GENEVA - The International Air Transport Association (IATA) welcomed the UK Government’s announcement of a consultation into the third runway at London Heathrow Airport.

“Heathrow is Europe’s busiest international hub and critical to the UK’s competitiveness. It is also bursting at the seams. Short-term fixes, including mixed mode are useful. But the only real long-term solution is a third runway,” said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA Director General and CEO.

Heathrow airport ranks among the world’s most congested airports. The capacity cap is 480,000 slots per year. For the airline schedule commencing next March, 477,000 slots are taken-up. The remaining 3,000 slots are at undesirable off-peak times.

Heathrow operates with dedicated runways for take-offs and landings. Mixed mode operations (allowing the runways to be used flexibly for take-offs and landings) could bring capacity to 550,000 slots per year. A third runway would allow up to 720,000 slots.

“Heathrow has been operating with the same runway capacity for 60 years. On infrastructure, it is the poor cousin among Europe’s great airports. Paris operates with four runways, Frankfurt with three and Amsterdam with five. If Heathrow does not catch-up on capacity, the economic benefits of being Europe’s premier hub are anything but guaranteed,” said Bisignani.

“The consultation committee will be weighing up the costs as well as the benefits for the economy and the environment. Let’s get the calculation right. A congested airport with chronic delays has an unnecessary environmental cost. So capacity expansion has an environmental benefit,” said Bisignani. “The airline industry’s commitment to a 25% improvement in fuel efficiency by 2020 is solid and endorsed by the UK government. The next step is carbon neutral growth while aiming for a carbon-free future. Short-sighted decisions must not saddle UK competitiveness with the long-term burden of second-rate infrastructure.”

Notes for editors:

  • IATA represents some 240 members comprising 94% of scheduled international traffic.