IATA has warned that Heathrow Airport is on the “road to irrelevance” and risks declining in status from an international hub to a regional airport unless permission is given for a third runway.In a written response to the UK Transport Committee’s inquiry into the Government's future aviation strategy seen by Routes News, the airline association warned that capacity constraints at the west London gateway meant airlines were no longer able to expand their route networks to serve growing international demand. It pointed out that Heathrow now has less links to 27 emerging markets than its main continental European rivals. The association dismissed proposals for an intermodal hub connecting Gatwick and Heathrow, dubbed ‘Heathwick’ on the grounds it would leave both UK gateways unable to compete on connecting times with the likes of Paris, Munich and Amsterdam. Lord Forster’s plan for a new Thames Estuary Airport was a “very expensive proposal” but if it did go ahead, Heathrow would need to close entailing the dislocation of 200,000 jobs For these reasons, the UK government should make Heathrow’s expansion “a priority” it stated. “We must learn from mistakes that have already been made in the area of airport capacity management. For example, in Osaka and in Montréal, new airports were built while old ones remained open, with wasted costs and capacity as a result. If a major hub is built, the main competing airport-in this case Heathrow-needs to close. More importantly, Heathrow has the potential to expand,” it said. IATA is one of a number of respondents who have stated their support for a third runway at Heathrow as the best solution to the capacity crisis in the south east which include Virgin Atlantic, BAR UK and Flybe, which qualifed its support, arguing regional airports such as Manchester and Birmingham could act as ‘relief valves’ for London for some connecting traffic. Earlier this week the CEOs of Heathrow and Gatwick airports sparred over the issue of future airport expansion while giving evidence to the Committee, with Heathrow’s Colin Matthews arguing the UK could only sustain long-haul routes through one hub, and Steward Wingate, CEO of Gatwick, arguing London’s other airports could also support them. The government has commissioned an inquiry led by Sir Howard Davies to investigate the options to maintain the UK’s status as an international hub.Source: routesnews
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