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NEWS Last modified on July 1, 2015

Industry reaction to Airports Commission's recommendation for third runway at Heathrow

The Airports Commission today recommended that Heathrow gets a third runway to help solve the UK's capacity crunch, and within minutes of the announcement publicity machines across the nation went into overdrive either supporting or blasting the decision.

Heathrow, of course, welcomed the decision and has pledged to work with the government to make it happen.

And it praised the Airports Commission for recognising that the benefits of a third runway at Heathrow are "significantly greater, for business passengers, freight operators and the broader economy” than the downsides.

Adding that “all passengers will benefit from enhanced competition.”

Heathrow said the Commission's findings accept the unique role that it plays as Britain’s only hub airport and that its expansion is the only solution that can help British businesses compete for global growth, and support a truly national recovery built on exports, skills and investment.

The Commission also confirms that Heathrow’s new plan can be delivered while reducing its local and environmental impacts.

And it confirms that it can be delivered within carbon and air quality limits and with significantly fewer people impacted by aircraft noise than today.

John Holland-Kaye, chief executive of Heathrow Airport said: “This debate has never been about a runway, it’s been about the future we want for Britain. 

"Expanding Heathrow will keep Britain as one of the world’s great trading nations, right at the heart of the global economy. 

"Our new plans have been designed around the needs of local communities and will meet carbon, air quality and noise targets, and provides the greatest benefit to the UK’s connectivity and its long term economic growth.

"We will create the world’s best connected, most efficient and most environmentally responsible hub airport at the heart of an integrated transport system. The Commission has backed a positive and ambitious vision for Britain.  

"We will now work with Government to deliver it.”

For its part, the Commission has urged the government to make an early decision on its recommendations.

It warns that “further delay will be increasingly costly and will be seen, nationally and internationally, as a sign that the UK is unwilling or unable to take the steps needed to maintain its position as a well-connected open trading economy in the twenty first century.”

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UK Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, said: “My department has received the final report from the Airports Commission and will now consider that advice in detail.

“As a nation we must be ambitious and forward looking. This is a once in a generation opportunity to answer a vital question.

“I will make a statement to Parliament later today in which I will set out the process for that decision to be made.”

Darren Caplan, chief executive of the Airport Operators Association (AOA), the trade body representing over 50 UK airports, said: “The UK needs to compete in both established and emerging markets and this requires excellent aviation connectivity right across the country, ensuring the UK has both vibrant point to point airports and world class hub capacity. 

"The AOA supports all airports that wish to grow and believes in making best use of existing capacity at UK airports.

“We welcome the completion of the Airports Commission’s work and supports the assertion it has already made in its Interim Report regarding the need for both airport expansion and making better use out of existing capacity. 

"Now that the Commission has published its Final Report, the Government should respond swiftly to maintain momentum, remove uncertainty and ensure the UK gets the additional capacity it so vitally needs as soon as possible.”

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Earlier this week, the AOA published a new poll carried out by ComRes which found that over three quarters (74%) of Members of Parliament agree that the government should commit to acting on the recommendations of the report “as soon” as they are delivered, with 38% “strongly agreeing” with this statement.

Support was strong among both Conservative and Labour MPs, with 82% of Conservatives agreeing (39% strongly) that the Government should act on the recommendations, compared to 73% of Labour MPs (43% of whom strongly agree).

Those not so happy about the decision included Gatwick and Ryanair, the latter claiming that the suggested solution will take too long to become reality and solve nothing.

Ryanair’s chief marketing officer, Kenny Jacobs, said: “Ryanair believes that the proposed Heathrow runway – which won’t be delivered for 10 or 15 years – won’t solve the runway capacity crisis in the South East.

"We strongly advocate taking politicians out of runway decision making and allowing each of the three London airports, Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted, to build three competing runways which will solve the capacity crisis in the South East for the next 100 years, while at the same time allowing competition between the airports to deliver this capacity efficiently.

"It remains a fact that additional runways in Stansted and Gatwick can and will be delivered much earlier than any Heathrow third runway.”

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Elsewhere, Birminham Airport CEO, Paul Kehoe, urged the UK government to take a cautious response to the Airports Commission’s recommendations, as regional airports like Birmingham Airport continue to thrive.

Birmingham Airport had argued for a strategic network of long-haul airports throughout the UK, each supporting the comparative economic advantage of that region.

“Over the past three years the Airports Commission has explored numerous options for resolving the South-East congestion, and we are incredibly grateful to all those in the region who have supported our case for a network of airports.

“Given the significant levels of growth we have seen at Birmingham Airport within this period, especially in long-haul routes, we urge the government to move ahead with caution so as not to damage the ability of regional airports to grow.

“The Midlands is a powerful engine of growth at the heart of our country and needs direct aviation to succeed. With our £200 million investment in the airport, including our runway extension allowing for this summer’s extended series of direct flights to Beijing, we are doing all we can to support the region’s businesses and leisure passengers.

“Whilst the government continues to review all the evidence before it, Birmingham Airport looks forward to continuing the expansion of our long-haul offering in support of the region’s economy”. 
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Gatwick is expected to release its official response later today, but it's initial reaction was to claim that the battle is far from over.

“Gatwick is still very much in the race. The Commission’s report makes clear that expansion at Gatwick is deliverable," insisted CEO, Stewart Wingate.

“It is for the Commission to make a recommendation but it is of course for the government to decide. So we now enter the most important stage of the process.

“We are confident that when the government makes that decision they will choose Gatwick as the only deliverable option. For instance, this report highlights the very significant environmental challenges at Heathrow such as air quality and noise impact. 

“Gatwick will give the country the economic benefits it needs and at the same time impact far less people. It is quicker simpler and quieter. Above all - after decades of delay - it can actually happen.”

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