Air China is suspending a service between Gatwick and Beijing from next month, although it will continue to operate out of Heathrow.
The decision has been seized on by critics of Gatwick’s plans for a “constellation” of two-runway airports to serve London’s future aviation needs, the Sunday Telegraph reported.
Opponents argue that Air China’s decision is proof that only a hub airport can sustain year-round routes to destinations in fast-growing emerging markets as airlines are able to use the transfer traffic to fill flights.
Gatwick has lost 15 long-haul carriers since 2008, including Korean Air, Hong Kong Airlines, Air Asia X and Air Nigeria, but the airport stresses it has also added others such as Vietnam Airlines, Gambia Bird and Caribbean Airlines since it changed ownership in 2009.
Air China expects to resume summer services to Beijing next year, Gatwick said.
London mayor Boris Johnson’s aviation advisor Daniel Moylan told the newspaper: “London and the UK economy need a proper, well-functioning hub airport with room for growth.”
Gatwck said: “Air China has made a decision not to operate services between London Gatwick and Beijing this winter.
“Passenger numbers on the Gatwick-Beijing route have been strong since it was launched in May 2012.
“However, over this summer Air China increased the capacity on its aircraft operating out of Heathrow and this has prompted the decision to temporarily withdraw services from Gatwick for the winter season.
“Air China intends to operate this route again out of Gatwick from next summer and we shall be working hard to return it to a year-round service.”
Gatwick has campaigned against expansion at Heathrow and told the government’s Airports Commission that a network of three two-runway airports would provide enough international connections for the UK and be the most affordable solution to the problem.
Gatwick believes it could build a second runway for as little as £5 billion, substantially less than the £14 billion to £18 billion estimate for expanding Heathrow.
The board of the Civil Aviation Authority is due to meet this week to agree how much Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted should be allowed to charge airlines between 2014 and 2019.
The latest recommendations will not be made public until early next month.
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