EasyJet chief Carolyn McCall urges Government to look at second runway at Gatwick or Stansted airports
Carolyn McCall wants a new runway at Gatwick or Stansted and says this makes the most economic sense – in terms of solving what airlines make out is a lack of south east runway capacity. The airlines were upset when Theresa Villiers last week repeated the government’s complete rejection of a 3rd Heathrow runway. This easyJet publicity is just another part of aviation industry’s attempt to brainwash the UK public that economic recovery depends on air travel expansion – which is in fact largely a myth. Most air travellers are on leisure trips and take money out of the country. But airport expansion benefits the airlines and the airport operators – hence their continual pressure for expansion and attempts to distort the real situation. Ms McCall said it was critical that the UK remains an “important gateway” but argued there was an “overemphasis” on the hub airport idea – because easyJet deals with short haul leisure passengers, and is not contemplating flights to China etc. Self interest.
Ministers must press ahead with an inquiry into a second runway at Gatwick or Stansted after last week slamming the door on Heathrow expansion, according to easyJet boss Carolyn McCall.
By Nathalie Thomas, in Lisbon (Telegraph)
The head of the UK’s largest airline by passenger numbers has weighed into the fierce debate on aviation policy after Transport Secretary Theresa Villiers last week scuppered hopes that the Government might be moderating its stance on allowing a third runway at Heathrow – Britain’s only hub airport.
Ms McCall told the Telegraph it was “striking” how other European governments supported their airports while the UK was stuck in a “circular” debate about aviation capacity.
“In Europe there is a stark contrast…there is no debate. In Amsterdam, the Government and airport is completely aligned about developing Schipol. In [Milan] Malpensa, they are continuing to grow. No one is debating ‘should there be more capacity and should we have another runway?’ There’s just a real focus on the fact that air passengers bring money into the economy and they are really important for growth.”
Speaking in Lisbon, where easyJet has launched its latest network base, Ms McCall said a second runway at either Gatwick or Stansted made the “most economic sense” in the medium term to solve the serious capacity problems in the South East.
“Theresa Villiers has closed the door to Heathrow again, which I think clearly must be frustrating. From where we sit, we are very concerned that the options that are currently being debated are not real solutions to the capacity issues.”
She stressed extra runways at Gatwick and Stansted “are the things that should be evaluated now”.
“It would make the most economic and environmental sense as you already have airports there and they are not in the centre of cities,” she said.
Ms McCall believes Stansted is “most ripe” for capacity development, even though it has suffered from dwindling passenger numbers.
The Transport Secretary last week implacably ruled out a third runway for Heathrow but said the Government would be willing to assess all other options – including a new hub airport on the Thames Estuary.
A White Paper setting out the Coalition’s position, which had been due in March, will be published by the summer.
Gatwick, the world’s biggest single runway airport, has staked its claim to become a rival gateway to Heathrow. But Heathrow’s owner BAA and global airlines such as British Airways and Virgin Atlantic argue the UK Government needs to recognise the importance of its hub status, providing an important base for transfer passengers.
Ms McCall said it was critical that the UK remains an “important gateway” but argued there was an “overemphasis” on the hub.
“About 80pc of passengers in the UK don’t have any benefit from the hub,” she said.
The former media executive, who joined easyJet in 2010, also echoed concerns about immigration bottlenecks at the UK’s busiest airports.
Willie Walsh, head of British Airways’ parent company, has warned long delays at immigration are costing the country investment and jobs as they deter business travellers.
Ms McCall said immigration queues are among passengers’ chief complaints when they come to the UK.
“It’s a real problem that we are dealing with all of the time,” she said.
IATA is pressing for a 3rd Heathrow runway
By Andrew Parker and Rose Jacobs
Ministers must find a way out of their “political cul-de-sac” and allow a third runway at London’s Heathrow airport, the head of the International Air Transport Association said on Wednesday.
Tony Tyler, director-general of Iata, which represents 240 airlines, used a speech to the Aviation Club to make the case for expanding Heathrow. He said the alternatives to Heathrow’s expansion were either too costly or practically impossible.