And Europe’s most connected airport is…

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London Heathrow has been crowned Europe’s most connected airport for the second year in a row.

The capital’s flagship airport has been the subject of controversial debate in recent months, after the government moved to support the potential construction of a third runway, boosting its capacity. The airport’s status as a major international transport hub, though, is confirmed this week by the new research from OAG.

This year’s OAG Megahub Index ranks Heathrow as Europe’s most connected airport for the second year in a row, ahead of runner-up Frankfurt, Germany. It was the only UK airport to make it in to both the European top 10 and the overall world top 50 listing. Indeed, the airport ranked in the first half of OAG’s top 50 Megahub airports globally.

John Grant, senior analyst at OAG, says: “For many years Heathrow has been the number one hub in Europe and that position remains solid despite the increasing competitive range of airports in Europe. In the next decade with existing capacity constrained it is inevitable that until the third runway is operational that other airports will close the gap on Heathrow.”

Europe is the third most connected market, in terms of airport Megahubs, according to OAG, holding 12 per cent of the global share, followed by Latin America (8 per cent), and Middle East / Africa (2 per cent). North America had the largest per cent of Megahubs, dominating nearly half (46 per cent) of the share by region. Asia Pacific also ranked ahead of Europe, with 32 per cent.

“The enduring power of the hub and spoke system in the United States is clear with US airports claiming 22 of the Top 50 Megahub places worldwide,” says OAG’s report.

This year, Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) grabbed the top spot from Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (ATL).

“These airports combine sheer scale of airline operations with a large number of destinations served to maximise the potential connections within a six-hour time window,” adds the report. “The top performers outside the US – airports such as Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta International (ranked 7th) and Tokyo Haneda (raked 11th) – typically have flights to fewer destinations but compensate with high operating frequencies to those destinations and resulting in high levels of connectivity for passengers.”

Southwest Airlines, the world’s first low cost carrier, is still showing how to make low cost work. The carrier is the largest low cost operator at each of the three top-ranked Low Cost Megahubs, those airports which have the highest level of connectivity between low cost flights – Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW), Baltimore Washington International Airport (BWI) and McCarran International Airport at Las Vegas (LAS).

Chicago is just one of four cities in the OAG 2016 Megahubs Index that can claim a place in both the overall Megahubs Index as well as the Low Cost Megahubs, the others being Istanbul (Istanbul Airport and Sabiha Gokcen Airport), Bangkok (Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport and Don Mueang Airport) and London (Heathrow and Gatwick).