Europe’s biggest airport by passenger traffic has today told the Davies Commission that 20 airlines have stopped long-haul flights to Gatwick in the last five years. [The FT says the figures were corrected by Gatwick – it said 22 airlines had stopped long-haul flying to the airport since 2008, but that 8 of these had shut down, and 5 had ceased services to anywhere in Europe].
Heathrow claims these cancellations show that Gatwick cannot attract the airlines needed to become Britain’s hub airport, which it argues is necessary to maintain the country’s global air links.
“There is no need for a crystal ball to test Gatwick’s claims that it can provide long-haul flights when we have the hard evidence of ten years of failure,” said chief executive Colin Matthews, referring to the ten years that Heathrow’s runways have been all but full.
Heathrow wants to build a third runway and has also picked out where it would put a fourth, if passenger numbers continue to rise as predicted.
[The FT says Colin Matthews said: “Gatwick’s proposal to prevent Heathrow expanding, while adding a new runway at its own airport, endangers Britain’s competitiveness. Only a hub airport with the scale to compete internationally can provide the long-haul flights the UK needs.”
Gatwick said it was “absolutely focused on securing new short and long-haul destinations to the UK” ]
But Gatwick, which is lobbying to build its second runway, said Heathrow’s criticism shows it is “clearly worried about having to compete for the first time in London”, pointing out that many of the airline losses happened under the watch of former owner BAA. [Gatwick also says Heathrow will not be allowed to expand as its noise already affects the largest number of people of any airport in Europe].
[Gatwick also says s transfer passengers are not needed for many of the long-haul flights because of strong demand to fly from and to London.
Gatwick carried almost 35m passengers in the year to August, compared to 32.4m in late 2009, when BAA announced it was selling it to Global Infrastructure Partners to comply with a competition ruling.
The Davies Commission is expected to set out a handful of preferred options for more air capacity before the end of the year, but will not make a final recommendation until 2015.