Photo Credit: Heathrow Airport.

Heathrow Airport Remains Busiest Airport in Europe

LONDON – According to a report from Cirium, Heathrow Airport remains the busiest airport in Europe.

The analytics provider released information on which airport in Europe was the busiest in 2022 by available seat kilometers (ASKs).

Busiest Airports in Europe in 2022…


Source: Cirium.

As you can see from the graph above, Heathrow Airport has topped the list of 20 airports, with around 100bn ASKs offered.

This is quite the statistic despite Heathrow being limited in terms of capacity.

Heathrow Airport remains comfortably ahead of Paris Charles de Gaulle, which came second with around 70bn ASKs on offer.

On top of that, Heathrow was still 24% smaller in terms of ASKs than it was in 2019, while other leading airports, such as Istanbul’s main airport, recorded a 2% growth rate.

On top of Heathrow, three other airports in the UK made it into the top 20 list: Manchester, London Stansted, and London Gatwick.

Major Issues Ahead: Price Cap Battle Preventing Heathrow Third Runway?


Photo Credit: Heathrow Airport.

Although Heathrow Airport remains the busiest in terms of ASK, there is an issue that needs to be addressed within this piece: The Price Cap argument.

Airlines operating in and out of Heathrow, such as Virgin Atlantic and British Airways, are kicking up a storm about landing fees increasing by 120%.

Virgin Atlantic Chief Executive, Shai Weiss, calls the move an “abuse of power by a de facto monopolistic airport” and has since asked for an urgent intervention by the Civil Aviation Authorities (CAA).

Chief Executive Weiss then stated the following at an aviation conference: “Until that happens, it is difficult to see how expansion at Heathrow can be supported.”

Weiss even threatened to withdraw its support for the third runway at Heathrow unless such charges were reconsidered.

Such a battle intensified in November and carried on into December last year.

Weiss has called out the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) for “putting the interests of a monopolistic airport and its shareholders ahead of passengers”.

Photo Credit: Heathrow Airport.

This is due to the regulator proposing a price cap of £31.57 per passenger for 2023, following some interesting passenger forecasts provided by the airport.

The CAA set an interim cap of £30.19 in December 2021, which was supposedly utilized to ensure that Heathrow Airport could recover funds lost from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“By maintaining a pessimistic outlook for 2023 passenger forecasts, not only do customers face excessive charges but potentially also a poorer airport experience,”

Heathrow is expecting to handle 60-62 million passengers this year, with airlines such as British Airways, Virgin, and even IATA accusing the airport of downplaying such forecasting.

Willie Walsh, the Director-General at IATA, called the CAA’s decision “frustrating and disappointing”, with IAG CEO Luis Gallego echoing Weiss’ words seen earlier in this piece.

With all this drama unfolding, the CAA has committed to making a final decision on the new price cap “in an orderly way”, with Heathrow’s owners Ferrovial mentioning that such a delay in decisions would undermine their financial commitments:

“The uncertainty caused by this delay is undermining our ability to commit capital to fund crucial investments to improve Heathrow’s experience for airlines and passengers.”

“As a long-time investor in the UK, Ferrovial calls on the CAA to finalize its proposals as soon as possible”.

Overall…


Heathrow Airport, Terminal 2A, check-in hall, November 2015.
Heathrow Airport, Terminal 2A, check-in hall. Photo Credit: Heathrow Airport

It remains clear that whilst this accolade can be celebrated, Heathrow Airport still has a lot of work to do in order to solve the political and logistical issues of its capacity limitations.

Looking ahead, it’s going to be interesting to see whether the issues can be solved at all without follow-through on threats for withdrawal.

Even so, it’s going to be an interesting space to watch, that’s for sure.

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