As public consultation nears end, Heathrow insists it is best hub to link Britain with Asia

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As public consultation nears end, Heathrow insists it is best hub to link Britain with Asia

27/01/15

By Nigel Milton

Nigel Milton, Director of External Affairs at Heathrow Airport*, shares his opinion on the future of UK airport capacity in the context of rapidly social and economic developments in Asia.

There is a growing consensus that expanding Heathrow is vital for the British economy.  It will create up to 180,000 jobs up and down the country and keep Britain at the heart of the global economy.

Now we can see that it is not only the right solution, it is also deliverable.  With the majority of local residents backing expansion, the time has come to be ambitious and get on with it.

The arrival of the Asian century is the game changer when we talk about the UK’s aviation capacity and competitive advantage. The UK’s competitors in Europe are growing business routes to global growth destinations throughout Asia through well invested hub airports.

Airports across the UK play a critical role in supporting local economies, with low cost flights to Europe, to hubs like Dubai, and to holiday destinations. But Heathrow is a national asset, connecting the UK to global markets, and making it easier for Britain’s businesses to export and to attract inward investment.

When long-haul airlines can’t get into a full Heathrow, they don’t tend to opt for a point-to-point airport in the UK. Instead they look to hub from Paris, Amsterdam and Frankfurt. Every time that happens the UK gives away its competitive advantage to its European neighbours.

Britain in the age of the Asian century

After the EU, the Asia-Pacific region is set to overtake North America to become the UK’s biggest trading region in the next five years. The transformation of the Asian region into the economic powerhouse of the world is already here. China alone is already the world’s largest trader. Their urban middle-class population is larger than the entire U.S. total population today.  But Heathrow is already at 97 per cent freight capacity for that region.

Vietnam Airlines recently announced it is moving its operation from Gatwick to Heathrow. This is good news for Britain as it secures a direct route to an important growth economy, with more frequent flights and greater cargo capacity. Vietnam is the 22nd long haul airline to leave Gatwick since 2008 and follows other Asian carriers like Air China and Korean Air. It underlines that airlines can only make flights to many Asian destinations viable from a hub airport like Heathrow.

For China, Britain doesn’t just need direct access to Beijing and Shanghai, we also need to access the powerhouse cities of Chongqing , Zhengzhou, Wuhan, Tianjin and Xi’an. These are destinations well served by our European competitors – but not from Britain.

The UK Government’s independent Airports Commission is currently looking at how Britain can remain an aviation hub.

It is the last and best opportunity to connect all of Britain to global growth and, in the summer, the Commission will recommend whether to expand Heathrow or Gatwick.

We support the right of all airports, including Gatwick, to expand. But if the decision is for only one new runway now, it should be at Heathrow.

The Airports Commission has identified that expanding Heathrow will create up to £211bn of economic growth and 180,000 jobs.

It has also said that, even with Heathrow expansion, there will be fewer people exposed to aircraft noise, thanks to improvements in aircraft design. This is a win-win.

The global economy is changing. Much of the world’s growth is in faraway economies in Asia – not in Europe. The ‘race for growth’ will be won by the country that makes it as easy as possible to trade with these growing markets, by having the best connections. It is a race we could and should win – but only if we have the ambition to expand Heathrow, our hub airport.

There is just one more week until the Airports Commission public consultation comes to a close, and your opinion matters.

The national consultation provides an opportunity for all those who want a better future for Britain to make their voice heard and back Heathrow by emailing airports.consultation@systra.com and the Heathrow team are on hand to help with any queries at business@heathrow.com

*Heathrow Airport is a corporate member of Asia House.

Nigel Milton is Director of External Affairs at Heathrow Airport.

Last year the Airports Commission published its assessment of proposals for additional runway capacity at Gatwick and Heathrow airports looking at the benefits and impact of each. To read more about the public consultation report click here.

Public comments on the Commission’s considerations will help inform the Commission’s recommendation to the government when it publishes its final report in the summer of 2015. The consultation will close on 3 February 2015.

The Airports Commission, chaired by Sir Howard Davies, was set up by the Government in November 2012 as an independent body to examine the scale and timing of any requirement for additional capacity to maintain the UK’s position as Europe’s most important aviation hub.