Heathrow airport has reported its busiest ever March, with 5.9 million passengers passing through its gates, up 3.4% on last year. Not to be outdone, bitter rival Gatwick simultaneously announced that it too had just had its busiest ever March, with an increase of 9.2% to 2.9 million. Anything you can do...
With the battle for London’s new runway hotting up – the decision will be made after the election following the recommendation of the Airports Commission, headed by MT’s own Sir Howard Davies – both naturally took the chance to show why they are best placed to get the new strip.
‘All the growth in the world is in faraway markets like China, Vietnam and Mexico,’ said Heathrow boss John Holland-Kaye. ‘We can create jobs right across Britain if we make it easy to get there from anywhere in the UK.’ Coincidentally, Heathrow’s passenger numbers to China and Mexico were up 20.2% and 26.5% respectively. Funny that.
Mexican cargo volumes were even more impressive, up 53%, with overall volumes rising 2.9%, seeming to support Holland-Kaye’s claim that Heathrow needs a third runway as Britain’s premier airport for goods as well as passengers.
Gatwick’s Stewart Wingate took the line that his airport’s 25th consecutive month of expansion proved the need for a second runway ‘to realise our potential’.
While he did point to a surge in passenger numbers to Dubai (up 14.7%) and North America (up 17%), the Gatwick case fundamentally remains pragmatic. ‘Let us deliver against our promise to build a new runway sooner, at lower cost, and without the environmental obstacles that Heathrow would face,’ he said.
The fact is, Davies is going to have a difficult choice on his hands. Both airports are doing well, precisely because the demand for air travel to and from London is exceeding its supply. Today’s figures don’t really support one side over the other, but they do reinforce the need for a new runway somewhere.
Where it will be and whether the new government delivers on the old one’s promise to build it remain to be seen. At least if the decision doesn't go Gatwick's way, though, they could try drilling a hole in the departures lounge and see if any oil comes out...