Train on tarmac as UK-first ticket service launched


By Heathrow

Published 23rd January 2014

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This morning Heathrow Express, First Great Western and Singapore Airlines launched a UK-first service and celebrated in style with an unusual train to tarmac trip.

Heathrow Express has teamed up with First Great Western and Singapore Airlines to launch the first integrated rail-fly ticket in the UK, with a Class 43 High Speed Train coming face-to-face with a Boeing 777-300 to mark the occasion.

The rail-fly deal means that you’ll now be able to arrange international flights and UK rail travel to 11 destinations in the South West on one ticket, improving convenience and saving passengers money.

For example, a ticket from Brisbane to Bristol would save you around 13%, or £140 off the cost of booking both parts separately. Other UK destinations available include Cardiff, Bath, Plymouth and Oxford.

The through ticketing service will allow international passengers to see which train service is most convenient for them on arrival, whilst UK passengers can plan their journey from their destination in the South West or South Wales.

Keith Greenfield, Managing Director of Heathrow Express, said: “Now people will be able to book a journey between Bath and Singapore with just one transaction rather than three. This is the smarter way to travel, and we hope other airlines follow suit. The main beneficiary of this rail-fly deal will be customers – not just Heathrow Express customers but also Singapore Airlines and First Great Western customers.”

There are two types of airports, hubs and point-to-point models. Heathrow is a hub, so we thought we’d explore further what that means and why it’s important for the UK.

Airports are all the same though, right?

There are over 40,000 airports around the world featuring a variety of paved, grass, dirt and sand runways of differing lengths, with different passenger facilities or none at all, and unique destination lists. In short, no two airports are the same.

As a comparison, over half of the 70 million passengers that use Heathrow each year are on long haul flights, while at the, smaller, Luton Airport 95 per cent of passengers (approximately 9.05 million annually) are on short haul flights to destinations no further then Tel Aviv, Israel. These smaller airports, like Gatwick and Stansted, are described as operating on a “point-to-point” model.

How does a hub work?

Just like large supermarkets, hub airports work to create economies of scale by pooling demand except instead of groceries, they combine demand for destinations and regular flights. At Heathrow alone, passengers can access 80 different airlines to 180 destinations in 85 countries – with transfer passengers being the key to making these flights viable.Airlines are able to maximise passenger numbers by filling flights with those using Heathrow merely as a stepping stone to somewhere further, which makes the route more viable.

Passengers benefits include:

  • Easier access to and from the airport due to more infrastructure surrounding it (e.g. trains, buses and roads);
  • A greater choice of holiday and business destinations;
  • More frequent flights to destinations;
  • Cheaper fares due to competition between airlines.

Heathrow offers more flights to more long-haul destinations (82) around the world than any other in the UK – including to all of the emerging economies in the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) nations. Some 26 million transfer passengers, or 37% of our total number, passed through Heathrow in 2013 which helped make many of these destinations possible including Mexico City.

How come you can’t have two hubs?

Hubs work by pooling regional demand from leisure passengers, international transfer passengers, business passengers and freight to make more routes and regular flights viable. Two hubs don’t work as they split this demand, making fewer routes and flights viable for all.

More recently, the arrival of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner has been mentioned as a “hub-buster” due to its long-range capabilities and fuel efficiency – the reality is they’re actualy “hub builders”. Of the current orders for this aircraft type, 87% are from network carriers who fly long-haul, many from Heathrow, as they’re still reliant upon the pooled demand a hub provides to make flights viable.

Why two hubs aren’t better than one? It’s simple: they split the demand, and make fewer routes and flights available for all.

Hubs around the world

Other well-known hub airports around the globe include Singapore Changi, Dubai International Airport, Madrid Barajas, Amsterdam Schiphol, Paris Charles De Gaulle, and Frankfurt Airport. The UK is in the middle of a global race with all of these hubs for connections to the emerging economies within Asia and South America.

While Heathrow has been full for 10 years, many airlines have been choosing to put on more flights and routes from other European hubs instead of other UK airports. Significantly, all of these hubs have additional capacity.

Why can’t freight be flown just from regional airports? And why is it important?

Freight helps make long-haul destinations possible for passengers with 95% of air freight at Heathrow carried in the belly-hold of passenger aircraft. By combining business need for exports to a destination with the pooled passenger demand of a hub, the UK gains greater access to emerging economies and more frequent flights to destinations.

This combination of demand helped businesses transport £133 billion worth of freight goods via Heathrow in 2013 – making it the UK’s busiest port.

By comparison, most airlines at point-to-point airports, like Gatwick and Stansted, don’t transport freight due to smaller aircraft, short-haul routes, and tighter turn-around times.

Traditional means of transporting freight, such as road and sea, are unable to provide quick enough access to long-haul markets for time-sensitive freight such as food, music tour equipment and pharmaceuticals.

Do you support Heathrow expansion? Make your voice heard in minutes, here.


