The UK risks falling even further behind in coming years as continental hubs expand further, according to Colin Matthews, Chief Executive of British Airports Authority. “As the UK’s only international hub airport, Heathrow is central to developing our trade links with fast-growing emerging markets,” he said. “Capacity constraints are damaging the UK economy today when the country can least afford it. A new hub airport has been proposed in the South East, but this has a projected cost of £50 billion and may take decades to build. During this time we would be handing over on a plate the UK’s historic trade advantages to our European competitors.”
In 2011 there was also a record 476,197 flights, which represent 99.2% of Heathrow’s annual limit of 480,000. This means the capacity constraints at Heathrow are tighter than ever, restricting growth in the UK economy:
- Airlines are prevented from developing new routes to emerging market destinations such as Manila, Guangzhou and Jakarta.
- Twenty-one emerging market destinations now have daily flights from Continental European hubs but not Heathrow – this lack of connectivity is costing the UK economy £1.2bn a year in lost trade.
- UK businesses trade 20 times as much with those countries that Heathrow has daily flights to compared with countries that have less frequent or no direct services.
- There was a small increase in passenger figures to and from China, up by just 57,509 (3%) in 2011 – less than the overall increase in passenger numbers.
- Paris and Frankfurt already have 1,000 more flights each year to the three biggest Chinese cities than London and almost double the number of flights from Heathrow.