SCOTLAND’S largest airport yesterday called for second runways to be built at both Gatwick and Stansted to protect Scotland-London flights because it said Heathrow would never get a third runway.
The airport, which is Scotland’s busiest with 9.2 million passengers a year, claimed that expanding the other major London airports would be the fastest way to increase capacity because Heathrow is virtually full.
Aviation experts warned such an approach threatened Heathrow’s role as the UK’s sole hub, giving Scottish passengers a wide variety of onward connections. But KLM already claims to carry more Scottish long-haul passengers through its Amsterdam hub than any other airline, such as British Airways via Heathrow.
Consultants also said Edinburgh’s submission to a UK Government commission examining airport capacity was predictable because it was bought last year by Gatwick-owner Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) from BAA, which retains Heathrow.
The submission stated: “Gatwick airport’s ‘constellation’ proposal whereby, over time, Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted all operate a two-runway model, is a realistic and highly competitive proposal.”
It said this represented “the most realistic and deliverable proposals in terms of providing short, medium and long-term capacity for growth”.
“We believe Heathrow’s position in west London, and the density of the surrounding population, means it will remain difficult to ever build sufficient capacity to improve that airport’s ability to deal with disruption and provide room for more flights, without there being an unacceptable local environmental cost.”
The submission also claimed that Heathrow’s UK monopoly was short-changing passengers.
However, John Strickland, of JLS Consulting said: “The submission represents a partisan view, given the common ownership of Edinburgh and Gatwick. Airlines are becoming, of necessity, increasingly canny at allocating aircraft where the most profit can be made. To achieve this for long-haul operators requires a dense hub airport.
“The UK cannot afford to dilute its strong position with one hub.”
Independent air transport consultant Laurie Price said: “History and previous failed attempts by UK governments to develop a multiple hub system show it is the wrong policy.
“All that policy would do is play into the hands of Amsterdam, which is already benefiting from more than 2 million connecting passengers a year because of lack of capacity at the Heathrow and the highest air passenger duty in Europe.”
The government’s commission on airport capacity, chaired by Howard Davies, is due to report in mid-2015,