Heathrow Airport: 8,600 passengers and 54 flights per hour

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Airports seem to get busier every year. Business travellers and tourists face overbooked flights, endless queues and less seating space. However, the increased demand is not reflecting on the Airlines profits, who are working on diverse strategies to maximise their revenue.

Catching wind on this, LastMinute.com has done a study that analyses the air traffic and number of passengers at the world’s twenty busiest airports. Findings of the study show that on a global level, while the number of flights per year at many of the world’s largest airports has decreased, the number of passengers has grown over the same period.

For example, Dubai International airport, which was the fastest growing airport in 2016 by passenger number, carries 84m passengers each year and fields only 418,000 flights. This is less than half that of either Atlanta or Chicago. What’s more interesting is that hubs like Dubai carry an equivalent number of passengers per hour to some of the world’s busiest airports, yet launch far fewer individual flights.

London Heathrow has a good balance when compared to other international airports. It is the ninth busiest by number of flights and number fifth by number of passengers, which means that in 2016, Heathrow transported 75,711,130 passengers in 474,963 flights.

Additionally, London Heathrow has doubled his passenger’s figures in the past 20 years, while the air traffic has increased only 66 per cent. This means that London’s biggest airport is optimising resources by fitting more people in less plains? The latest financial 2016 report proves the positive financial performance.

Are airlines fielding fewer flights while carrying more passengers? As the study shows, this is an industry trend which is most marked in Asia. The number of flights at major international hubs such as Dubai, Hong Kong and Beijing is almost half the total amount of flights in other airports that transport an equivalent number of passengers.

What might explain these differences? One likely explanation is the growth in aeroplane sizes. Today’s aircraft can carry a much greater number of passengers than in the past. For instance, Airbus’s A380 can carry up to 853 people on an all-economy seating plan, an innovation that allows carriers to cut costs and boost operational efficiency.

Airlines such as Emirates and Qantas Airways have been investing in lighter and larger aircraft that consume less fuel, which will allow them to carry more passengers, while making fewer individual flights.

Geography is another important factor. Many more flights from European and North American flights are short haul, within countries or to nearby destinations. By contrast, some of Asia’s airlines focus almost exclusively on the long-haul market.

Take a look at the graphic below that visualises the results of the data analysis and reveals which are the world’s busiest airports.

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