The Airports Commission this morning published an interim report into possible options to expand UK airport capacity

Three options were shorlisted, with the Boris Island being also mentioned as receiving further consideration. The final report is expected in 2015.

The three short-listed options (two of which relate to Heathrow) adding a third runway at Heathrow, lengthening an existing runway at Heathrow, and a new runway at Gatwick.

Stansted and Birmingham appear to have been ruled out at this stage, although they may be in contention in the more distant future.

Sir Howard Davies, said that the Commission’s analysis showed one net additional runway was needed by 2030.
He added that the capacity challenge is not yet critical, but it will become so if no action is taken soon.

The Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin made a statement to the House of Commons expressing his approval of the Airport Commission recommendations, stating the report “offers a clear recommendation that there is a need for a new runway capacity” in the medium term “to support continued competitiveness and prosperity”.

Flight delays today to persist until at least 14:00hrs

London Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, and Dublin airports are amongst those affected, due to a technical issue at the Sandwick Air Traffic Control Centre. Passengers are experiencing flight delays and cancellations.

Heathrow Airport had cancelled 60 flights by 9:45am this morning.

Some long haul flights inbound will be diverted to continental airports.

When the issues are fixed there will be a further period of disruption while services are re-arranged.

For live information BBC News.

As at 10:30am the BBC reported that BA customers on cancelled flights will be able to claim a full refund or be re-booked on an alternative flight.

British Airways’ holiday flights will be further boosted by more services from Gatwick to Salzburg, Naples, Dubrovnik, Marrakech and Catania during summer 2014.

Peter Simpson, British Airways’ director Gatwick, said:

“Expanding our leisure route network at Gatwick is fantastic news for British Airways customers, offering them even greater choice, along with our range of highly competitive fares, generous hand baggage allowances and great onboard service.”

British Airways have announced that they will be adding a 10th 777-200 to their Gatwick fleet.

The additional aircraft will lead to an additional 3 weekly flights to Orlando, plus 1 extra flight per week to St Lucia, Antigua, Kingston (Jamaica)  and Punta Cana (Dominican Republic).

Gatwick North TerminalCommenting on the news, Peter Simpson, the airline’s Gatwick director stated: “From next year our customers will be able to fly more often to many of our most popular destinations. Adding an extra Boeing 777 to our Gatwick fleet has enabled us to enhance our fantastic flying schedule by increasing flights to our top leisure destinations, giving our customers even more choice. With so much to choose from holiday-makers are spoilt for choice; from our 13 flights a week to Orlando to our brilliant daily service to St Lucia, everyone will get a stunning start to their holidays with British Airways.”

Mr&MrsSmithAlthough British Airways main hub has always been London Heathrow, capacity constraints, as well as lower costs, have meant that much of the airline’s long-haul leisure fleet has been based at London Gatwick. The airline’s 10 Boeing 777-200s based at Gatwick serve destinations within the Caribbean, Florida (excluding Miami), Cancun in Mexico, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

British Airways also operates an extensive short-haul network from Gatwick, again mainly aimed at the leisure market, but with intense pressure from the ever growing easyjet, any future growth at London’s second airport will surely only come from further expansion of its long-haul market.

While the Caribbean is already well served by British Airways (Havana is a notable exception), and Cancun has proven a great success, the main limiting factor as far any future growth is concerned is a combination of mileage and aircraft, ie potential future destinations such Phuket, Penang and Bali are all too far to be (profitably) operated by 777-200s. The new generation 787 Dreamliners and Airbus A350s will be game changers in terms of reach and economics but anyone expecting to see these new aircraft at Gatwick, at least in British Airways colours, is in for a very long wait.

British Airways daily 777 service to Accra



Reports in the Arabian press suggest that Emirates, the airline of Dubai, is contemplating entering the transatlantic market.

While there is no suggestion that any decision is remotely imminent, even the mention of it must bring a cold shudder to both British Airways & Virgin Atlantic.

British Airways HeathrowFrom a near standing start, Emirates now flies 5 A380s a day between Dubai & Heathrow, three times a day from Gatwick, twice from Manchester, Glasgow and Birmingham and once from Newcastle. From its hubs in the north of the UK alone, Emirates flew some 800,000 passengers last year.

Starting in October, Emirates will begin operating flights from Dubai to Milan and onwards to New York. Although current regulations currently prevent Emirates from carrying passengers between the UK & US, if this was to change it could have a massive effect on the UK aviation market.

With Heathrow already operating at near 100% capacity, Emirates would not be able to secure the necessary flights between the UK’s premier airport and the US. Outside of Heathrow however, there is still some spare slot capacity at London Gatwick and significant spare capacity at the UK’s regional airports.

