"We welcome the call contained in the SERAS paper for more UK air transport capacity," said Giovanni Bisignani, Director General & CEO of the International Air Transport Association.

"Forecasts show that UK aviation demand will double in the next 20 years. Current airport infrastructure clearly lacks sufficient capacity. IATA fully supports the UK government's studies to address this challenge and develop a sustainable aviation policy."

The Director General referred to the findings of the South and East England Regional Airport Study - SERAS - a long awaited consultation paper, published today. Following a four-month consultation period, a government White Paper is expected to set out the preferred approach to the expansion of UK runway and airport terminal capacity.

Air transport is essential to the economic and social development of the UK. At the moment, 130 IATA airlines serve South-Eastern airports; 25 percent of all international journeys in the world are to or from the UK and, in turn, the UK accounts for over 40 percent of all air travel between Europe and the USA.

The Director General continued, "Since the dawn of air travel, the UK has been a leading global player, involved not only in terms of air services but also in fostering essential standards and procedures for the operational safety and security of the industry."

"If the UK is to maintain its leadership role in world air transport, extra runway capacity is needed in the South East and the time to take the decisions leading to that is now."

"As to the location of new runway capacity, cost effective and environmentally sustainable solutions must be found. A new runway at London Heathrow is a priority. For longer-term capacity development, we shall study the SERAS report in detail, including all its proposals," concluded the Director General.