Despite being Europe’s busiest airport and notoriously difficult for new carriers to gain access to due to slot issues, London Heathrow airport has seen a significant number of network changes during the last two years. This week saw the start of new services by bmi British Midland to Berlin and Vienna, China Airlines to Taipei, Kingfisher to Delhi and the resumption of services to Shanghai with China Eastern.
Comparing the start of the latest summer season with that of 2008, the number of weekly seats and the total seat capacity are both down between 2% and 3%. This apparent relative stability disguises the number of network changes which have taken place during this time. These are summarised in the following table.
|Services gained||Abuja (Arik Air), Almaty (bmi), Amritsar (Air India), Athens (Aegean Airlines), Atlanta (British Airways), Berlin Tegel (bmi/Lufthansa), Bilbao (Vueling), Brussels (Brussels Airlines), Delhi (Kingfisher), Detroit (Delta), Freetown (bmi), Gibraltar (British Airways), Hyderabad (British Airways), Jeddah (British Airways), Lagos (Arik Air), Las Vegas (British Airways), Milan Malpensa (Lufthansa Italia), Mumbai (Kingfisher), Muscat (Oman Air), Pisa (British Airways), Rio De Janeiro (British Airways), Riyadh (British Airways), Seville (Vueling), Shannon (Aer Lingus), Taipei (China Airlines), Tangier (Royal Air Maroc), Toronto (Air India), Toulouse (British Airways), Venice (British Airways), Vienna (bmi), Warsaw (British Airways)|
|Services lost||Ahmedabad (Air India), Amsterdam (bmi), Ankara (bmi), Barcelona (Iberia), Brussels (bmi), Dakar (bmi), Chicago O’Hare (Virgin Atlantic), Dhaka (British Airways), Durham Tees Valley (bmi), Ekaterinburg (bmi), Islamabad (British Airways), Jeddah (bmi), Jersey (bmi), Kolkata (Air India, British Airways), Leeds/Bradford (bmi), Lagos (Bellview Airlines), Los Angeles (Air France), Luxembourg (Luxair), Lyon (bmi), Mumbai (Virgin Atlantic), Naples (bmi), New York JFK (Air India), Osaka Kansai (JAL), Palma (bmi), Porto (TAP), Rotterdam (KLM), Tbilisi (bmi), Tel Aviv (bmi), Valencia (clickair)|
|Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 30 March 2008 and w/c 12 April 2010|
This does not include services that started since April 2008 and have since been abandoned such as Kingfisher’s service to Bangalore. During the next few months two other new routes are known to be starting; Lufthansa begins serving Dresden on a daily basis using bmi aircraft from 19 April, and on 24 May Virgin Atlantic launches thrice-weekly flights to Accra in Ghana.
British Airways maintains flights; bmi departures down 35%
While British Airways has maintained the number of flights it operates and increased the number of destinations it serves non-stop from 96 to 104, bmi British Midland has cut its network from 31 to just 20 routes in two years. Its new owner, Lufthansa, on the other hand has increased its presence by over 25% thanks in part to the addition of five daily flights to Milan Malpensa using its Lufthansa Italia subsidiary.
Apart from Lufthansa, Swiss has virtually doubled its presence at the airport thanks to its new six-times daily service to Geneva, complementing its existing six daily flights to Zurich.
Heathrow still way behind AMS, CDG and FRA for non-stop destinations
While protesters against the planned third runway at Heathrow celebrated an apparent victory in the UK courts that will require the government to re-justify its case based on more recent data, anna.aero analysis of schedule data confirms that Heathrow is falling further behind its European rivals when it comes to the number of non-stop destinations served. Frankfurt, Paris CDG and Amsterdam all serve many more destinations with non-stop flights. Comparing data for the last five summer seasons shows that Paris has gained routes, Frankfurt has stayed virtually unchanged and Amsterdam is now serving seven fewer destinations non-stop. However, London Heathrow is now serving 15 fewer destinations non-stop than it did in 2006.
In view of this evidence it would be interesting to know how the Conservative party (which hopes to gain power in an imminent UK general election) can still justify its position that Heathrow does not need a third runway, especially given that an additional runway has been approved for Frankfurt and both Amsterdam and Paris have twice as many runways as Heathrow.