Heathrow makes case for Third Runway but plays down Fourth in submission to Airports Commission

Heathrow Airport made its submission to the Government’s Airports Commission a week ago, saying while the case for a third runway is very clear the “potential demand case for a fourth runway is highly uncertain and may not materialise”.

London, the airport operator says in its submission, has been home to the world’s largest port, then international airport, for the last 350 years. However, its leading position in the world economy is under threat through Government inaction.

The airport supports Department for Transport forecasts indicating that by 2020 there will be 11m of un-served passenger demand at Heathrow and 28m by 2030. It says more hub capacity is urgently needed and whilst longer term demand forecasts are inherently uncertain, the more immediate demand case for a three runway hub is very clear.

Heathrow calls on the DfT to take account of “network or hub economics” and to better account for transfer passengers in its models.

It say the DfT forecasts incorrectly assume that with Heathrow constrained, long haul demand, and to an extent transfer demand, will get picked up at other UK airports:

“In practice, network economics and the related airline business model, make this highly unlikely. Instead overseas hubs and economies are the beneficiaries. The issue is leading the UK Government to underestimate the very pressing nature of the hub capacity constraint and its damaging impact on UK intercontinental connectivity.”

Heathrow believes the UK may already be forgoing trade worth £14bn annually which, once lost, will be much harder to regain.

In the document issued by the Heathrow Media Centre, the operator says the current political and planning landscape means that it will be 2024 before significant additional hub capacity could be operational in the UK, with Heathrow being the location where this can be delivered the quickest.

By 2024, it says, the UK’s hub will have been capacity constrained for two decades and a significant proportion of the un-served hub demand will have been lost, either for good, or for the very long term until it can be recaptured.

“Overseas governments, airlines and hub airports, such as Dubai and Istanbul, are already making major investments that exploit the UK’s hub capacity constraint.”

The Airports Commission was set up to examine the need for additional UK airport capacity and to recommends to government how this can be met in the short, medium and long term. It has two objectives:

  • to submit a report to the government by the end of 2013, identifying and recommending options for maintaining the UK’s status as an international hub for aviation and immediate actions to improve the use of existing runway capacity in the next 5 years
  • to submit a final report to the government by summer 2015 assessing the environmental, economic and social costs and benefits of various solutions to increase airport capacity – considering operational, commercial and technical viability

External Links

Airports Commission

Heathrow submission

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