Heathrow will be 'left behind' unless it expands
Heathrow could provide direct links for an additional 40 long-haul destinations by 2030 if it is allowed to build additional runway capacity, the airport’s boss has said.
Colin Matthews, chief executive of Heathrow, made a direct appeal to commissioners leading a public inquiry into UK aviation capacity, warning that the airport will soon be left behind by rivals in Europe if it is not allowed to expand.
Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Madrid and Paris have already committed to, or are in the process of, developing enough capacity to accommodate an average of 700,000 flights a year. Meanwhile, Heathrow is limited to 480,000, Mr Matthews told members of the Government-appointed Airports Commission - including its chairman Sir Howard Davies - at a public evidence session in London.
As a result, Heathrow will lose its status as Europe’s leading international hub to Paris and Frankfurt within a decade, Mr Matthews cautioned.
“If the UK does not want to be left behind by its foreign rivals, it must have the connectivity to compete and trade on the world stage,” he said. “That connectivity can only come from a single hub airport in the right place for taxpayers, passengers and business. Only Heathrow can meet all these demands.”
The Heathrow boss will next week unveil proposals on where a third runway could be built, as the commission prepares an interim report by the end of the year.
However, Willie Walsh, the head of British Airways’ owner International Airlines Group (IAG), told commissioners he remained sceptical that their final recommendations, to be delivered in 2015, would be heeded by politicians.
BA is still planning its future on the basis that Heathrow’s campaign for expansion will fail, Mr Walsh said.
The commission is caught in a tug of war between pro-Heathrow campaigners and smaller airports such as Gatwick, which believes the south-east of England can be served by a “constellation” of three two-runway airports.
EasyJet chief executive Carolyn McCall told commissioners that too much importance had been placed on the need for a hub airport, when Britain’s aviation market is dominated by passengers who fly point-to-point, or direct to their destination, rather than transferring through a hub.