THE ECONOMIC IMPACT OF NEW CONNECTIONS TO CHINA

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1 THE ECONOMIC IMPACT OF NEW CONNECTIONS TO CHINA A note prepared for Heathrow March 2018 Three Chinese airlines are currently in discussions with Heathrow about adding new direct connections between Heathrow and China. Heathrow has commissioned Frontier to consider the potential impact that these new connections could have on the UK economy. In this note, we summarise our findings. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Beijing Capital Airlines, Hainan Airlines and Tianjin Airlines are currently in discussions with Heathrow about potentially adding new direct connections between Heathrow and China. The table below shows the connections under consideration, along with their proposed weekly frequency. Figure 1 City Potential China Connections Airline Weekly Frequency Assumed aircraft Alliance Xi an Tianjin Airlines 3 A None Qingdao Beijing Capital Airlines 2 A None Changsha Hainan Airlines None Notes: Heathrow provided us with the information on the cities, airlines, air crafts and frequencies. If these routes materialise, we understand that, alongside their unveiling, Heathrow would like to release a series of news items. To support this, we have carried out the following analysis to highlight the potential positive impact that the new routes could bring: Catalytic impacts: New direct connections stimulate extra demand from business passengers. The availability of a direct flight makes connections quicker and more convenient than flying indirectly. In the short run business passengers for whom time is money may only choose to fly more regularly if a direct option is available. In the longer run, a new direct service may support businesses seeking out business partners in new markets, leading to more new journeys being made in support of this business. By stimulating extra business demand, which in turn helps to improve business relationships, new direct connections can help to facilitate extra trade and FDI between China and the UK, and consequently extra GDP and jobs. We have estimated these potential impacts for each route. Direct-indirect-induced (DII) employment impacts: New connections stimulate extra O/D demand and attract transfer passengers, and therefore frontier economics 1

2 lead to an overall increase in activity at Heathrow. For example, a 3-times weekly connection would imply more than 300 additional movements per year, and could result in an extra 55,000 passengers passing through Heathrow per year (factoring in that transfer passengers would also fly on feeder routes). The bigger the airport, the bigger the DII employment effects tend to be. Therefore, the new connections would lead to extra employment at and around Heathrow. We have estimated these effects for each route. 1 The table below summarises the results for the catalytic and DII impacts for each connection based on the assumption that in the long-term airlines are able to attract sufficient demand for the routes to be profitable. The impacts are broadly proportional to the proposed frequency of the routes. The catalytic impacts range from 5 million per annum in GDP for the Qingdao route to 15 million for the Changsha route. Similarly, the total jobs impacts range from around 170 new jobs for the Qingdao route to around 430 new jobs for the Changsha route. Figure 2 Summary of economic impact estimates GDP ( m) Catalytic impact Jobs DII jobs Total jobs impact Qingdao Xi an Changsha In the rest of this note we describe the analysis in more detail. This is split out across the following points: In Section 1, we described our catalytic impact analysis; In Section 2, we set out the details underlying the DII impact analysis; and In Section 3, we discuss the extent to which the Chinese airlines will be able to attract the required demand to make these routes viable, and therefore help to secure the economic impacts described above. 1 We note that Heathrow is constrained and therefore these new connections may only be possible if other flights are squeezed out. Therefore, while the new Chinese connections would lead to positive benefits, there could be lost benefits arising from the other reduced flights. Our estimates can therefore be considered the gross benefit of introducing the new routes, rather than the net benefit, which has not been estimated. However, this analysis highlights that if Heathrow were unconstrained, and new connections could be added without needing to squeeze out other flights, there would only be positive employment impacts. frontier economics 2

