gatwick airport boss Stewart Wingate yesterday told Scottish business leaders that building a second runway at the Sussex site would be a better solution than a third airstrip at Heathrow.
Wingate said the Gatwick option would be cheaper, quicker, more environmentally friendly and disturb fewer people through noise pollution.
He said that it would also be good for competition, which would benefit the airlines and passengers.
Addressing a breakfast meeting of the Scottish Council for Development & Industry, Wingate said that, under BAA’s ownership, Gatwick had been barely considered for an extra runway to meet growth expectations in air travel. BAA had thrown all its weight behind Heathrow.
The sale of Gatwick in 2009 freed up the management team to change its strategy and, in the past year, the decision had been taken to challenge Heathrow for the right to build another runway.
It could be built at Gatwick for between £5 billion and £9bn whereas Heathrow is costing a third runway at £18bn because of the complications of land and property purchase and the need to tunnel under a motorway.
It would also require a UK government subsidy, whereas Gatwick could privately finance a runway.
On most measures, Wingate said, Gatwick scored better than Heathrow, and UK government ministers were now taking its arguments seriously.
“This debate has swung over the past year and we are having an impact,” he told The Scotsman after the meeting in Edinburgh.
He and two colleagues also met Keith Brown, the Scottish transport minister, and members of the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce. He said the feedback had been positive.
“They seemed delighted that we had made the effort to come to Scotland to put forward our case,” he said.
Lord Davies, who heads a UK government-appointed commission looking at capacity, said on Monday that more runway capacity will definitely be needed in south-east England.