Heathrow airport's director of expansion Derek Provan expects the hub to attract budget carriers when it opens its third runway but does not foresee a need to accommodate them in a dedicated low-cost terminal.
Speaking to FlightGlobal during a Flybe route launch event at the airport today, Provan said that while Heathrow's planned sixth terminal would not be "specifically a low-cost terminal", it would be "one that meets those requirements – and we will have low-cost entrants coming into the market".
Heathrow has disclosed plans to transform its five existing terminals into two main passenger terminals and transport hubs: Heathrow West, including Terminals 5 and a future Terminal 6; and Heathrow East, consisting of an extended Terminal 2. The airport expects to open its third runway by 2025.
EasyJet has already indicated that it plans to operate from an expanded Heathrow.
Provan says that the "key" for the airport, as it decides how to construct and fund its new expanded facilities, will be "to ensure we match capacity and demand at the levels of service that the airlines operating from that infrastructure require".
Asked whether Heathrow would accede to EasyJet's request for a pay-per-use pricing regime, Provan responded: "Both the business model and regulatory framework would have to be looked at when we have our additional capacity."
He explains: "First and foremost, we have to align the capacity with the infrastructure, and from there look at the operating model to allow us to do that."
Provan foresees potential co-operation between low-cost carriers and the incumbent network airlines.
"[What will be] really interesting moving forward is to see how the low-cost operator operates within a hub environment and what that future operation may look like... Will we see long-haul low-cost operations or will we see alliances between low-cost and traditional long-haul operators?"
He says Heathrow has not had talks with IAG with regard to its new long-haul low-cost unit Level, which will start operations from Barcelona.
Provan notes that historically Heathrow had a wider short-haul network than it does today but these have been "swallowed" over time by long-haul flights. With the opening of the new runway, "effectively you'll flip back to short-haul to start to create some feed for the long-haul", he predicts.
Source: Cirium Dashboard