3 1. CATALYTIC IMPACT ANALYSIS In this section we provide a more detailed overview of our catalytic impact analysis: First, we describe the logic underlying the approach; Second, we set out the calculations in more detail; and Third, we summarise our results. Overview of approach Figure 3 below provides a high level overview our analysis of catalytic impact. We have used this framework across multiple projects for Heathrow, as well as other clients including other airports and airlines. New direct flights between Heathrow and China would be quicker and more convenient for passengers than flying indirectly and this will attract extra demand. That is, because the overall time and journey costs will be reduced, some passengers, who would not travel otherwise, will opt to take the direct flight and complete the journey. The economic activity related to the new passengers can therefore be said to be facilitated by there being a new direct connection. Figure 3 Catalytic impact of a new route to China By attracting business passengers who would not travel otherwise, the new China route will increase the ease of face-to-face meetings. These form an essential part of business relationships that promote trade and investment. Face-to-face meetings are important for building trust in business relationships, managing frontier economics 3

4 increasingly globalised supply chains, maintaining current business partnerships, and overcoming cultural differences which may pose a barrier to doing business. The new face-to-face meetings occurring as a result of the additional direct route to China will increase the likelihood of closing business deals which has a positive impact on trade and FDI. By increasing UK-China trade and FDI, the new route to China will also increase UK GDP and employment. An open economy that trades with the rest of the world both importing and exporting is likely to be more productive in the long term, and productivity drives GDP growth. Therefore, by attracting business passengers who would not otherwise travel, the new China route will serve to increase GDP and employment. Catalytic impact calculations To estimate the catalytic impact, we have carried out the following calculations: Step 1: We estimate the induced O/D demand i.e. those O/D passengers who fly because there is now a direct connection; and Step 2: We consider how this increase in demand increases trade and FDI. These two steps are described in more detail below. As a worked example, we use the direct flight to Changsha to illustrate the overall approach. The same logic applies to the other routes. Step 1: Estimating the induced demand To estimate induced demand, we use the concept of generalised journey cost (GJC). This argues that when passengers consider whether to fly and what option to take, they weigh up the ticket fares from the different options and their corresponding travel times where the latter is implicitly monetised by considering their value of time. This helps to explain why more time-sensitive passengers, such as business passengers, may be inclined to choose quicker but more expensive options. And more price-sensitive passengers, such as leisure passengers or transfer passengers, tend to favour options with lower ticket fares even if they have longer travel times. The table below first sets out our calculations to estimate the change in GJC associated with the new direct flight to Changsha and then sets out our estimate of the associated increase in demand. frontier economics 4

5 Figure 4 Estimating the increase in demand Direct Indirect Ticket fare* Travel time (hours)** Value of time per hour*** Generalised journey cost 897 1,034 Change in GJC associated with the new direct connection -13% Elasticity of demand**** -0.7 Demand increase (route level) 9% Notes: *Indirect ticket fares are based on 2016 data from OAG Traffic Analyser. The data does not include airport charges or taxes. Therefore, we have added the relevant Departing Passenger Charge and Air Passenger Duty. We have estimated the ticket fare for the direct option by considering the average relationship between direct ticket fares and indirect ticket fares for long haul connections at Heathrow based on data from OAG Traffic Analyser. **Travel times are estimated by taking the distance based on Great Circle Mapper estimates and converting them into journey times using standard flight time assumptions. For the indirect option, we identified the most common one-stop routing based on 2016 data, and assumed a transfer time of three hours at the hub along the way. ***Value of time estimates are based on the Airport Commission s Economy: Transport Economic Efficiency Impacts ****The elasticity of demand is based on a literature review, including Gillen D. et al, Air Travel Demand Elasticities: Concepts, Issues and Measurement, Next, we estimate the breakdown of passengers that could be expected to use the new flight between Heathrow and Changsha in order to estimate the number of induced passengers who now travel as a result of the direct flight. We use a bottom-up approach to calculate the number of passengers on a single flight by considering the following factors: The aircraft model and associated number of seats This is based on the airlines fleets and identifying their most likely long haul aircraft and seat configuration. This figure serves as the total number of seats available on the single flight; Load factors We assume a 75% load factor, which was the average on Chinese routes at Heathrow last year, and apply this to the total seats available to calculate the number of passengers on-board; and Passenger mix We breakdown the total passengers into types to recognise that the flight would be used by different of passengers: Beyond passengers These passengers fly from Heathrow to Changsha and then on to other destinations i.e. transfer passengers from the perspective of Changsha airport. They are estimated by applying the average proportion of beyond passengers at Heathrow in 2016; Transfer passengers These passengers connect at Heathrow and fly on to Changsha e.g. Europe-Heathrow-Changsha. They are estimated by applying the average proportion of transfer passengers at Heathrow in 2016; and, Local passengers The remaining passengers are assumed to be local, that is they fly point to point between Heathrow and Changsha. We use the frontier economics 5

