Expert insight

Booming passenger numbers at Heathrow and Gatwick

21 November 2017

Despite recent headlines about air disruption, Heathrow and Gatwick airports have clocked up healthy numbers in 2017.

It’s been a year of headlines about airline booking problems and strikes – yet the UK’s biggest airports Heathrow and Gatwick have both been celebrating strong passenger numbers in 2017.

It has been a record-breaking year for Heathrow Airport, with total passenger numbers reaching a high of 77 million year on year in June. Nearly seven million passengers travelled through Heathrow in September alone – an increase of 2% compared with the same period last year.

Heathrow is flying high

Autumn also saw an increase in traffic from Heathrow Airport to South and Central American destinations, up 9% in September compared to last year. This is, in part, due to British Airways’ new direct route to Santiago, Chile. Flights to South Asia also proved popular, with Air India reporting a 21% rise in passenger numbers.

Closer to home, domestic flights also experienced a surge. The regional airline Flybe flew 20,000 more passengers within the UK in September.

Commenting on the stellar success, Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye said: “September has been another remarkable month for Heathrow, with passenger and cargo volumes hitting new highs.”

High passenger volumes bring their own pressures, of course, and Heathrow was recently rated among the UK’s worst airports for disabled and less mobile travellers by the Civil Aviation Authority – an issue which owners have vowed to rectify.

Meanwhile, after the long-running debate about airport expansion at Heathrow or Gatwick, the Government is backing a third runway at Heathrow. With Parliament expected to debate on the issue in early 2018, it could be another eventful year for the UK’s busiest airport.

Great news for Gatwick

Despite news that its passengers experienced the longest average delays over the summer, Gatwick Airport is also enjoying a very healthy autumn. Passenger numbers reached 4.5 million in September – an increase of three million year on year.

The UK’s second-largest airport reported that flights to long-haul destinations were up by 8% from last year, particularly between the UK and Asian destinations. Flights to Hong Kong experienced a 65% increase, thanks to Gatwick’s daily connection to the city. Journeys to China’s Tianjin also grew by 28%.

South American destinations witnessed a growth in popularity, with a 15% increase in the number of travellers flying to Lima. With long-haul flights booming, over the next few months Gatwick will add more long-haul connections to Austin, Chicago, Taipei and Buenos Aires.

In response to these figures, Gatwick’s CEO Stewart Wingate said: “Gatwick’s September figures demonstrate the year-round global connectivity that the airport provides with passengers choosing Gatwick for destinations right across the globe – whether this be Asia, the USA and Canada, South America, Europe or Africa.”

Gongs for Gatwick

There was more good news for Gatwick when it scooped the Airport of the Year award at the National Transport Awards in October. And like other forward-looking green airports, Gatwick is also earning plaudits for its sustainability commitments. It picked up a gong for Outstanding Sustainability Programme at the international Airports Going Green Awards this month.

The win was due in part to a new waste management plant, which converts airline rubbish such as packaging and food into energy onsite.

Which London airport is cheapest?

Despite healthy competition from the UK’s regional airports, Heathrow and Gatwick continue to dominate the UK’s air industry. But which works out best for your business travellers?

Our experts have crunched the numbers to reveal which London airport often works out cheaper than the rest.

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