Simon Calder, who is also referred to as The Man Who Pays His Way, has been a travel writer for The Independent since 1994. In his regular opinion piece, he delves into a significant travel topic and its implications for readers.
After eleven years since the Davies Commission was assigned by the government to investigate airport growth in the South East of England, and eight years since it proposed a third runway at Heathrow, the plan remains suspended.
The primary airport for aviation in the UK has once again become the busiest and most well-connected airport in Europe.
The airport declares that the UK would experience advantages from increasing in size. “Expanding Heathrow, the only major airport in the UK, would allow for connections to be made between all of Britain and the flourishing global markets. This would benefit the entire UK by generating hundreds of thousands of employment opportunities in every nation and region of the country.”
The government continues to support the expansion of Heathrow Airport, despite facing legal challenges surrounding environmental concerns. In December 2020, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of reinstating the Airport National Policy Statement (ANPS).
However, it has been revealed that no official decision regarding the future plans will be made until 2024, coinciding with the appointment of Heathrow’s new CEO, Thomas Woldbye.
The newly appointed CEO of Heathrow expressed his desire to improve the airport for both customers and the economy of Britain in his initial statement. He feels privileged to have the chance to take on this challenge and is eager to begin.
Javier Echave, the CFO of Heathrow, stated in an interview with The Independent that they are currently operating at a loss and their main priority is to return to profitability.
Having Thomas on board allows for a new viewpoint in engaging with customers, airlines, and regulatory bodies in determining the ideal timing and approach for resuming expansion efforts.
In the upcoming year, we plan to provide a more comprehensive update on the specific timing and method of implementation.
While Heathrow’s primary competitor in the UK, London Gatwick, is moving forward with their proposal to convert their backup runway into a permanent second runway, which could potentially accommodate a similar number of passengers as Heathrow.
Heathrow does not anticipate reaching the peak of 80.9 million passengers in 2019 until 2024.
British Airways, their primary clientele, is currently operating at only 90% of their 2019 capacity.
Meanwhile, an increase in passenger numbers could happen organically through bigger planes. In 2019, the average size of an aircraft at Heathrow was 213 seats; that has now increased by eight to 221.
Airplanes have the potential to increase their number of occupied seats; currently, approximately one out of every five seats on flights using Heathrow is unoccupied.
According to Mr. Echave, our overall performance is superior to that of all the other hubs.
Some Asian markets recently reopened in March and April after being closed for a while. We are still experiencing lower levels of activity from earlier this year.
“Next year, we are projected to reach the same level as 2019’s figures.”
Heathrow and other airports are urging for a change in the ruling to stop tax-exempt sales, which was made by former chancellor Rishi Sunak. There has been a small decrease in retail spending at Heathrow.
Furthermore, the implementation of the new Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) program in the UK will have a negative impact on Heathrow. Travelers who only wish to transfer between international flights within the airport will still be required to obtain this online authorization and pay a fee of £10. Unlike at competing airports such as Amsterdam, Frankfurt, and Paris Charles de Gaulle, no such permit is necessary.