UK trade - airports are more important than you think

Subscribe to Campaigning blog feeds


In advance of the imminent recommendation from the Airports Commission (this is what their initial analysis showed as benefits for manufacturers) on whether expansion should go ahead at Heathrow or Gatwick, we’ve pulled some data to look again at why manufacturers prefer Heathrow over Gatwick.

As we’ve highlighted before, the vast majority of air freight by weight is sent via Heathrow (68% of total freight by weight is sent via Heathrow, 5% via Gatwick). The range of destinations, frequency of flights and strategic location of Heathrow on the motorway network supports this.


Looking at just Heathrow and Gatwick – this is what that looks like in terms of value:


But where is it all going?

Looking at the value of those exports the top destinations for Heathrow (filtered to emerging and high growth markets only) includes Hong Kong, China and India:


For Gatwick, the value is obviously lower, but (filtered to emerging and high growth markets only) includes China and India, with Nigeria being the top destination in 2014.


The importance of air freight becomes even more significant when you look at the share of total non-EU exports sent via air to each destination from Heathrow.

73% of the UK’s total exports by value to Hong Kong is sent via Heathrow, 45% to India and 30% to China:


But what are we exporting to these locations?


Again looking at Heathrow only, looking beyond the dominance of gold – it’s clear that the major categories include manufactured items such as:

  • Works of art, jewellery and books (SITC89)
  • Engines and motor parts for steam turbines and piston engines (SITC71)
  • Medicinal and pharma products
  • Measuring, checking, analysing and controlling instruments and apparatus (SITC87)
  • Aircraft & associated equipment; spacecraft (including satellites) (SITC79)
  • Taps, cocks, valves & similar appliances for pipes, pumps (SITC74) and
  • Phones & other app for voice/image transmission (SITC76)

This explains why manufacturers with a business need for expansion would prefer this to be at Heathrow rather than Gatwick. It isn’t just about business flights it’s also about trade.


If you have a great export success story to tell why not enter our Outstanding Export Award, sponsored by UK mid-market private equity firm Dunedin?

For more information visit: Entries close end of July. Good luck!



Head of Business Environment Policy

Other articles from this author >
Online payments are not supported by your browser. Please choose an alternative browser or make payments through the 'Other payment options' on step 3.