Here is a classic bit of BAA lobbying, spinning the standard “Heathrow must be expanded” line

This is an article in the Evening Standard, which seems to have just taken the BAA publicity, amplified it somewhat, and re-hashed it.  There is a lot of this stuff about, all the proponents of massive London airport expansion working themselves up to fever pitch of self righteousness and pro-expansion propaganda.  They capitalise on people’s fear of economic failure and recession,  and exaggerate nervousness about Britain not having the biggest and best and failing to out-do all the financial competition.  It contains statement after statement, with no offer to back these up with facts.  As usual, the key logical fallacy is in confounding the self interest of the aviation industry, and BAA, with the interest of the nation.  The two are separate.  The government sometimes appears to realise this, but the aviation industry has succeeded for far too long with propaganda  that peddles the misapprehension that economic growth depends on more air travel.  It does not.



David Cameron told: Act now to save Heathrow Airport

14 May 2012 (Standard)

London will lose its status as a global travel powerhouse within years unless the Government takes urgent action to solve the capital’s aviation crisis, airport bosses said today. [So this is just a story generated by BAA].

Heathrow’s owner issued a warning to Prime Minister David Cameron saying the international hub would be reduced to a “local airport” by 2027 with devastating impact on the capital’s economy.  [What does that statement actually mean?]

In his strongest attack yet, BAA chief executive Colin Matthews said time was running out to find a solution before the damage was irreversible.

London’s premier airport is at maximum capacity and cannot accept new routes.  [It could accept new routes, if it dropped some others.  But as these are profitable, there is no incentive to drop them.  Heathrow has already dropped many of its less lucrative routets – hence the cut in destinations over the past decade].  Meanwhile European rivals such as Paris and Frankfurt have seen passenger numbers rise.  [Heathrow still has far more passengers than any of its rivals]. 

Mr Matthews, who supports a third runway for Heathrow, urged the Government to act before a major aviation consultation this summer or risk London becoming a “branch line” on global travel networks.

“We’ve only got about 15 years, we do need to do something now,” he said. “[Unless we act] the number of destinations served and frequency of flights will progressively decline. There will come a stage when that decline is such that what is left is not sustainable as a hub.  [Not likely for a very long time – Heathrow is a massive airport]. 

”There is the option of doing nothing. But that simply means that business that should go to the UK will go to Frankfurt, Paris or Amsterdam instead.”  [He must mean the transfer flights, which do the airline and BAA good, but do not greatly benefit the UK economy].

The warning comes as the Government prepares for another round of consultation on aviation this summer with a new policy expected to be announced next spring. The Coalition has so far ruled out building a third runway at  Heathrow and has not backed Mayor Boris Johnson’s plan for a new £50 billion hub in the Thames estuary.

Today business leaders said London’s status as the world’s premier trading city is under the most severe threat in living memory.  [That is largely because there has been a recession, the UK is still in recession.  Nothing to do with airports]. 

John Dickie, director of strategy and policy at the business group London First, said: “London has held its No 1 position against all the odds. But if we don’t have the connections to places like China we are not going to maintain that position. Cities like Paris and Amsterdam that simply should not be competitive with London will be — because they are better connected.”  [Including the figures for Hong Kong within China, Theresa Villiers herself pointed out in a recent speech that Heathrow has more flights per week to China than any of its European rivals.  If there was the demand for more flights to  China, the airlines would lay them on.  Instead, there is more demand for many holiday destinations, and places like Paris and Amsterdam]. 

British airways boss Willie Walsh said: “I have seen no evidence of the Government appreciating the importance of aviation to Britain. The rest of world is securing infrastructure to ensure they can grow their economies, while the UK has done the opposite.  [Most flights that use UK airports are for leisure  travel, not for business.  Most people flying are taking their holiday money to spend abroad, so not helping the UK economy at all. Far fewer tourists visit the UK each year than Brits go abroad, so we have an annual tourism deficit of perhaps around £13 billion.  It was up to £20 billion in 2008.  The UK’s airports have more than enough capacity to handle all the business travel]. 

“After two years in government, [the coalition] is yet to show anyone any semblance of policy. We need action by this Government — and I’ve seen none. I fear for the future. [This government is balancing the demand for air travel against its environmental impacts. This is therefore considering the wider impacts. The aviation industry is only considering its own  profits.  For decades the aviation industry had confused its own self interest with that of the country. And it has managed to sow confusion in many other people’s minds too.  What is good for BAA is not necessarily what is good for the wider society].

“Clearly Boris [Johnson] is a very intelligent man. While I don’t agree with Boris’s position on Heathrow, I admire him for having the bravery to put the issue of a hub airport firmly on the agenda.”

Mr Johnson said: “London’s position as a global economic powerhouse is under grave threat.  [The recession has taken care of that pretty well so far.  No business has gone to the wall because a businessman could not get a flight]. 

