Heathrow routes to china add £510m to UK GDP each year, new study reveals


By Heathrow

Published 29th January 2018

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As Prime Minister Theresa May sets off on a trade mission to China, research out today underscores the value of frequent, direct connections between the UK’s only hub airport, Heathrow, and China. It also identifies the urgent need to add capacity on these routes in order to support the Government’s trade strategy.

  • New Frontier Economics research finds direct flights from Heathrow to China contribute £510 million per year in GDP to the UK economy and create 14,550 jobs

  • An additional flight a week on each existing connection, as a result of expanding Heathrow, could generate an additional £16m to GDP

  • Figures revealed as the Government begins the latest rounds of trade engagement with China

The research, carried out by Frontier Economics, reveals Heathrow’s direct flights to China already contribute more than £510m annually to the UK economy and creates nearly 15,000 jobs.

Just one extra flight per week, on to these existing routes, will provide a further cash injection of £16m a year as a result of increased business travel, and stimulation for increased trade and investment between China and the UK.

This incremental increase in capacity could also support an additional 530 jobs annually, a small taste of the opportunities that will accompany up to 40 new-long haul routes and increased route frequency that Heathrow’s expansion will create.

More than 100 direct flights between Heathrow and China each week…

At a critical time in Britain’s future global trading relationship, Heathrow acts as a vital link between China and the UK, offering more than 100 direct flights to China every week. Of these, 55 go to Hong Kong, 22 to Shanghai, 20 to Beijing, 10 to Guangzhou and two to Qingdao.

Xian bell tower (chonglou) in Xian ancient city of China at dusk

Of the £510m annual contribution by existing routes, £315m is made up by Hong Kong, followed by Beijing and Shanghai.

While connections to Chinese cities are clearly valuable to the UK, rival EU hub airports with capacity to cope are able to fly to 14 other Chinese destinations, opening up more trade and investment to their respective countries.

Frontier Economics points out the role Heathrow plays as a port of higher value, higher-tech commodities such as aircraft and spacecraft, optical and photographic instruments, pharmaceuticals and electricals and in facilitating trade in sectors ranging from manufacturing to artificial intelligence.

Heathrow provides regional connections to the North East, where Chinese company TusPark is in the process of setting up its first innovation centre – which will focus on strengthening links between UK and Chinese companies. Connectivity is also a key factor in continuing the growth of Chinese students studying in UK universities –   which how grown by 14% between 2012/13 and 2016/2017.

Heathrow expansion planning process well underway…

The planning process for Heathrow expansion is already underway, with the airport carrying out its first public consultation on its emerging plans starting this month. Parliament is expected to vote on a National Policy Statement in the first half of this year, which will set out the policy framework for Heathrow’s final planning submission.

John Holland-Kaye, Chief Executive of Heathrow said, “Heathrow is proud of its role as a gateway to these vital Chinese markets; enabling global trade as the UK’s largest port by value, acting as a catalyst for thousands of jobs for the local community and contributing billions to the UK economy.”

Expansion of Heathrow is a chance to deepen relations between China and the UK; as the report highlights, just one extra route could contribute hundreds of jobs and millions to the UK’s GDP.

John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow CEO

“Expansion of Heathrow is a chance to deepen relations between China and the UK; as the report highlights, just one extra route could contribute hundreds of jobs and millions to the UK’s GDP.

“As the country prepares to leave the EU and China’s economy continues to grow exponentially, this is an opportunity the UK cannot afford to miss.”

UK businesses and organisations are being invited to apply for Heathrow’s first Sustainable Innovation Prize submitting ideas on how to address the environmental challenges of airports and the aviation industry.

  • Heathrow launches Sustainable Innovation Prize in exchange for leading green ideas

  • £20,000 prize available for environmental innovation concepts

  • Finalists to face Dragon’s Den style pitch

  • Winner will be announced at the 1st anniversary of Heathrow 2.0 – the airport’s plan for sustainable growth

The winning entry of the Sustainable Innovation Prize will be awarded £20,000 and the green light to develop their idea, earning the opportunity to use Heathrow as a ‘live laboratory.’