Virgin Atlantic Aside from a few services between Gatwick and Las Vegas & Orlando, all British Airways flights to the US currently operate out of Heathrow. Virgin too operate the vast majority of their US flights from Heathrow & Gatwick with just a couple of seasonal services from Manchester & Glasgow.

With the Davies Commission currently looking into airport capacity in the UK, Heathrow and British Airways have jointly argued that the only solution is to increase capacity at Heathrow by building a 3rd runway. The Mayor of London disagrees with a new runway being built at Heathrow and instead wants a brand new, 4 runway airport built to the east of London.

Against this, regional airports and business leaders have, for some time now, argued against what they see as an entirely London-centric debate and sought to attract many more, direct, long-haul flights from the Midlands, North of England Scotland. Securing such flights from the likes of Birmingham & Manchester would, they argue, shift pent-up demand away from the south east and negate much of the need for new airport capacity in or around London.

If Emirates was to secure rights to carry passengers between the UK and US it could, in theory at least, flood the market with A380s (it will eventually have a fleet of over 90, by far the largest in the world) on flights between Dubai, Manchester & the US.

That is the theory, the reality is more complicated. Even if Emirates was granted permission to fly between the UK & the US, both New York & Chicago, its main targets, also suffer from capacity constraints and Emirates might not be able to secure the slots it requires. If it didn’t, is there really enough of a market for Emirates to fly passengers between Manchester and say Washington, Boston or Miami, especially on such large aircraft?

One of the reasons that British Airways stopped flying between Manchester and New York wasn’t a lack of leisure passengers; it was a lack of business traffic, especially at the front of the aircraft, the part where pretty much every airline in the world makes the majority if its profits. Nothing that Emirates can do will change this.

If Emirates were to secure traffic rights between the UK, and if they could gain the necessary slots in New York, and both are very big ’ifs’, there may be some mileage in offering flights between Manchester & New York. Beyond that, we don’t expect to see an armada of Emirates aircraft en-route to the US anytime soon.

** Update 26.07.13 – a statement this morning from an Emirates spokesperson reads as follows: “We have no immediate plans to operate a direct service between the UK and US.”


Emirates A380



Levi Roots has got together with British Airways to describe his perfect day in Jamaica.

The entrepreneur, (real name Keith Valentine Graham Bilal Musa!) who shot to fame on ‘The Dragon’s Den’, was born in Jamaica and likes to get back to his homeland as often as possible. Luckily for him, British Airways fly direct, non-stop between London Gatwick and Kingston.



The association which represents all the major airlines flying to the UK, the Board of Airline Representatives in the UK, has said that foreign airlines would often rather fly to Paris, Frankfurt & Amsterdam than Gatwick or Stansted.

heathrow t5 at duskSpeaking to the Davies Commission on airport capacity, Dale Keller, the chief executive of BAR UK, suggested that many foreign airlines were desperate to fly purely to Heathrow, not the UK in general, and that if that wasn’t possible (Heathrow operates at 99% capacity already) they would rather fly to other European destinations than to the likes of Gatwick, Stansted, Manchester or Birmingham.

The implications are two-fold….first that the UK is missing out on air passenger traffic because Heathrow is already full and second, that even if the UK were to build additional runway capacity at Gatwick & Stansted, there is no guarantee that it would lead to an increase in traffic. Indeed, the fact that every airport in the UK already has spare capacity, even though Heathrow has been full for years, would seem to back this up.

Of course some foreign airlines that fly to Heathrow also successfully operate to other, regional UK airports. The best example of this is Emirates who, despite operating up to 5 A380s between Dubai & Heathrow every day of the week, also operate daily flights between Dubai and  Gatwick, Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle & Glasgow.

The bridge at Gatwick Airport North Terminal

London Gatwick

At the same time, in the last 12 months Gatwick has successfully attracted a number of airlines who probably wanted to fly into Heathrow but weren’t able to secure the necessary slots; airlines such as Korean Airlines, Vietnam Airlines & Garuda of Indonesia.Despite a widespread agreement that decisions on Britain’s future airport capacity have to made sooner rather than later, the Davies Commission will not publish its final recommendations until 2015.



British Airways have today announced a number of flight service reductions from London Gatwick.

Gatwick North TerminalReduced frequencies apply to flights between London Gatwick and Edinburgh, Glasgow, Jersey, Amsterdam, Dubrovnik, Bordeaux, Genoa, Barcelona, Tunis & Tirana. British Airways has long struggled to make money on its short-haul network out of Gatwick and today’s news would seem to suggest that a turn-round is no closer to being achieved.

