Also-ran: a dismal year for the UK’s leading airport

Boris Johnson could look in need of pals – however the beleaguered prime minister can rely on the help of the transport secretary.

Grant Shapps did the Tuesday media spherical (if you happen to’ve misplaced your house in Partygate, his transient was to defend the PM’s birthday celebration within the cupboard room and subject questions on Mr Johnson’s “wallpaper advisor”, Lulu Lytle).

However the transport secretary additionally discovered time to announce in a authorities press launch: “We made the proper calls on the proper time and due to our vaccine and booster rollout it’s paying off – permitting us to securely take away practically all Covid-19 journey restrictions for vaccinated travellers.

“We have already got probably the most open economies in Europe with the least restrictions, and due to these adjustments we now have a journey sector to match it.”

This will come as a shock to the UK aviation trade, which has suffered way over that of another main European nation.

At 6.59am – simply earlier than Mr Shapps joined Kay Burley on Sky Information – the European workplace of Airports Council Worldwide despatched out a abstract of the dismal story of 2021 from the aviation perspective.

Aviation actions to and from the UK amounted to only 22 per cent of 2019 flight operations. Spain and Bulgaria achieved twice the British proportion, at 44 per cent, whereas Romania hit 46 per cent, Portugal made 48 per cent and Greece outperformed in all places else besides Russia with 53 per cent.

Russia, with few journey restrictions in place, is a particular case: it maintained 76 per cent of 2019 site visitors.

The UK fared no higher on the particular person airport stage. For many years London Heathrow topped the European league desk, adopted by Paris CDG, Amsterdam and Frankfurt.

The French and Dutch capitals remained within the high 4 final 12 months however every slipped down a spot. Istanbul and Moscow Domodedovo at the moment are dominant (with the Russian capital’s second airport, Sheremetyevo, additionally that includes).

Given the demolition of aviation by authorities selections to create Europe’s most advanced and onerous journey restrictions, I predict Heathrow won’t ever return to high spot in Europe.

Airports are gravitational: the extra flights and passengers they’ve, the extra they entice. An airline is extra prone to ponder new flights to an airport that has tens of 1000’s of potential connecting passengers on dozens of routes, which implies that Istanbul appears extra engaging than Heathrow.

In contrast to the opposite hubs, Istanbul can also be – like London – a large metropolis with a lot enchantment by itself. In October the UK authorities diminished, at a stroke, the variety of potential guests to Britain by banning arrivals from the European Union with solely an ID card (a wonderfully safe doc that’s accepted by dozens of different nations).

This dogmatic choice palms Istanbul – in addition to the normal Continental hubs – a bonus they are going to take pleasure in exploiting.

Does that matter? For UK travellers, undoubtedly. We used to benefit from the widest horizons and the bottom fares in Europe.

It should take greater than booster boosterism from the prime minister’s agency pal to show the UK’s aviation fortunes round.

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