In recent months there’s been a lot of talk about airport capacity – but what do the airlines want, and where are they going to expand their businesses? In recent weeks, airlines have had their say on the future of aviation in the UK.
UPDATE: easyJet announces its support for Heathrow expansion
The UK’s biggest budget airline easyJet has today submitted its response to the Airports Commission’s national consultation, in which it states that “expansion at Heathrow would provide the greatest passenger and economic benefits”. Read more here…
What are other airlines saying?
CEO and Founder of Virgin Atlantic Sir Richard Branson has swung his weight firmly behind Heathrow claiming that without a new runway at Heathrow, Virgin Atlantic has to close current routes before opening up new connections, unlike anywhere else in the world.
“If we want to do a new route we have to close a current route. We have no choice. That’s unlike anywhere else in the world. That will continue until a new runway or two is built at Heathrow,” Sir Richard Branson said.
“We can’t fly to South America or a whole lot of places we’d like to fly to.
“It’s difficult to make money of a route out of Gatwick when your major competitor has got a slot at Heathrow, because business people prefer Heathrow and you’ve only got to lose half a percent market share to be lossmaking rather than profitmaking.” (Source: The Guardian)
Virgin Atlantic is one of a growing list of airlines including British Airways, Delta and Singapore Airlines who are getting behind the expansion of the UK’s only hub airport. The most recent addition was Asia’s largest airline All Nippon Airways (ANA) as its chief executive warned that without an expanded Heathrow, London will lose out to Frankfurt in the race for growth.
“Airport infrastructure is an integral part of the development of a city,” Shinichiro Ito, chief executive of the Japanese airline told the Financial Times. “We would like to use Heathrow even more,” he said. But if Heathrow expansion was not possible, “we fly into cities such as Frankfurt. Strengthening that network would be an option.”
The comments from ANA echo those made by British Airways CEO Willie Walsh earlier this year on what would happen if a third runway is not built.
“We will be making a mistake we will live to regret. We will look back 20 years from now and ask, ‘How did we allow ourselves to get into this position?’ We will lose out in terms of economic growth. A lot of airlines want to fly to Heathrow: not the UK but Heathrow. If they can’t fly to Heathrow they will go somewhere else like Paris or Amsterdam.” – British Airways CEO Willie Walsh (Source: The Independent)
Overall, airlines worldwide see the expansion of Heathrow as essential not just for themselves but for the UK as a whole. While Heathrow is not opposed to the expansion of other UK airports, doing so instead of Heathrow does not address the UK’s hub capacity crisis and would continue to lock the UK out of the race for growth.
Other statements from airlines on the issue include:
- “Cities that offer two hub airports tend to be a limiter for airlines and for passengers. It’s not a viable alternative…it’s Heathrow that needs extra capacity; the reality is that business travellers prefer to go via Heathrow.” – Delta’s Perry Cantarutti
- “London needs Heathrow and Heathrow needs more capacity” – Singapore Airlines’ Mak Swee Wah
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