11 AprHeathrow losing top international passenger slot to Dubai
Source: Gulf News
London: Heathrow is losing its top slot as the world’s busiest international passenger hub to Dubai, which the airport says reinforces its case for a third runway to protect UK competitiveness.
The number of passengers passing through the UK’s main air hub in March was down 2.8 per cent on March 2013 to 5.8 million, of whom 5.3 million were international, the airport announced on Friday.
Colin Matthews, Heathrow’s chief executive, said the decline was in line with expectations and largely because of Easter moving from March to April in 2014.
However, in March, Dubai reported higher international passenger numbers than Heathrow over a two-month period for the first time.
The Middle East hub that is home to Emirates Airline and flydubai said the expansion of the two operators was behind a rise of 11.7 per cent in its passenger traffic to 5.68 million in February from the same period last year. For the first two months of the year passenger numbers rose 13.5 per cent to 12.08 million.
The comparable figure for Heathrow for the past two months was 9.8 million international passengers.
Paul Griffiths, Dubai Airports chief executive, said he expected Dubai International to overtake Heathrow in terms of international passenger numbers by 2015.
Heathrow is the world’s third biggest airport by total passenger numbers and was still the largest when measured by international passengers last year. However Matthews said Dubai’s forecast “shows that the UK will soon no longer have the world’s number one airport for international passenger traffic”.
“We want Britain to continue to compete globally against the best hub airports in the world, but without a third runway Heathrow’s comparative decline will make the whole of the UK a less attractive to do business.”
Stephen Furlong, airlines analyst at Davy, said it was not just Dubai that was threatening Heathrow’s position as the pre-eminent long-haul hub. “There’s Abu Dhabi, Istanbul, Paris Charles de Gaulle, Frankfurt, Munich and others,” he said. “They’re all growing and some exponentially.”
Matthew’s comments come shortly after Gatwick published research arguing that it was the most appropriate site for another runway because the rise of low-cost airlines in Europe meant that the biggest demand was for short-haul flights.
The Airports Commission, set up by the government and chaired by Sir Howard Davies, in December shortlisted Heathrow and Gatwick as potential locations for the UK’s next new runway and both airports are keen to be selected as the most suitable site.
The commission is also examining a proposal by Boris Johnson, mayor of London, to build a new hub in the Thames estuary.
Furlong said that while the decision on where to build London’s next runway was political, “on an economic basis it’s hard to argue that Heathrow shouldn’t be allowed to grow”. “At the end of the day the long-haul hub for the UK is Heathrow.”
Heathrow’s 3 per cent passenger growth to 72.3 million last year was flattered by fewer people flying out of the airport in the run-up to and during the 2012 London Olympics. On an underlying basis, the number of passengers rose 2 per cent in 2013.
Gatwick, the UK’s second biggest airport, has said its passenger numbers rose 4 per cent to 35.4 million last year.
On Thursday, MPs said that the Christmas Eve flooding at Gatwick — during which 11,000 people were affected by delays and cancellations — should be a “wake-up call for airports across the UK” in tackling disruption.
“Disruption of whatever nature should be met with well-drilled plans, familiar to airport operators, airlines, and other contractors, which put passenger interests first,” the transport select committee said in a report.
Among Heathrow’s emerging market destinations, traffic to Mexico was up 19 per cent, China 11.67 per cent and Turkey 7.2 per cent.< BACK TO LISTING