31 MAY 2010


© 2022 Business Travel News Ltd.

Article from BTNews 31 MAY 2010

COMMENT: Air France to solve Heathrow Problem?

Air France will introduce the Airbus A380 on a single rotation from Charles de Gaulle to Heathrow Saturday week at weekends for a limited period. 

The reason is twofold.  The airline wants to up capacity during a busy season, but also, and in fact more important in many ways, it has a requirement to train as many flight deck and cabin crew as possible.  The one hour sector is ideal and very cost effective. 

What Air France has done is highlight a possible way forward for both the 2012 Olympics and Heathrow’s capacity problem noted in COMMENT last week, and also below, "London to get no more runways".

By August 2012, at a conservative guess, there will be over 50 Airbus A380 aircraft in airline service, with a typical capacity of around 500 passengers.  In comparison the Boeing 747 offers perhaps 375 on average with something over 500 currently in operation.

There is plenty of time for planners to reschedule their actual aircraft operations for that summer season (or just July, August and the start of September) to put the big aircraft on the London route, where it is not the normal case.  Paris is obvious, but why not Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Madrid, and even Edinburgh?  Dublin, with 1.8m passengers last year was Heathrow’s busiest regional international route.

This brings us to the capacity problem at Heathrow itself.

The average passenger per aircraft is presently 198 according to Airports Council International (ACI) statistics.  This figure has not grown appreciably in recent times, mainly due to British Airways downsizing from Boeing 757 to Airbus A320 on its European routes.  Load factor for 2009 was 72.5% and movements of all kind 466,000.

Last year 69m passengers moved through Heathrow.  This figure will drop for 2010 due to the volcanic ash problems and BA trade union difficulties.  The numbers were down on the previous year, but the losses were not as bad as rivals Frankfurt and Charles de Gaulle.

If you add ten passengers per flight to the 198, that would give a 5% increase in numbers without any effort by the airport or airlines.  Put on A380s (and perhaps the new Boeing 747-8) on some short and medium haul routes and the figures jump.  The 777 and forthcoming 787/A350 XWB are even more efficient.  Number crunchers can have a field day in coming up with figures and combinations of routes and aircraft. 

Conversely ANA could not get their high capacity 747 (515 passengers) to make economic sense between Tokyo and Osaka but as Heathrow is to remain a two-runway airport, for political reasons, every opportunity for it to stay ahead of its continental rivals must be looked at. 

The real airline problem is frequency v capacity, with frequency winning every time.  But frequency also equals movements and movements have reached their legal limit.  It is an absorbing quandary.  Is that the next battle for BAA?

In any event well done Air France.  The results of the London A380 will be carefully analysed.

Malcolm Ginsberg

Editor in Chief

In response to AERBT's COMMENT the following has been received from John Morris, Head of Government and Industry Affairs, Birmingham Airport.  AERBT does not agree with its contents and, whilst clearly there is a possibility for a small number of focussed international routes to be developed in the future at the airport, it is the business sectors that make money for airlines (and subsidise the back-end).  For most the originating traffic is around the 50% mark from either end.  Sadly, as far as we can see, the number of incoming business users to Birmingham is severely limited.  MG

“The continued obsession with Heathrow harks back to the twentieth-century.  It is understandable from those whose careers peaked in the last century, and who, like the dinosaurs, cannot adapt to change.  Yet I cannot understand why AERBT's usually-incisive analysis seems to have fallen for this, and why the Editor favours the Heathrow mantra over a progressive approach.

There are many of us who understand the mood of the UK population, as well as the political realities.  We want to see aviation prosper, but we also recognise that there needs to be a new way of doing things.

We need to adapt and shape the political landscape rather than try to bulldoze it.  We need to embrace new ideas rather than push ones that have their roots in the early twentieth-century.
AERBT's comment over route development at Birmingham was ill-judged and does not take account of the new political reality.  If you and other airports fail to recognise this, it can only be to Birmingham’s advantage!”

John Morris

Index/Home page

OUR READERS' FINEST WORDS (All times and dates are GMT)

All comments are filtered to exclude any excesses but the Editor does not have to agree with what is being said. 100 words maximum