6 estimated demand increase at the route level (as calculated in Figure 4) to split local passengers into the following two groups: Switched demand These are passengers who were previously flying indirectly between the two points who choose to switch to the new direct option. To be conservative, given that this demand would choose to fly anyway, even without the direct connection, we assume that any wider economic activity associated with these passengers does not add to catalytic impact. Finally, we note that our estimates of switched demand are much larger than indirect demand in 2016 based on OAG data. 2 As detailed in Section 3 Demand Considerations, we assume that in the long-term airlines are able to attract the higher passenger volumes as estimated; and Induced demand This is the uplift in O/D demand that will allow us to calculate the additional catalytic impact, which is driven by these passengers. As shown in Figure 5 below, we estimate that there would be about 9 induced O/D passengers per flight on average. These passengers would not travel if the direct flight was not available. With a four times weekly frequency, over the course of a year, there would be a total of approximately 1,400 induced passengers, which represents a 0.17% demand increase at the UK-China level. 3 2 We assume that in the long-term local passengers fill all seats remaining after applying the load factor and proportion of beyond and transfer passengers, regardless of the 2016 demand. We then split the local passengers between switching and induced passengers based on the demand level increase at the route level. We also use this approach for Guangzhou as again actual indirect demand in 2016 based on OAG data is greater than the estimated switched demand. 3 We express the increase in demand at the route level as an increase in demand at the country level based on passenger data from OAG Traffic Analyser. This is because the macroeconomic indicators such as trade and FDI tend to be reported at the country-pair level. frontier economics 6

7 Figure 5 Assumed passenger breakdown on the Heathrow-Changsha connection Note: Hainan Airlines uses the with around 290 seats. Based on historical data on Chinese routes at Heathrow, we assume an average load factor of 75%. We use 2016 data from OAG Traffic Analyser to estimate the number of passengers switching to the direct flight from indirect flights (as described in footnote 2). We also apply the induced demand uplift. We assume Heathrow s average proportion of beyond passengers (17%) and transfer passengers (36%). In this particular example, because the size of the switched demand and induced demand is relatively high, we assume that it would squeeze out some of the transfer passengers i.e. the transfer passengers are the balancing item to ensure that the flight remains 75% full. We recognise that the ability to attract transfer passengers and beyond passengers may depend in part on the extent to which Hainan Airlines can interline with other airlines and provide through-ticketing, both at Heathrow and at Changsha. In the analysis above, we make the simple assumption that the transfer passengers and beyond passengers would be attracted in line with the proportion attracted on other routes at Heathrow. This is described in more detail in Section 3. Step 2: Calculating the economic impact Having estimated the induced demand and the increase in demand at the country level, we then calculate the economic impact associated with this increased demand. First, as shown in Figure 6 below, we calculate the impact on trade and FDI using the estimated 0.17% increase in total UK-China air travel demand. Figure 6 Impact on trade and FDI from increased UK-China demand Trade FDI Imports Exports Inward Outward Current Level 39 billion 13 billion 2 billion 9 billion Elasticity Implied Increase 0.1% 0.1% 0.1% 0.1% Value 21 million 7 million 1 million 5 million frontier economics 7