Here they will be able to trial and develop their winning concept and gain exposure to Heathrow’s operation and partners in the process.

This launch of the Sustainable Innovation Prize coincides with activity marking the anniversary of the Heathrow 2.0 –  the airport’s plan for sustainable growth.

The prize will further Heathrow’s ambitions to make its business a centre of excellence for aviation sustainability, reducing the airport’s social and environmental impacts, while maximising the economic opportunities in the UK.

Ideas invited for 3 main categories..

Applicants are invited to submit ideas and solutions which fall into one of the following three categories:

  • Waste as a resource: Concepts that create value from waste water and waste materials at and around airports and in their supply chains.
  • Sustainable and low carbon materials: Solutions which transform the environmental impact of the large quantities of construction materials used for Heathrow’s buildings and supporting infrastructure.
  • Measuring and enhancing quality of life locally: Concepts that could help measure and improve quality of life for local communities, those living and working around the airport, taking into consideration wide ranging issues such as aircraft noise or employment opportunities.

Heathrow Sustainability Director Matt Gorman said,We’re delighted to launch our sustainable Innovation Prize which will help us to uncover a host of creative ideas to solve business challenges and provide benefit to our passengers and local communities.”

This prize is an opportunity for us to attract talented organisations that are passionate about improving our environmental footprint and who can push us to think ‘outside the box’.

Matt Gorman, Heathrow Sustainability Director

“This prize is an opportunity for us to attract talented organisations that are passionate about improving our environmental footprint and who can push us to think ‘outside the box’.

“The winning idea will become an integral part of our sustainability strategy – Heathrow 2.0 – and our plans to help us meet growing demand for our airport in a way that creates a positive impact on our community, environment and the UK economy.”

About the competition

Entries from UK applicants will be accepted via yourheathrow.com/sustainability. The deadline for submissions is March 31.

Online submissions will be reviewed and six finalists will be selected to give a 10-minute pitch to a panel of judges made up of Heathrow’s senior executives from across the airport, including Matt Gorman, Heathrow’s Sustainability Director.

The entries will be reviewed for maximum sustainability benefit, as well as likelihood of trial success and later implementation. Find out more, here.

Heathrow, the UK’s only hub airport, today unveils a collaboration with critically-acclaimed spoken word artist Caleb Femi to launch his new poem A Tale of Modern Britain. Caleb’s piece, a beautiful and modern description of travel, celebrates Heathrow’s role as the gateway to the UK, welcoming and waving off international visitors and returning Brits.

Heathrow partners with London’s Young People’s Laureate Caleb Femi to describe Modern Britain and travel in 2018

• New research into what being British means found that one in five Brits (20%) now travel to visit family abroad

• Harry and Meghan’s engagement announcement revealed as defining moment of the last year

• Have You Met The Queen (19%), Which Football Team Do You Support (32%) and Are You From London (33%) are the top three things Brits get asked by people when overseas

• The Beckhams, Mo Farah and James Corden join the Royals as best representatives of modern Britain

With 78 million passengers travelling through Heathrow each year, this powerful new piece of poetry – written and narrated by Femi – uses his experiences travelling, as well as capturing people and journeys which have taken or taking place at the airport, as his inspiration for the film.

Looking to the growing trend for spoken word, the poem explores what it means to be British through the lens of arrivals and departures at the country’s busiest airport.

The short film brings Femi’s words to life with his narration framing moments at the airport – from emotional reunions, excitement as people head off for new adventures at Departures and behind the scenes from the airfield – alongside snapshots of life in and around Britain.

What ‘home” means to British people today

To find out what ‘home’ means to British people today, Heathrow commissioned research asking 2,000 Brits about their views on Britain in the context of travelling.


Brits are thrill seekers at heart with more than one in five (21%) saying one of their top reasons for jetting off is to seek out an adventure, whilst 19% crave exploration of unusual places. Highlighting what a global community we truly are, a further 20% say their main purpose for travel is to visit their extended family, with one in twenty (5%) making journeys inspired by their family history.


London, the Queen and the Beautiful Game are what people most want to discuss with Brits when they travel overseas; one in three Brits stated they are asked whether they are from London, 32% are quizzed on which football team they support and nearly one in five of us are asked if we have ever met the Queen when on our travels.

