Heathrow's Chief Executive has told a committee of MPs that the airport must be allowed to expand to boost UK business. Even though other airports around London have spare capacity, Colin Matthews argued that long-haul airlines prefer Heathrow because it can handle more transfer passengers.
He says the airlines can only fill long-haul flights if the departure airport is a hub with lots of short-range links allowing passengers to go there and transfer. He warns that if Heathrow does not expand, airlines will use airports like Paris or Amsterdam instead.
Bosses at Gatwick Airport today said it could be handling around 45 million passengers a year by 2030. The airport currently has agreed that it will not build a second runway by 2019 but could build one after that. The airport currently handles 34m passengers each year.
Gatwick chiefs said a noise insulation scheme for local residents already existed and a new scheme would be rolled out in 2013 following a public consultation.
The chief executive of British Airways' parent company has attacked the government for refusing to expand Heathrow. Willie Walsh believes expansion is needed to connect with Asia. He said: "It's a nonsense to say that British business can be competitive if we can't fly to these destinations."
Two of the country's biggest unions have urged the government to increase airport capacity, warning that 140,000 jobs are at risk. The GMB and Unite unions say it's daft to rule out the expansion of Heathrow, and have called the idea of a Thames Estuary airport a vanity project.