Kehoe says BAA claims are a con, and Chinese companies are happy to fly to Birmingham, bypassing Heathrow
We have heard many aviation lobbyists claiming that if business people cannot get direct flights from Heathrow to a multitude of destinations, Britain’s economy is doomed. Now Paul Kehoe, CEO of Birmingham airport, publicly disagrees, wanting to persuade those in power that flights to or from Birmingham will be quite acceptable to commerce, and can bypass Heathrow. And Birmingham gets the profit. He says BAA is “trying to conflate the wider British economic interest with the interests of Heathrow”. Kehoe says the claims that Britain’s economy requires new runways in the south-east are a “con” that an industry dominated by BAA will not question. He says he was in Chengdu recently, talking to Chinese airlines that were considering any entry point into the UK. Kehoe says the Chinese he had spoken to would be happy to come to Birmingham: “they see the UK as an important market and don’t care how they get there.” So lots of in-fighting within the industry, like dogs over a bone … They all want the money …
Heathrow runway claims are a con, says Birmingham airport boss
Paul Kehoe says after visit to Chinese conference that foreign airlines will fly to airports outside south-east
Paul Kehoe says claims airlines will withdraw UK flights if they cannot get slots at London airport contrast to his own experience
By Gwyn Topham, transport correspondent
Claims that Britain’s economy requires new runways in the south-east are a “con” that an industry dominated by BAA will not question, the boss of Birmingham airport has said.
Chief executive Paul Kehoe said that at the same time as Heathrow’s owner BAA was claiming that the lucrative Chinese market only wanted to fly to the west London airport, he was in Chengdu talking to Chinese airlines that were considering any entry point into the UK.
BAA said last week that foreign airlines were “ready to vote with their feet and base new flights outside of the UK because of a lack of government policy supporting aviation”, highlighting a survey showing that 86% would put on more flights to the UK if additional take-off and landing slots were available at Heathrow.
BAA chief executive Colin Matthews has been dismissive of rival airports’ claims to offer alternatives, saying that if airlines wanted to fly into Birmingham and Stansted, where spare capacity exists, they would have done so.
He told a Transport Times aviation conference on Wednesday: “It is a mistake to believe that flights displaced from Heathrow will automatically fly to Stansted, Gatwick or Birmingham instead. The message I hear from airlines is clear: if there’s no room at Heathrow then flights will move out of the UK altogether.
“Instead of Britain taking the lead in forging new links with growing economies like China, we are handing economic growth to our competitors by turning away airlines who want to bring jobs, growth and trade to the UK.”
Kehoe however, said his experience at a conference in China last week was that: “Taxes and visas are a problem for them. But the Chinese said they would be happy to come to Birmingham: they see the UK as an important market and don’t care how they get there.” Next month, Air China is starting a four-day-a-week direct service to Gatwick.
He (Kehoe) said a recent advertising campaign, costing a reported £3m (a figure BAA disputes), was trying to conflate the wider British economic interest with the interests of Heathrow, whose major shareholder is the Spanish infrastructure group Ferrovial.
Kehoe also took issue with Heathrow’s claim to be a unique “hub” airport, one that can provide routes due to the volume of connecting traffic. “Only 30% of its traffic connects. It is just a very big successful airport. Is it positioned to be a world hub? For US traffic yes, for Europe going east and everyone else, no.
“A con is being perpetrated and it’s time we held BAA to account. Even if there was a third runway, where is runway four? Where is the extra capacity you say Britain needs?”
He said few airport executives would speak out because they were either owned by or linked to BAA, or rely on British Airways, whose interests at Heathrow are closely connected.
The immediate success of BAA’s advertising campaign, which included posters covering most of Westminster tube station, may have been limited. Transport minister Theresa Villiers, referring to the “doom and gloom pumped out by the aviation industry”, pointed out that Britain was only “lagging behind” when figures were massaged to exclude Hong Kong flights: with them, she said: “It’s clear that in this market too, we lead with Heathrow delivering more services to China than any of its continental rivals.”
