One of the global airline alliances could be persuaded to move its operations from Heathrow to Gatwick, according to the West Sussex airport’s chief executive.
Stewart Wingate said an alliance could move to Gatwick if the airport won permission for a second runway, enabling a large scale release of take-off and landing slots.
Gatwick is increasingly confident about persuading the government’s Airports Commission to back the case for adding a second runway at the airport – rather than expanding Heathrow or building a new hub in the Thames estuary.
Wingate told the Financial Times that the debate about where to build the next runway in the UK was narrowing down to a choice between expanding Gatwick or Heathrow.
This is because an estuary hub would be too expensive, while Gatwick was the best option on competition and environmental grounds, he argued.
Gatwick believes the UK would have better connectivity to the rest of the world by adding a second runway at the airport than if capacity-constrained Heathrow was expanded.
But this finding by consultants InterVistas, in research commissioned by Gatwick, is based on the airport persuading one of the three global alliances to move there.
All three – Oneworld, SkyTeam and Star – told the FT in August that they wanted to stay at Heathrow but Wingate said the alliances’ attitudes could change if Gatwick was allowed to build a second runway and there was a big release of “very desirable” take-off and landing slots.
“This would be the biggest shake-up in terms of the overall [runway] slot pool across the London [airport] system that’s happened, certainly in my lifetime,” he said.
Wingate raised the prospect of a large slew of early morning take-off and landing slots, which would be attractive for Asian airlines wanting to fly into Gatwick after overnight flights from their home bases.
He went on to highlight how, if one of the three airline alliances moved to Gatwick, the remaining two at Heathrow would have extra space.
“If an alliance were to move down at some future point into Gatwick, not only would there be room for that alliance to grow – from a UK perspective, that would create room at Heathrow for the other remaining alliances to grow too,” Wingate told the newspaper.
The Oneworld alliance, led by British Airways, is determined to stay at Heathrow, which means Gatwick’s efforts at wooing an alliance are expected to focus on SkyTeam and Star.
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