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NEWS Last modified on September 27, 2013

Heathrow challenges Gatwick’s claims on long-haul routes

London Heathrow is submitting evidence to the UK Airports Commission challenging Gatwick’s claims that it is able to support long-haul flights to growth markets.

This follows the recent news that Air China is suspending its Gatwick-Beijing flights, Korean Air has withdrawn its services and the Garuda Indonesia proposal of a Gatwick-Jakarta route has been cancelled.

In total, Heathrow argues that 20 long-haul airlines have withdrawn from Gatwick in the last five years (see table).

Heathrow is also quick to point out that UK businesses trade 20 times more with emerging markets that have daily flights than those with less frequent of no direct service.

Its statement continues: “Gatwick maintains that long-haul flights do not need to operate from a hub airport. Yet, in the 10 years that Heathrow has been full, Gatwick has failed to deliver flights to long-haul business destinations.

“Airlines that have been unable to access slots at Heathrow have tried and failed to make long-haul flights from Gatwick work.”

Heathrow’s chief executive, Colin Matthews, argues: “There is no need for a crystal ball to test Gatwick’s claims that it can provide long-haul flights when we have the hard evidence of 10 years of failure.”

He warns: “Gatwick’s proposal to prevent Heathrow expanding, while adding a new runway at its own airport, endangers Britain’s future competitiveness.

“It is a zero-hub solution that will lead to an irreversible decline in Britain’s international connections.

“Only a hub airport with the scale to compete internationally can provide the long-haul flights the UK needs.”

(click to enlarge)

However, Heathrow says that it is not opposed to growth at Gatwick – as long as that growth coincides with building an expanded hub airport.

The statement argues that demand for long-haul from London exists, but that the lack of transfer passengers at Gatwick fails to fill flights, in comparison to European hubs at Paris, Amsterdam and Frankfurt.

It adds: “Some of Gatwick’s flights to Vietnam, one of the last long-haul services to an emerging market from the airport, are now flying via Frankfurt to pick up more passengers to make the flight viable.”

The statement concludes: “Analysis by York Aviation shows that adding capacity at other London airports but not at a hub would mean fewer routes than today, while adding new runway capacity at a single hub would mean London and the UK could add more than 100 new routes.

“Airlines say they won’t move to Gatwick or Stansted. Despite Gatwick and Stansted having spare capacity and lower charges, neither has been able to attract the long-haul flights that Heathrow does.

“Over the period in which Gatwick lost 20 long-haul airlines, it gained just six that are still operating, mostly to leisure destinations – Thomson, Monarch, Caribbean, Gambia Bird, Vietnam and Iraqi.”

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