New report & latest Norwegian launch highlight future aviation trends that point to Gatwick as obvious choice for expansion


  • New report by aviation expert says new generation aircraft are a “game changer” where the airlines’ order books of today hold the key to expansion needs of tomorrow
  • Report comes as Norwegian gets set to launch ground-breaking new low-cost long-haul services from Gatwick – the latest sign of the changing face of aviation
  • Reduction in ‘hub’ traffic, growth of Low Cost Carriers & increased Point-to-Point traffic will be dominant future trends which only Gatwick is best placed to meet

In the week that Norwegian Air launches ground-breaking new low-cost long-haul services from Gatwick to America, an independent aviation expert has highlighted how this is one of a number of emerging industry trends that will transform the UK’s runways debate.

An in-depth new report by aviation analyst Chris Tarry focusses on the “game-changing” impacts of new generation aircraft, along with other key areas the Airports Commission have highlighted as central to the UK’s runways debate including: the growth of low-cost carriers; the future of hub traffic through London; and how the long-haul market & point-to-point services will grow.

Based on these key areas, Chris Tarry’s independent report outlines a series of emerging trends all supporting the case that expansion at Gatwick is the best option to meet the aviation needs of the future. Among the report’s key findings are:

  • New generation aircraft are a “game-changer” – how these aircraft feature in the fleet plans of leading airlines will have clear implications for the London expansion debate
  • Short haul traffic will continue to be the largest traffic segment accounting for two-thirds of the London market
  • Low cost carriers will be the engine for London’s growth with new generation aircraft allowing them to develop further into the long-haul market
  • New aircraft and Gulf expansion will lead to a reduced need for hub connecting traffic in London - meanwhile point-to-point services are dominant and will increase further
  • The strength of London as a destination in its own right will increasingly attract non-UK airlines, maintaining London’s status as the World’s best connected city
  • (see detailed conclusions on each area further below)

Several of these key emerging trends will be underlined this week as Norwegian Air launches new services from Gatwick to New York, Florida and Los Angeles, showing how the capabilities of new aircraft are allowing low-cost carriers to continue their growth and venture into the long-haul market.

Gatwick CEO Stewart Wingate said: “A low-cost carrier flying to the Big Apple for a small price shows how fast aviation is changing and highlights one of a series of future trends that will have a huge bearing on the UK’s runways debate.

“As this new report outlines, it is the airlines’ fleet plans and order books of today that hold the key to the expansion needs of tomorrow. New generation aircraft and other key trends will lead to a reduction in ‘hub’ connecting traffic, an increase in point-to-point services and the continued growth of low-cost carriers, all of which are cornerstones of Gatwick’s case for a second runway.

“Just this week we have seen reports that Heathrow expansion would require increased landing costs, a move that would hold back many airlines especially those that will be the engine for London’s growth. It is clear that Heathrow’s plans are yesterday’s solution to tomorrow’s problem and that only expansion of Gatwick can meet the challenges and demands of the future.”

Bjørn Kjos, CEO of Norwegian said: “At Norwegian, we believe that everyone should be able to afford to fly. In order to compete in the global airline industry you need to adapt to changes and keep a constant focus on cost. Norwegian has a low-cost model, meaning a lean administration, brand new and fuel efficient aircraft and efficient operations. We fly direct routes with high passenger demand and choose centrally located airports such at Gatwick that share our mindset.”

A full copy of the Chris Tarry report is available to download here. Detailed conclusions outlined in the report include:

New generation aircraft are a “game-changer” in the expansion debate:

  • Tarry outlines that the new generation of aircraft like the Airbus A350 and Boeing B787 are a “game changer” – these ‘hub buster’ or ‘hub bypass’ aircraft will redefine how longer routes are served without the need for a large hub airport in London
  • As a result, Tarry states that “Airlines’ fleet plans and orders in place… hold the key to likely future traffic patterns” highlighting that almost 1,800 new generation aircraft have been ordered so far
  • This matches the Airports Commission’s own summary that “order books show the smaller, more fuel-efficient models are proving more popular with airlines”

