The UK’s largest carrier easyJet said yesterday at the Heathrow Connectivity Conference the expansion of Heathrow Airport would allow the entry of low-cost carriers to the airport at scale for the first time and says setting up a base at the hub would be “in line with its strategy”.
Heathrow’s plans for a £14 billion third runway set to be completed by 2026, will be voted on in the coming weeks at the UK Parliament by MPs after the Government’s Cabinet gave approval earlier this month.
Speaking at the Olympia London event was the airline’s chief commercial and strategy officer, Robert Carey who said if Heathrow was expanded, passengers would benefit from the increased competition to legacy carriers and would enjoy fares around 30 per cent lower on routes to existing UK and European destinations.
The low-cost carrier believes new entrants would also launch flights to UK and European airports not currently served by Heathrow providing important economic connections to the UK’s only hub airport.
EasyJet says passengers flying to and from Heathrow have seen a sustained reduction in routes and flights to the UK and Europe as from 2000 to 2017 total passengers at Heathrow grew by 21 per cent and flights across Europe as a whole grew by 91 per cent.
But at Heathrow during the same period there has been a 40 per cent decrease in number of domestic flight seats, a 13 per cent fall in European flight seats and a reduction in UK destinations served from 14 to eight.
The airline says due to its constrained capacity Heathrow’s passengers have been “denied the benefits of the low-cost aviation revolution” and routes today remain “dominated by expensive, inefficient flag carriers”.
Carey said: “EasyJet supported the Airports Commission’s clear and unanimous recommendation and agrees that expansion at Heathrow will provide the greatest passenger and economic benefits, including lower fares by opening up the airport to increased competition.
“Expansion at Heathrow will bring significant benefits to all parts of the UK and is in the best interests of all passengers – both business and leisure, long and short haul.
“This expansion would enable low-cost airlines like easyJet to operate from Heathrow (in addition to existing London bases) allowing them to provide new routes and increased competition on dozens more UK and European routes.
“EasyJet’s costs are significantly lower than legacy airlines so easyJet’s fares on these services would be lower than those paid by passengers today.”
The airline has been working closely with Heathrow (pictured) for a number of years and Carey said low-cost operations would be viable at Heathrow. This would include easyJet’s requirements for its ‘walk in, walk out’ boarding process and 25-minute aircraft turnaround time. EasyJet and Heathrow agreed an Indicative Operating Framework in 2015 on these practicalities.
EasyJet says operating a base at Heathrow would be “in line with its strategy of flying between Europe’s primary airports” with strong demand from leisure and business passengers. EasyJet already operates from other European hub airports such as Amsterdam Schiphol and Paris Charles De Gaulle.
EasyJet will also look to connect passengers to long haul destinations at Heathrow by using ‘Worldwide by easyJet’ – the first global airline connections service by a European low fares airline. Launched in 2017, it enables customers to connect easyJet flights to long-haul flights with a number of airline partners.
Carey said: “We look forward to engaging with the UK’s regional airports and their Governments and other local organisations to work out which regions will enjoy the largest growth in passenger demand and economic benefits from new connections to Heathrow and the rest of the world.
“Expansion at Heathrow must be delivered sustainably. Local noise and environmental impacts need to be addressed and easyJet supports the Commission’s recommendations on these issues.”
The airline also says a key driver of its future is the Airbus neo aircraft which is bringing a step change in aircraft performance, bringing significant environmental and operational benefits – a 15 per cent saving in fuel burn and CO2 emissions, and a reduced noise footprint of 50 per cent on take-off and landing providing a benefit to airport neighbourhood communities.
EasyJet has taken delivery of five A320neo aircraft to date, with 95 on order for delivery by August 2022. In addition, easyJet has 30 A321neo aircraft on order, with the first delivery expected in July 2018.
Carey said: “EasyJet will bring our long term environmental strategy, a key element of which is the next generation Airbus A320 neo aircraft. We are taking delivery of 130 of these aircraft and all will be flying with easyJet before the new runway opens at Heathrow.
“Expansion at Heathrow will bring significant economic benefits to all of the UK and that’s why we urge MPs to support the Government’s National Planning Statement so that work can start to increase the aviation capacity for the UK.”
The executive fielded questions at the conference, in which ARGS is currently reporting from.
Carey stated that easyJet’s presence at the airport and its lowered fares could potentially cause a ripple effect in pricing with other carriers as they continue to compete. He also stated easyJet is not shying away from competition and is also “confident” that its preparations for a post-Brexit UK are in order.
Carey did mention that there has been no deliberation on slot allocation or slot charges so far, easyJet’s proposal remains seemingly theoretical so far.