Taking slots out of London Heathrow may be the sole means of improving passenger experience in the absence of a third runway, according to the head of a London organisation dedicated to promoting the capital as a business destination.

Baroness Jo Valentine, chief executive of business organisation London First, told the New Direction for Aviation Policy conference in London on 14 December that removing slots "could be the only option".

And, Nigel Milton, director of policy and political relations at airport operator BAA, said slot removal is being considered by as way to cut congestion at Heathrow by the government appointed South East Airports Task Force, but is not something endorsed by BAA.

Milton adds: “The list of options contains some that BAA supports and others we oppose."

The UK's coalition government has ruled out the possibility of building a third runway at Heathrow. Milton believes that part of the reason why BAA was "unsuccessful in its third runway campaign" was its "ineffectiveness at running a two-runway airport".

UK minister of state for aviation Theresa Villiers stressed there will no U-turn on additional runways at London's Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports: "We were elected on the basis of not allowing these runways to be built [and we're not in the habit of] tearing up election manifestos".

She said: "Numbers of runways are not the be-all and end-all in determining prosperity." And she accused the aviation lobby of being "hung up" on the need for additional runways, adding that "there is so much we can do to make our airports better without making them bigger".

She said next spring the government will issue a "scoping document" outlining ideas for its new long-term aviation strategy policy, which will be adopted in 2013.

Source: Flight International