Airport links around UK would be reduced

Walsh attacks Heathrow runway plan as too expensive

Willie WalshBritish Airways boss Willie Walsh has attacked plans for a third runway at Heathrow, claiming it is too expensive and that his company will refuse to pay for it.

It also emerged today that choosing Heathrow for expansion will lead to fewer, not more connections with the rest of Britain.

Mr Walsh said during a media conference call that the cost of building another runway at Heathrow do not make sense for British Airways’ owner International Airlines Group.

“We think the costs associated with the third runway are outrageous and certainly from an IAG point of view we will not be supporting it and we will not be paying for it,” he said.

Heathrow secured a recommendation from the Commission led by Sir Howard Davies, but Mr Walsh’s comments will  be embarrassing to the west London airport as British Airways is its biggest user.

The airport is operating at full capacity but its plans also face significant political opposition, not least from London mayor Boris Johnson.

Building it would involve tunnelling the M25, clearing contaminated land and a £6 billion public subsidy to pay for road and rail improvements. The total bill is estimated £15.6 billion against £7.8bn to build a second runway at Gatwick.

Heathrow already has the highest airport charges in the world and Gatwick claims Heathrow would need to double them to £40 per passenger compared with £12-15 for Gatwick. The expansion at Heathrow would be partly paid for by higher charges to airlines.

“We’re not going to support something that increases our costs,” said Mr Walsh.

Stewart Wingate, chief executive of Gatwick, was delighted at the BA boss’s intervention. He said: “One month on and the Davies Report is unravelling fast.

 “It is no surprise British Airways have come out today against expansion. For the huge costs of a third runway at Heathrow you could build Gatwick, have all the benefits and billions left to invest around the country.

“We also learnt today that – buried deep in the report – is the revelation that a third runway would reduce rather than increase domestic connections to the UK. This blows a hole straight through the heart of Heathrow’s central claim to be the airport for the whole of the UK.

“Taken together with Heathrow’s own rejection of the environmental conditions and the expert view that the Davies air quality consultation is fundamentally flawed it is clear that that the Heathrow hurdles are higher than ever.

“Choose Heathrow and it will be Groundhog Day – nothing will happen. Choose Gatwick and Britain can finally get on with it.”

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