Why Heathrow?
Why Heathrow?

Why Heathrow?

The UK faces a choice on airport capacity – expand Heathrow or do nothing and see the UK’s position as a great trading nation diminished.


The Airports Commission was tasked with recommending the best way to maintain the UK’s position as Europe’s most important aviation hub and it decisively found that Heathrow was the answer, with the UK standing to gain up to £211bn in economic benefits and 180,000 jobs.

Why the UK needs a hub airport with more capacity

Heathrow, the UK’s hub, is at capacity today and is losing routes to other European hubs. As a hub, Heathrow serves long-haul business destinations by pooling demand from across the UK regions and nations, Europe, other international and business passengers, and cargo – making more flights and routes viable for all.

Gatwick by contrast operates a point-to-point model that serves mainly short-haul and leisure destinations.

twohubsdiagram (1)

The capacity debate has never been about Heathrow versus Gatwick, but about who is best placed to help Britain win in a competitive race against France, Germany, Holland, Turkey and the Gulf States. Only Heathrow can connect the UK to long-haul growth markets by utilising transfer passengers to make more routes financially viable for airlines.

“Overall, the analysis suggests that the strongest benefits for the UK economy are likely to come from focusing capacity where demand is strongest: be that from freight users, leisure passengers, business travellers or the international transfer passengers needed to support a dense long-haul network. In each case, the highest levels of demand are seen at Heathrow.” – Airports Commission, Final Report (2015)

The uniqueness of hubs is shown by the spare capacity elsewhere in the London system. There is spare capacity at point-to-point airports in London including Gatwick (22%), Stansted (45%) and Luton (20%).

Why Heathrow is best placed to deliver jobs, more exports and business

The centre of economic gravity is to the west of London. 120 of the UK’s top 300 company HQs are within a 15 mile radius of Heathrow, compared to just 16 within 15 miles of Gatwick.

heathrow business hq

The Thames Valley has 60% more international businesses than the national UK average, 100% more US businesses and 260% more Japanese businesses. More businesses are located closer to Heathrow as they recognise the greater long-haul connections and surface access it has – making it easier for them to do business around the globe.

Heathrow will help more UK businesses go global with a third runway as it already carries more freight exports and imports than every other UK airport combined, and cargo facilities will be doubled as part of our plans.

In 2014 alone, £101bn worth of long-haul export goods travelled through Heathrow – more than the combined amount through the UK’s two biggest shipping ports, Felixstowe and Southampton.

More transport options and resilence exist around Heathrow then any other UK airport, and this is set to increase through a number of planned upgrades. By 2032, Heathrow will be accessible by:

  • Road: M4, M25, A4, M3
  • Rail: Piccadilly Line, Crossrail, Heathrow Express, Western Rail Access, Sourthern Rail Access, High Speed Rail 2 (HS2) via Old Oak Common
  • Bus: An expanded Heathrow bus and coach station – currently the largest in the UK.

Why Heathrow is the deliverable option

Heathrow is the most deliverable solution to the UK’s airport capacity issue – because it builds on one of the UK’s strongest national assets. Over the last decade, £11bn has been spent on making Heathrow world-class, with the award-winning Terminal 5 and Terminal 2: The Queen’s Terminal constructed in that time.World Class

We have a track record of providing world-class airport facilities meaning we are best placed to deliver the hub capacity the UK needs. There is strong public and political support for a third runway as recent polling shows.

Heathrow already has greater road and rail connections than its competitors, as well as more long-haul connections to emerging economies like China. When all these factors are combined with our strong financial business case – Heathrow is the only deliverable answer to the hub capacity issue.

Expansion at Heathrow will cost £15.6bn and be privately financed. It’s estimated a surface access work around the airport will require a government contribution of £1.2bn. Heathrow is financially deliverable because it:

  • is the largest 100% privately funded airport in the world;
  • has an asset base of more than £14bn and £2bn in revenues;
  • and its shareholders include three of the world’s top five sovereign wealth funds, together with UK and international pension funds, and the world’s largest private infrastructure fund.

Why Heathrow is the most supported option

Politicians, businesses, industry groups, airlines, airports and inviduals across the UK – including in the local community – support expansion at Heathrow. This support was highlighted by the over 58,000 responses supporting Heathrow that the Airports Commission received during their national consultation.

This made up over 82% of all the responses received.


Over the last three years we’ve seen support for Heathrow’s new expansion plan grow and grow, as people around the country have realised its importance to the UK.

This growing support includes:

  • British business: More than 30 local Chambers of Commerce from every region and nation across the UK; 6 in 10 London First (59%) and IoD members (61%); the Manufacturers’ Association, EEF; British International Freight Association; the Freight Transport Association.
  • A majority of people across Heathrow’s local communities: Over 50% of people in ten local constituencies to the airport support expansion (Populus 2014 – sample poll of 10,000 people); local authorities including Spelthorne and Slough; over 100,000 supporters of the campaign group Back Heathrow.
  • The aviation industry: international and domestic airlines, including easyJet; and, 5 UK airports in Aberdeen, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool and Newcastle.
  • Major trade unions: the GMB, TUC and Unite.
  • MPs and authorities: Across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, highlighted by a recent DODS sample poll that showed more MPs support Heathrow expansion than any other option.
Sources: Heathrow Airport North West Runway: Business Case and Sustainability Assessment (Airports Commission, 2014), Best Placed for Britain (Heathrow, 2013), Taking Britain Further Volume 1 (Heathrow, 2014), Analysis of the Airports Commission’s consultation responses (Airports Commission, 2015), Seabury Trade Database (2015)

Share this page