a marginal decrease in passenger charge which the airport announced recently, would be put into serious doubt without a form of Government subsidy. No proposals to provide financial assistance to these routes currently exist.
NEW EVIDENCE SHOWS CASE FOR THIRD RUNWAY FALLS FURTHER
11 January 2018 (No 3rd Runway Coalition)
The case for expanding Heathrow was dealt yet another blow this week as figures reveal the number of domestic passengers using the airport falling by almost half a million.
Information released by the Civil Aviation Authority shows 471,000 fewer domestic passengers travelling through Heathrow Airport in 2016, representing a 9% decline. This compares to growth at every other London Airport, including 272,000, or 8%, more domestic passengers handled at Gatwick in the same period (1). [CAA data for 2017 will not be published for several month. AW note].
The Government’s support for plans to expand Heathrow was given on the basis of “support new connections to the UK’s regions, as well as safeguarding existing domestic routes” (2).
The 8 existing routes offered today are: Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Aberdeen, Belfast City, Manchester, Newcastle and Leeds Bradford. Heathrow proposed a further 6 new routes to Belfast, Liverpool, Newquay, Humberside, Prestwick and Durham Tees Valley to be added after expansion.
Yet evidence suggests that the survival of so many new, domestic routes, despite a marginal decrease in passenger duty which the airport announced recently, would be put into serious doubt without a form of Government subsidy. No proposals to provide financial assistance to these routes currently exist.
The news comes as British Airways announced that it was cutting half its services between Leeds Bradford Airport and Heathrow from summer 2018 (3). The company says it has had to take the decision to reduce the frequency of flights “to match demand”.
Leeds Bradford Airport said the news that BA was reducing the number of weekly flights from twenty to ten in each direction was “a blow to their hopes that Heathrow expansion plans would have attracted more people to Yorkshire”.
Campaigners and politicians argue that this new information undermines the Government’s case for supporting any expansion at Heathrow even further, given evidence revealed in the Department for Transport’s own figures that show economic growth would be greater at Gatwick Airport than at Heathrow, in the long term.
Rob Barnstone, Coordinator of the No 3rd Runway Coalition, said:
“This is damning for both Heathrow and the Government, who are trying to sell a third runway based on better connections across the UK. The reality is, that without any financial support from the Government, evidence strongly suggests these new routes simply won’t have the demand to survive.
“Politicians should look at the evidence which shows Heathrow expansion is further than ever before from the economic prodigy that the Government and the Airport would let you believe.”
Ruth Cadbury MP, Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Heathrow Expansion, said:
“The reality is that whilst all other London airports are growing their domestic passenger traffic, Heathrow’s is falling. Surely that flies in the face of Heathrow’s claim that Runway 3 would deliver more domestic flights and serve more destinations?”
1. Civil Aviation Authority Data http://www.caa.co.uk/uploadedFiles/CAA/Content/Standard_Content/Data_and_analysis/Datasets/Airport_stats/Airport_data_2016_annual/Table_10_2_Domestic_Terminal_Passenger_Traffic.pdf
- Government support for Heathrow https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-decides-on-new-runway-at-heathrow
- BA cuts Heathrow route http://www.thetelegraphandargus.co.uk/news/15814820.leeds-bradford-airport-disappointed-as-british-airways-announces-flight-cuts-to-and-from-heathrow/For more information
Rob Barnstone, 07806947050, firstname.lastname@example.org
Data from the CAA
comparing 2015 and 2014
Comparing 2015 and 2016
BA to cut flights between Heathrow and Leeds Bradford from 20 to 10 per week – they are not profitable
British Airways says its flights from Leeds Bradford Airport to Heathrow are being cut by 50% “to match demand”. The changes are due to start in summer 2018. BA has not been making money on these flights. A spokesman for Leeds Bradford Airport said the cut in BA flights from 20 to 10 per week was a blow to their hopes that Heathrow’s ongoing runway expansion plans would have attracted more people to Yorkshire. “As the international gateway for Yorkshire and given our continued support for a 3rd runway at Heathrow, this news is disappointing for the largest region in the UK. …. “We hope the people of Yorkshire will still fully support the route, enabling us to prove to British Airways that the largest region in the UK can support a viable and profitable service going forward.” The Chair of the No 3rd Runway Coalition, Paul McGuinness commented that the pledges Heathrow had made to increase its number of domestic links are not credible. It is not in the gift of an airport to determine which air links exist – that is up to airlines, which will only fly routes that are profitable, unless they receive continuing subsidies to run routes at a loss. “It also reminds us of the short-sightedness of those who have been lulled into supporting Heathrow’s campaign to concentrate (yet again) all the best tax payer funded infrastructure in the already, disproportionately well endowed South East of the country.”
Heathrow spin on cutting (by a tiny further amount) its charges for domestic air passengers
Heathrow has put out a rather coy press release, crowing about how it is cutting charges for domestic air passengers. The aim is to encourage more to fly on domestic routes to and from Heathrow. They say they are cutting the charge by £15 per passenger, but carefully avoid giving the current or future figure. The charge per passenger is probably around £31 now, on domestic or European flights, and will be around £15. But no details are given. Earlier publications by Heathrow indicate they gave a £10 discount last year, so the £15 is only a small increase – but being used to generate positive publicity. Heathrow knows the Airports Commission believed the number of domestic links to Heathrow would actually fall over time, with a new runway. Heathrow is desperate to get regional politicians to believe the 3rd runway would give them better flights to Heathrow, to get support for the vote in Parliament on the 3rd runway, some time in the first half of 2018. The only way Heathrow can support more domestic flights is by subsidising them, with a route development fund. How long the airport would be prepared, once it has its runway, to continue the expensive subsidy is anyone’s guess. The subsidy could be seen as anti-competitive, especially with (far lower carbon) rail travel.