UK’s largest and the second busiest airport in the world, the Heathrow, has been fighting for expansion since the early 2000’s. It is one of the few major airports in the world that is regularly operated at over 98% capacity, this means that with expansion, there is a lot more potential for growth. The vastness of the Heathrow is mind boggling to say the least, apart from being the second largest in the world in terms of passenger traffic, it is also the second largest in terms of cargo handling. A good percentage of the travellers use it as a transit airport to get connecting flights, making it Europe’s largest hub to the Americas and vice versa.
Expansion will entail building another runway in addition to its already existing two major runways. The third runway, has been projected to keep London’s Heathrow well ahead in terms of development and trade amongst its peers, this includes both Paris and Berlin. The runway proposed by the Airports Commission lies about 3 km north of the current runways, the third runway, if built will be about 3,500m long, comparable to the current two. The total project, including transit facilities between the terminals is expected to reach £18.6 billion.
At present, Heathrow handles over 73 million passengers a year and this number is only expected to rise. Over 80 different airliners fly here and there are over 1200 flights, every day as of 2014. Getting delayed or missing a flight can be a nightmare and in the list of airports in the UK that face a lot of delays, Heathrow is, as can be expected on the upper half of the list.
What expansion will do for the average passenger?
More flights will be operated, capacity will increase to a great extent and the total efficiency of the operations will increase. It may even make the airport the busiest in the world, upstaging the JFK. It may seem small, but even if the flights are able to better their average flight delays by 5 minutes, it can save a lot of time and money that will have otherwise gone to passengers as Flight Delay Refunds. There will also be more options for passengers who chose to have their tickets refunded in case of a prolonged delay.
Competition for Heathrow
The biggest competitor to Heathrow is Gatwick. Gatwick is London’s second international airport and UK’s second busiest. It is the world’s largest single runway airport and also the busiest. As a point to point terminal, it is one of the major airports in the whole of Europe. Gatwick has been an intense competitor for Heathrow when it comes to capacity expansion and has even promised to raise £20 million pounds to foster growth.
The jury is still out on where the funds will go and which airport will receive another runway, but as of now, the only decision left to make is left to the politicians.