Statement – Decision on expanding UK airport capacity.


“Over 100 years after our formation The Air League’s mission is to continually ensure that society’s leaders appreciate and understand the vital contribution made by UK aviation and aerospace”

In September 2012 The Airports Commission led by Sir Howard Davies was set up by Her Majesty’s Government to consider how the UK’s status as a leading global aviation hub can be maintained. In the summer of 2015 The Airports Commission unequivocally presented its final recommendation – the Heathrow North-West runway – to the Government. This option was supported by The Air League in its submission to the Commission. After the report’s publication, the decision has repeatedly been delayed.

Heathrow's proposed North-West Runway. © Heathrow Airport Ltd.
Heathrow’s proposed North-West Runway. © Heathrow Airport Ltd.

The right choice — Heathrow.

The Air League urges the Government to back The Airports Commission’s final recommendation and set out a clear timetable for expansion, implementing an additional runway to the north west of the existing northern runway at Heathrow Airport ensuring all environmental and noise measures are met. Further delay is unacceptable for the UK economy and its role as a leading global aviation hub. Heathrow’s strongest case is that it is a key facilitator for trade, a point which becomes even more important in a post-Brexit world and clearly answers The Airports Commission’s question of maintaining the UK’s global aviation hub. Heathrow is in the best interest of passengers as it has the greatest demand. It is clear that long haul airlines want to expand at Heathrow and if they can’t, they will do so not at Gatwick, but at other airports such as Paris, Amsterdam and Frankfurt. The Air League does not fully reject a further runway at London Gatwick. Gatwick does need another runway, but to provide operational resilience and meet the growth needs of its point to point market. Passenger demand dictates the success of airport developments not Government or airports.

A Stronger Economy, A stronger United Kingdom.

The Airports Commission analysis found Heathrow expansion will create up to 180,000 jobs and up to £211 billion in economic benefits across the UK by 2050. Up to £114 billion of economic benefits from Heathrow expansion would benefits regions across the entire UK outside of London and the South East. Gatwick’s speculative argument that the global aviation market will move away from the proven hub model has not been substantiated. easyJet, Gatwick’s largest operator, is supporting expansion at Heathrow. easyJet’s view reflects what they believe to be in the best interest of passengers and the UK economy.

© Heathrow Airport Ltd.
© Heathrow Airport Ltd.

Currently 33% of all UK long-haul exports (by value) travel through Heathrow compared to just 0.25% at Gatwick. Heathrow is the UK’s largest port by value, greater than Southampton and Felixstowe combined. In 2014, the combined value of UK imports and exports travelling through Heathrow was £130 billion. Heathrow has announced a £180m plan to overhaul its cargo facility by 2025 to double capacity, enabling British exporters to reach key global emerging markets.


© Heathrow Airport Ltd.
© Heathrow Airport Ltd.

A Fully Integrated Hub — Connecting the entire UK. 

Decades of restricted capacity at Heathrow has meant a continuous decline in regional air connections via the UK’s hub airport to long-haul markets. Reversing the lost connectivity to and from regions of the UK to international markets is a priority. Heathrow has the opportunity to offer a fully integrated public transport hub which would benefit the entire country. Heathrow is already the UK’s most connected airport. Served by the London Underground, Heathrow Express, Connect and by 2019, Crossrail which will revolutionise travel with non-stop services to central London, the City and Canary Wharf. By 2024, Western Rail access will see direct trains between Heathrow, the South West and Wales. There is also a strong case for Southern Rail access and a direction connection to HS2. Both schemes combined have the potential of enabling Heathrow to treble its rail capacity by 2040 with links to London Waterloo, the South, Midlands and North. 


“The Air League stands by its position that expansion of Heathrow is key in ensuring the Airports Commission’s question of maintaining the UK’s global aviation hub is answered and urges the Government to make the correct decision. Further delay is unacceptable for the UK economy and its role as a leading global aviation hub”

Sources: Regional Distribution of Employment and Economic Impacts, Taking Britain Further, Volume 1 (Heathrow, 2014), Heathrow Airport north west runway: business case and sustainability assessment (Airports Commission, 2014) Heathrow Sustainable Transport Plan (Heathrow Airport), Airports Commission, Final Report and press release,  Blueprint for reducing emissions (Heathrow Airport), Airport expansion in the South East (The Transport Select Committee), easyJet response to the Airports Commission consultation

Related News and Events


Support the Air League and its vision of changing lives through aviation as an individual supporter.


Support the Air League and its vision of changing lives through aviation as an corporate supporter.