16 May 2000

Heathrow turns away 10 million passengers a year

By Barrie Clement, Transport Editor

Heathrow airport is turning away 10 million passengers a year, many of them tourists and holidaymakers, according to a report published yesterday.

The world's busiest airport is "desperately" short of capacity and increasingly being flooded by business people prepared to pay extra to use it, according to the study for the British Air Transport Association.

Within five years demand for flights from Heathrow and Gatwick will exceed capacity by over 18 million passengers annually, the BATA calculates, with Continental airports mopping up the extra services. The surplus could soar to more than 100m in 30 years' time. The two big London terminals are becoming "business airports" according to the report with holiday charter services being forced out.

The association believes the lack of capacity will have a major impact on the economy. Regional "feeder" services using the two big airports in the capital are continuously being squeezed out, making the location of foreign businesses in the provinces less attractive, according to BATA.

Roger Wiltshire secretary general of the association, welcomed a Government initiative to explore developing regional airports but warned that extra runways in Paris and Amsterdam would soon weaken the competitiveness of London. "While we in the UK are still considering what to do about more capacity, our neighbours in Europe are getting on with it."

The report, compiled by Alan Stratford Associates, shows no-frills scheduled airlines such as EasyJet, Go and Ryanair have been the fastest growing part of the London passenger market during the past four years, now accounting for over half passenger traffic at Luton and Stansted.

Officials at BATA, an organisation established by the main airlines, blames successive governments for the over-capacity. Charles Miller, policy director of the association, said that ministers were not prepared to face the short term unpopularity of building new runways in order to solve longer term economic problems.

The study says that even on an optimistic assumptions and assuming that Heathrow's fifth terminal will be built, the combined Heathrow/Gatwick overspill will rise from 18.2 million in 2005 to 91.2 million by 2030.