We analysed whether London Heathrow is the most important airport hub for the UK and if the rest of the country is dependent on foreign airports and airlines to access world markets.

Key Facts

    • We analysed the role of London airports, particularly Heathrow, in providing connectivity for the UK as well as a regional dependence on foreign hubs. This was working with the University of Edinburgh Business School and Linköping University in Sweden to examine worldwide passenger demand.
    • It was found UK regional airports have significant dependence on foreign hubs and bypassing Heathrow allows regional airports to develop new markets.
    • To avoid busy airports in the South East of England, many UK passengers in other parts of the country prefer using some foreign airports to travel further afield to places like Latin America.
  • Funded by Supported by funding / investment from Cranfield.
Flight path diagram
UK Regional Airport Connectivity

Impact of our research

It has already been well established that air traffic services influence economic development and the attractiveness of a region. Air transport connectivity is a crucial factor in influencing the position of regional population centres and where the world’s cities are situated and their economic importance.

Our research shows that while UK regions have become well connected to many European destinations with the growth of low-cost airlines, their own weak domestic position in the UK limits their ability to capture direct air services to intercontinental destinations, along with the added value this would bring.

Why the research was commissioned

With ongoing debate about future UK aviation policy and its implications for regional economic development, this project discussed the role of London Heathrow and the South East of England’s airports in providing connectivity for the UK, with particular focus on the international markets that originate from regional UK airports.

Heathrow Airport’s world-class reputation may be damaged in the future because of a lack of new route developments and growing competition from abroad. Also, British passengers who live outside south-east England, and beyond easy reach of Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted, are more likely to transfer in Amsterdam or Dubai.

Why Cranfield?

This study is part of a wider research programme on airline and airport connectivity at our Centre for Air Transport Management.

We are one of the few research centres with access to both supply data (airline schedules) and demand data (passenger bookings and itineraries). By combining these datasets, we have developed a series of market-specific key performance indicators (KPIs) to support the decision-making process of airlines, airports and governments, and benchmark airport connectivity.