London Heathrow Airport (LHR) claims it will lose its title as Europe’s leading hub airport within two years if it doesn’t get the go-ahead to build a third runway soon. According to airport executives, Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG) is growing at twice the rate of its British competitor.
Heathrow is one of the busiest two-runway airports in the world and has been operating pretty much at full capacity for many years. The airport has been campaigning to build a third runway as part of a long-term expansion plan but has faced set back after set back.
In 2019, the airport handled 80.9 million passengers – nearly six million less than Dubai International Airport (DXB) which also only has two runways but unlike Heathrow is able to handle flight operations 24-hours a day.
Heathrow attributed passenger growth (an increase of 18% over the last decade) to larger planes flying fuller.
The West London airport has been the go-ahead in principle for a massive expansion centred around a third runway but many obstacles still remain before bulldozers are seen anywhere near the site.
Last month, Heathrow said the opening date for a third runway would be pushed back until 2028 or even 2029 after the UK’s civil aviation authorities capped early spending on the project.
“t would be an economic disaster for the country to fall behind, just as we leave the EU,” warned Heathrow’s chief executive, John Holland. “Heathrow’s new runway will make the UK a winner, connecting all of Britain to global growth and that’s why we need to get on with delivering it,” he claimed today.
But not everyone is convinced. The owner of British Airways (the largest airline at Heathrow) has called for an independent assessment into Heathrow’s expansion plans because of the associated costs that airlines and passengers would likely have to shoulder.
“The total cost of expansion – runways, terminals and associated development costs – continues to increase and seriously undermines the economic justification of expansion at a time when the environmental challenge has increased significantly,” Willie Walsh, the outgoing chief of International Airlines Group (IAG) recently complained.
IAG estimates that expansion costs have risen by more than 250 per cent in just two years. The total cost could be as high as £2.8 billion.
“To ask customers to stump up vast sums in advance for a runway that may not get built, based only on Heathrow’s cost proposals, is unacceptable,” Walsh warned. Heathrow’s next hurdle to jump is a public consultation later this year.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.