The Heathrow Dilemma

Why does Heathrow need to be expanded? Lets start with that point. Commercial industry is expanding. As is the aviation industry. More people are going on holiday than ever before. International business is on the rise. The need to export cargo by air has never been greater. The latest figures from this time last year, show that the UK’s aviation industry is now worth £52 billion in overall GDP, 960,000 jobs, and £8.7 billion in taxation. 3.4% of the UK’s growing economy comes from aviation, with airports being the largest single contributor from the industry. So its pretty clear that aviation is quite key to our economy. It’s also clear that in every measurable factor, our country’s aviation industry is expanding. But planes need airports, and when those airports are being limited in the number of aircraft they can allow to take off and land, our industry begins to lose potential customers and therefore money; not a good thing!

So what exactly is the situation at Heathrow? Well the government’s argument is that Heathrow is on the brink of suffering a decline in connectivity. However I would argue that it has already started the decline. It is operating at 99% capacity,  thereby increasing delay times when flights are disrupted, and risks losing destinations to other competing mainland european airports like Amsterdam Schiphol and Paris Charles de Gaulle.

There is a global race to secure routes to emerging economies in Asia and South America. Britain needs to compete with other large national airports to secure these routes, and with Heathrow operating at full capacity, it can’t do that. Expansion would allow Heathrow to secure a large number of new routes to China and South America. In the wake of the Chinese state visit to the UK, in which David Cameron promised increased trade with China, it needs to be understood that increased trade can’t happen with Heathrow at its current capacity. Cameron doesn’t seem to understand just how important our airports are to UK trade.

I’m going to come back to comparing Heathrow to other competing european airports now. Heathrow is, as we know, operating at 99% capacity. Amsterdam Schiphol is operating at 62% capacity, allowing airlines to start new routes, meaning there is no limit to the amount of money from aviation that can be brought into the Netherlands. Paris Charles de Gaulle is operating at 71% capacity; no other airport in Europe in under as much strain as Heathrow is.

There are more UK airports served by Amsterdam than by Heathrow.  From Amsterdam, you can fly to 24 UK destinations. From Heathrow, you can only fly to 7 UK destinations. Let that sink in.The best word to describe this, in my opinion, is ridiculous. You can’t fly from Heathrow to Cardiff or Heathrow to Liverpool. But you can fly from Amsterdam to both of those places, and many many more! Long haul flights have squeezed out short haul domestic flights, because long haul makes more money. This is a compromise. Heathrow can no longer serve long haul and short haul routes equally. Heathrow is the only airport in Europe having this problem.

Now onto exports and cargo. In 2014, £101 billion worth of goods travelled via Heathrow, more than the sea ports of Felixstowe and Southampton combined. 33% of UK long haul export goods travelled through Heathrow in 2014, compared to 0.25% through Gatwick. This is certainly a reason for Heathrow to be rewarded in expansion, instead of Gatwick: far more cargo already passes through. It is more convenient for cargo to pass through Heathrow than Gatwick; 120 of the UK’s top 300 companies are based within 15 miles of Heathrow. Only 16 are based within 15 miles of Gatwick; more justification as to why Heathrow should be expanded instead of Gatwick.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this, hopefully it may have swayed you for Heathrow’s expansion if you were previously undecided. Or perhaps it has just given you a clearer insight into the matter. Please feel free to like and leave your thoughts in the comment box. 

2 thoughts on “The Heathrow Dilemma

  1. I was reading your article and found it very interesting, but I disagreed with your position in that we should be ‘rewarding’ Heathrow for its contribution towards global exports. The pollution levels around Heathrow are already well above the recommended limits and our membership of the EU requires us to comply with these environmental guidelines. Do you think it would be fair on those living within close proximity to Heathrow to further decrease the air quality and noise pollution of the surrounding area? Adding hundreds of thousands of car journeys per year, to and from the airport wouldn’t be beneficial to the environment or the health of local families. If Heathrow is running at 99% capacity then surely we should focus on transferring some of the ‘workload’ to Gatwick and increase its role in our evolving economy rather than simply increasing the size and operation of an already overcrowded and environmentally unfriendly facility.

    Liked by 1 person

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