A solution to the country’s aviation capacity problems is unlikely to come into effect until 2023 at the earliest, according to Airports Commission chairman Sir Howard Davies.
Speaking at the AOA conference in London, Sir Howard said the result of the Davies Report would take around ten years to come to fruition.
He told the group that he was initially focusing on the interim report – to be released by the end of the year – which he said would “look at what short-term measures are possible to make use of the existing capacity”.
He then added: “Because as we all know, any decision on new capacity will take a decade or more to come into effect.”
Davies said the interim report would also give a firm view of the basis for their shortlist, for which they are now looking at bids.
He said the commission had invited submissions on the long-term options, and that out of the 58 they received some were to argue that there was no need for additional capacity.
He said it was important to look at this viewpoint which was based on four points: that the forecasting for demand was too high; that if demand does rise it can be met with bigger planes and spare capacity; that if demand does emerge than we can’t accommodate ever capacity with the country’s climate change commitments; and fourthly that demand could be shifted to regional airports.
After looking at all four options, Davies said: “Our provisional conclusion is that more capacity in London and the southeast is needed and we will [wade through] the responses in the next few weeks and come out with a firm view in the interim report as the basis for our shortlist.”
His views were followed by those of Willie Walsh, chief executive of International Airlines Group, who said while the report was likely to be impressive and “a great read”, he didn’t believe politicians would ever act on its recommendations.
Walsh added: “It will sit on the shelf because I think the issue is too difficult for politicians to deal with. So when I say there will be no third runway in my lifetime – let me modify that statement and say there will never be a third runway at Heathrow. I just don’t see it happening because it is politically too difficult for the group of politicians we have today and those we are likely to have in the future.
“It is no criticism of Howard or the commission. I think the questions they have asked have been fantastic they have gone about it in a very structured way.”
Walsh said speaking from his experiences of previously supporting a third runway at Heathrow, he knew the political difficulties which would come from the report.
“We took the view at British Airways, at IAG, that nothing was likely to happen (with the third runway at Heathrow) and that was one of the main reasons we went out and acquired BMI.
“We would have preferred - and we did campaign - for the airport to expand and for us to expand along with it. We concluded that was not going to happen and therefore we paid good money to acquire BMI.
“The reason we acquired BMI is very clear to everybody – to get more slots at Heathrow.”
He said it had given British Airways the chance to expand into growth markets, highlighting the recent launch of their flight to Chengdu, and said he would look to expand the network further into Asia in the coming years with the 787 aircraft.
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