The bridge at Gatwick Airport North Terminal

London Gatwick

The news comes only a matter of days after Easyjet, British Airways biggest competitor on short haul flights from Gatwick, announced that it was buying the entire Gatwick slots of flybe, and is therefore set to increase its dominant position at London’s second busiest airport.

It may seem an absurd question, but perhaps the time has come to treat the country’s busiest airport as ‘UK Heathrow’ rather than ‘London Heathrow’.

Heathrow Terminal 5 view of runwayJust as the Houses of Parliament are located in London but representative of the UK as a whole, so Heathrow, while being located in London, could easily be construed as a national airport that has to serve the interests of the entire country.

Last week, the Davies Commission on airport capacity published its first discussion paper. One of the most telling points it raised was that Heathrow is only connected to 7 other UK airports, the lowest number for many years and a figure that is in danger of falling still further.  Even Amsterdam is connected to more destinations in the UK than Heathrow.

British Airways aircraft parked in front of Heathrow Terminal 5With no spare runway capacity at Heathrow, British Airways is under intense financial pressure to squeeze as much revenue as possible out of its existing slots. What this means is that the airline is being forced to make increasingly difficult choices, ones that may see low volume links to the likes of Belfast & Leeds/Bradford sacrificed for flights to the fast growing cities of Asia.

Of course we need these new routes but should only London and the South East benefit? Ask politicians and the business community anywhere in Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland and the North of England whether connectivity to Heathrow is important and you will get a resounding Yes. Are they not entitled to a say in Heathrow’s future?

Some politicians have called for legislation that sets aside a certain number of slots at Heathrow for regional connections. In reality this would prove difficult to enforce legally- Heathrow is a private business after all – and impossible to manage.

The only way in which regional connections can be both protected, and indeed added to, is by an increase in capacity. Whether this is by means of new runways at Heathrow or a brand new London airport, the next government must act in the national interest.

Vindicating the long held views of British Airways, the UK’s Transport Select Committee have come out in favour of expansion at Heathrow and rejected proposals for a brand new airport to the east of London.

Heathrow Terminal 5 view of runwayAlthough the Committee have no control over government policy, the findings of the cross-party groups of MPs will come as a major blow to Boris Johnson and his supporters who have been arguing that the UK should build a brand new airport somewhere to the east of London.

The Committee’s conclusions were that a new airport to the east of London would be too expensive to build, require huge subsidies and damage the local environment. Instead, as the majority of the business community and airlines such as British Airways have long argued, they came out in the support of Heathrow, the ‘jewel in the crown’ of international aviation, and backed plans for an additional 3rd and perhaps even 4th runway.

The bridge at Gatwick Airport North Terminal

London Gatwick

Indeed not only did the Committee call for an increase in capacity at Heathrow, they also encouraged Gatwick, the UK’s second busiest airport, to press ahead with plans for its own second runway. Again, such development has been rejected both by local residents and Boris Johnson.

Faced by strongly conflicting positions, David Cameron has done what successive governments have done over the years, run away from the problem. The government has therefore asked Sir Howard Davies to form a commission to look into airport capacity in the south east but to delay its final report, ready or not, until 2015, after the next General Election. The problem for David Cameron is that many of the parliamentary constituencies in west London that would be most affected by increased aircraft noise are currently held by the Conservatives…….but only just.

British Airways said the report ‘backs up our  view that a Thames Estuary airport is not a credible option’.

Heathrow Terminal 5 view of runway










British Airways received a major boost today when the UK regulator, the CAA, announced its recommendation that passenger charges at Heathrow should rise by the rate of inflation minus 1.3% for the five year period commencing April 2014. At current prices, that would mean a real term reduction from £20.50 per passenger now to £19.34 per passenger in 2019.

Heathrow Terminal 5

Heathrow Terminal 5

In February, Heathrow had proposed that its charges should increase by 5.9% above inflation for each of the same 5 years and, although in private it probably never expected such a generous settlement, it will still have been shocked by today’s report. While Heathrow has argued that it needs to increase its charges in order to continue investing in the airport, the airlines and CAA have taken a somewhat contrary view; with Terminal 5 having opened in 2008, and Terminal 2 set to re-open in 2014 after a complete re-build, the major capital investment projects at Heathrow will have come to an end and so, the likes of British Airways argue, any increase in charges would simply be an excuse for the airport’s investors to line their pockets - this at a time when airlines around the world are struggling to make any profit at all.

