Airlines split over Heathrow third runway impasse

Yesterday’s announcement that the Government is to defer a final decision on expansion at Heathrow has received strong criticism from international airlines serving the UK, despite a warning from British Airways that it may leave the UK if a third runway is built.  

London Heathrow.
London Heathrow.

Dale Keller, chief executive of BAR UK said: “Our airline members are dismayed that the uncertainty and indecision over expanding Heathrow is set to continue into next summer for what appears to be local political reasons, rather than the need for further environmental analysis.

“The Airports Commission spent almost three years – and £20 million, to produce the most detailed independent report of its type ever commissioned. It therefore seems inconceivable that the Government has had insufficient time, or a lack of information, to make the decision it long promised.

“The world’s airlines need certainty to invest in the UK and we urge the Government to urgently come to a decision since every week that passes has a direct cost to the UK economy, its international connectivity and reputation”.

British Airways has warned against the construction of a third runway, claiming it will lead to an increase in passenger charges that will make it unviable to remain based at the airport.

IAG CEO Willie Walsh claimed a proposed doubling of passenger fees would turn Heathrow into a ‘white elephant’.

“We won’t pay for it and we most certainly won’t pre-fund the construction of any new infrastructure. Why should IAG’s customers pay today for tomorrow’s customers? Some people may say that we have no other option. Actually we do.

“Heathrow is not IAG’s only hub. We can develop our business via Madrid, which has spare capacity, and Dublin, where there are plans for a cost-effective and efficient second runway,” the chief executive said.

Meanwhile, Heathrow said today that it has full confidence in its new expansion plan and pledged to work with Government to deliver Britain the hub capacity it needs within tough environmental limits.

John Holland-Kaye, chief executive of Heathrow Airport said: “The Airports Commission, announced by the Prime Minister three years ago, made a unanimous and unambiguous recommendation in July for Heathrow expansion.

“Our new plan will connect the whole nation to global growth while providing opportunities for the local community and making Heathrow the most environmentally responsible hub airport in the world.  I am confident we can meet tough environmental standards.”

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