UK needs airport capacity to avoid catastrophe - Qatar Air CEO

LONDON Wed Oct 17, 2012 7:42pm BST

Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al-Baker addresses staff after the arrival of a Qatar Airways Airbus A320 at the Entebbe International Airport, 46 km (29 miles) southwest of Uganda's capital Kampala, November 2, 2011. REUTERS/Edward Echwalu

Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al-Baker addresses staff after the arrival of a Qatar Airways Airbus A320 at the Entebbe International Airport, 46 km (29 miles) southwest of Uganda's capital Kampala, November 2, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Edward Echwalu

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LONDON (Reuters) - The chief executive of Qatar Airways said Britain needs to take urgent action to increase airport capacity in London and the south east of England to avoid a "catastrophic situation" for the country's economy.

Akbar Al Baker voiced his support for the construction of a third runway at London's Heathrow hub and said Britain could not afford to wait the 20 years it would take to build a new four-runway hub airport in the Thames Estuary - a project supported by London Mayor Boris Johnson.

"Heathrow is bursting at the seams and has already reached a critical point," said Al Baker in a speech in London on Wednesday.

"Already heading towards a double dip recession, the UK cannot afford to lose out on the huge benefits a third runway would bring to the economy in south east England and the country as a whole through the creation of more jobs and more business opportunities."

London's Heathrow hub - the capital's busiest airport - is operating close to full capacity after Britain's Conservative-led coalition government blocked development of a third runway when it came to power in 2010, as further expansion of the west London site would mean a huge increase in the number of planes flying directly over the capital.

A commission chaired by former Financial Services Authority head Howard Davies to analyse ways to expand airport capacity in southeast England will report in the summer of 2015 after releasing an interim report next year.

Al Baker said the third runway debate "was not an option, but a necessity" and that no increase in capacity would lead to further economic hardship and job losses.

"Measures to expand need to be taken soon to avoid a catastrophic situation in the future. The UK government cannot afford to immerse itself in long-winded debate and public enquiries. Action needs to be taken," said Al Baker. "Heathrow is already losing out to European neighbouring hubs that have the resource to expand capacity."

Ferrovial's BAA has seen traffic between Heathrow and emerging markets rise in recent years and believes it is now falling behind rival European airports in Frankfurt, Paris and Amsterdam in the battle for these lucrative routes because of constraints on growth.

Earlier on Wednesday, London's Gatwick airport said it was studying options to build a second runway and intends to submit the findings to a British government under pressure to resolve the country's air capacity crisis.

Qatar Airways last week became the first major Gulf airline to announce plans to join the oneworld alliance. Members of the alliance, which includes American Airlines, British Airways and Cathay Pacific, cooperate in areas such as route networks, frequent flyer schemes and parts procurement.

(Reporting by Rhys Jones; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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Comments (3)
AranQuin wrote:
Why the heck London and the South East all the time? If this over-populated, under-infra-structured part of the country gets even more airports it’s pollution will match that of China and that would be catastrophic, considering the amount we’re taxed to treat health issues down to this stuff down here.

Decent organisation of domestic v international flights and business/freight v cheapo holidays would solve some of the problem.

Oct 17, 2012 8:17pm BST  --  Report as abuse
cjmaxx wrote:
@AranQuin – because that’s where the demand is.. whether its for business or tourism most people coming from abroad to invest or holiday want to visit London.. Heathrow is not an ideally located airport but there’s no point building any new runways outside the SE when there’s no demand for such a requirement elsewhere.

Oct 17, 2012 9:03pm BST  --  Report as abuse
LillyMarshallUK wrote:
Gatwick and Heathrow both risk air and noise pollution issues with current runways, why would we want to disturb more residential areas and schools with more noise and pollution???

We need a new airport opened in section over a period of 10 – 20 years and better transport links for the north.

Oct 17, 2012 9:25pm BST  --  Report as abuse
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