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Forget sleighs and reindeer – Heathrow’s got your Christmas cargo covered

Forget sleighs and reindeer – Heathrow’s got your Christmas cargo covered

With shoppers rushing to get their last minute presents ahead of this weekend’s international postage deadline, Heathrow is forecasting up to 132,000 tons of cargo will go through the airport this December, an increase of 3% over last year, and a new record in air freight for December at Heathrow since 1991.


To mark the occasion, Heathrow has released new data on the seasonal exports and imports in 2015 and highlights what Christmas 2016 has in store.

Heathrow’s export data reflects how our uniquely British sensibilities are exported to the world. Fresh salmon was the single biggest export by weight, totalling 2,980 tons in December alone.

Other Christmas staples, including knitted and crocheted items, dairy products including clotted cream, and books were amongst the airport’s most popular exports by weight for the month of December, totalling 2,558 tons altogether in December 2015. While not in the list of top ten exports overall, exports of whiskey jumped up by 76% – or 128 tons – from November to December 2015.

At the same time, vital components of a festive feast are flown in from all over the world – including 1,680 tons of fresh berries, primarily cranberries from Chile, 839 tons of lamb, mostly from New Zealand, and 830 tons of peas, mostly from Guatemala. Popular presents including books, and pullovers were the most popular Heathrow import commodities by weight last December, and are expected to be again in 2016.

As the biggest port in the UK by value of goods, Heathrow has played an important role in exports. The top five UK export commodities by value expected to go through the airport this Christmas are (based on trends in December):

• Parts of aircraft & aircraft turbo engines – (in December 2015, the value of these was £281 million)

• Aircraft turbojets – (in December 2015, the value of these was £212 million)

• Vaccines for human medicine – (in December 2015, the value of these was £160 million)

• Medicine, measured doses or for retail sale – (in December 2015, the value of these was £130 million

• Paintings – (in December 2015, the value of these was £113 million)

As the UK’s only hub airport, Heathrow connects to 82 long-haul destinations which put it – and the UK – at the heart of international commerce. Having received Government backing for its expansion, Heathrow will be able to open up 40 additional long haul destinations – including some severely constrained routes to emerging markets – and almost double capacity.

Three of the top five Christmas export destinations at Heathrow (based on value in December 2015) are to fast growing economies in Asia:

• USA – £929 million
• Hong Kong – £849 million
• China – £730 million
• UAE – £238 million
• Japan – £151 million

In total, Heathrow has seen 1,407,561 tons of cargo go through the airport from January to November this year, an increase of almost 3% over the same period last year.

Nick Platts, Head of Cargo at Heathrow Airport said:

“We may be a long way from the North Pole, but the figures today underline Heathrow’s vital part in delivering Christmas to the UK, and the British Christmas to the world. Of course, our standing agreement with Santa Claus remains and we’ll prioritize his landing clearance come Christmas Eve.”

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