Heathrow now at max capacity, says its chairman

Heathrowprotestbb One of the most puzzling aspects of Britain's change of government earlier this year, when a center-right coalition replaced the left of center Labor party, is that it quickly overruled the permission given by the former Labor government to Heathrow to add a third runway.  Not only did this new and allegedly 'business friendly' coalition rescind Heathrow's approval to add a third runway, it went further and said that no other airports in England's south-east region would be allowed to add extra runways either.

At the time, the government proposed providing new high-speed domestic rail services that would reduce the number of domestic flights, allowing LHR and London's other four airports to be used more 'efficiently' for international flights.  But new high speed train service remains a distant hope rather than a present reality, and the return to growth in air travel means that capacity at Heathrow is close to (or even already and completely) maxed out.

Sir Nigel Rudd, chairman of BAA, the company that owns Heathrow (and various other UK airports), is now admitting for the first time that Heathrow has become a 'second tier' world airport as a result of the Government's decision not to grant a third runway to the UK's busiest airport.

The airport chief said the UK risked becoming 'less competitive' as a result of the decision, one of the first made by the coalition Government after it came to power in May.  In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, he bluntly stated 'Heathrow is full', echoing the claim made by Sir Richard Branson, head of Virgin Atlantic Airways, earlier this year.

British Airways says the lack of resource at Heathrow will force it to grow its operations from a base in Madrid as part of its new merger with Spain's Iberia Airways.

It is hard to see how Britain is being advantaged by the government's curious decision to impose a moratorium on much needed airport expansion.  London risks losing its pre-eminent position as 'Europe's gateway', new airline/airport employment will shift to Europe, and tourism, along with all the foreign exchange and employment it generates, will also trend more to Europe because that will increasingly be where airlines choose to have their hubs.

As for 'protecting the planet' by restricting flights in and out of London, sure even the most myopic advocate of global warming can see that the total amount of flying will remain the same and continue to grow.  Airlines will simply fly to European hubs rather than to London.


2 thoughts on “Heathrow now at max capacity, says its chairman”

  1. I disagree while remaining bemused by the industry’s being enamoured with Heathrow.
    Heathrow’s second-tier status, I believe, isn’t driven by whether or not it has a third runway. It is drive by a series of short-sighted buiding programmes that are truly user UNfriendly. And you thougth LAX was higgledy-piggledy.
    With the exception of T1, there is rarely anywhere to sit for existing passengers before or after gate openings. That’s shockingly true for T5, BA’s “state-of-the day” piece of art.
    In T3, especially, home of many if not most US-bound flights, has insufficient seating areas in the pre-board phase and always insufficient seating in the gate areas for those waiting to board. Queues for security are labourious. Food stalls all have queues and no place to sit.
    It isn’t about runways at all. It’s about terminals and customer care that makes Heathrow second tier.
    I’ve lived in both the Washington area and the SF Bay area. And in London for 12 years. Those other urban areas have more than one airport, and those airpots tend to have a focus.
    Take DC: Reagan National for almost exclusively domestic flights. BWI for domestic and some holidays airlines and a smattering on European flights. IAD for internaional and some domestic.
    London has the same option: LHR for long-haul and European, mostly. Gatwick for European and holiday trips. Same for Luton and Stansted. Domestic services are mostly feeders to those. (and, of course, London City, which is almost entirely point-to-point.)
    There is little need for purely domestic service at a place like Heathrow. OK: It’s a 4 hour or so train journey to Edinburgh or Glasgow – a journey, if by air, that requires you to show up for your plane about 120 minutes before departure. Why would anyone trek to Heathrow or Gatwick hours in advance — and pay the train link fares to get there — to save no time getting to Scotland. Except for the frequent flier miles maybe. And that’s without any high-speed additions.
    The runway is the emotional issue about Heathrow; it isn’t the real issue.

  2. I tend to agree with the first commenter. Heathrow is shockingly misused by the large airlines (BA being the major offender) for short-haul trips within the United Kingdom and the Continent. The government should request that those flights be relocated to other airports around the capital. There is some merit to central planning.
    BAA is trying it on with the government. Business is not going to relocate itself simply because Heathrow is overcrowded. There is no chance that the Coalition will revive the plan to compulsorily buy the little hamlet north of Heathrow that Labour was going to demolish for the third runway. The people who live there are archetypical Conservative voters.
    This is the great British sport: when the government tries to cut your budget, trumpet that your services for vulnerable children/well-loved pets/local bobbies-on-the-beat/(insert some well-loved and absolutely necessary service here) will be cut and try to get the populace to storm Whitehall to demand that the cuts be rescinded.

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