Travel industry leaders have welcomed the government’s revised National Policy Statement on Heathrow expansion, but leading airlines questioned the cost of the planned third runway.
Transport secretary Chris Grayling confirmed government support for a third runway to the northwest of Heathrow to Parliament today.
The expansion could almost double the airport’s freight capacity and add 260,000 more flights a year.
CBI deputy director-general Josh Hardie said: “It’s fantastic that the new runway at Heathrow is getting closer to take-off.
“Expanding our aviation capacity, and creating new flight routes to rapidly growing markets, is critical to ensuring Britain can compete on the post-Brexit world stage.”
However, British Airways’ parent group IAG said in a statement: “The government has missed an opportunity to provide the UK with the airport it needs at a price it can afford.
“The Civil Aviation Authority has the responsibility to curb Heathrow’s excesses and inefficiency.
“We will be looking to the regulator to protect customers and keep charges flat in real terms.”
Dale Keller, chief executive of the Board of Airline Representatives (BAR) UK, said: “We hope that decades of delay and procrastination will soon come to an end and we can secure cross-party support in the House of Commons. It is time for politics to be taken out of this debate.”
But he added: “UK and international airlines will continue to hold Heathrow Airport to account over the details of the scheme, in particular its cost and affordability.
“We’re pleased the transport secretary has made the ambition of expanding the airport whilst keeping passenger charges at today’s levels his number-one priority.
“We will continue to push for more clarity from government as to how it will use the planning process to provide more clarity on cost.”
Virgin Atlantic chief executive Craig Kreeger said: “We applaud the government’s decision.
“As the UK’s only hub airport, an expanded Heathrow is uniquely placed to enable a transformative increase in airline competition for passengers.”
Karen Dee, chief executive of the Airport Operators Association (AOA), stressed the need for “connectivity to both established and emerging markets right across the country” and the need for “both world-class hub and point-to-point capacity.”
Dee said: “The government’s planned Aviation Strategy now needs to set out a clear framework for aviation growth across the UK, ensuring airports have the capacity to better link communities and businesses with domestic and international markets.
“This will require a roadmap for improved surface access, the modernisation of UK airspace as well as a presumption in favour of sustainable development of new capacity.”
The Airports National Policy Statement sets out:
• “The need for additional airport capacity in the south-east of England.
• “Why the government believes that need is best met by a north-west runway at Heathrow Airport.
• “The specific requirements that an applicant for a new north-west runway will need to meet to gain development consent.”
The government said: “Development consent will only be granted on the basis that the new runway is delivered within existing air quality obligations.”
It also promised “legally enforceable noise restrictions”, a “6.5 hour scheduled night flight ban” and “a package of compensation and mitigation measures to support those affected by the expansion”
However, the Aviation Environment Federation questioned the government’s requirements.
It said: “The truth – buried in the small print of the government’s analysis – is that an expanded Heathrow would mean unavoidable environmental damage for decades to come.
“The government still can’t answer the most basic environmental questions about this plan.
“It can’t explain how a new runway can be compatible with our climate change commitments; it can’t guarantee that the project won’t worsen the currently illegal levels of air pollution on London.”
Mark Tanzer, Abta’s chief executive, welcomed the announcement and said: “While Abta recognises that expansion must be delivered in a sustainable manner, constraints on airport capacity in the south east, in particular Heathrow, severely inhibit the UK’s ability to grow.
“In 2017, 78 million passengers passed through Heathrow, 67% on leisure trips and the rest on business. It is currently operating at almost 100% capacity.
“Airport expansion will boost the wider UK economy, creating thousands of jobs and delivering the increased connectivity the UK needs, especially in a post Brexit world. However, it is also important that consumers aren’t burdened with the costs of expansion and that additional capacity is delivered in a cost-effective manner.”
Heathrow chief executive, John Holland Kaye, said: “Together with our supporters across the country, we urge all MPs to vote for expansion.
“Their votes will connect all of Britain to global trade, increase competition and choice for passengers and create tens of thousands of new skilled jobs for future generations. The world is waiting for Britain. It’s time to vote for Heathrow expansion.”