Just a week after a new runway was announced at Heathrow airport, with the Department for Transport promising “better connections to destinations including to Asia and South America,” British Airways has announced seven new destinations from the UK’s busiest airport — all of them to holiday spots in Europe.
Next summer, BA will fly from Heathrow to Brindisi in south-east Italy, the Greek island of Zakynthos, Murcia in Spain, Pula in Croatia and Tallinn in Estonia. In addition, the links to Nantes and Montpellier will be revived, flying from Heathrow rather than Gatwick.
The services operate only on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, and almost all in afternoons and evenings. These are the times when demand for flights is lowest, especially in summer from a predominantly business airport such as Heathrow.
The aim of the new routes is to extract some productivity from planes and crews at times when they would otherwise be flying half-empty on business routes or grounded through lack of passengers. But following BA’s decision to abandon the route from Heathrow to Chengdu in China, and replace it with a mainly leisure link to New Orleans, the schedule has angered anti-expansion campaigners.
John Stewart, chair of the campaign group HACAN, called the move “ironic”, and said: “Just days after a third runway at Heathrow has been given the green light so the UK can have more routes to the emerging markets of the world, British Airways, Heathrow’s main customer, has chosen to trumpet the fact that it is planning seven new routes to European destinations that are leisure pure and simple.”
Last week the Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, said a new runway at Heathrow would “crucially boost our connections with the rest of the world, supporting exports, trade and job opportunities”.
The one new destination with significant business potential is Tallinn. Neil Taylor, author of the Bradt Guide to Estonia, said:"Relations between the UK and Estonia have always so close, it is amazing that it has taken 25 years since independence from the USSR for this link to be established.”