Aviation industry bosses have called for government action to prevent an airport capacity crisis in the first public hearing in London run by the Airports Commission.
Heathrow chief executive Colin Matthews claimed the airport could support flights to 40 additional long-haul destinations by 2030 if it was allowed to expand.
He said the UK’s status as a leading aviation hub was at risk because rival airports in continental Europe were growing while Heathrow is running at almost full capacity on its two runways.
“These straitened economic times have triggered a global economic race, with both companies and countries competing fiercely,” Matthews said.
“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.”
But Gatwick argued that it and Stansted should be allowed to add second runways, and cautioned against Heathrow’s expansion.
EasyJet chief executive Carolyn McCall called for existing capacity to be fully utilised.
“In the short term, Luton and Southend could enable 10 million more passenger journeys a year without any new runways,” she said.
“Without other firm proposals to review, easyJet is open-minded about medium to long term options.”
Willie Walsh, chief executive of British Airways and Iberia parent International Airlines Group, doubted whether the Commission’s findings, due in 2015, would be implemented.
“I suspect the report will not be acted upon by politicians,” Walsh said, adding that BA was planning its business on the basis there would be no third runway at Heathrow, the Financial Times reported.
The commission has set a July 19 deadline for proposals on long-term measures to solve the capacity crunch, with Heathrow expected to outline plans for a third runway.
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