Lack of Heathrow flights 'damaging trade'

The boss of Heathrow airport warned yesterday that capacity constraints were "damaging the UK economy when the country can least afford it", after the number of passengers flying between the UK and China fell for a fourth consecutive month.

Heathrow is full to capacity and cannot take on new routes.

Its traffic to China, including Hong Kong, dropped 0.7 per cent in January compared with last year.

By contrast, rival European hubs in Paris and Frankfurt saw the number of passengers flying to China increase by 9 per cent last year.

Colin Matthews, the chief executive of Heathrow's owner, BAA, warned that British trade was suffering as a result. "Business leaders in the world's fastest-growing economies say they are put off investing in the UK because of a lack of direct flights.

"Capacity constraints are damaging the UK economy today when the country can least afford it." Last year BAA blanketed Westminster Tube station with advertisements declaring that "no island can afford to be an island" after the Government decided not to allow a third runway at Heathrow.

Overall, the world's busiest airport handled 5.2 million passengers in January, a record for the month.