The Unite Kingdom air transport market is the commercial carriage of passengers, freight and mail by aircraft, both within the United Kingdom (UK) and between the UK and the rest of the world.
In the past 25 years the industry has seen continuous growth, and the demand for passenger air travel in particular is forecast to increase from the current level of 236 million passengers to 465 million in 2030.
London Heathrow Airport is amongst the top ten busiest airports in the world. More than half of all passengers travelling by air in the UK currently travel via the five London area airports. Outside of London, Manchester Airport is by far the largest and busiest of the remaining airports, acting as a hub for the 20 million or so people who live within a two hour drive.
Air travel is the most popular mode of transport for visitors both to and from the UK. In 2005 it was used for 80 per cent of all visits by UK residents travelling overseas and by 74 per cent of all inbound visits. Just over a quarter of all passengers are travelling on business.
The advent of no-frills carriers has had significant a significant effect on passenger travel profiles, with strong growth in business travel from regional airports, and a significant increase in inbound traffic generated for the purposes of non-UK residents visiting friends and relatives based in the UK.
The United Kingdom has a low usage for domestic (internal) flights, and after a high in 2005/06, has been in decline. In the year 2010/11 just 18.4 million internal passengers were carried (compared with 1,352 million rail journeys in the same period).
Air's share of passengers has reduced significantly on certain key routes, for example: for London to Manchester, rail's market share (rail v air passenger journeys) rose from 69% in 2008 to 79% in 2010,for Birmingham to Edinburgh, rail's market share rose from 14% in 2008 to 31% in 2010 and from London to Glasgow, rail's market share has risen from 12% in 2008 to 20% in 2010; although air still remains the leader on many London to Scotland journeys.
There were 940 companies in the United Kingdom air transport market in 2012, with 83% of them micro-sized, generating only 3% of total turnover. On the other hand, 94% of turnover was generated by 24 (only 3% of the total number) companies with more than 250 employees.
Together the two largest airlines as measured by passenger numbers; British Airways and easyJet, account for nearly half of the 127 million passengers flown on UK airlines. In terms of capacity, both available and used, British Airways is again the largest airline, whilst easyJet is pushed into third place by Virgin Atlantic Airways.
For more information on the UK air transport market, see the latest research: UK Air Transport Market
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