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Why Boris must back Heathrow if a Thames Estuary airport is excluded

29 August, 2014

Airport (general)

Next week the Airports Commission is expected to announce whether it has shortlisted the Mayor’s proposal for a new Thames Estuary airport as a solution to the UK’s hub airport capacity crisis.

In advance of the Commission’s decision, Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye has written an open letter to the Mayor reminding him of his own words about the essential need for a successful hub and the inability of Gatwick to provide the connectivity the country needs. They lead to an obvious conclusion – only Heathrow can now deliver the connections the Mayor says are essential for Britain to compete.

The full text of the letter from John Holland- Kaye, Heathrow Chief Executive:

Dear Boris

Despite our differences, we have always agreed that London and the UK need a successful hub airport to compete. The airport debate is a question of “What do we want for our country?".

The global economy is changing rapidly. Britain should be at the centre of the world economy, beating France and Germany in winning business in the growth markets of the world - Asia and the Americas. Instead, without action we face a future cut off from some of the world’s most important markets.

You recognise that a hub airport does something different than a point-to-point airport. By combining direct passengers with transfer passengers a hub is able to fill the large aircraft that make long-haul travel possible. You have said yourself that Britain definitely needs a successful hub airport if it is to compete in the global race. This leaves two choices: expand Heathrow or build a new solution in the Thames Estuary. Those are the only ways to deliver an airport with the size and scale to keep Britain at the heart of the global economy.

Gatwick is different, it serves the short-haul and holiday market. We have nothing against Gatwick but you have rightly identified that its claim that it can deliver the same benefits as a hub airport is “a sham, a snare and a delusion”. I agree with you when you say a second runway at Gatwick would not make a bean of difference to the global connectivity we need. Air China’s withdrawal from Gatwick is just the latest example of Gatwick’s difficulty in making direct, daily, long-haul flights work.

If your own proposal for a new Thames Estuary airport is not shortlisted by the Airports Commission then Heathrow will be the only hub option left in the race. It will be the only option capable of providing frequent direct long-haul flights to fast-growing countries like China, India and Brazil.

We both want to keep Britain as a global economic power for generations to come, enhance London's position as a world City, as well as create over 100,000 new jobs many of which will be in your proposed constituency of Uxbridge. Heathrow can help you do this and I urge you to maintain your support for a successful hub airport. Any other choice would be a betrayal of the case that you have made so effectively over the last three years.

Yours sincerely,

John Holland-Kaye

Notes to editors

Boris Johnson’s comments on the importance of a hub and on Gatwick:

“You definitely need a hub airport if Britain is going to compete in the global race”

Sky News, Dec 2013

“If you want a hub airport, you’ve either got to go with Heathrow or you’ve got to go with a new solution”

BBC, 17 December 2013

“Expanding Gatwick is a sham, a snare, a delusion”

reported in The Telegraph, 23 May 2014

“Gatwick is not the answer, you don’t get the connectivity, you don’t get the hub”

- reported in The Telegraph, 23 May 2014

“Expansion of Gatwick is a sticking plaster that expert analysis has shown would stimulate little of the global connectivity we so desperately need.”

- Mayor of London’s foreword to Inner Thames Estuary Feasibility Study, May 2014

“An extra runway at Gatwick would not make a bean of difference because the airlines will still want to go to Heathrow”

– speaking on Radio 4’s Today Programme, 17 December 2013

“You kid yourself that this is providing the country with long-term hub capacity. The sooner Gatwick is rejected as an option the better”

- speaking at the launch of TfL’s submission to the Airports Commission, 15 July 2013

“The Airports Commission needs to be clear as to its view on whether Britain can afford to lose its hub airport capacity. If it agrees with most observers that such a loss would be a mistake, with terrible economic consequences in the long term, then it must make that insight fundamental to how it conducts the remainder of its work”

-From the report ‘Gateway to our future, why the UK needs a new hub airport’ published on 26th August 2014

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