“BA’s lack of interest in a third runway has important implications for the future of aviation policy in the UK. It leaves Heathrow Airport without a critical ally”.
Heathrow Airport, formerly known as BAA, is looking ever more isolated in its support for a third runway at Heathrow. On Friday (30th November) British Airways chief Willie Walsh told a major conference that he did not believe a third runway at Heathrow would ever be built and that his company was basing its future plans on that belief by buying slots from other airlines at Heathrow and expanding its operations in Madrid – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/aviation/9717087/Willie-Walsh-rules-out-third-runway-at-Heathrow.html
Walsh told the conference organized by British Airways (BA) that it is “my personal belief that a third runway will never be built” and that “we are planning for life without it.” He also said he was opposed to mixed-mode at Heathrow.
It became clear at the conference, which I attended, that British Airways no longer sees a third runway as in its commercial interest. Walsh made it clear that, since a new runway would offer a significant number of slots to other airlines, BA would be less dominant than it is with the current two runway airport. Therefore, rather than look for a third runway, he said it was in BA’s commercial interest to buy up slots from other airlines using Heathrow and develop at Madrid. The newly-acquired Heathrow slots could in due course be used to serve the emerging markets of Asia and Africa and Madrid had good connections to South America.
BA’s lack of interest in a third runway has important implications for the future of aviation policy in the UK. It leaves Heathrow Airport without a critical ally. During the 3rd runway campaign, Willie Walsh proved to be one of its most articulate supporters.
Heathrow Airport will now need to fight its corner without him at a time when it is facing more competition than ever before from other UK airports eyeing up the chance to expand. The new owners of Gatwick are intending to submit a plan for a second runway. Birmingham is lobbying for expansion. Stansted expansion has its supporters. And of course Boris is backing his island.
All the signs are there. Support for a third runway is slowly draining away.