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 unassailable, with tens of millions more passengers annually than any other city.
“Far from Britain declining as an aviation superpower, the capital’s global lead over every other city in the world is increasing,” The Independent wrote in 2015 – after yet another year in which London had once again trounced the aviation competition.
The capital has also had far more routes than any other city – 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 no fewer than five Chinese cities, as well as two US hubs.
The first four places are taken by Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Chengdu. followed Chicago, Shenzhen – across the internal Chinese border from Hong Kong – and Los Angeles.
In ninth and tenth positions are Dallas and Atlanta.
New York, Tokyo, Bangkok, Hong Kong and Seoul have dropped out of the top 10.
Sebastian Mikosz, senior vice-president for IATA, said: “The dramatic shift in the connectivity rankings demonstrates the scale at which the world’s connectivity has been re-ordered over the last months.
“But the important point is that rankings did not shift because of any improvement in connectivity. That declined overall in all markets. The rankings shifted because the scale of the decline was greater for some cities than others.
“There are no winners, just some players that suffered fewer injuries. In a short period of time we have undone a century of progress in bringing people together.”
Last month, Heathrow airport reported a slump in business of 82 per cent compared with a year earlier, calling it “the eighth consecutive month of catastrophic decline”.