THERE could be fewer direct flights in and out of Scotland if plans to expand Heathrow Airport get the go-ahead, the boss of a rival London airport has claimed.
Gatwick chief executive Stewart Wingate argued that building a new runway at Gatwick would lead to more competition between UK airports, which would in turn benefit Scotland.
But he has warned that if the plans to expand Heathrow are approved, some long-haul flights in and out of Scotland, including those to North America and the Middle East, could be under threat from the creation of a “monopolistic mega-hub” in the South East of England.
He made the comments as the Airports Commission continues to consider the best way to increase runway capacity at UK airports.
The commission, which is examining plans to build a new runway at either Heathrow or Gatwick, is expected to make its recommendation to the UK Government in the coming weeks.
Mr Wingate insists that the decision about where the new runway is located is an “important debate for Scotland” and will later address MSPs on Holyrood’s cross-party group on aviation.
He said: “The choice boils down to competition versus monopoly. Do we want to protect and strengthen Scotland’s growing network of routes by creating a competitive system across the UK, or put that at risk by creating a monopolistic mega-hub at London Heathrow?
“The Airports Commission itself found that in every future scenario, Scotland will have a larger share of the UK airports market if Gatwick expands.
“That amounts to 14 per cent more daily scheduled international services from airports outside London and 50 million more passengers through Scotland’s airports.
“On the other hand, the commission estimates that an expanded Heathrow will command a huge 86 per cent effective monopoly share of the UK long-haul market in 2050, undermining the growing number of long-haul connections built up by Scotland’s airports in recent years, including those to North America and the Middle East.”
He stated: “I believe the choice for Scotland is more stark by the day.
“You can have challenger Gatwick, fighting for competition and lower fares in every part of the UK, or the dead hand of the Heathrow monopoly, sucking traffic through London and demanding at least £5.7 billion of taxpayers’ money for yet another huge London infrastructure project, at a time when the nations and regions are arguing a powerful case for decentralisation and investment outside the South East of England.”
A Heathrow spokesperson said: “An expanded Heathrow would mean better connectivity for Scotland, not only to London but to the world’s fastest growing economies – resulting in up to £14bn of economic growth and 16,100 new Scottish jobs.
The evidence is clear – easyJet has stated that it wants to operate existing and new routes to Scottish destinations from Heathrow. And that’s why we have the support of the 2 main business groups in Scotland, the Scottish Chambers of Commerce and the SCDI; and Glasgow and Aberdeen Airports.”