After decades as the world’s leading city for aviation, London has lost its crown, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. With Europe’s busiest airport, Heathrow, and the world’s busiest single-runway airport Gatwick, the capital handled 126,5 million passengers in 2019 — more than any other city.
Once Stansted, Luton, London City, and Southend were added, the UK’s biggest metropolis looked unrivalled, with tens of millions more passengers annually compared to any other city. What is more, it had far more routes than any other city as well — measured as connectivity. But according to the latest figures from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), London’s connectivity has fallen by two-thirds. It is now in eighth place — behind five Chinese cities, as well as two US hubs. The first four places are taken by Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, and Chengdu followed by Chicago, Shenzhen, and Los Angeles. New York, Tokyo, Bangkok, Hong Kong, and Seoul have also dropped out of the top 10.
Last month, Heathrow airport reported a slump in the business of 82 percent compared with a year earlier, calling it “the eighth consecutive month of catastrophic decline”. Sebastian Mikosz, senior vice-president for IATA, noted that “In a short period of time we have undone a century of progress in bringing people together.”