Willie Walsh

Willie Walsh

When Heathrow proposed its 5.9% annual increase in charges, British Airways had countered with an (equally unrealistic) proposal for an annual reduction of 9.8% below inflation. Reacting to today’s news, Willie Walsh, CEO of British Airways parent company IAG had this to say: “Heathrow airport is over-priced, over-rewarded and  inefficient and these proposals, which will result in an increase in prices,  fail to address this situation. In the past the CAA has rewarded Heathrow for inefficiency and it is now the most expensive hub airport in the world.  Its charges have tripled in the last 11 years with inflation busting increases year-on-year”.  Nothing new there then although we are pretty confident that Willie Walsh will be happier than his counterpart at Heathrow, Colin Matthews.

At the same time as publishing its proposals for Heathrow, the CAA also announced that it planned to adopt a lighter touch in regards to charges at London’s 2 other major airports, Gatwick & Stansted. Both airports were once part of BAA, the original parent company of Heathrow, and were forcibly sold off in order to introduce competition to the capital’s airport industry.


The bridge at Gatwick Airport North Terminal

London Gatwick

Although British Airways has never flown out of Stansted (unless one counts its old low cost off-shoot, Go) it does still have a significant presence at Gatwick. There, the CAA has said that it wishes to see a more flexible regime that will allow the airport to compete with Heathrow on commercial terms. Thus far however, no agreement has been reached and, should that continue to be the case, the CAA has advised that charges at Gatwick will rise by 1% above inflation for the same 5 year period.

A final announcement on charges at all 3 airports is expected in October.

British Airways Heathrow



British Airways has launched a series of promotional fares between London & Scotland starting at just £39 per person one way. British Airways operates from London Heathrow, London Gatwick and London City to Edinburgh, Glasgow & Aberdeen. The lowest fares apply for travel from Gatwick and is for those customers travelling with hand luggage only. These special offers coincide with the launch of Virgin Atlantic’s new domestic service between Heathrow and both Edinburgh & Aberdeen which we reported on here. At the time, we did suggest that British Airways would not take this new competition lying down……..

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This week marks the 25th anniversary of the opening of the North Terminal, British Airways’ home at London Gatwick. At the time, the opening of the new North Terminal marked a huge increase in capacity for Gatwick and, since the first flight took off for Naples, over 100 million British Airways customers have used the terminal. British Airways Gatwick Check-In

Originally owned by BAA, Gatwick was taken over in 2009 by GIP who have undertaken significant new investment following several years in which the airport played a very definite second fiddle to Heathrow. The most recent result of this investment was a £73 million extension to the North Terminal that gave British Airways its own dedicated check-in area. Npt only does the new check-in area offer British Airways customers a brighter and more spacious environment, it has also been designed with modern day travel in mind and boasts as many self service check-in kiosks as the more traditional desks.

British Airways operates a combination of short and long haul routes out of Gatwick, primarily aimed at the leisure market. On its 32 short-haul routes, British Airways has recently introduced new, lower fares for those passengers travelling with hand-baggage only; this new development from the airline is designed to combat competition from easyjet which is now by far the airport’s largest carrier with some 9 million passngers a year (out of a total of approx 33 million).

In terms of its long-haul routes, British Airways main focus is on the Caribbean with flights to destinations including Barbados, Trinidad, Tobago, Jamaica, Antigua and Cancun in Mexico. However, the airline’s newest long-haul destination from Gatwick looks east rather than west, with flights to Colombo in Sri Lanka commencing on 31st March. The only long-haul destination that British Airways serves from both Gatwick & Heathrow is Las Vegas.

With much discussion and debate about the future of aviation in the UK, it will be intresting to observe the next 25 years at both British Airways & Gatwick.

British Airways has announced that it will be extending its recently introducted policy on hand-baggage-only flights to all 32 short haul routes out of Gatwick. After trialing on just 5 destinations (Tunis, Jersey, Turin, Amsterdam & Dubrovnik), the new policy provides discounted fares for those passengers travelling only with hand-baggage.

With a far more generous allowance (a proper sized bag plus lap-top or handbag) than low-cost carriers such as easyjet, the airline’s primary short-haul competitor at Gatwick, and the same allowance for children and adults, British Airways hope that they will be able claw back market share and restore their Gatwick operations to profitability. The new fares go on sale from 2nd April.

British Airways Cabin Crew


Having long promoted itself as the ultimate full-service airline, British Airways has seemingly decided that if you can’t beat them, join them; for short-haul flights from Gatwick the airline is introducing charges ranging from £9 to £15 per checked-in bag, depending on the exact route. To begin with the airline will be trialing the system on a select number of routes although it is expected that the new policy will soon be applied to all short-haul flights from Gatwick. This new policy will not apply to long haul flights nor any any routes out of Heathrow and the weight limit per item of luggage will remain at 23kgs.

The change comes as British Airways struggles to compete with Easyjet, now the largest airline at Gatwick. On many routes British Airways has simply decided not to try and compete at all and pulled out of routes on which the low cost carrier operates.