Birmingham Airport is Britain’s most accessible

Birmingham Airport is Britain’s most accessible airport, according to new analysis by leading transport and economics experts into passenger travels times and the impact on jobs and growth.

Birmingham Airport Terminal

The analysis boosts calls for Government to support the development of a network of major British airports, rather than one London-centric hub, to handle the forecast growth in air travel and to underpin the competitiveness of Britain’s regional economies.

The analysis, conducted by Steer Davies Gleave and Capital Economics, looks at the catchment areas of the UK’s long-haul airports [1]. It concludes that Birmingham Airport currently serves the greatest number of passengers within two hours travel by road and rail and, with High-Speed Two (HS2), will serve the greatest number of passengers within a one hour journey of the airport.

These findings add weight to the argument that the existing structure of our aviation industry is not serving the needs of its passengers. Birmingham Airport’s catchment area is the second-largest market for long-haul travel, but residents currently have to travel to more distant airports to make these journeys.

As a result, passengers are being channelled through airports in the South East, incurring cost and time penalties for the passenger and overburdening our already overheated London airports.

The report’s key findings are:


  • For a 60 minute travel time, Heathrow currently has the largest catchment for long-haul by road and rail at 11.2 million passengers, while Manchester (10.3 million), Birmingham (9.7 million) and Gatwick (9.7 million) are not far behind.
  • For a 90 minute travel time, Birmingham Airport has the biggest catchment, picking up almost 20 million people, marginally more than Heathrow.
  • For a 120 minute travel time, Birmingham Airport captures over 35 million people – half the population of England and Wales – significantly more than any other airport, and including people from West London, the Thames Valley and out towards Bath.


  • The potential for passenger choice and competition between airports will be dramatically increased by improvements in our rail infrastructure, particularly the HS2 high-speed rail network, the consequential release of capacity on the WCML and various improvements contained in CP5.
  • By 2032, Birmingham Airport will be the most convenient long-haul airport by road and rail for 19 million people – more than any other long-haul airport. Birmingham’s one-hour catchment will grow to 15 million and the two hour catchment will increase to 45 million.

Alleviating the South East

  • In 2011 there were 6 million long-haul trips made by residents in the Birmingham Airport catchment area, including 3 million business trips.
  • Birmingham Airport’s catchment area is the second-largest market for long-haul travel, but residents currently have to travel to more distant airports to make these trips.
  • Currently, 7.5 million people in Heathrow’s catchment area can reach Birmingham Airport within two hours. With HS2, this will increase.

The report was commissioned by Birmingham Airport to form part of its response to the Airports Commission. The Airports Commission has called for evidence on how to make the best use of existing capacity and the deadline for submissions is later this month.

In response to the report Paul Kehoe, the Chief Executive of Birmingham Airport, said: “The analysis we commissioned shows that Birmingham Airport has a huge potential catchment today and will have the largest in the UK with HS2. This just highlights the extent to which our existing approach to aviation is imbalanced and is failing to serve the needs of passengers.

“The evidence shows that we have huge levels of demand for long-haul flights around the country – Birmingham Airport’s market for long-haul travel is second only to London – yet as an industry we insist on channelling people through the congested South East and making passengers and the environment pay the price.

“At Birmingham Airport, we have recognised this and have made the commitment to provide our customers with the opportunity to fly long-haul from their local airport. Our runway extension, allowing for flights across the world, will be fully operational next year.

“If the Airports Commission wants to ease unsustainable passenger demand pressure on over-full airports like Heathrow and reduce the need for expensive, environmentally-complex new developments like an Estuary Airport, then it needs to consider the benefits of making the most of our existing airports across the UK.

“A network of great long-haul airports for our great British cities would be a win for passengers and a win for policy-makers.”