Passengers at London Heathrow airport last December were denied travel for a few days because of snow. They were very annoyed.

Now imagine that for an entire year all passengers who turned up to fly from Heathrow were denied travel. A report by London's mayor, Boris Johnston, predicts that by 2030 demand for flights to and from London will exceed supply by 55 million passengers a year, nearly as many as Heathrow handles annually now. The constraint is absolute: lack of runway capacity.

London will not be alone in denying millions of would-be travellers the ability to fly. Eurocontrol's recent report on airport capacity has raised again the spectre of the continent's failure to meet demand well before 2030: by 2030, 17% of demand will not be met for the same reason: not enough runways. Eurocontrol's director general David McMillan is worried that politicians have taken their eye off the ball because the current recession has reduced the pressure on airports. This report, however, takes the recession into account.

In April last year millions were denied air travel because of volcanic ash. The rest of the transport infrastructure couldn't cope, Europe became immobile, and the economy lost billions. Despite this illustration of just how much aviation contributes nationally and regionally, the runways issue is being ignored. Book your flights for 2025 now, while stocks last.

Source: Flight International