BA & Virgin say Birmingham Airport will never be international hub
British Airways and Virgin Atlantic Airways have hit out at Birmingham’s call for government intervention to encourage airlines to make better use of airports in the north and Midlands. They say Birmingham can never be a national hub airport, and that regional airports such as Birmingham could not provide an alternative to expanding capacity in the South East. BA and Virgin say Heathrow and Gatwick are full because people want to fly from them. Birmingham isn’t because people don’t. Also that Government should not intervene to force airlines and passengers to use airports they “do not want to fly from”. They also claim foreign governments are only interested in Heathrow in talks about opening new air routes and capacity. Birmingham Airport has launched a campaign to convince ministers that it can provide an alternative to expanding Heathrow without the need for a new runway – and it can double passenger numbers from 9 million today to 18 million without new infrastructure, and by extending its existing runway it will be able to serve 27 million people. The industry is fighting fiercely among itself on the capacity issue – and is likely to continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
BA and Virgin say Birmingham Airport will never be international hub
Two of Britain’s leading airlines have launched an astonishing attack on Birmingham Airport, saying it will never be a national hub.
British Airways and Virgin Atlantic Airways hit out at Birmingham’s call for government intervention to encourage airlines to make better use of airports in the north and Midlands.
And they claimed that regional airports such as Birmingham could not provide an alternative to expanding capacity in the South East.
The airlines said:
• Heathrow and Gatwick are full because people want to fly from them. Birmingham isn’t because people don’t.
• The Government should not intervene to force airlines and passengers to use airports they “do not want to fly from”.
• Foreign governments are only interested in Heathrow in talks about opening new air routes and capacity.
• Birmingham Airport could “never” be an alternative destination for London and the South East.
Ministers are grappling with the question of whether to build a third runway at London’s Heathrow Airport and have set up an inquiry chaired by economist Sir Howard Davies, which is due to publish its initial findings next year.
Birmingham Airport has launched a campaign to convince ministers that it can provide an alternative to expanding Heathrow without the need for a new runway.
It says it could double passenger numbers from nine million today to 18 million without requiring any new infrastructure, and by extending its existing runway it will be able to serve 27 million people.
But it insists it needs formal Government recognition as one of the UK’s national airports to give it the credibility needed to attract more business from airlines in other parts of the world.
Birmingham also wants Ministers to introduce a regional air passenger duty so that passengers pay higher taxes to fly from Heathrow, to encourage airlines to offer services from regional airports.
But its arguments came under fire in submissions from BA and Virgin to the Commons Transport Select Committee, which is holding an inquiry into the Government’s aviation strategy.
Virgin rejected calls for regional passenger taxes, stating: “Airlines respond to passenger demand and operate services accordingly. Heathrow is operating at full capacity and Gatwick is full at peak times because passengers want to fly from those airports.
“Stansted, Birmingham and other airports with excess capacity can attract more passengers and airlines by reducing their charges, improving their passenger experience and marketing their services.
“We do not believe the Government should intervene in a well-functioning market by somehow forcing airlines and passengers to fly from airports they do not want to fly from or by distorting the aviation taxation system.
“We need more capacity at airports people want to use. Avoiding this difficult issue by trying to force more people to fly from airports they don’t want to use is not a realistic or long-term solution.”
Foreign governments wanted their airlines to have access to Heathrow – not other airports, Virgin said.
“When we attend bilateral talks between the UK government and other countries, UK officials always promote the other London airports and regional airports, but the response is usually the same: foreign governments are generally only interested in Heathrow.
“When foreign governments are unable to access or increase their own airlines’ access to Heathrow, they are understandably reluctant to open up or increase UK carriers’ access to their airports.”
By failing to increase capacity at Heathrow for foreign operators, the Government was making it harder for British airlines to expand operations overseas, Virgin said.
And it added: “We believe the UK needs one internationally competitive hub airport located where people where to fly to and from.
“We supported the proposal for a third runway at Heathrow because it delivered significant extra capacity at an affordable cost, in a convenient location for passengers, within a relatively short timeframe.”
British Airways also warned that it was up to regional airports to win new business on their own – and attacked calls for the Government to intervene to help them.
It said: “There is no evidence that existing government policy is leading to the under-utilisation of regional airports. Any action to increase the utilisation of regional airports would require intervention in the market which would distort competition.
“British Airways believes that any efforts to support the development of regional airports must not extend to distortive and unfair fiscal incentives, such as variable Air Passenger Duty or the subversion of the economic regulation system to deliver government airport policy outcomes.”
And it added: “While regional airports fulfil an important role in the UK aviation economy, British Airways does not believe that regional airports can ever be an alternative to provision of effective hub airport capacity serving London and the South East.
“Anecdotal evidence from international air service agreement negotiations in recent years suggest that many foreign airlines have no interest in accessing regional airports as an alternative to access to Heathrow.”
