HEATHROW and Gatwick airports both revealed record passenger numbers for 2014 yesterday – triggering renewed crossfire over which of them should get an extra runway to propel global growth.
Announcing that a record 73.4 million passengers made journeys through the airport last year, up 1.4 per cent on 2013, Heathrow said a third runway at the site would “help Britain win the race for growth”.
But rival Gatwick – posting a 7.6 per cent rise in passenger numbers for 2014 to a record 38.1 million – said it remained the “obvious solution” for airport expansion, which “should be for the many, not the few”.
The continuing war of words came as Edinburgh Airport also took the wraps off another record-breaking year, with more than ten million passengers passing through its terminal in 2014 – more than any other Scottish airport.
John Holland-Kaye, chief executive of Heathrow, pointed out that the recent decision by Vietnam Airlines to move its operation there from Gatwick was “good news for Britain, as it secures a direct flight to an important growth economy, with more frequent flights and cargo capacity”.
He added: “It also underlines that airlines can only make flights to many long-haul destinations viable from a hub airport like Heathrow.
“Only by expanding Heathrow can we add direct flights to the world’s growing cities, increase our exports and connect all of the UK to global growth. Expanding Heathrow will help Britain win the race for growth.”
However, Nick Dunn, chief financial officer at Gatwick, said the airport’s record-breaking figures “show an airport serving the widest range of travel and airline models – exactly what is needed from the decision about the UK’s next runway”.
Dunn added: “Expand Heathrow and we take a backwards step towards higher fares, less choice and the monopolies of the past.
“Only Gatwick can offer the win-win solution of a bigger Gatwick, a better Heathrow and airports throughout the UK benefiting from greater competition.”
The Aviation Commission, under the chairmanship of Sir Howard Davies, has shortlisted two proposals for Heathrow expansion and one at Gatwick, which are currently the subject of public consultation.
Heathrow said fast-growing emerging markets such as Latin America and East Asia continued to be a driver of traffic growth in 2014, with the former up 6.3 per cent and the latter 5.2 per cent. Cargo volumes grew 5.3 per cent.
Gatwick said it had launched long-haul flights to New York and Los Angeles last year, which helped drive 2.8 per cent growth in flights to North America. Traffic to other far-flung destinations rose 12 per cent.