You may have heard the phrase ‘hub airport’ and wondered what it means. Heathrow is the UK's only international hub airport. This means it is a unique place for 70 million people travelling through each year.
A hub airport is where passengers transfer between flights to support the larger airlines that operate route networks across the world. Without those transfer passengers, the UK would not be able to support direct long haul connections around the world.
Businesses in Edinburgh, Belfast and Manchester alone cannot sustain demand for a daily flight to Sao Paulo. But by pooling that demand from around the UK and beyond, a hub airport like Heathrow can. This matters because UK businesses trade 20 times as much with emerging markets with daily flights than those with less frequent or no direct service. Heathrow is central to maintaining the UK's connections to global markets - for an island trading nation, it's vital.
Global airlines have used Heathrow as a base to develop an extensive long-haul route network. Passengers can fly to 75 destinations from Heathrow that aren't served by any other UK airport. More than 100,000 jobs depend on a successful hub airport at Heathrow.
London can only support one hub
It is not possible to have two successful hubs in London because splitting the hub halves the pool of transfer passengers. Attempts to create a dual hub between Heathrow and Gatwick were tried in both the 1970s and 1990s.
Both ended in failure because airlines could only achieve transfer benefits at the Heathrow hub.
Gatwick has recently proposed three competing two-runway airports in the south-east. However, this would not deliver a UK hub that can provide the long-haul routes upon which jobs and growth depend. We need a Premier League airport to compete - not three second division airports.
No European country has two hub airports. At the moment there are only four other hub airports in Europe, at Amsterdam, Madrid, Paris and Frankfurt. All have at least four runways and extra capacity available. Heathrow is full and has two runways. These foreign hubs all provide services that the UK is missing out on. We are currently missing out on up to £14 billion per year in lost trade as a result.
That's why Britain must provide a successful hub airport with spare capacity. If not, airlines will continue to move their business to hub airports in other countries - costing the UK jobs and growth.