Birmingham Airport did however enjoy the support of Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, which has sent its own submission to the inquiry.
The chamber said: “A regional rate of air passenger duty or equivalent taxation should be introduced whereby the Government would have some mechanism to encourage airlines to operate outside of the South East.”
See also earlier news items on expansion of Birmingham airport:
Midlands MPs and business people say a 2nd runway at Birmingham would boost regional growth
August 30, 2012 A letter in the Telegraph, signed by 35 MPs and 41 business people from the Midlands area, backs the expansion of Birmingham airport. The letter says the Midlands needs global air links to emerging markets, rather than just having the national hub airport in the south of England. They say airports in the great industrial cities in the Midlands, such as Birmingham, have huge spare capacity. They also talk of Birmingham having a second runway, and with that its capacity could rise from the current 8.6 million passengers annually (in 2011) up to 50 million. They are calling on the Government to support expansion of Birmingham’s airport to maximise regional growth. Back in September 2007 the airport abandonned plans for a 2nd runway, saying it was not needed and there would be enough capacity for up to 27 million passengers per year up to 2030. Click here to view full story…
Birmingham airport promoters boosted by Lib Dem enthusiasm for regional hub airports
August 25, 2012 Those lobbying for Birmingham Airport to expand to become a regional hub are expecting their campaign will get a major boost when Liberal Democrats urge the Government to block new runways at Heathrow – and expand regional hubs instead at their autumn party conference in September. A motion by Julian Huppert calls for UK aviation to be based on accessibility from north and south; moving non-hub flights away from Heathrow, and making best use of existing airport capacity with improved transport links to Gatwick, Stansted, Luton,Manchester, Birmingham and Edinburgh. Click here to view full story…
Vince Cable backs Birmingham, while Boris pushes for Stansted expansion (and the estuary)
June 19, 2012 The campaign to expand Birmingham Airport has gained a new ally – Business Secretary, Vince Cable. The airport recently launched a new London publicity campaign to persuade the Government to throw its support behind Birmingham at the expense of a third runway at Heathrow. Vince Cable said there was no resistance from residents to this expansion to Birmingham building up to being a “really serious international airport”, and this would be a “short-term, pragmatic solution that would bring an awful lot more flights to the country” while extra runway capacity at an airport in the South East could take years to deliver. So Boris has been suggesting a 2nd Stansted runway (opposed even by the aviation industry) and Vince is backing Birmingham, as interim “solutions” to an alleged problem of capacity. Click here to view full story…
“Chocks away as Birmingham Airport hits road to London” – ad campaign
June 7, 2012 This is yet more publicity for Birmingham airport, to position itself as the solution to the airport capacity problem that is alleged for the south east. There are now roadside billboards in Northamptonshire, Buckinghamshire or Oxfordshire warning motorists of “Heathrow: congestion ahead” and questioning whether or not they are “Going in the right direction?” if heading to a London airport. And the strap-line of this high profile advertising campaign delivers the main message: “Birmingham makes more sense.” Paul Kehoe continues his campaign to boost his airport, saying that after a £200 million investment programme, they could handle an extra 9 million passengers a year. etc Click here to view full story.
Birmingham Airport calls for Government backing. Claims 36 million passengers by 2030?
May 1, 2012 Paul Kehoe is lobbying for his airport again. He is calling on the Government to endorse the ational status of Birmingham Airport, and dismissed claims from BAA that Heathrow is the only answer to forging new air links with the country. He says, after a trip to China, that Chinese airlines are now considering Birmingham as a new destination once the runway extension is completed in 2014. He says there is a partnership between Birmingham airport and MG Motors, owned by Shanghai Automotive. There is a large Chinese community in Birmingham, and thousands of Chinese students come to Birmingham each year. Kehoe says since 2003, after London, Birmingham has attracted more Chinese investment projects than any other UK city. And he claims the number of passengers using Birmingham airport will rise from 9 million per year now to 36 million by 2030. !? 36 million ?? Click here to view full story…
Birmingham sets sights on China flights
April 28, 2012 Paul Kehoe, the CEO of Birmingham airport, is planning to start direct flights to China as an alternative to services from the south-east. He visited the Chinese city of Chengdu for the Routes Asia aviation conference last week and met with airlines to discuss possible direct flights between Birmingham and China. Birmingham is hoping to attract long-haul services from the airport once its runway extension is completed in 2014, and said feedback from the airlines had been positive. Kehoe says direct China flights from Birmingham will bring investment to the region, and giving airlines and passengers an alternative to battling with London’s congestion problems. Click here to view full story…
Kehoe says BAA claims are a con, and Chinese companies are happy to fly to Birmingham, by-passing Heathrow
April 22, 2012 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 … Click here to view full story…
…. and more at Birmingham Airport – News