The head of Iata has voiced “serious reservations” about conditions attached to the Airports Commission backing a third runway at Heathrow.
Director general and chief executive, Tony Tyler (pictured), called for stakeholders to engage in a “purposeful dialogue” that will lead to acceptable results on the important issues of costs and managing environmental impacts.
Speaking at the the Runways UK conference in London, he welcomed the Commission’s recommendation for expansion of Heathrow.
“Iata supports expansion at Heathrow. Let me be absolutely clear about that,” said Tyler
“But let me be equally clear that we have some serious reservations about the conditions that are attached to this conclusion.
“Having laid down that marker, my next comment is on the urgency to move forward. The prime minister should indicate publicly that he backs the report’s conclusions, and the Department for Transport should proceed with expediting the next steps.
“As John Cridland of the Confederation of British Industry put it: ‘We need diggers in the ground by 2020’.”
Tyler expressed confidence that with the recommendation now made to expand capacity at Heathrow, “we can now engage in a purposeful dialogue that will lead to acceptable results on the important issues of costs and managing the environmental impact”.
He added: “We understand and appreciate the environmental concerns which are discussed thoroughly in the Airport Commission’s report, and questions remain on how it will be funded.
“But there are abundant global standards and best practices that can guide us towards the outcome of an environmentally sustainable and financially viable critical piece of infrastructure to serve the UK’s connectivity needs.”
Tyler highlighted a suggested £1 billion community compensation fund and noise levy as issues of “major concern”.
“The Commission argues that the compensation fund will be paid by Heathrow Airport Limited, while the new aviation noise levy will be paid by airport users,” he said.
“But the truth of the matter is that the £1 billion would also be paid by users. So airlines will end up paying over and over.
“Quite frankly it is putting the cart before the horse. The airport, the airlines and the local community need to agree on the desired outcomes first and then agree what measures are needed to achieve them and at what cost.
“I am under no illusions that this will be an easy course. But by using a similar process – consistent with the balanced approach – community support for a second runway at Tokyo’s Narita airport was achieved even after a long and bitter history of disagreement.”
He called for a similar approach to be applied to the proposed ban on night flights between 11.30pm and 6am.
“The [Commission’s] final report says that this restriction is outweighed by the increase in capacity, but even so, admits that this will weaken Heathrow’s attractiveness as a hub,” said Tyler.
“The restriction is an overly prescriptive solution when other, better, options -possibly with operational measures – may exist.”
He pointed to Iata forecasts which suggest the number of airline passengers will double to 7.3 billion by 2034.
“Britain needs to decide if it wants to benefit from the jobs and economic development these travellers will bring, or whether it is happy to see these benefits snapped up by France, Germany, the Netherlands, or other hubs in the Gulf and elsewhere,” Tyler said.
“The opponents of expansion at Heathrow are as vocal as ever. To win this debate, we must mobilise the silent majority in the UK who want Britain to remain an open, competitive and connected economy.
“In the end, the decision for a new runway in the south-east of England is far more than simply a decision on where to place some tarmac and a terminal.
“It is not about the opinions of a handful of cabinet ministers and a vocal number of their constituents close to Heathrow. It is about the future of Britain as a nation that sees itself as a vigorous global centre of business and culture.”
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