With a Royal engagement, a third royal baby on the way and a global obsession with TV show The Crown, the royal family are firmly front and centre of mind for the nation, with The Queen, Harry, William and Kate all identified as our most recognisable representatives.

Beyond the royals, David and Victoria Beckham, Mo Farah and James Cordon all feature on the list of ‘18 for 2018’; the British stars voted as the best representatives of modern Britain*.Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s royal engagement is the moment that summed up the last year for many (32%) Brits.

Over one in four (26%) felt it was the spontaneous singing of ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’ following the tragic Manchester attacks, whilst more than one in ten (14%) thought that the announcement of a female Doctor Who was the biggest moment for the nation last year.


The welcoming view of our local pub on the journey back from the airport is the moment at which more than one in five (22%) of us feel truly back in Britain, whilst buying a British newspaper (18%) and hearing different regional accents (17%) also feature high on the list of what makes us feel like we’ve arrived back home.

Caleb Femi explains why he was attracted to the project: “For many of life’s biggest milestones – from exciting departures to emotional reunions – Heathrow is the backdrop.”

“The airport is a fascinating place to keep your finger on the pulse of modern Britain, as the people who travel through it says so much about the country and what we stand for. I’ve loved immersing myself in the stories of different travellers to piece together a portrait of the country in 2018.”

I hope people enjoy watching the video, which celebrates what it means to be British and the emotions that unite us all when we travel.

Caleb Femi

“I hope people enjoy watching the video, which celebrates what it means to be British and the emotions that unite us all when we travel.”

John Holland-Kaye, Chief Executive at Heathrow, commented, “The UK is a culture that thrives on its connections with the rest of the world – for those leaving or returning home, as well as international visitors exploring the country for the first time.”

As the UK’s only hub airport, and after more passengers than ever in 2017, we’re proud to help make these connections with the world possible. We hope that people really enjoy this ode to the UK as a celebration of Britain as a nation.”

In full: A tale of MOdern Britain

You arrive at the end of the horizon
standing at the tarmac mouth of home
lighter if you left it all behind -heavier if you brought all with you.
Come, before you step out into the open air
sit down here, in-between the brief pause
of children’s laughter and a tannoy announcement.
In the small kingdom of faces -some moving with
the grace of falling snow
others like laser beams bouncing off a disco ball.

Not too long ago you were at departures
when leaving was a sweet song bitter in the throat to sing.
Do you remember the faces who were leaving for work,
or for the spring holidays,
to say goodbye at a family funeral
or for the laughter of a hen do?
Those who were answering the call to adventure
with an open ticket in hand and in the other a phone
full of friends who will follow them each step of the way.

Now you’ve arrived at the other side of that adventure
in the warmness of home
shed the hue of ‘tourist’
you’re back in your endz now
one of the locals
you know the right trains to catch
know the best breakfast spot.

This country is not a place of good weather but of good people.
What do you want to know about the country? You might learn it here
in this marketplace of modern British culture.
Take a crash course in the local lingo
teach your ears the different accents
we don’t all sound like Downton Abbey
not all Northerns sound like Wayne Rooney
some of us man do get hot
we’re not all about tea and crumpets -well some of us are.

Imagine a terminal as a portal to a new version of yourself
a new light pouring over a new sunrise
remember that as you
depart at the start of the horizon
standing at the tarmac mouth of the world.

The research was conducted by Markettiers on behalf of Heathrow between 5 to 9 January 2018, based on a survey of 2,000 respondents from across the UK.

*Top 18 Brits for 2018 (as voted for by 2,000 UK respondents):

  1. The Beckhams
  2.  JK Rowling
  3. Ed Sheeran
  4. Andy Murray
  5. Mo Farah
  6. James Corden
  7. Adele
  8. Jamie Oliver
  9. Jessica Ennis-Hill
  10. Lewis Hamilton
  11. Idris Elba
  12. Stormzy
  13. Vivienne Westwood
  14. Nadiya Hussein
  15. Wayne Rooney
  16. Kate Moss
  17. Naomi Campbell
  18. Cara Delevingne

Heathrow recorded its busiest ever year in 2017 with over 78 million passengers travelling through the airport, results released today show.

