Heathrow: Europe’s busiest airport in numbers

Most Popular Destinations
Source: UK Civil Aviation Authority

Heathrow Airport is, without doubt, the busiest airport in the UK and Europe. By passenger numbers alone, it processes more than twice the number than its nearest rival, Gatwick. With the debate about which of these London airports should be allowed to expand hotting up, we take a look at the numbers behind Britain’s biggest international transport hub.

The most recent figures published, those from 2013, show that Heathrow’s most popular destinations were all major international cities, and in the vast majority of cases are centres of business. Of the top ten cities, three were in the USA, five in Europe and two in Asia. More than one million passengers flew to each destination, with over three million flying to New York’s John F. Kennedy airport.

In 2013, international flights accounted for roughly 93 per cent of Heathrow’s passengers, whilst only 7 per cent flew within the UK. In terms of sheer number, 67.3 million people flew to or from foreign destinations, and around 5 million took domestic flights (including British overseas territories).

Heathrow’s busiest domestic routes reflect a need for business people in the regions to connect with the capital and vice-versa. Scotland’s largest cities, Edinburgh and Glasgow were the two most popular destinations, accounting for roughly half of all domestic trips in and out of the airport. This is perhaps unsurprising given that travelling by train to either of these cities can take in excess of five hours, whilst flying usually takes around an hour.

Other northern and provincial powerhouse cities fill much of the rest of the list, with Manchester being the third most popular destination, 797,263 passengers flew this route in 2013. Aberdeen, Belfast, Newcastle and Leeds Bradford complete the top seven destinations, and represent major provincial destinations.

Most Popular Domestic Destinations (2013)
Source: UK Civil Aviation Authority

Tourist flights to British overseas territories also prove popular, although Gibraltar, the most popular of these routes, only saw 108,372 passengers last year. Routes to and from Grand Cayman and the Turks and Caicos take around 45,000 passengers yearly.

Passengers passing through each terminal at Heathrow
Source: Heathrow Airport Limited

Heathrow currently has five separate terminals, the newest of which – the recently renovated Terminal 2 – reopened in June 2014. Due to the renovation of Terminal 5 – which opened in 2008 and acts as a hub for British Airways and its partner airline Iberia – is by far the busiest of Heathrow’s terminals. In 2013 it saw 29.8million passengers pass through its doors on 199,627 different flights. Next busiest was Terminal 3, where 18.4 million passengers travelled on around 90,000 flights. 13.8 million passengers flew in and out of Terminal 1 last year, taking 114,830 flights, most of which were short haul and on smaller planes. Terminal 4 was the quietest of Heathrow’s terminal buildings and saw just upwards of 10 million passengers on 60,000 flights.


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