"The UK and London require one international hub/gateway airport", said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA Director General and CEO, in a letter to UK Transport Minister Alistair Darling. "It follows that Heathrow should continue to play that role", he added.

The letter introduced IATA's response to the Consultation on the Southeast that is part of the wider UK Government Consultation on the Future Development of Air Transport.

Annual capacity demand for UK Southeast airports is forecast to grow to 360 million passengers by 2030, while forecast capacity is only 180 million passengers per year. Thus, there is a very significant shortfall.

In its recommendations, IATA pointed out that the Provision of adequate airspace and airport capacity is a prerequisite for achieving significant reductions in congestion, delays and greenhouse gas emissions.

IATA's response emphasised three main priorities.

  • First priority is construction at Heathrow of a third, 2000m, runway, with related passenger terminal and stands, all located to the north of the Bath Road, and to be operational by 2012.
  • Second priority is construction at Stansted of a second runway, widely-spaced from the first (existing) one. The second runway would become operational by 2014.
  • The third priority, depending on market demand, would be either a new third runway at Stansted or a second one at Gatwick. This runway would become operational in 2020.

A second London hub is not a realistic solution, given that liberalisation of intra-European aviation is expected to induce airline mergers and further stimulate hub and spoke systems at a limited number of large airports.

Europe requires a well-connected infrastructure network and, if the UK does not begin now to develop the necessary capacity, it may find itself left behind.

Point-to-point airports such as Stansted also require expanded facilities to handle growth of existing sectors and possible future niche markets. These stand-alone, independent operations will enable such airports to offer a high number of destinations and frequencies.

Referring to this need for multiple airport expansion, Bisignani concluded: "runway development is essential to ensure the continued viability of international aviation in the UK, with all its attendant social and economic benefits."