For a lot of many years, the European order of aviation has had three certainties: the UK boasts the very best variety of flights; London is the best-connected metropolis; and Heathrow is the busiest airport for passenger numbers.
The coronavirus pandemic, and the response to it, has wrecked that dependable trinity. And with ministers apparently uninterested within the destiny of what was beforehand the world’s greatest aviation market – when it comes to selection, competitors, worth and security – it could mark a everlasting change.
I base that assertion on some outstanding analysis carried out by Ralph Anker, editor of The Anker Report – an aviation e-newsletter – and former community planner at easyJet and Go.
He analysed a database of passenger statistics for properly over 400 airports from April to December 2020, and in contrast it with the identical spell in 2019.
Mr Anker’s conclusion: there are two mighty European aviation powers, and neither is the UK. Each are international locations that straddle two continents, extending deep into Asia however with their busiest hubs inside Europe.
Turkey is the clear chief, forward of Russia.
Drilling all the way down to metropolis stage, the December knowledge present Istanbul and Moscow are nearly embarrassingly far forward of London. The Russian capital has a transparent lead, with no different metropolis other than Turkey’s largest coming shut.
Zooming in to particular person airports gives an much more stark revelation of how devastating coronavirus has been to western European aviation.
Although Istanbul’s shiny new airport has misplaced 69 per cent of its visitors, that’s nonetheless a much better efficiency than most opponents. IST is prime of the brand new European league. However solely simply: fractionally behind is the close to neighbour, Sabiha Gokcen (or SAW), throughout the Bosphorus on the Asian aspect of the water.
Third place – amongst all European airports – goes to an airport that serves a pleasing however unremarkable Turkish provincial metropolis: Antalya. Whereas there are busy home connections, the primary enterprise of this airport is to welcome international vacationers to a superb stretch of Mediterranean coast.
A look on the map reveals that Antalya is properly positioned for guests from the previous USSR: the gap and flying time from Moscow are precisely the identical as Edinburgh to Malaga, and the area gives sunshine, a spectacular shoreline and glorious worth.
The Muscovite trio of Sheremetyevo, Domodedovo and Vnukovo fill the subsequent three locations, that means that not one of the former “large 4” hub airports in western Europe makes the highest six.
London Heathrow takes seventh place, marginally forward of Paris CDG and with Amsterdam a bit of extra distant, whereas Frankfurt has been edged out of the highest 10 by the airport serving Russia’s second metropolis, St Petersburg.
The second airport serving the French capital, Orly, makes twelfth, with the unfamiliar sight of Sochi – Russia’s Black Sea gem – simply behind it. Madrid, which Iberia’s guardian IAG want to function as a European big, is subsequent.
Athens completes the highest XV: a uncommon look on the prime desk, however justified by Greece’s nimble opening as much as tourism and the relative success, within the worst of years, of southeast Europe in holding journey going.
Northwest Europe has skilled a calamity in aviation enterprise phrases. The British authorities appears decided to make sure that continues for months to come back.
Boris Johnson’s celebrated roadmap out of lockdown contains intricate particulars of what a spa could supply (neither a saunas nor a steam room) however precisely no details about when and the way significant home aviation could start. And a minimal of 12 weeks can have elapsed between the prime minister’s announcement and when any of us can journey for enjoyable.
The alternatives that travellers have misplaced are stunning – however far worse is the harm brought about to the professionals who put UK aviation on the prime of the European tree and stored it there.
Transport secretaries, in my expertise, usually have temporary and forgettable careers. Not Grant Shapps. He’ll go down in aviation historical past as the person who presided over the wholesale destruction of an business: not merely organising a no-fly coverage lasting for months, however then urging potential summer time travellers to not guide. However maybe they may look extra kindly upon him in Istanbul and Moscow.