8 Note: 2016 HMRC trade data and 2016 FDI data are used for the current level estimates. The 0.3 elasticities for trade and FDI are based on an extensive literature review. Further details can be found in our report Employment impacts from growth at Heathrow, May Finally, we convert the increase in trade and FDI into an impact on GDP and jobs. The overall logic is that a more open economy i.e. one with a high proportion of trade and FDI is more productive, which in turn boosts GDP. Figure 7 summarises the calculations. In total, the new route to Changsha could be expected to increase GDP by 15 million per annum and create 290 jobs. Figure 7 Note: Converting Trade and FDI to GDP and Jobs Value Imports: 21 million Trade Exports: 7 million Inward: 1 million FDI Outward: 5 million Elasticity* GDP 13.3 million 0.4 million 1.5 million GDP to jobs 52,000 Jobs 290 Further details on the trade- and FDI-to-GDP elasticities are set out in our report Employment impacts from growth at Heathrow, May The GDP to jobs ratio is based on Eurostat data and considers the average output generated per worker. Summary of catalytic impact results We have repeated the calculations for the other routes. The table below summarises our results. The Changsha route is estimated to facilitate the greatest GDP impact of 15 million, while the Qingdao route facilitates around 5 million. Figure 8 Route Catalytic impact summary Induced annual demand Increase in UK- China demand Increase in trade ( m p.a.) Increase in FDI ( m p.a.) Total increase in GDP ( m p.a.) Total increase in jobs Qingdao % Xi an % Changsha % DII ANALYSIS In addition to the catalytic impact, the new Chinese routes would also generate further DII employment effects in and around Heathrow, resulting from the operation of these services. DII impacts are made up from the following: Direct: Heathrow employs workers directly; Indirect: Heathrow employs workers indirectly through its supply chain; and Induced: The direct and indirect workers spend money in the wider economy and induce further employment. The remainder of this section sets out the DII calculations using the Changsha route as an example, before summarising the results for all routes. frontier economics 8

9 Estimation Heathrow s current DII impact is around 175,000 jobs. 4 Based on previous analysis, we assume that the growth in DII jobs is based on the growth in passengers and the growth in movements, weighted in the ratio respectively. Therefore, we estimate the increase in the number of passengers and movements brought about the new route recognising that (i) passengers switching to the new direct flight from the indirect options should not be counted because without the direct flight they would still be at the airport and fly indirectly; and (ii) transfer passengers at Heathrow need to double-counted e.g. a passenger travelling from Europe to Heathrow and then on to Changsha would be counted as an arriving passenger from the European flight and as a departing passenger on the China flight. Figure 9, below, shows that the new flight to Changsha would be responsible for a further 170 jobs through DII impacts. Figure 9 Note: Employment Impact Status Quo New Flight Increase Passengers 76 million +62, % ATMs 475, % Total LHR Employment 175, % Heathrow passenger and ATM figures are taken from 2016 CAA Airport Data. As set out earlier, we recognise that Heathrow is constrained and therefore new connections may only be possible if other flights are squeezed out. If this is the case, then the total number of movements at the airport level may remain unchanged. The total number of passengers could still increase e.g. a short haul connection operated with a smaller narrow-bodied aircraft could be cut and replaced by a larger aircraft on a long haul route. Therefore our results can be considered the gross benefit of introducing the new routes, rather than the net benefit which would involve also analysing the routes which have been cut. However, this analysis highlights that if Heathrow were unconstrained, and new connections could be added without needing to squeeze out other flights, there would only be positive employment impacts. Results Figure 10 reports the DII employment results for all the potential new routes to China. Similar to the catalytic impact results, Changsha, with three times weekly frequency, generates the highest employment with Qingdao, at only twice weekly frequency, the smallest. Figure 10 Summary of Employment Impacts Qingdao Xi an Changsha Passengers 32,000 55,000 62,000 ATMs Total Jobs In a 2014 report for Heathrow, Employment impacts from growth at Heathrow, it was estimated that Heathrow is responsible for around 175,000 DII jobs today. For the purposes of this analysis, we assume that this number has remained broadly constant. frontier economics 9