In part three of our Business class to Asia series we take a ten hour flight to Asia’s mother country – China. As the world’s second largest economy and the world’s largest exporter and importer of goods in 2013, it’s not surprising that this Asian powerhouse presents a compelling case for UK and international businesses.



China at a glance…

With more than 1.3 billion people, The People’s Republic of China is home to the world’s largest population. China is ruled by the Chinese Communist Party via the National People’s Assembly under President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang.

Home to 56 recognised ethnic groups and eight official languages; China is a culturally diverse country with a long and rich history. Mandarin Chinese is the primary language of China’s 22 provinces, five autonomous regions and four municipalities.

With over 400 airports and almost 60,000 miles of rail, China boasts exemplary transport infrastructure. Although the motor expressway system is continuing to expand, China’s rail system is the most commonly used means of transport and connects all of the major cities. Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou act as the primary international airport hubs.

Why do business in China?

As Heathrow’s CEO Colin Matthews says, “The centre of gravity in the world economy is shifting and Britain should be forging new links with economies like China.

“Since its open-door policy of the late 1970s, China has rapidly become a rising global economic power. As a major emerging market with a skilled labour force, low employment costs, and increasing population wealth (home to the world’s second-highest number of billionaires), there are many benefits to doing business in this part of the globe.

All the big brand names – Coca Cola, Google, Apple – are among the 10,000 multinationals, while many more global brands are opening retail stores and factories across the thriving urban hubs. Foreign investors are doing business mainly in high-tech, agricultural, forestry, telecommunication and energy industry.

As a world leader in manufactured goods and industrial products, chances are your household has a host of products with the familiar ‘Made in China’ tag. The UK imported more than US$4.3 billion worth of clothing from China in 2011. Textiles, chemicals, mining and ore processing, transportation such as cars, planes and ships, and petroleum are also leading industries.


Getting there from Heathrow…

A number of carriers, including China Air, China Southern Airlines and British Airways, fly more than 4500 flights from Heathrow to China’s three international hubs Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou each year. The almost 1500 flights between the UK and China in 2011 led to over US$60 trillion worth of trade.

Top tips for doing business in China:

  • Trust can only be obtained through face to face meetings;
  • Building a personal relationship is essential to forging a business partnership;
  • The key to successful business relationships is ‘Guanxi’ – connections based on mutual interest;
  • Meals are a means of achieving Guanxi and it is polite to be host once you have been a guest;
  • Seating plan at meals is based on rank so know your position as the guest;
  • Hierarchy, rank and title are important;

Certain gestures have different meaning in China so do your research.

Information and graphics for this article were sourced from a document published by Asia House, “Navigating Asian Markets: A quick guide to 8 Exciting Economies”. For the China guide, including a case study, please click here.

Was this guide helpful? Tell us about your experience of doing business in China! Leave a comment or tweet us @yourHeathrow, and Asia House @asiahouseuk, using the hashtag #Navig8Asia.

Today Heathrow Airport celebrated our 200,000th Twitter follower when Ciara Murphy jumped aboard our social media community!

We’re putting a big shout out and thank you to all our followers and the lucky Ciara (@ciaramurphypr), who is now the recipient of a £200 iTunes voucher for her support. Here at yourHeathrow we’re taking a trip down memory lane and looking at some of the highlights along the way, and the exciting things we have in store for 2014. Enjoy!

Since mid-2010 when Heathrow joined the Twitter-sphere, the airport has seen some of the UK’s and the World’s biggest events and productions. From international athletes, to TV presenters, and blockbuster movie stars -we’ve had it all and here’s a snapshot for you:

The 2012 London Olympic Games

With London and the world all talking about the triumphs and tribulations of the just completed 2012 Olympics, it would be Heathrow Airport that would provide the last United Kingdom farewell to the athletes. While we saw many athletes arrive through our doors prior to the games, it was on August 13 that we were privileged to host and be tweeted by many of the world’s best athletes.

On that day we opened our specially constructed, London Park-themed, Games Terminal to coincide with what was tipped to be our busiest day for Olympian departures or arrivals. An estimated 15,000 members of the Olympic family, including 6,000 athletes, passed through Heathrow’s doors on the day.

BBC Airport LIVE (2013)

In June 2013, the BBC came to Heathrow and hosted a 4-night program live from the airport and the action went beyond the TV screen, with our social channels flooded with commentary. The hashtag #airportlive trended on Twitter across the UK on three of the four nights (e.g. within the top ten most tweeted topics).

An estimated 34 million people were reached by #airportlive as we teamed up with NATS and Virgin Atlantic to provide live Q & A’s across each of the nights – including a live chat with Pilot Captain Graham Ellison.

UK and Wimbledon favourite, Andy Murray, also took timeout to tune in and tweeted to his 1.5 million plus followers ‘Airport Live is pretty interesting’. His tweet was retweeted 158 times and favourited by 167 of his fan base. Dallas ‘smudger’ Campbell was also a tweeting point of the night.

