BRITISH AIRWAYS HAS painted a bleak picture for its' own and the UK's future if London Heathrow's fifth terminal is not built. In its closing submission to the first phase of a public inquiry on the subject, BA estimates that up to 26 million passengers could be lost to London's airports, forcing travelers to bypass the UK and make connections in cities such as Frankfurt, Paris and Amsterdam.

The airline also fears that its own global-expansion strategy could be compromised, to the benefit of rivals such as Lufthansa, Air France and KLM, if capacity at Heathrow has to be capped. Fewer destinations would be served, the carrier insists, encouraging airlines to concentrate only on the most profitable routes and forcing up fares. BA also says that up to 7,000 jobs would be lost locally.

The airline also predicts serious implications for the competitive position of UK businesses, which could be faced with an increase in travel costs of £1 billion ($1.5 billion) a year. The UK would also be less attractive as a location for foreign companies, and its tourist industry could be damaged by up to £1.2 billion a year.

UK airports authority BAA is hoping to have the terminal in operation by 2003, adding 30 million passengers to Heathrow's present limit of just over 50 million.

Source: Flight International