The decision by Britain's coalition government to delay its consultation into expanding airport capacity will jeopardise the economic recovery, says Mike Carrivick, chief executive of the Board of Airline Representatives in the UK (BAR UK).
Transport Secretary Justine Greening confirmed today (12 July) that the consultation will be pushed back to "later this year" - the second such postponement in 2012.
Warning of potential damage to the UK economy if Whitehall's indecision continues, Carrivick says: "Delaying important decisions until later in the year demonstrates a lack of courage, and the paralysis afflicting strategic policy making within the government."
Prime Minister David Cameron, leader of the Conservative Party, has in recent months backtracked from an earlier pledge to veto any debate over the construction of a third runway at London Heathrow airport.
He had originally said the upcoming consultation would consider all options except for the third runway, but eventually bowed to legal pressure from airports operator BAA by allowing proposals relating to Heathrow to be included in the document.
Political analysts suggest that pro-business lobbyists have made headway in convincing Cameron of the need for a third runway. However, divisions with coalition partners the Liberal Democrats, as well as with Greening, have prevented the announcement of a volte-face.
The Conservative Party made opposition to Heathrow expansion a key pledge in its 2010 general election manifesto, at a time when the incumbent Labour Party was supporting the third runway.
"Whilst this government struggles internally to establish a clear and defined hub airport policy for the future, competing nations will continue to take away the trade and commerce that should be welcomed in this country," Carrivick warns.
Adam Marshall, director of policy at the British Chambers of Commerce, adds: "The government has spent years working on a strategy for UK aviation, so reports that there will be yet more delays beggar belief. Businesses are tired of indecision and equivocation on aviation."
Alternative proposals due to be considered in the aviation consultation include additional runways at London Gatwick or London Stansted airports, and the development of a new four-runway hub built on reclaimed land in the Thames Estuary.
Heathrow, which operates at 98% capacity, is currently the busiest airport in the world in terms of international passenger numbers.