Heathrow takes another beating

Poor old Heathrow. Everyone from its designer to its outgoing chief exec has been lining up of late to kick it in the undercarriage; now even the government is sticking the boot in. Gordon Brown's new City minister Kitty Ussher has said the state of the airport could cause London to lose its status as a major financial centre.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010
Ussher's comments should sit well with business, which has long moaned about the 'Heathrow hassle' - snaking queues at passport control, stifling security measures and the airport's layout. Her argument is that multinationals may no longer want to stage their meetings in London because it's not worth the effort. ‘I don't want their New York or Dubai executives saying "oh God, I don't want to go through Heathrow"' she said.

This on the back of comments from Terence Conran, designer of Terminal 1, who highlighted the 'bazaar atmosphere that now pervades its terminals'; and the criticism by its chief executive Tony Douglas, who quit two weeks ago after saying the airport was 'held together by sticking plaster' and not going to improve till Terminal 5 opens in March 2008.

To us at MT, Heathrow may hardly be the kind of place any sane person would choose to spend time in, but is it really any worse than arriving at New York through JFK? And the depressing experience of that airport hasn't done anything to harm New York's status as an international mega-city. Dubai's much-hyped airport, meanwhile, is little more than a bling-to-the-max shopping centre. As a transport gateway it's no better than any other. And as cities, London and Dubai are hardly comparable in terms of stature.

All of which smacks of grandstanding on the part of the new government. Granted, every politician has to play to the crowd, but we can't help feeling Heathrow owner BAA has more pressing concerns. For a look at the airport operator's troubles, click here.

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