Heathrow expansion ‘would allow 40 extra long-haul routes’

Heathrow expansion 'would allow 40 extra long-haul routes'

Image via Shutterstock

An extra 40 long-haul routes to fast-growing cities such as Calcutta and Mombasa could be created if Heathrow is allowed to expand, new research claims.

Heathrow, which is campaigning for a third runway, has commissioned a report from Frontier Economics showing that Britain is shutting itself off from potential trade opportunities, despite the government’s ambition to double UK exports by 2020.

Heathrow believes it can add 40 direct long-haul routes to cities in emerging markets, such as Lima in Peru, if it is allowed to expand.

Writing in the Telegraph on Sunday, the airport group’s chief executive Colin Matthews warned that airlines are currently forced to take business to rival hubs in Europe due to a lack of capacity at the London airport – costing the UK economy £14 biilion a year in lost trade.

Matthews said the choice currently facing policymakers, between a second runway at Gatwick and a third runway at Heathrow, is a “false” one as the two airports serve different markets.

He urged the Airports Commission to prioritise hub capacity over expansion at so-called “point-to-point” airports such as Gatwick, where the majority of passengers fly direct to their final destination.

There is still enough “slack in the system” at point-to-point airports in the southeast of England to meet demand for another 25 years, claimed Mr Matthews, who will step down later this year after more than six years at the helm of Heathrow.

Heathrow and Gatwick are currently the only options shortlisted by the commission, which has concluded that London only needs one net additional runway to meet aviation demand by 2030, although a second will likely be needed by 2050.

Heathrow, where airlines take advantage of transfer passengers to fill flights, and Gatwick are “not comparable”, Matthews argued.

“Point-to-point airports like London City, Stansted and Gatwick serve a vital and different market,” he says.

“They provide mostly short-haul and leisure flights. Without transfer traffic, few regular direct long-haul connections are viable, especially to emerging growing markets. The Airports Commission says there is spare point-to-point capacity until 2040.”

Heathrow does not oppose a second runway at Gatwick, and passengers should be “free to choose where to fly from without a lack of capacity getting in the way,” according to Matthews.

Gatwick, which argues that it serves the fastest-growing segment of the aviation market, low-cost carriers, has warned the commission it will not build a second runway if its rival is also allowed to expand.

Sourced from Travel Weekly

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