London Heathrow to lose world #1 ASKs ranking to Dubai

More ASKs than Heathrow award trophy

When it comes to airport capacity as measured by ASKs (Available Seat Kilometres) London's Heathrow is still #1 although Dubai is closing fast and should become #1 some time in 2014

As the discussion and analysis regarding the future strategy for handling growing air traffic demand in London continues, can reveal that London Heathrow Airport is still the world’s leading airport, if measured not by aircraft movements, or even passengers, but by ASKs (Available Seat Kilometres). While airlines regularly measure their performance and capacity in terms of ASKs flown (as it takes into account sector length), this is not a measure that has any real impact on airports, as once a passenger has left the airport, it is of little interest to the airport how far they travel.

However, using ASKs does give an indication of how many long-haul services are provided at the airport, and, based on analysis of Innovata schedule data for the period October 2012 to September 2013, London Heathrow leads the world, and probably has done for at least a couple of decades.

Dubai to pass Heathrow some time in 2014?

However, London Heathrow is now coming under attack from Dubai Airport, which has gained significantly in the last 12 months, narrowing the gap from almost 42 million annual departing ASKs for the year ending September 2012, to under 18 million annual ASKs for the ending September 2013. This suggest that some time in 2014 Dubai may pass Heathrow based on this metric.

World's Top 15 Airports by annual ASKs Annual departing ASKs (millions) for y/e September 2013

Source: Analysis of Innovata / Diio Mi data for w/c 12 August 2013

Heathrow’s only hope may be that the opening of Dubai World Central to scheduled flights later this year may slightly delay this, but it seems inevitable that, with the planned growth of Emirates, Dubai will become #1 sooner rather than later.

Beijing passes Hong Kong; Atlanta drops out of top 15

Comparing data for the years ending September 2012 and September 2013 also shows that:

  • Singapore is ahead of Hong Kong and Beijing, to be the leading Asian airport based on annual figures. However, analysis of ASKs just for September 2013 shows that Beijing has leapfrogged both of its Asian rivals on a monthly basis.
  • The fastest-climbing airport in the rankings is Seoul Incheon, which thanks to ASK growth of 8.8%, has climbed three places from 15th to 12th.
  • Amsterdam is the only ‘new entry’ in the Top 15 at #14 (it was 16th for y/e September 2012), thanks to ASK growth of 2.8%.
  • The world’s busiest airport in terms of passengers, Atlanta, has fallen out of the Top 15 (from #14 to #16), despite a small (0.1%) increase in ASKs.
  • Five of the current top 15 airports saw a small decline in annual ASKs; London Heathrow (-0.3%), Hong Kong (-1.1%), Chicago O’Hare (-1.1%), Bangkok (-1.2%), and Frankfurt (-1.3%).


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