The Airport Commission Expansion Short-list announcement (2013)

On December 17, 2013, the UK Airport Commission announced the much anticipated short-list for airport expansion options in the nation- and it set the Twitter-sphere alight. The announcement reached over 72 million people on Twitter with over 8,500 posts about the news flooding people’s feeds.

Heathrow Airport was at the forefront of the discussions with our North-West 3rd runway option short-listed, alongside a 2nd runway at Gatwick and another, non-affiliated, option for lengthening both Heathrow’s runways.

With the Commission’s final decision not due until 2015 – we’re sure that the UK Airport Capacity debate will be one that continues to feature prominently on Twitter.

2014 and beyond…

We’ve got a number of new initiatives planned for 2014 to make your Heathrow Airport experience better via digital interactions including competitions, extended coverage hours and new, tailored, customer service projects.

Some fun @HeathrowAirport facts:

  • Heathrow Airport is the most followed airport on twitter on the world, the second is Gatwick Airport (105,000);
  • Heathrow Airports’ current Klout score is 81, Twitter interactions contributing 65.7% of our score. In perspective, “Beliebers” have helped Justin Bieber to a score of 92 while Joey Essex’s is 79.
  • @HeathrowAirport has more followers than UK movie star Hugh Grant (154,800);
  • @HeathrowAirport has grown 65,000 followers since March 2013 – that’s an average of 5,900 a month!

Here at yourHeathrow we love everything aviation related…but we’re not the only ones. Gary Claridge-King is an experienced aviation enthusiast and contributor to the site, so we asked him to share his insights into aviation photography. Enjoy!

The aviation passion…

For many the journey starts off at a very young age with a family trip to a major airshow like RIAT (Royal International Air Tattoo) or Farnborough International airshow. Once bitten, the aviation bug stays and most dream of being a pilot. For the lucky few the dreams become reality, as for the rest the dreams become passion and an obsession that lasts a life time.

Spotters, photographers, enthusiasts, ‘AV geeks’ are just a few names we are called. Regardless of the title, we all share a common love of the industry and we’re proud of it.

The road we follow can be long and frustrating, but you will meet lots of new people and make lots of new friends who are just as passionate.

Why get involved in aviation photography?

Aviation Photography is an exciting hobby to embark on. It’s time consuming and can involve lots of foreign travel to beautiful sunny locations or conversely, many long cold hours at an airport in winter. The main thing is that it’s very rewarding when all comes together.

Some people will photograph everything, but others will stick to military, civil, light aircraft or bizjets. I would advise newcomers to have a go at every type as it allows you to expand your horizons and improve your photography skills.

At some point in your journey, you might have a unique image that a group like Key Publishing would be interested in buying from you and publishing. Talking of sun, sun can give nice light, but fog, rain or dark clouds can make images very dramatic so don’t worry about the weather.

My key tips for those starting out:

Start off slowly by visiting your local airfield, and don’t invest in expensive equipment like DSLR cameras until you are sure that this is the right hobby for you. You will need some photo editing software and a work flow for effective editing.

Do your homework. The internet is full of useful tips and photography advice, one of the world’s biggest Aircraft Photograph Databases – has dedicated forums to help people with the hobby, lots of useful threads on editing and where to go to get up close and personal with aircraft.

Join spotter group email lists. Many airports have spotters groups that produce either email lists or Facebook groups that provide lists of what’s due and when at each airport. There are also a few ‘virtual radar’ sites that you can filter down by arrivals.

Keep your ears and eyes open for organised ramp tours and base tours. These normally fill up very fast as there is nothing more rewarding that being able to get airside at an airport for photography. The tour organisers normally get you up close to an active taxiway or runway, as well as step on step off bus trips to aircraft on the gate/stands.

What does the future hold for aviation photographers and enthusiasts?

As we look to the future more and more airports are asking members of the Aviation Community to join them in partnership to help make their airport the premier place to go to ‘spot/photograph’. Amsterdam, Barcelona, Tokyo, Dallas Fort Worth and Manchester are just a few that offer seated spots close to the action.

Some airports have been slow to follow suit, but are slowly working with the community to make our hobby/obsession more enjoyable.

One of the latest airports to take an active look at the aviation community and its ideas for the future is London Heathrow. Heathrow Airport Holdings Limited recently invited some members of the aviation community to spend an afternoon with them with the feedback from both sides is very positive.

Heathrow is already in the top three most visited airports for ‘AV Geeks’, and that’s without any dedicated photography locations provided by the airport. We have been told that something new and exciting is coming soon for aviation enthusiasts at the airport so we look forward to finding out what that is.

Like this article? Tell us what you thought here, via Twitter (@yourHeathrow), or on our Facebook page. We’d also love to see your pics on Instagram so tag us (@Heathrow_Airport) using #heathrowairport.


By Heathrow

Published 2nd January 2014