This morning (25 February) environmental activists managed to get through security at Heathrow Airport and unfurl a banner from a Boeing 777 saying ”Climate Emergency ” No third runway.”
An airport spokesman said services were unaffected, but that the protest was ”dangerous.”
”Police attended an incident involving four individuals carrying out an unlawful protest at Heathrow,” he said. ”All four protestors have now been safely removed and arrested. Whilst [operator] BAA respects people”s democratic right to protest lawfully, direct action on the airport is extremely irresponsible, dangerous and illegal.”
Government”s consultation on capacity at Heathrow closes on Wednesday, and Virgin Atlantic president Sir Richard Branson says ”businesses will move elsewhere” if a third runway is not added.
In the airline”s submission to the Department for Transport, Branson warns that the capital”s position as Europe”s number one financial and business centre is at stake - ”With more runways being built in other European cities, such as Frankfurt, it is more important than ever that London expands its capacity,” he said. ”Business travellers need an airport that flows seamlessly, not one that seizes up due to lack of space on the runways.
”Businesses will move their global headquarters to elsewhere in Europe, and they will take thousands of jobs with them if a third runway fails to be built at Heathrow. Routine delays and circling overhead by all airlines, manoeuvres that simply increase pollution levels, will only be stopped with extra capacity.”
Heathrow currently handles 67m passengers a year, and BAA says it was designed to take 45m. International visitor numbers to the UK are forecast to more than double by 2030 to 82m, and a third runway would allow for around 50% more flights ” an extra 230,000 - every year. Two of its main European competitors ” Amsterdam Schiphol and Paris Charles de Gaulle ” use six and four runways respectively.
Meanwhile, British Airways (BA) is urging the Government to increase Heathrow”s capacity by sequencing landings and take-offs on the same runway, instead of confining arrivals to a single strip at a time. This ”mixed mode” sequencing is used at Gatwick, and it means that in strong winds arrivals can be maintained at a more consistent rate because separation between flights is greater to allow for intervening departures.
”We estimate that it would cut weather delays by up to two thirds from day one and provide much greater reliability throughout the timetable,” said BA infrastructure manager Paul Ellis. ”Years of practical experience of runway operation at Heathrow and Gatwick has shown conclusively that mixed mode operation provides much better protection against delays when weather conditions are difficult. Introducing it at Heathrow would be a real bonus for passengers.”
BA says that in 2006 Heathrow shorthaul flights suffered total delays of 280,000 minutes because of air traffic control restrictions compared to 21,000 minutes at Gatwick - which operates around half the number of comparative services.