Finally, UK is Number 1 .... at something.
The UK (mainly Heathrow) is the world's largest generator of international flight seats! Hurrah! Let's build a few extra runways around London!
Well, hang on.
The UK (specifically Heathrow) had to be able to say it was first at something just to bolster a claim to blight pushing 10,000 homes (in an area where we need something like 200,00 new homes a year) in order to shoe-horn in an extra runway which, apart from the homes issue, involves putting a very busy stretch of motorway, along with a complicated motorway intersection in a tunnel and making a point of not connecting what wishes to be a major European Airport, to anything remotely resembling a worthwhile high speed rail network.
For the UK to be "The world's largest generator of international seats" is totally meaningless. Fly for less than one hour from any London (or UK, even) airport and you are "international", fly for 6 hours and 11 minutes in the USA (number 1 in terms of bums-on-seats) and you are still in the USA - so still "domestic". The second largest country for general traffic is China. Given simple geographical distances and size, it is hardly surprising that (any) European country has so many international routes. That said, if you want to watch out for who is really growing, then the country within Europe to watch is The Netherlands (+8.8%) and outside Europe (and this will surprise you) : Georgia (+41.2%), Cuba (+37.5%), Moldova (+30.6%), Iceland (+28.7%), Ukraine (+25.3%) and Vietnam (+25.1%).
What of the UK? British Airways (BA) - the erstwhile "World's Favorite Airline" has lost its way. Although many who live on this Sceptred Isle would like to believe that BA is still the bee's knees in terms of service and reliability and everything else, BA are curiously wasting time playing with technology that clearly does not work and removing legacy-expected services from many of its flights. Heathrow (and BA) need to rethink what they are about; the uncertainty of Brexit needs to play out before any major decisions are made and air traffic patterns need time to adjust to any new environment. Perhaps Heathrow (which is - or was - designed to serve London and the South East of the UK), should focus on that, for as a global Euro-hub, one would suggest, Heathrow is doomed.
The most interesting feature is the talk of a "country" and air traffic, not "an airport" and air traffic. Airports are not city-of-service dependent, they are dependent upon onward connections (either by air, rail or car) and the capacity to handle those onward connections. "Heathrow being close to London" is not relevant, (any) European airport being close to many centers and linked to those centers by an efficient road and (preferably high speed) rail network, is; as well, of course, as any country's airport's physical site having plenty of room for extra runways and infrastructure (which Heathrow doesn't).
Oh! And the fastest growing UK airport in 2016 was, believe it or not, Cornwall Newquay. (up 48%) Well done to them!
(Sources: OAG and Airline Network News )