The record breaking figure marked a 3.1% increase on the year before with passenger volumes driven by larger and fuller aircraft.This was also helped by strong passenger volumes growth in December, with over 6.3 million passengers travelling through the airport (+2.8%).

In the run up to Christmas, 248,288 passengers flew through Heathrow on the 22nd, making this our busiest day of the month.Domestic and emerging markets continued to be sources of growth, with UK travel up 6.6% and travel to Asia up 5.5% on last year.

10% increase sees Heathrow cargo volumes soar…

Heathrow also became one of the fastest growing European hubs for cargo during 2017 with a staggering 10.2% increase in volumes on 2016 seeing 1.7 million metric tonnes of goods travelling through the airport.

Over 143,000 metric tonnes travelled through Heathrow in December (+7.3%) alone, as the UK economy benefited from the end-of-year peak around the world. The USA, Japan and Hong Kong were among the fastest growing markets for cargo.

Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye welcomed the results, saying, “Heathrow had its best year ever in 2017 helping to strengthen the British economy as the country seeks to redefine its role in the world.”

“Our colleagues welcomed 78 million passengers and supported the delivery of record volumes of British trade to markets around the world. We’re looking forward to continuing to deliver for Britain in 2018 as we progress our expansion plans.”

Noise footprint continues to get smaller while Heathrow expansion milestone reached

Heathrow’s annual noise and contour report in 2017 revealed that the airport’s noise footprint was at its smallest recorded level in 11 years with 15% fewer households affected by noise, as a result of working with airlines to encourage the use of quieter aircraft.

Night time jet movements also decreased by a third (32%) in 2017. Meanwhile Heathrow’s expansion project continue to progress with the airport launching its first public planning consultation next Wednesday (17 January).

Heathrow’s consultation will be formed of two parts – the first on infrastructure design options for an expanded Heathrow and our approach to managing and reducing environmental and community impacts, while the second will focus on the future design principles for airspace around Heathrow.

Heathrow and The Voyage Team, a Piksel company, have launched a new Amazon Alexa Skill. The software will give Heathrow customers the opportunity to ask Alexa for live flight status information, gate updates and details on arrivals and departures.

Working with Europe’s largest hub airport, the joint project team overcame the challenge of enabling users of Alexa devices to access information on around 1,300 aircraft movements a day.

With over 84 airlines, Heathrow’s new Skill needed to understand queries related to multiple carriers and interpret alphanumeric codes. The Skill draws on the data within Heathrow’s own flight information data hub, which collates all flight schedule information.

Travellers will now be able to use Alexa alongside the Heathrow website and mobile application to access consistent flight data 24 hours a day.

Delivering detailed flight information directly to customers within their homes is another fantastic milestone in improving our digital experience. Launching the first airport-specific Alexa Skill in the UK ensures easy access to the latest flight information, helping passengers to plan their journey more effectively and improve their experience from start to finish.

Stephen Glenfield, Heathrow Senior Digital Manager

Stephen Glenfield, Senior Digital Manager at Heathrow, said, “Delivering detailed flight information directly to customers within their homes is another fantastic milestone in improving our digital experience.”

“Launching the first airport-specific Alexa Skill in the UK ensures easy access to the latest flight information, helping passengers to plan their journey more effectively and improve their experience from start to finish”

Dave Wood, Client Director at The Voyage Team, a Piksel Company, said, “We have worked with Heathrow since 2005 and have a shared focus on providing the best experience for Heathrow customers.”

“Alexa is an exciting new frontier in customer service, and by adding an Alexa Skill, Heathrow is ensuring that it is serving technology-savvy customers and is ready for the growing trend in voice based services.”

The Skill is available in the Amazon Skill store now, more information is available here.

Environmental charges at Heathrow are set to increase by 7% as the airport seeks to minimise its impact on local communities. From 1st January 2018, airlines will be incentivised to deploy their newest aircraft at Heathrow – making the airport cleaner and quieter for our local communities.