The short-haul market will continue to be the most important with Low Cost Carriers dominating this market – Gatwick is best-placed to meet their needs:

  • Tarry outlines that the short haul market accounts for two-thirds of London traffic and is dominated by Low Cost Carriers (LCCs) who have the vast majority of new short haul aircraft orders and whose share of short haul traffic “will grow to more than 60%”
  • Tarry also highlights that LCCs “are taking an increasing share of the business travel segment” and will also branch into the long-haul market, as illustrated by the launch of Norwegian services to America
  • The significance of this is highlighted in the Airports Commission’s own report which says that “The way in which the low-cost sector develops…could have profound effects on the nature and scale of any additional capacity required in the UK”
  • Gatwick is better placed to support the continued growth of short haul and low-cost carriers through lower airport charges and more efficient infrastructure - Heathrow expansion would put a strangle-hold on this market’s growth

‘Hub’ traffic in London is relatively low and will continue to decline – new generation aircraft will continue this trend:

  • The Tarry report makes it clear that connecting traffic in London is low (accounting for only 14% of total traffic) and will continue to decline - “it is necessary to keep a sense of perspective on the actual importance of connecting traffic, not least as a number of changes will both reduce the need for and supply of such traffic across London”
  • The new generation of ‘hub-busting’ aircraft are one of the key factors that will reduce the supply and need for ‘hub’ connecting traffic across London
  • The vast majority of ‘hub buster’ orders are from non-European carriers – as a result, little of this traffic will come through London which will be ‘overflown’ by carriers from North America and Asia, further reducing the need for London hub traffic

‘Hub’ traffic in London will also be reduced by growth in the Gulf and emerging markets:

  • The need for hub traffic will also continue to be reduced by growth in the Gulf which is simply better located than London for key transfer markets. As Tarry states “In global terms London is now relatively poorly located for connecting traffic flows”
  • This reflects the Airports Commission’s own notes that “Dubai’s extraordinary growth… is a function of its strategic location. Dubai is less than 8 hours flying time for two-thirds of the world’s population”
  • Tarry also shows that traffic from emerging markets will focus on “demand for services to London as a destination rather than a connecting point for traffic beyond London”
  • Tarry highlights Air China’s Beijing to London service as an example – where 38% of Air China’s passengers have connected at Beijing, only 3% connect beyond London
  • Likewise, 62% of China Southern’s passengers on its Guangzhou service connect across Guangzhou with only 4% connecting beyond London

While ‘hub’ traffic will fall, London’s already dominant point-to-point traffic will further increase because of new generation aircraft:

  • Tarry highlights that “London’s current traffic structure is dominated by passengers that either begin or end their journey at London – some 86% of total traffic”
  • The capabilities of new aircraft like the A350 and B787 will continue this dominance, making it possible to fly longer routes and opening up even more point-to-point services
  • Tarry says that “the reduced need for connecting [hub] traffic resulting from smaller aircraft…will create more point-to-point services being offered from London”
  • This conclusion gives weight to one of the areas discussed by the Airports Commission that “new aircraft with longer ranges will make more long-haul destinations viable as point-to-point routes”


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About Gatwick Airport

Gatwick Airport is the UK’s second largest airport and the most efficient single-runway airport in the world. It serves more than 200 destinations in 90 countries for more than 40 million passengers a year on short and long-haul point-to-point services. It is also a major economic driver for the South East region, generating around 21,000 on-airport jobs and a further 10,000 jobs through related activities. The airport is south of Central London with excellent public transport links, including the Gatwick Express, and is part of the Oyster contactless payment network. Gatwick Airport is owned by a group of international investment funds, of which Global Infrastructure Partners is the largest shareholder.

The Government has indicated it will make a decision this year on whether Gatwick airport should be expanded. Gatwick’s second runway will deliver the UK the same number of passengers, the same number of long haul routes, better UK and regional connections, and the economic boost the UK needs, all at a dramatically lower environmental impact, at less than half the cost of Heathrow, and with no public subsidy.

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