12 AUGUST 2013


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Article from BTNews 12 AUGUST 2013

COMMENT: Heathrow – the way is down!

Sir Howard Davies put on a brave face last week when he faced certain selected media as the Airport Commission published a list of short and long-term possibilities for future expansion.  In truth he and his team, however meticulous and fair they try to be, cannot win.  When the results of the investigation are published after the 2015 election they will be just a recommendation.  Only then will the real fight begin. 

Strangely the Commission noted (in a spread sheet) all 50 long-term comments/proposals but only a very unclear muddled list of over 70 submissions from organisations and private individuals regarding short-term possibilities.

And will anything happen?  The answer is probably nothing.  Willie Walsh is possibly right in walking away from the whole thing.  Leave Heathrow as a two-runway airport.  Why does (arguably) the international hub of the world want a third landing strip he says?  All it will do is add competition for British Airways (who probably has enough slots for at least the next decade what with route swaps and larger aircraft).  The airline can see what has happened with the demise of bmi.  It has worked well for its shareholders (or it would have done without Iberia) but much less so to the travelling public.  BA is in a win win position.

This brings us around to another document published in the last week or so.

OAG, the flight data company, brought out its August seat offerings from airports all around the globe.  Unlike the IATA figures these show capacity rather than actual numbers travelling and include every airline that gives its timetable details to the Luton-based operation, low-cost carriers included.  The IATA statistics only offer passengers actually carried by members of that organisation (which for the most part do not include budget airlines).

As reported in BTN 5 August OAG noted a 2% capacity growth. 

Each month the analysts take a look at different aspects of the air transport business and for August have extrapolated the rankings to show a potential situation in August 2016.

The results are astonishing.  Heathrow goes from number three overall (based on 2012) to number eight, behind Beijing, Atlanta, Istanbul and Dubai.  It is the only European airport in the top ten. 

However the Heathrow Airport Ltd Spanish-led consortium owners should not panic.  The numbers are still very good and OAG points out that this is only one scenario.  The generally excellent 2003 Department for Transport White Paper 'The Future of Air Transport' predicted at the top end 600m UK air passengers for 2030 (222m for 2012).  It referred to 30m at Luton (10m approx 2013) and 9m London City (3m) passengers.

London continues as the most attractive business city in the world and does not lag that far behind Paris in terms of leisure traffic.  As Sir Howard said “It is not all doom and gloom”.  He indicated that expansion to the east was not on.

Northolt gained a mention, but in a rather perverse way the report suggesting “some small aircraft could use the airport which would otherwise use Heathrow”.  No mention of the RAF airfield offering a life saving London link for the Provinces.

The closing date for further comments is 27 September and the Commission says it will publish an interim report in December.

PS.  Please see AND FINALLY and take a look at the lead photograph as published by the Department of Transport!  You will be surprised.



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