Is Heathrow just for high flyers?

29 June 2018
What was claimed

Heathrow Airport is used by people getting off one plane and on another.

Our verdict

An estimated 34% of flyers leaving Heathrow are on a connecting flight, far higher than any other London or UK airport included in the survey.

What was claimed

Heathrow Airport is used by businessmen and women.

Our verdict

An estimated 24% of flyers from Heathrow are travelling for business, more than most other major airports. Only City airport has a higher proportion of business travellers in London (50%).

What was claimed

Heathrow Airport is used primarily by people on expensive flights.

Our verdict

A survey found flyers from Heathrow say they have higher incomes than those flying from most other London airports, but we don’t know how much their flights cost.

“Heathrow Airport is used primarily by people on expensive flights, most of the people watching this programme and most of the people in this audience do not go through Heathrow. They travel on budget airlines out of Luton, Stansted and so on. Heathrow is used by businessmen and women who get off one plane and get on another.”

Janet Street-Porter, 28 June 2018  

More people flying from Heathrow are on connecting flights or business trips than at most other major UK airports. But the majority are leisure travellers and on terminating flights (as opposed to connecting ones).

The data referenced comes from a survey of passengers flying out of airports, conducted by the Civil Aviation Authority, the aviation regulator. It surveys a representative sample of departing passengers at most of the UK’s large airports.

In 2017 the survey found that 26% of passengers departing Heathrow were flying for business reasons, higher than other London airports included in the study (except London City airport at 50%).

It also found that 34% of departing passengers from Heathrow were on a connecting flight (i.e. they had flown into Heathrow and were now immediately flying out on another flight). Of the London airports, Gatwick had the next highest proportion of connecting flights at 8%.

The survey asks respondents how much their flight cost, but that information isn’t published. What we do know is the average income (before tax) of passengers at each airport.

Again, according to the survey Heathrow’s passengers say they have higher average incomes than at other London airports, except City, though this includes all passengers, not just UK residents. As income is to some people sensitive personal information, it’s worth bearing in mind that not all people report their income in surveys.

Looking just at UK residents travelling for leisure reasons, City fliers (£75,000) have slightly higher average household incomes than Heathrow fliers (£62,000).

More generally, air travellers have higher incomes than the average. Survey data from 2014 found passengers with higher incomes were more likely to have flown in the previous 12 months.

The average household income of UK leisure passengers flying from London airports was higher than the UK household average of around £44,000.

Full Fact fights bad information

Bad information ruins lives. It promotes hate, damages people’s health, and hurts democracy. You deserve better.