How will Labour react to news BA have given up on third runway?

Willie Walsh has probably killed off the third runway at Heathrow with the admission by the British Airways (BA) chief executive that it will "never be built".

Heathrow third runway protest

By John Stewart of AirportWatch

Willie Walsh has probably killed off the third runway at Heathrow. The admission by the British Airways (BA) chief executive, at The Times CEO Summit yesterday, that “a third runway will never be built at Heathrow” is hugely significant.

For years British Airways has been the most powerful advocate for a third runway. The airline argued it was essential to their business model which was based on large numbers of passengers interchanging at Heathrow from long-haul intercontinental flights to short-haul hops to European destinations.

Yesterday Walsh admitted that it was planning to use Madrid Airport for much more of this ‘hub’ function. BA is well-placed to do this as it recently formed an alliance with Iberian Airlines. It is this admission which has effectively killed off the third runway at Heathrow. The biggest user of the airport is now basing its business plans and projections, on life without a new runway.

There will continue to be business voices calling for a third runway but, without the backing of BA, they will diminish in significance.

Willie Walsh hinted yesterday that the UK economy would be the loser if the number of passengers interchanging at Heathrow could no longer grow. There is no hard evidence to back this up. The seminal CE Delft report – The economics of Heathrow expansion, published in 2008, (pdf) – found that, because of London’s attractiveness to international firms as a place to do business, the number of flights using Heathrow would continue to be high enough to provide excellent international connectivity without a new runway.

Furthermore, London is already the best-connected city in the world. In 2009, the last year for which full figures are available, over 130 million passengers used London’s five airports – more than any other world city. Paris was London’s closest European competitor with just under 86 million passengers using its airports.

There is no doubt the government, under pressure from some Conservatives to reconsider its decision to rule out new runways in the South East, will welcome Willie Walsh’s statement. The intriguing question is how Labour will react.

As part of its wide-ranging policy review it is, under Shadow Transport secretary Maria Eagle, asking all the right questions about aviation. My own view is that, however many fresh aviation policies Labour develops, unless it drops its support for a third runway at Heathrow, the public perception will be that nothing has changed. Willie Walsh’s statement should make it easier for Labour to say ‘no’ to a third runway.

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today. 

7 Responses to “How will Labour react to news BA have given up on third runway?”

  1. BA Stewardess

    How will Labour react to news BA have given up on third runway?: The admission by the British Airways (BA) chief… http://bit.ly/mu4QSk

  2. John Smith

    So BA have said that they will be moving some of its business to Madrid. So the conclusion is that while passenger volume in the UK will remain high, it won’t be as high as it could’ve been with a third runway?

    If British Airways will be doing a lot of it’s business in Spain now, how can the UK not have lost out because of this decision?

    To me, as an impartial outsider, this seems like terrible news.

  3. Leon Wolfson

    Quite. It’s going to cause long-term investment in other countries. London should get more capacity; The exact site can be discussed, but the investment should be here.

    Instead we’re spending on things like railway plans which have no clear economic justification at all, as a “substitute”.

  4. mr. Sensible

    The previous government’s support for this runway was a serious mistake. I thought so at the time, and I call on Maria Eagle to scrap, once and for all, support for this in the future.

    John and Leon, I’m afraid you really need to move on from that sort of attitude. As the article states, London is already served by 5 airports. And on the railway plans, the fact is that these are more environmentally friendly, and HS2 can reduce pressure on domestic air travel, and the Eurostar service from St Pancras International can also reduce pressure on air services to France and he continent.

    There is an alternative to new runways at Heathrow and we need to take those options for the sake of our environment.

  5. Leon Wolfson

    Move on from the UK being using it’s competitive advantages, right.

    Pass.

    There is NO good business case for HS2 (it’s likely to be an expensive waste of money, in fact), and it literally cannot replace airport capacity for what BA need.

    The Eurostar is fine as far as it goes, for certain passenger movements, but it compliments and not in replaces airports.

    Not ONE flight will be stopped by refusing to allow the UK to compete, instead what happens is other EU countries simply get that business. And the false-worry about the environment, at a time when we’re refusing to take sensible options like a new generation of nuclear power plants, instead choosing to price poorer people of of heating, is nauseating.

  6. mr. Sensible

    Leon I think you’re simply quite wrong.

    With HS2, it will enable us to get from 1 end of the country to another. It could, for example, compete with domestic flights between London and Manchester in terms of journey times.

    And with Eurostar, at the moment you can probably get from London to Paris in about the same amount of time as going by air, if not possibly quicker if you take out the time for check in ETC.

    And as for the environment, I personally think nuclear does have a role, bu we simply need to get a grip on this, and as I say getting rid of that runway was one of the few sensible decisions this government made.

  7. Leon Wolfson

    Mr. Sensible;

    Which economic study are you relying on for your thinking on HS2?

    Also, again, Eurostar is fine, but it’s only between limited points. The number of destinations services by air is going up, especially in Western Europe, and that’s where the flexibility is needed.

    “Getting a grip” on throwing away our advantages? Er…

Leave a Reply