10 3. DEMAND CONSIDERATIONS The economic impacts estimated in this analysis are based on the assumption that the new Chinese connections will attract the required volume of passengers to make them sustainable for airlines. This depends on: Whether the Chinese airlines can attract transfer passengers and beyond passengers which may depend on alliances, interlining and through-ticketing; and The extent to which the routes attract point-to-point demand. We described these points in turn below. Transfer passengers and beyond passengers Our analysis assumes that the new connections will attract transfer passengers and beyond passengers. Based on 2016 schedules data, we understand that around 60% of movements at Heathrow were operated by oneworld members, including BA which operated around 50% of all movements. However, we note that none of the Chinese airlines are oneworld members. This may limit their ability to attract transfer passengers at Heathrow. If through-ticketing is not available, passengers would still be able to self-connect at Heathrow. However, this could be considered a less attractive option, especially if throughticketing is available via other hubs instead. For example, China Southern flies from Heathrow to Guangzhou. Based on 2016 passenger data, we can observe that only 5% of passengers were transfers considerably below the overall average at Heathrow at around 36%. However, the Chinese airlines would be able to attract beyond passengers at Heathrow (i.e. those wishing to fly from Heathrow to the new Chinese cities and then on to other destinations). For example, nearly 70% of all passengers on the Guangzhou flight were beyond passengers. Similarly, we have also reviewed the demand data for BA s route to Chengdu which was withdrawn last year. BA was able to attract a significant volume of transfer passengers from Europe, with transfer passengers representing around 40% of total demand. However, because of the lack of interlining options at Chengdu, only 4% were beyond passengers. These two examples highlight that while the Chinese airlines could struggle to attract transfer passengers, they may be able to compensate for this by attracting beyond passengers instead. However, clearly, being able to attract both transfer passengers and beyond passengers would make the routes even more viable. In our analysis, we have assumed that the airlines are able to attract enough demand. However, if they struggle to do so, this could place the economic impacts estimated above at risk. frontier economics 10

11 Point-to-point demand In our analysis we also assume that a proportion of the O/D passengers who were previously flying indirectly between Heathrow and these Chinese cities would switch from taking indirect options to taking the new direct flights. We have reviewed 2016 passenger data at Heathrow to identify the size of this indirect demand. We can then compare this actual demand figure with an estimate of the number of O/D passengers that would be required to take the flight based our bottom-up capacity-based approach presented in Section 1. As described above, this is estimated by assuming that a given number of seats will be flown based on the aircraft model, applying a load factor, and subtracting the expected number of transfer passengers and beyond passengers, such that the remaining seats would need to be filled by O/D passengers. Figure 11 below compares the actual volume of indirect passengers based on the 2016 data with the estimated required number of O/D passengers, based on this bottom-up capacity-based approach. Figure 11 Actual versus required demand The analysis shows that there could initially be a significant O/D demand gap for some of the potential new routes. For example, the demand data reports that in reality, only 5,098 passengers flew between Heathrow and Changsha in 2016, whereas the proposed new flight would provide around 62,000 seats per annum from Heathrow to Urumqi, of which 16,000 could be expected to be filled immediately based on current O/D passenger data. However, we note that the demand data may understate actual demand. It does not capture the number of passengers who self-connect, nor does it account for passengers who use other transport modes for the final legs of their journeys having arrived in China on other flights. Also, following on from the discussion on interlining, observed demand may be supressed by the fact that passengers may face limited indirect options today, and the new direct connections could unlock frontier economics 11

12 this latent demand. Furthermore, it may be the case the Chinese airlines are committed to these new routes and will aim to increase demand over time, so that in the long-term, the route is viable. Therefore, the gaps shown above may not be as large in reality. In our analysis, we make the assumption that in the long-term the flights will be able to attract the required O/D demand based on the bottom-up capacity approach in order to make the flights viable. However, if the routes do struggle to attract the required demand, this may place the economic impact figures estimated above at risk. frontier economics 12

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