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Heathrow retains top spot

London's Heathrow Airport has maintained its status as the world's most connected airport. In a report for OAG, the UK hub has come out ahead of its rivals for the title of world’s most internationally connected airport in OAG’s Megahubs Connectivity Index.

The report says:

Allowing for the number of destinations served from the airport, passengers using Heathrow on the busiest day for global aviation in 2019 have a wider range of possible international connections between inbound and outbound flights than at any other airport in the world. The index considers all connections which are feasible between scheduled flights adhering to the airports’ own Minimum Connect Times, which can be made within a six-hour window of a flight arrival and where at least one is an international flight. At Heathrow there are over 65,000 possible connections on the busiest day for aviation and while the Megahubs Index score for Heathrow is slightly below where it was a year ago, the airport continues to perform well ahead of the competition.

While there are many ways to rank the top airports in the world, the OAG Megahubs Index reflects both the scale of the airport operation in terms of destinations served and the number of inbound and outbound flights, as well as the fundamental scheduling which makes some airports such successful hubs. In some instances schedule co-ordination, which ensures waves of inbound flights are timed to provide the maximum connectivity to outbound flights is key, while for other Megahubs, the sheer scale of the domestic operation and how that connects to international air services is what drives international connectivity.

Unsurprisingly, there are 15 US airports ranked among the Top 50 Megahubs, a sign of the traditional emphasis on creating networks based around hub airports by the major American carriers. While Chicago O’Hare Airport ranks third in the 2019 Megahubs Index, the close cooperation between airport and airline that is often required to create a Megahub is apparent in the fact that at Atlanta Airport (ATL - ranked 8th), Dallas/Ft.Worth (DFW - ranked 19th), Miami Airport (MIA - ranked 20th) and at Houston Airport (IAH – ranked 21st) the dominant airline operates 75% or more of all scheduled flights.

Aside from London Heathrow, a further four European airports make it in to the Top 10 – Frankfurt Airport (FRA), Amsterdam Airport (AMS), Munich Airport (MUC) and Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG). The fact that half of the Top 10 Megahubs are located in Europe reflects the sheer density of the aviation market, with a very high proportion of flights being international, the high propensity to fly among Europeans and the concentration of flights at a handful of already very busy airports. 15% of all scheduled aviation capacity in Europe is to or from one of these 5 airports.

(Written by Deirdre Fulton)
Left: Heathrow's third runway plan
(image - Heathrow Airport)

What OAG's index reveals is that demand for travel to or through London continues to rise. British Airways, despite having some hiccups, is still one of the world's leading airlines and one of the biggest in terms of the scale of its operations, particularly at its home base.
The questions for London and the UK remains the same as that posed for a number of years, namely, the airport's need for an extra runway; does it need one? The answer is yes and without a scintilla of doubt. Allied to that is whether or not the UK wishes to be a strong nation with vital and viable links to the rest of the world - regardless of whether or not the country continues with its now much delayed departure from the European Union.
Even if the EU referendum had never been held and EU membership was not in question, demand for services to London has always been rising. That demand has been met up to a point by larger aircraft, although only up to a point. Heathrow rapidly became the airport most frequented by the Boeing 747 'jumbo jet' when it entered service in 1969 and on into the 1970s. It is also now the most frequented airport by the Airbus A380 'super jumbo' and for the same, precise reason - the limited size of the airport.
If the UK wants to stay as a country with relatively low unemployment figures and with growing business providing those employment opportunities, as well as providing vibrant links for leisure travel, the connectivity provided by Heathrow needs to be enhanced further by the construction of its new runway.
The alternative is a shrinking economy and the only growing figures being those of people out of work.
Above: British Airways are a major user of the Airbus A380 and continue to operate the Boeing 747 with both aircraft seen every day, along with the A380s of a number of other airlines (Kevan James)

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