100 years of cross-channel air travel; London – Paris traffic down 50% since launch of Eurostar services in 1994

Image: 100 years of cross-channel air travel

Last Saturday saw the 100th anniversary of Louis Bleriot’s first cross-channel flight from Calais to Dover, an event marked by a recreation and a number of celebrations. Since then the busiest air route between the UK and France has been between the two capitals, London and Paris, which are only around 350 kilometres apart. Passenger numbers on this air route peaked in 1994 at just under four million, since when the introduction of the high-speed Eurostar rail services, running under the English channel, has gradually taken an increasing share of the total travel market as improvements to the rail network routing have reduced the rail journey time.

Chart: London - Paris air traffic 1990-2008, Annual passengers (000s)
Source: UK CAA
Paris data is addition of CDG and Orly traffic

easyJet introduced multiple daily flights from London Luton to Paris CDG in June 2002 which provided a brief boost to the air travel market. Since then traffic has continued to decline with London Gatwick and London Stansted services disappearing completely.

In 2008 the annual air traffic between London and Paris fell to below two million passengers, less than half the number that travelled in the pre-Eurostar days of 1994.

Route June 2008 June 2009 Change
Heathrow – CDG 131,451 117,418 -10.7%
London City – CDG 3,870 1,324 -65.8%
Luton – CDG 29,068 27,984 -3.7%
London City – ORY 8,319 8,037 -3.4%
Total 172,708 154,763 -10.4%
Source: UK CAA

Traffic data for June shows that demand is down a further 10%, dominated by the Heathrow flights which have seen passenger numbers fall by 10.7%. Air France services between London City and Paris CDG (operated by CityJet) have recently ended leaving just four different airline-airport combinations in the market.

Route Airline (weekly frequency)
Heathrow – CDG Air France (49), British Airways (53)
Luton – CDG easyJet (26)
London City – ORY Air France [CityJet] (20)
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 27 July 2009


  1. Vanni Gibertini says:

    It is interesting to notice that the traffic on the LTN-CDG route does not seem to have significantly affected by the relocation of the Eurostar service from Waterloo to St. Pancras, therefore much closer to the areas north of London that represent the catchment area for the easyJet air service.

  2. Arthur Dent says:

    For this winter Air France is apparently increasing its LHR – CDG frequency from 7/day to 9/day. The two extra daily flights will be operated by AirlinAir’s 50-seat ATR 42-500 turboprops. There can’t be many turboprop flights left operating at LHR these days?

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