Congestion at Heathrow cost the airport the chance to become the European hub of Indian carrier Jet Airways.


The carrier launched an international network from Brussels last autumn despite flying from Heathrow since May 2005.


Jet Airways’ European vice-president Raja Sagren told Travel Weekly: “Brussels works beautifully as a transfer point.


“The facilities are good, congestion is minimal compared with Heathrow and there are [take-off and landing] slots available.”


The carrier uses Brussels as a hub between India and North America, operating three flights a day to the airport from Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai, and onward services to New York and Toronto. Flights between Brussels and Mumbai will increase from April.


Jet Airways has flown from the UK for three years, operating four flights daily from Heathrow – to Mumbai twice, Delhi and Amritsar. It also serves the UK via Brussels with a connecting flight from Birmingham on partner airline SN Brussels.


Further expansion in Europe will also be at the expense of Heathrow, with Jet aiming to begin flights from Paris and Milan.


The carrier’s growth has been fuelled by rising demand in India, where international air traffic is increasing by 20% a year and domestic traffic by 30%. But Sagren said up to half the traffic on UK services is generated in Britain.


“We have grown in appeal after being well known in India but less known in the UK when we began,” he said.


Sagren reported weekly load factors of up to 90% on UK services in December and January.


However, he believes the industry and consumers will have to adjust to higher prices.


“The high cost of fuel is a problem,” he said. “We add a surcharge where it makes sense, but that does not cover the increased cost and it is a burden.


“Fuel costs have been at a historic low for years, but the age of $25-a-barrel oil is over. Airlines will have to get used to high prices.”


About 90% of the carrier’s UK sales are made through the trade.