There will be no third runway at Heathow “in 50 years” but British Airways won’t be moving airports, Willie Walsh told industry leaders yesterday.
Walsh, chief executive of BA parent IAG, told the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) Summit in Abu Dhabi: “Heathrow is full, but there isn’t going to be another runway.”
He said: “The issue is political. You will not see another runway because there are 73 politicians [MPs] in the area of Heathrow who will be fixated on it.”
Walsh insisted: “No political party will come out and support a new runway.” He also dismissed the idea the UK government would sanction an alternative hub airport.
Walsh said: “There won’t be a third runway and there won’t be a new airport built in the Thames Estuary because of the cost of financing it. The airport charges would be too great.”
He argued: “Every way you look at it, Heathrow will continue to be a two-runway airport. I fully expect BA to fly from a two-runway Heathrow in 50 years.”
Walsh slammed the UK government once again over Air Passenger Duty (APD), insisting: “This is a damaging tax.”
He said: “A recent report from PwC showed scrapping the tax would boost the economy and see a positive effect on government finances.”
Walsh hailed the industry campaign against APD and, in particular, the Axe the Tax campaign by BA, Virgin Atlantic, easyJet and Ryanair.
He described it as “one of the most successful lobbying campaigns we have had”, adding: “Hundreds of thousands of consumers wrote to politicians.” But Walsh said: “The reality is we need a more sustained campaign.”
He argued the industry made a mistake by not campaigning sooner. Walsh said: “The mistake was the industry did not scream and shout when Gordon Brown doubled APD in 2007. We didn’t do it then and we have ourselves to blame.”
Asked about competition from rail on routes to Paris and Brussels, Walsh said: “I’ve taken the train to Paris and Brussels and am pleased to say it has been delayed every time.”
But he added: “High-speed rail linked to hub airports would be fantastic.”
Tony Tyler, secretary general of airline association IATA, told the summit: “Aviation supports 57 million jobs and carries 35% of trade goods by value. Yet governments put barriers in the way of it.”
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