  • Heathrow has restructured environmental charges to incentivise airlines to use cleaner, quieter aircraft

  • Environmental charges set to increase 7% from 1st January 2018

  • Change is part of Heathrow’s efforts to minimise the airport’s impacts on local communities

The introduction of the higher environmental charge forms part of Heathrow’s ambitious sustainability strategy Heathrow 2.0 which sets targets to deliver a more sustainable future for aviation.

It includes an aspiration to make growth from a new runway at Heathrow carbon neutral, and the use of 100% renewable electricity at the airport from 2017 in a major step toward creating a zero-carbon airport.

It also proposes establishing an airside ultra-low emission zone by 2025, to improve quality of life of local communities through cleaner air.

With new public transport like Crossrail, HS2 and rail links to the west and south on the horizon – the way people travel to Heathrow is also set to be transformed, helping the airport to reach its goal of 50% of passengers travelling by sustainable transport by 2030.

Heathrow has also recently made a significant investment in electric vehicles and charging points at the airport as well as unveiling a new scheme to encourage colleagues to purchase low-emission vehicles. All of these measures combined will help the airport tackle emissions at the airport.

Increasing our environmental charges to incentivise airlines to bring their cleanest, quietest aircraft to Heathrow is the best way to cut emissions and shrink the noise footprint around the airport.

John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow CEO

Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye said,“Heathrow is determined to reduce the airport’s environmental impacts. Increasing our environmental charges to incentivise airlines to bring their cleanest, quietest aircraft to Heathrow is the best way to cut emissions and shrink the noise footprint around the airport. It is a tangible step that will make a real difference to local communities.”

UK fliers are set to save even more when flying from Heathrow as the airport announced a 50% increase in the airport charges discount for domestic flights. From 1st January 2018, passengers flying to any UK destination from Heathrow will have a £15 discount on the airport charges they pay – the biggest discount in the airport’s history and resulting in savings of nearly £40 million annually and over £750 million over the next 20 years.

  • Heathrow will shave £15 off airport charges for UK fliers – increasing the airport’s existing domestic discount by 50%

  • Domestic discount introduced to make it cheaper to fly within the UK and boost domestic flights to Heathrow

  • UK passengers set to save nearly £40 million a year and over £750 million over the next 20 years as a result of the discount

Heathrow has been a long-time and ardent campaigner for boosting domestic flights at the UK’s hub and last year committed to keeping a discounted domestic passenger charge for at least the next twenty years as long as it is in the public interest.

The further reduction in the domestic passenger charge announced today will save passengers even more money while making domestic routes more commercially viable for airlines – encouraging them to add more domestic services.

Heathrow is the UK’s global gateway and largest port – ensuring communities across Britain have convenient, reliable access to the hub is critical for connecting exporters with customers around the world and attracting inward tourism and investment.

Heathrow doing even more to support UK flights

The domestic discount is one plank in a package of measures Heathrow is implementing to support more flights to UK destinations – ultimately increasing the airport’s domestic connections from 8 today to at least 14 when the airport expands in 2025.

Other measures include creating a £10m fund to provide start-up capital for 5 new domestic routes, urging the Government to use new powers after leaving the EU to ring-fence slots at the airport solely for domestic flights and campaigning for the abolition of air passenger duty on domestic flights to save UK passengers up to £225m annually.

Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye said, “Every corner of our country should be able to benefit from the growth and trade that stems from links to the nation’s hub airport – that’s why Heathrow is making it cheaper to fly within the UK by reducing our domestic passenger charges even further for the second consecutive year.”

“Putting nearly £40 million back into the pockets of British families and businesses each year will help to spur growth in every part of the UK.”

Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Keith Brown said, “I’m very pleased to see this further reduction in charges, something the Scottish Government has long advocated in our work with Heathrow Airport.”

The fact the airport is going beyond the reduction agreed in the Memorandum of Understanding with the Scottish Government is welcome news for business and leisure passengers, and will help improve Scotland’s connectivity.

Keith Brown, Scotland Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work

“The fact the airport is going beyond the reduction agreed in the Memorandum of Understanding with the Scottish Government is welcome news for business and leisure passengers, and will help improve Scotland’s connectivity.”


By Heathrow

Published 2nd January 2018