Airlines give their support for Heathrow expansion

UK airlines Virgin Atlantic and Flybe have hailed yesterday’s vote by Parliament in favour of the building of a third runway at Heathrow Airport – but still no word from the International Airlines Group (IAG).

The parent company of British Airways, Iberia, Vueling, Aer Lingus and Level has previously raised concerns over expansion as says airlines will take the brunt of the £14 billion project and will be hit with higher operating charges at the UK hub.

However, Virgin Atlantic chief executive officer, Craig Kreeger said: “We firmly believe that Heathrow is the right choice for expansion and applaud this landmark parliamentary vote.

“As the country’s only hub airport, Heathrow is uniquely placed to support continued growth in UK trade and tourism – sending a strong signal to the world that we’re open for business.

“An expanded Heathrow must provide desperately needed, and long overdue airline competition to deliver more international destinations, lower fares and better connectivity to UK regions.

“As we look to the future there are still a lot of important milestones and decisions ahead. It’s important that Heathrow, the Government and airlines maintain the momentum to deliver an expansion which offers value for money for passengers, effective competition, and is mindful of the community.”

Flybe also said it welcomes yesterday’s House of Commons vote approving the “long-awaited decision on airport expansion that finally paves the way for work to start in making it become reality”.

The carrier added: “The airline looks forward in continuing to work with Heathrow to explore the viability and commercial feasibility of developing more domestic routes to ensure the expanded airport benefits the whole of the UK.”

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) also welcomed the UK House of Commons vote in favour of the National Policy Statement (NPS) on airports, which it said “opens the way to the long-overdue expansion of Heathrow”.

IATA’s regional vice president for Europe, Rafael Schvartzman said: “After years of delay, the approval of the NPS is a momentous day for air travel not just in the UK, but for the global air transport network. This decision will create new jobs and new economic opportunities in the UK and strengthen ties to growing export markets.

“But these benefits will only be safeguarded if the expansion is delivered at a competitive cost. Passengers and airlines must not pay increased charges. And operational flexibility is essential, especially to continue to allow a small number of essential early morning flights.

“It would be a shame if, having waited so long for the fruits of expansion, the UK were to shoot itself in the foot by creating an overpriced, uncompetitive airport.”