London Heathrow in FLAP: still busier than Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Paris CDG, but far fewer destinations

It really is true! For the benefit of our great leaders, scientists at have proved there is a direct correlation between having enough runways, and the ability to fly to more places.

It really is true! For the benefit of our great leaders, scientists at have proved there is a direct correlation between having enough runways, and the ability to fly to more places.

As the world’s Olympians head back home after their participation in London 2012, has decided to once again compare the global networks of Frankfurt, London, Amsterdam, and Paris CDG (often referred to by the inelegant acronym of the “F.L.A.P.” airports). As part of this analysis, we have produced a free, downloadable spreadsheet which enables users to sort and analyse the current network data in a variety of ways.

While London Heathrow remains the biggest of the four airports in terms of annual passenger numbers and weekly departures, it currently has direct services to 162 destinations, considerably fewer than its rivals in Amsterdam (247), Paris CDG (236) and Frankfurt (277).

Heathrow: less flights to other UK airports than its rivals

FLAP airport network comparison Destinations served non-stop in each country/region

Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 6 August 2012

Analysis of each airport’s available routes by country and region reveals a number of interesting and curious statistics.

  • Heathrow is connected to fewer UK airports than its rivals! Over 20 UK airports are connected directly to Amsterdam while just seven UK airports now have service to Heathrow.
  • Amsterdam serves more Chinese destinations non-stop than its rivals.
  • Frankfurt offers non-stop flights to 11 airports in Russia. None of its rivals serves more than three.
  • Paris is best connected to airports in Africa, with non-stop flights to 40 destinations, almost twice as many as Amsterdam and London Heathrow.
  • Heathrow only serves four Latin American destinations non-stop. All of its rivals serve at least twice as many.
  • All four airports serve a similar number of destinations in North America, with Heathrow offering the most weekly services.

Even the UK Coalition government is beginning to recognise that Heathrow’s expansion, while not a vote-winner, is structurally vital to Britain’s future competitiveness so, after a six-month delay, this autumn it will begin a consultation on South East England’s airport capacity which it hopes will re-recommend building a third Heathrow runway (or perhaps a new airport in the Thames Estuary, the project favoured by London’s Mayor). This will most likely leave the actual decision until after the next election in 2014/15, meaning it will take until around 2016-20 before any new runway becomes operational, or about 10 years later than the opening of Frankfurt’s fourth runway in 2011. But this will never be too late for the airlines who will still queue up to use it, no matter how long it takes – something recognised by the Qatar Investment Authority which obviously thinks it will get a safe return on the $1.4 billion it is paying for a 20% stake in Heathrow’s operator, BAA.

Download the FLAP comparison spreadsheet

Be your own analyst: Use's free, downloadable spreadsheet allowing you to sort and analyse the current network data of the FLAP airports in any way you choose!


  1. A. ter Kuile says:

    A very interesting read, thank you.
    However on closer analysis of the data I miss your explanation that you calculate based on NON-STOP flights only, i.e. excluding multi-stop flights and their destinations. This is somewhat misleading as you exclude Sydney, Melbourne, Auckland, etc. where LHR is especially strong. But at the same time you exclude ADD, DAR, EBB, GYE, etc. from AMS and similarly destinations from FRA and CDG. So your number of destinations served is false, but your number of flights may be correct.

    Also you may wish to check BRE figures as these are incorrect for all four airports.

    Continue the good work,
    Alexander ter Kuile

    • The week we chose to analyse was the period 6-12 August. Bremen Airport was actually shut for runway maintenance for most of this period so the frequencies we quoted from AMS, CDG and FRA appear to be correct. However, once the airport was fully operational again in the following week (13-19 August), the numbers were 26 for AMS, 14 for CDG and 34 for FRA.

  2. NBH says:

    What really matters are the financial centers: NY, Tokyo, Hong Kong, etc. How many more seats are there a day between JFK/EWR and LHR than the other hubs? Where are the Business Class seats filled at full-fares, not upgrades or FF miles?

  3. Rigas Doganis says:

    The hub analysis is interesting but can be a little misleading for giving an insight about the power of the various hubs. The key seems to be the number of long-haul points served non-stop . On this basis LHR at first appears weaker.But if you look at weekly frequencies to major global centres LHR is way ahead .e.g. LHR to JFK 129 per week , next best CDG 66 ; LHR-HKG 55 next CDG-HKG 22; LHR-SIN 49 next FRA-SIN 28; LHR-DXB 63 next FRA-DXB 28…So analysis needs to be more nuanced.

    • Ala Toukatli says:

      Very true! I found also the analysis a bit misleading as FRA and AMS serve both the scheduled hub traffic and the P2P charter, whereas LHR and CDG are more hub focused. LGW and ORY are taking care of the charter traffic.

  4. Also to consider is the politics behind the destinations from these large airports. Example Amsterdam and Paris – read The Netherlands and France – have agreements with different countries. For instance The Netherlands and the US, which gave KLM access to a lot of US cities. Air France with is colonies (some former) in Africa gave them access to that large continent. Don’t forget these airport are the home base of these flag carriers, in countries that have done some good trade politics in the past.

    • Although what you say is true, Britain (and thereby London Heathrow) is hardly an exception. The ties with other Commonwealth countries ought to be equally strong, if not stronger, than the other analysed hubs’ trade and political links.

  5. David Johnson says:

    I accept that frequency to core business destinations is critical, but also accept that connections to emerging markets are also important.
    While an oil city in central Asia may not count as a core business detsination, it’s presumably of very high value for what it adds to an airport’s network.

    Where I disagree with your analysis is that treating all destinations / airlines from a FLAP airport as equivalent is not necessarily justifiable. Easyjet for example do not accept connecting passengers, so does not add anything to an airport’s network benefits and all passengers are point-to-point. For this reason, I would propose the removal of all frequencies on airlines which do not accept interlining passengers. Thus for Amsterdam one might ignore ArkeFly, Correndon, EasyJet, Norwegian, SunExpress, Transavia in any similiar analysis.

    Coincidentally, Heathrow seems to have almost no routes operated by non-interlining carriers – the charter carriers and LCCs are almost all at non-Heathrow London airports and thus don’t fall under the above analys. Instead at Heathrow, every route seems to add to the overall network of the airport, with the holiday / charter carriers and non-interlining LCCs counted for detaination and frequency at FAP (not FLAP) airports but not Heathrow

    • Krishnan R Iyengar says:

      David Johnson’s claim that all LCCs don’t transfer passengers (and baggage) is wrong: both Norwegian and Vueling already do this between their own flights and with selected airlines (in the latter’s case, so far only with parent Iberia). Mr Johnson’s analysis further ignores that a significant number of LCC passengers nowadays self-connect at big airports such as Gatwick, Manchester and Milan-Malpensa from/to services operated by legacy airlines. Some of the latter — for instance Emirates and Virgin Atlantic — already provide links from their website to LCC websites to facilitate this. Some airports — Malpensa, Dublin and soon Gatwick as well — facilitate/will support this in the near future through web-based tailor-made self-connect solutions, where passengers can book airport assistance with interlining online that takes care of transferring bags while they connect between flights. Official airport statistics counting the number of transfer passengers don’t take account of this.

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