“Our European competitors have built mega four-runway-plus airports and are already greedily snaffling up British passengers. That is why we must act now to invest in a modern, 24-hour, four-runway hub airport if we are to stand the faintest chance of remaining competitive. Doing nothing will mean that tens of thousands of good jobs will be exported elsewhere, jobs that belong to London.” [As most air travel is taking people out of the UK on leisure trips, these people then do not spend their money, or have their holidays, in the UK. A very large number of jobs are lost to the UK economy because of this.  There is no reason why Britain needs to have a massive 24 hour airport, just in order to provide a few more flights for business people. That really is not credible] .




And then there are some comments from eminent supporters:


Your say: ‘Build more runways … or look at the Thames Estuary monster’

Theo Paphitis

Retail magnate and star of Dragon’s Den:

“Heathrow is an incredibly important part of London. It is part and parcel of that crucial first impression we need to make. We’ve got to make it effective and make it safe. If that requires a third runway, then so be it.”

Sir Christopher Meyer

Former British ambassador to America:

“You don’t have to use Heathrow regularly to realise it is losing ground to more advanced competitors in Europe. They either need to build more runways at Heathrow or let it fade out and look to this Thames Estuary monster.”

Vanessa Lloyd-Platt

Divorce solicitor:

“I fly around 15 to 20 times a year. Given that the UK is such an international destination, why does Heathrow airport look the most shabby and third world of all the international airports I travel to? The whole process is frustrating and upsetting.”

Roger Parry

YouGov chairman and author of Making Cities Work:

“Governments want to be looking 20 years ahead, they shouldn’t just be looking to the next election. We have to have more capacity at Heathrow or you build an airport in the estuary. You have to do one or the other.”




Why is there so much concern about Heathrow’s future?

In a double dip recession and with the eurozone on the brink of collapse, business leaders say the UK economy, and London in particular, desperately needs better links to the fast-growing regions of the world — particularly China, Russia, India and south America.

Why can’t Heathrow provide that?

Heathrow’s five terminals and two runways handle 65 million passengers a year and it has been effectively full for at least a decade. It is next to impossible for airlines from developing countries to start new routes, so instead they go to Paris, Frankfurt, Amsterdam or Madrid. And if things go wrong — a heavier than expected snow fall for example — the lack of slack means Heathrow is quickly reduced to chaos.

But what about Gatwick, Stansted and Luton?

They all have spare capacity but are not popular with business travellers. They also find it hard to support new long haul routes as they are not hubs where people make connections and fill up large planes. Most experts are agreed that, short of forcing airlines to switch to them, the “other” London airports are not a viable alternative to Heathrow as a global business hub.

Is Heathrow still “fit for purpose?”

London’s hub is getting on for 70 years old. Its owner BAA is spending £1 billion a year on modernising it but that creates its own problems as passengers often feel they are catching flights from a building site. There is no doubt it has raised its game since the “Heathrow Hell” headlines of a few years ago, but compared with rivals such as the new Hong Kong International Airport it feels tired and difficult to navigate.

Are the two-hour queues at Heathrow’s immigration halls part of the same problem?

Not directly. The long delays are caused by a shortage of passport control staff following government cuts and a tightening of security rules this year. However, foreign visitors are unlikely to make this distinction.



And the same rubbish is reported in the Telegraph, which is a strong supporter of any sort of airport expansion, at




Some comments from AirportWatch members:

There seems to be a deliberate conflating of “business” and “the business of flying” in this article. ie  “if we don’t expand Heathrow, business will go to Paris etc” actually means “if we don’t expand Heathrow then any increase in flying will happen elsewhere” which is tautological.

But what they are spinning it as is “if we don’t expand Heathrow, businesses will go elsewhere” implying that everyone from banks to double glazing salesmen will up-sticks and move to France because they are afraid of not being able to get a flight.

If you want to fly to London you don’t choose Paris or Dubai as an alternative destination.  If you want to change planes to swap between a transatlantic flight and a European regional route then frankly it does not matter where you do it, although some airports might save you a certain amount of fuel and time in the airport.  It certainly makes damn all difference to the economy of the country in which that hub is, except a tiny sum from the transit passenger, to the airport.

For a number of long-haul international journeys, Dubai is in a far better location from a route-mileage (and thus pullution-generating) perspective than most, if not all, places in Europe…..  There is therefore no point in fighting for a share of a needlessly-polluting route structure for UK plc,

If Francois Holland carries out his threat of big tax increases we will probably see an exodus from France to the UK anyway

The latest noise from BAA about the need for a third runway at Heathrow reminds me of a mildly racist joke. A full 747 from London landed at Sydney and the engines were switched off. Someone asked “What is all that whining?” “Oh that, its all the Brits, they’ve just arrived in Australia.”

The Spanish-owned BAA and its supporters are like that – forever whining. And its getting boring.

But the solution to Heathrow may be that BAA makes more money out of the upmarket shops there than it does in running it as an airport.  As one ill-advised consultant termed it “its all about giving the passengers a ‘brand experience’ of high end shopping.”

So BAA could build a huge hypermarket of the Westfield variety on a brown field site just west of Heathrow, under the flight path (of course)?   Then BAA could turn Heathrow Airport into an actual airport and run it as such – subsidised by its hypermarket next door?