Kehoe ascribed Birmingham’s own poor performance and empty slots to a lack of aggressive marketing in the years before BA pulled out in 2007. A runway extension will allow the airport to provide further long-haul flights, while the proposed HS2 high-speed rail network will bring much of London within a one-hour transport connection by 2026. Only around 9 million passengers a year pass through an airport which has room for double that number now and potentially far more.
One comment from an AirportWatch member: “Like ferrets in a sack” ….
Heathrow welcomes China’s largest airline, and a new trade route to Guangzhou
March 18, 2012 China Southern, the largest Chinese airline, has now been able to get take off and landing slots at Heathrow for 3 flights a week to Guangzhou. This is the first direct flight to Guanzhou from the UK, though there are many other flights to Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, from where connecting flights can be made to all the regional Chinese cities. BAA complains that it is limited in how many flights it can provide to China, that its European rivals have more, and that they have more direct routes. BAA says Paris, Frankfurt or Amsterdam airports will boast direct flights to Chengdu, Hangzhou, Wuhan, Xiamen, Nanjing, Shenyang and Qingdao this year. However, Heathrow manages around 21 flights per day to Miami, and large numbers to other non-business but profitable routes. Click here to view full story…
Letter from Brian Ross (of Stop Stansted Expansion) in the Standard
March 6, 2012 Brian Ross writes that the aviation industry conflates its own interests with the interests of UK plc. hiding some inconvenient truths. By comparison with the UK, Japan with twice our population achieves twice our GDP with far less airport capacity. The reason being that less than a quarter of UK passengers are business travellers. Heathrow flies more holidaymakers to Miami than business people to China, and more passengers to Nice than to either Beijing or Shanghai. London airports last year handled 134 million passengers with more than 500 worldwide destinations direct. No other city in the world comes close to that level of capacity and connectivity. Government is right to stick to its election promise of no more runways at Heathrow, Stansted and Gatwick. And the industry should stop trying to re-open yesterday’s arguments. Click here to view full story…
Despite Heathrow’s huge business connectivity, BAA trots out its capacity arguments again citing need for flights to China
February 14, 2012 BAA continues to use any opportunity it can to push its ambition to expand Heathrow. It has used the January traffic figures as another chance to lobby for its 3rd runway and trot out its capacity argument. Passengers from Heathrow to China, including Hong Kong, rose by 3% in 2011, but happened to fall by 0.7% in January, compared to Jan 2010. BAA could not confirm whether other airports suffered a similar dip in January traffic. BAA imply, but there are no publicly available figures to check, that traffic to China from Frankfurt and Amsterdam rose in January. Germany exported £27 billion to China in 2010 and the UK exported £5 billion. Research carried out by WWF and AirportWatch in August looking at weekly flights (July 2011) showed Frankfurt had 43 flights to China, Paris Charles de Gaulle had 81 flights, Schiphol had 40 ….. and Heathrow had a whopping 94. It’s not really falling behind, in any meaningful sense of the word. Click here to view full story…
Transport secretary pledges to ‘remove barriers’ to Birmingham Airport expansion
March 23, 2012 Justine Greening has said she wanted to “remove barriers” which prevented Birmingham airport growing. The airport has been lobbying ministers to be allowed to expand, and has argued that in the long term regional airports such as Birmingham should be considered as an alternative to a new airport in the Thames Estuary. Ms Greening said the planned high speed rail line, which will include a new station close to Birmingham Airport, would make it far more accessible to people from across the country. On the Aviation Policy Framework (consultation on which is now delayed till summer from March) she said “… we are quite keen to see what we can do to allow regional airports like Birmingham to flourish. They have a key role to play and we want to look at how we can take away some of the barriers that stop them doing that and look at how we can really put them in the best possible position to do well.” Click here to view full story…