March saw Dubai Airport report higher international passenger numbers than Heathrow over a two month period for the first time.
Heathrow’s March traffic report showed 5.8 million passengers passing through the airport in the month, down 2.8% on March 2013. Dubai reported more than 12m passengers in January and February combined. Heathrow reported just over 10m in the same period.
Heathrow CEO Colin Matthews said: “Passenger numbers were in line with expectations in March, consistent with the Easter bank holiday moving from March last year to April this year.
He went on to say that despite the numbers being in line with expectations, the threat from Dubai strengthens the case for expansion of the airport. “Dubai’s announcement that it has overtaken Heathrow in the last two months shows that the UK will soon no longer have the world’s number one airport for international passenger traffic. We want Britain to continue to compete globally against the best hub airports in the world but without a third runway, Heathrow’s comparative decline will make the whole of the UK a less attractive to do business.”
Baroness Jo Valentine of London First was also concerned, and called on the Government to take action. She said, “While it is certainly concerning that Heathrow is losing its top slot as the world’s busiest international passenger hub to Dubai, there is a sad inevitability about this. For half a century successive governments have failed to show the courage needed to get on with airport expansion in the UK, while our competitors have rapidly grown their capacity. Dubai aside, the Germans now have four runways at Frankfurt and the French four at Charles de Gaulle in Paris.
“We are seeing 350 years of British transport supremacy slipping away, with our future prospects in marked contrast to that illustrious past.
“Hundreds of thousands of jobs depend on the UK being well-connected to global markets – and that means politicians have to get off the fence and give their support to airport expansion.”
Place West London are hosting half day conference focussed on the options for Heathrow – expansion or closure – and their potential economic effect. See the event programme.