Heathrow airport’s CEO John Holland-Kaye has urged Boris Johnson to support its bid for expansion if the London mayor’s Thames Estuary plan is rejected.
The Airports Commission is expected to announce next week whether it has shortlisted Johnson’s proposal for a new hub airport as a solution to the UK’s “capacity crisis”.
Holland-Kaye said if it fails then Johnson should support Heathrow’s bid as any other choice would be a “betrayal of the case” that has been made “so effectively over the last three years”.
In an open letter to the mayor, Holland-Kaye said: “You recognise that a hub airport does something different than a point-to-point airport.
“You have said yourself that Britain definitely needs a successful hub airport if it is to compete in the global race,” said Holland-Kaye.
“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.”
He added: “We both want to keep Britain as a global economic power…Heathrow can help you do this and I urge you to maintain your support for a successful hub airport.”
Johnson wants to build a four-runway hub airport in the Thames Estuary and claims Gatwick would not deliver the hub capacity the UK needs, and expansion at Heathrow would create “too much noise and environmental pollution”.
The potential site is located on the Hoo Peninsula in north Kent and is almost all marshland. It has come under fire from environmental groups because the area is home to thousands of wintering birds and other wildlife leading the RSPB to describe the proposal as “disastrous”.
Heathrow’s main rival for expansion is Gatwick and Holland-Kaye has said its claims that a new runway at Gatwick 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.”
In 2012, chairman of the Airports Commission, Howard Davies, was asked to investigate the options for increasing aviation capacity in the UK.
In December he unveiled the short-listed options – new runways at Heathrow and Gatwick, and an extension of Heathrow’s existing northern runway.
A decision is due to be made after next year’s general election.