The landmark request is only possible now that the UK is leaving the EU, as current EU regulations prohibit discrimination against other member states, meaning he UK could not say that a certain percentage of slots at Heathrow have to be reserved for UK services.
The hub airport is making the request in response to the Government’s consultation on its draft National Policy Statement for expansion. Currently around six per cent of flights from Heathrow are domestic flights but this would likely rise if the request for ring-fencing were granted. Bosses at Heathrow said they could realistically double the amount of domestic routes it currently offers.
In Yorkshire there is hope that increased levels of internal flights to the capital will result in increased business and investment opportunities both domestically and internationally. A source said Heathrow’s objective is to ensure it can connect at least 14 domestic routes, up from eight it has today.
Chris Harcombe, head of aviation development at Doncaster Sheffield Airport, said: “Connectivity into the UK’s global hub is key to supporting economic growth of the regions and secured slots for regional services will ensure the economic benefit including inbound tourism are felt across the whole UK.
"Sheffield City Region is one of the largest UK city regions without a hub connection so this is a real opportunity to expand the connectivity of our city region.”
Flybe Chairman Simon Laffin added: “We are delighted that Heathrow has committed to increase the number of domestic connections the airport serves. UK domestic connectivity is key to Heathrow’s position as a leading hub airport.
“Flybe recently successfully launched two new routes to Heathrow, from Edinburgh and Aberdeen, delivering enhanced connectivity for passengers in Scotland, London and the South East.
"We look forward to working with Heathrow to develop more domestic routes to ensure the expanded airport benefits the whole of the UK.”
Emma Gilthorpe, executive director for expansion at Heathrow Airport, said: “We’ve always been clear that an expanded Heathrow must deliver for all of Britain and that’s why we’re urging the Government to back our proposal to ring-fence slots at an expanded Heathrow for domestic use – an opportunity now possible because Britain is leaving the EU.
“Every corner of our country should be able to benefit from the growth and trade that stems from links to the nation’s hub airport. We look forward to working alongside ministers, our airlines and stakeholders on the details of this exciting proposal to boost Britain’s domestic connectivity.”
The ring-fenced slots would be part of the capacity created from expanding Heathrow with a third runway, which is expected be operational by 2025. Bosses at Heathrow were unable to estimate the economic value of increased levels of domestic flights but said that ring-fencing internal routes would boost domestic and regional connectivity in the UK. Heathrow is the busiest airport in Europe by passenger traffic and the sixth largest in the world.
Last year it handled 75.7 million passengers, an increase of one per cent on the previous year. Its busiest routes are between New York, Dubai and Dublin. Plans to construct a third runway were approved in October last year.