(15 May, Geneva) - IATA welcomes the recent statement from BAA in support of new runways in South East England as a realistic response to the UK Government consultation. "This is infrastructure that is absolutely necessary if the UK wants to play a major role in European aviation in the 21st century," says IATA Director General and CEO, Giovanni Bisignani.

Sustainable development is the key to the future and IATA supports the BAA call for at least three new runways in the South East region, as part of a co-ordinated transport infrastructure throughout Europe. The net economic benefits from the investment in runway infrastructure are estimated by the Department for Transport as being up to GBP 15 billion in today's prices.

Heathrow is a world leader whose success should be the basis for continued growth and prosperity. IATA firmly supports the call for a third runway at Heathrow as a first priority, offering the greatest economic benefits out of the Department for Transport options. Expansion at Gatwick and Stansted should follow and accommodate growth in a flexible manner.

For the last two decades UK aviation has been a European success story, providing direct employment to nearly 200,000 and supporting over 550,000 jobs in total. But with increasing constraints and fierce competition from fast-growing hubs in Europe, aviation and the wider British economy will suffer unless adequate capacity is provided.

"The cost of not investing in new runways is very high indeed - with UK fares rising on average GBP 100 per ticket by 2030, as well as dramatic increases in congestion and delays," says Bisignani. "There is no option to 'stand still'. This is a crucial time for transport decision-making, and an opportunity that should not be lost."