More than 270 business leaders have signed an open letter to prime minister David Cameron demanding the government implement the Airports Commission’s recommendations for a third runway at Heathrow.

The letter, signed by CEOs and chairman from companies including Easyjet, Leeds Bradford airport and Liverpool John Lennon airport, warns the government that further delay to expansion will send a message globally that the UK is “unwilling” or “unable” to be a key trading partner with growing and established economies.

The prime minister set up the Commission in 2012 to find the best way to maintain the UK’s status as an aviation hub. Last month, it recommended a third runway at Heathrow be built with Cameron promising a decision before the end of 2016.

“Now is the time for government decision and action,” the letter says. “Your Government must support UK businesses by implementing the Airports Commission’s recommendation and expand Heathrow.

“The choice the Prime Minister faces is clear – action on Heathrow is the only way to secure Britain’s future as a powerhouse in the global economy, whilst doing nothing will put Britain’s economy in a perilous position.”

Heathrow CEO John Holland Kaye said: “The prime minister showed leadership in establishing an independent Airports Commission. It unanimously concluded that expanding Heathrow is the best way of securing Britain’s future as a powerhouse in the global economy.

“Now the Prime Minister has the opportunity to show he is serious about delivering Britain’s long-term economic plan by listening to businesses from across the UK and backing Heathrow expansion. This debate has never been about a runway – it is about the future of our country. Let’s get on with it.”

Last week, Gatwick described the Airports Commission’s decision to recommend expansion at Heathrow as “flawed”.

Outlining the airport’s first detailed response since the report was published, chair of Gatwick’s board Roy McNulty said the Commission’s analysis “fell short” in a number of key areas.

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