Longhaul from Bristol


Staff member
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Jan 14, 2009
Wurzel Country
Admin #401
It's been quiet in here. It seems like a lot of hopes people had haven't really panned out (yet!) - such as: flights to a US hub, flights to one of the hubs in the Middle East incl. Istanbul; a runway extension; B878 as a game changer for long haul from Bristol (although there are some flights now of course, but I don't think it's really been a game changer); Norwegian. And the airport's own assessment, at least as of the old 2006 masterplan, was that demand for long haul from Bristol will always be limited, even more so with Heathrow just up the road - and when the Heathrow Western Rail link is finished it will be even quicker and easier to reach.

Of course there will be many things going on in the background and worked on over a period of years that we won't know about until it's suddenly announced, so I suspect the airport might still have a few cards up its sleeve. And clearly there are plans for a massive increase in the number of passengers handled going forward, even if it's not entirely clear to onlookers like me where those passengers will come from or go to, but someone must know or they wouldn't be pouring hundreds of millions into extending the airport.

In any case, and unrelated to the above, I've recently come across some articles talking about Airbus thinking about an A321 XLR variant to cover a gap in the market between the trusty single-aisle short haul work horses and larger-capacity double-aisle jets. If I recall correctly they may be making a decision on whether to go ahead with this in January, and if so it could go into service as soon as 2023.

To me it looks like this could be much more of a game changer for Bristol than the B787/A350, since it would be a smaller plane and thus easier to fill (or fill profitably, rather), and it might also not be affected so much by the runway limitations.
The way the world is developing I think that a long haul scheduled route to the east would be more valuable than one to the west. Missing out on Qatar was a huge blow for BRS whatever the reasons, and there were probably a number.

Turkish seems to crop up at regular intervals and has done for a few years now. In itself it would not be a long-haul route but would feed into them, although its spread is not as wide from Istanbul than that of the MEB3 from the Gulf, especially Emirates. There are rumours that the new and larger IST will lead to increased connectivity options so that might still be a realistic BRS goal in the future.

The USA appears to be seeing re-adjustment at the moment with bigger airports than BRS experiencing reductions; BHX is a an obvious example. I’m not sure that Norwegian, which seems to have cut back on some of its transatlantic operations, would be well supported without connectivity in the USA. Even then there might be a question mark.

Heathrow remains a major obstacle to any BRS scheduled long-haul ambitions. I recently discovered myself how convenient that airport is from the Bristol area for long haul. I hadn’t used LHR for many years and, having read and heard horror stories, was pleasantly surprised by it as an airport and as a reasonably accessible destination from the Bristol area.

As you point out, the BRS management doubtless has dialogue with all manner of airlines, including long haul, but it’s as a short haul airport that it punches well above its weight, having regard to its physical size and difficult surface connectivity. If this approach is making money for the airlines and for the airport, as it seems to be, there is probably little imperative for the airport to go out on a limb to attract the odd scheduled long haul player if more short haul routes are more profitable for it.



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