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Airlines, businesses and the UK’s largest union have put their weight behind expansion of Heathrow as the UK’s only hub airport.
The Board of Airline Representatives in the UK (BAR UK), representing more than 70 airlines, says that expanding Heathrow is the right solution to drive the UK’s economy.
The same view was expressed by the CBI and the Unite union as the Airports Commission ended its public consultation ahead of a report after the May general election.
A new detailed study shows Heathrow’s new runway would be operational by June 2025 if the government gives policy approval after the election.
Heathrow claims 30 airlines want to use the airport or add new services once extra capacity is provided, including easyJet, which plans to add 68 routes, 19 of which are currently un-served. The budget carrier plans to operate flights to seven UK airports - three not currently linked with Heathrow – while increasing domestic competition on the other four.
Up to 40 new long-haul destinations would also be served if Heathrow gained a third runway, with the airport claiming that Air China and Vietnam Airlines’ decision to pull out of Gatwick is the latest evidence that only the west London hub can sustain such long-haul routes.
Chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: “Heathrow is best for Britain and backed by Britain. Only Heathrow will deliver up to £211 billion in economic benefits and up to 180,000 jobs, connect the whole of the UK to long-haul global growth markets, and deliver the freight capacity exporters need. That’s why people in every part of Britain are supporting Heathrow as the right option for expansion.
“We can expand whilst reducing noise for local residents and meeting carbon and air quality targets. We have improved our plans by listening to the communities around Heathrow. Now there are increasing calls from local residents to expand the airport.”
BAR UK chief executive Dale Keller said its closing submission to the commission: “The terms of reference set by the government to the Airports Commission are clear - to maintain the UK’s position as Europe’s most important aviation hub.
“We have therefore set out our rationale to the Airports Commission on why most airlines conclude that a carefully cost controlled expansion at Heathrow will deliver a far greater return than expansion at Gatwick and is the only solution that can achieve the government’s primary objectives.
“The major cost of funding airport expansion will ultimately be borne by passengers through airport charges passed on via air fares, not by the UK taxpayer.
“Therefore, it is essential that additional capacity is built where the consumer demand exists and that the affordability and commercial business case will allow airlines to realise the full potential for the UK.”
CBI deputy director-general Katja Hall has said: “It tends to be hub airports that deliver the new connections to emerging markets that we desperately need. With Heathrow full and the UK slipping behind in the race for new connectivity, it is essential that the Airports Commission delivers a solution that addresses the ticking time bomb of our lack of spare hub capacity.”
Unite national officer Oliver Richardson said: “Unite fully supports the expansion and continued growth of Heathrow as the UK’s hub airport, as it is vital for the economy, the maintenance of decent jobs and the sustainability of local communities. Only growth at Heathrow can connect the UK globally on the scale that is required.”
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