Al Baker lends support to third Heathrow runway

London
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Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker has voiced his support for a third runway at London Heathrow airport in a speech to the Aviation Club in London on 17 October.

"Heathrow is bursting at the seams and has already reached a critical point," Al Baker warned.

"The UK cannot afford to lose out on the huge benefits a third runway would bring to the economy in southeast England and the country as a whole through the creation of more jobs and more business opportunities."

Warning that Heathrow is losing out to neighbouring European hubs with pro-expansion policies, Al Baker spoke of a potentially "catastrophic situation" for the UK economy.

Britain's transport secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, announced last month that the government's long-awaited consultation into expanding airport capacity in southeast England would now defer publication of its findings until 2015.

That followed two earlier postponements of a predecessor consultation this year, prompting accusations that Prime Minister David Cameron is dragging his feet on the issue.

Echoing those sentiments, Al Baker remarked: "The UK government cannot afford to immerse itself in long-winded debate and public enquiries. Action needs to be taken."

He added that while London Mayor Boris Johnson's proposal for a four-runway hub on reclaimed land in the Thames Estuary is a "good idea", the project would take two decades to complete and the UK urgently needs a near-term solution.

"During this period, we will see airports expand significantly across the continent, and of course in my region," he noted.

"Not just in the UK, but governments around the world need to wake up to reality of doing business today. Air corridors should be opened up to give passengers more choice."

In August, Qatar Holding, a subsidiary of sovereign wealth fund the Qatar Investment Authority, bought a 20% stake in Heathrow's owner and operator BAA, which has since rebranded itself Heathrow Limited.

The Qatari government holds a 50% stake in Qatar Airways, with the remaining 50% being held by private shareholders.