The CEO of British Airways’ parent company IAG, Willie Walsh, has ruled out supporting a second runway at Gatwick airport as he argues there isn’t a business case to support it.
Walsh’s comments come as the government-appointed Airports Commission prepares to launch a final public consultation into where to build a new runway in the south east of England. It’s currently deciding between Heathrow and Gatwick.
Walsh said his objections are "principally based on the demand environment" but warned that BA would also strongly resist any increase in charges to fund expansion.
“I don’t believe that demand is as strong as Gatwick would argue. We believe there are opportunities to continue to grow but we don’t see a case for doubling the capacity at Gatwick in the near future – particularly if charges go up. That’s not going to be an attractive environment for airlines,” Walsh said.
“It doesn’t make sense to me. That’s why I don’t think there’s a business case to support it.
“He added: “If they want to build a runway that’s fine, so long as they don’t expect operators to pay to fund it. The same applies at Heathrow, we also think the charges are too high there. The sums Heathrow are investing are more than enough to address deficiencies in service. The airline community will not support excessive investment which is being made to inflate the returns they make.”
However, Gatwick airport has refuted Walsh’s claims with a spokesman telling the Daily Telegraph that demand is strong at the airport and it’s close to full capacity.
“Building a second runway at Gatwick will be cheaper than expanding Heathrow and those savings will be passed on to passengers who increasingly want affordable flying. A new runway at Gatwick would also give London two world class airports, delivering more competition, choice and even lowers fares for passengers and UK plc.”
The Airports Commission will make its final recommendation for expansion in the south-east in summer 2015 after the next general election.
Read an analysis the Davies commission’s interim report for UK airports.