A recommendation for a third runway at Heathrow would end up as “just another report gathering dust on a shelf”, the head of Gatwick warned as he unveiled record profits and passenger numbers for London’s second airport.
Stewart Wingate, chief executive of Gatwick, was speaking days ahead of the long-awaited findings from the government-appointed Davies commission on airport expansion, which will advise ministers on the best location for a new runway.
Mr Wingate said a nod for Heathrow from Sir Howard Davies would be a “retrograde step” and “politically undeliverable” because of bitter opposition from senior ministers with constituencies under the flight path – such as the Development Secretary Justine Greening and Chief Treasury Secretary Greg Hands – as well as the London Mayor Boris Johnson and the high-profile Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith.
The Gatwick boss was announcing a 7.5 per cent rise in revenue to £638m and operating profits up 10 per cent at £156.9m in the year to 31 March. The Sussex hub handled 38.7 million passengers during 2014 and also set a world record for a single-runway airport on 17 August when 906 planes landed or took off in a day. Gatwick is expected to grow again this year with passenger numbers likely to break through the 40 million mark. The airport invested £18m on modernising its infrastructure last year.
Sir Howard is widely expected to publish his report next week before a conference organised by the discussion body Runways UK on 6 and 7 July. His commission has looked at a shortlist of three options for new runways, two at Heathrow and one at Gatwick.
Mr Wingate said he believed “momentum” was growing for the case for Gatwick, arguing that expanding Heathrow would result in breaches of legal limits on aircraft emissions, a huge increase in noise pollution, and higher landing and take-off charges that would be passed on as more expensive fares. He said: “Our record growth has shown why Gatwick remains the best choice. Gatwick expansion will deliver more passengers to more destinations and provide the economic boost the UK needs at a fraction of the environmental impact of Heathrow.”