Heathrow Airport expansion: Industry reactions

Heathrow airport has been given the green light to expand, which includes the construction of a third runway.

The airport is the second busiest airport in the world in terms of passenger traffic, seeing over 75m passengers arriving and departing in 2015, and dealing with nearly 1,300 flights every day. According to Heathrow Airport, in 2015 36% of all passengers were business travellers – that’s 27m.

A parliamentary vote on the £17.6bn expansion is expected to take place before the end of 2018.

Here is how UK MICE Industry stakeholders have reacted to today’s announcement:

Official statement from Heathrow Airport:

“We welcome the news that Heathrow is the Government’s preferred site for a new runway and look forward to hearing the full details later from the Transport Secretary.

“Expansion of Heathrow is the only option that will connect all the UK to global growth, helping to build a stronger and fairer economy.

“We await the full details, but Heathrow stands ready to work with Government, businesses, airlines and our local communities to deliver an airport that is fair, affordable and secures the benefits of expansion for the whole of the UK.”

Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport welcomes “end to uncertainty” 

Paul Le Blond, chair of the Aviation Policy Group at the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport’s (CILT) said in a statement: ‘The end to uncertainty over airports policy is welcomed by logistics and transport professionals, whichever option they supported, but there can be benefits for all parties, who can now take action to ensure that the decision is implemented in the best possible way for all.

“Logistics and transport operators, from airlines to freight companies, should use the opportunities that this decision will bring to plan long-term investments in more sustainable infrastructure, equipment and working practices, in order to create a lower carbon footprint and to meet air quality standards.”

The environmental impact of the airport’s expansion has been the topic of much debate over the years. CILT’s head of policy, Daniel Parker-Klein, stressed that the decision should send a message to the aviation industry to “continually improve environmental performance” and that it should “ help towards meeting quality of life targets.”

BVEP chairman Michael Hirst: “Let’s just get on with it”

Business Visits and Events Partnership (BVEP) chairman Michael Hirst has been championing the increased aviation capacity campaign Let Britain Fly for the last few years. He told CN: “We [BVEP] welcome the announcement that Heathrow Airport is to be expanded. For a number of years we have voiced concerns about the time taken to increase infrastructure.

“The timing is important in this post-Brexit world. New markets around the world will be emerging and we need improved connectivity to accommodate them.”

Hirst underlined the fact that BVEP had not opted to “side” with one airport over another, but rather they have campaigned for increased aviation capacity across the entire country.

Hirst hopes that now the decision is made, that the Government will“just get on with it.”

Heathrow in numbers

Total size of Heathrow Airport 1,227 hectares
Number of runways 2
Length of Northern runway 3,902m x 50m
Length of Southern runway 3,658m x 50m
Annual air transport movements in 2015 472,067
Daily average air transport movements in 2015 1,293
Number of aircraft stands served by an air bridge 125
Number of remote stands 40
Number of cargo stands 12
Number of airlines 80
Number of destinations served 185 (in 84 countries)
Number of passengers arriving and departing per day Average 205,400
Number of passengers arriving and departing in 2015 75 million
Percentage of business travellers in 2015 36% (27 million)

Former Conservative MP for Enfield Nick De Bois says its time to explore a new conference and exhibition centre

Former Conservative MP for Enfield Nick De Bois has told CN exclusively that the announcement makes it a good time to explore a new conference and exhibition centre. He said:”Airport capacity and hub expansion are crucial for Britains continued economic success and for bringing more visitors to Britain for business and leisure tourism. With approval for airport expansion we really can become the No 1 destination of choice for the events sector.

“Let’s also be clear that with such a huge infrastructure project taking place it could be a good time to explore a new conference and exhibition centre that can compete with the best in the world.

“My worry is that having now chosen Heathrow it will be bogged down in legal challenges and delays that will slow the vital investment and delay the economic opportunities and benefits.”

Central Hall Westminster MD says news means “UK is open for international business”

Paul Southern, managing director of Central Hall Westminster has welcomed the news and believes it will lead to an increase in international delegate visits. He told CN: “The expansion of Heathrow Airport will undoubtedly increase the opportunities for the UK business events sector to attract more international delegates. As a venue that regularly hosts events with delegates from across the globe, this development is a welcome addition to the attractiveness of London as a destination on the world stage and of course Central Hall as central London’s largest conference centre. Following the uncertainty generated by Brexit, the news is a welcome development in terms of positioning the UK as open for international business.”

bmi chief hopes that Government will continue to focus on present capacity issues

Jochen Schnadt, chief commercial officer, bmi regional, is concerned that current capacity issues will be overlooked as the expansion of Heathrow could take up to between 10 and 15 years. In a statement he said: “Following today’s announcement of the decision to expand Heathrow, bmi regional calls upon the Government to ensure that regional connectivity remains a priority as part of its plans to increase the UK’s air capacity.

“What has been proven in virtually any market around the globe is that the key ingredient for any major and successful hub is high-quality regional connectivity to its immediate hinterland.

Schnadt added: “With delivery of a new or expanded runway at Heathrow not expected for another ten to 15 years, it is vital that the Government maintains focus on effecting increased capacity now, by helping the regions to maximise the available potential of their airports. Improved air connectivity is essential for many regions of the UK and is a well-proven mechanism to facilitate and induce a growth in FDI and jobs, enhanced productivity and a boost in innovation, none of which will be created by the Heathrow expansion alone.”

ICCA UK & Ireland chair says that the expansion will “strengthen” offerings of the UK and Ireland industry

Lesley Williams, chair of the UK and Ireland Chapter of ICCA and head of business tourism at Convention Edinburgh, told CN over email that she believes the expansion will open up the UK and Ireland to more international delegates which can only strengthen offerings.

She said: “As a global association, any development that improves access for delegates to destinations is a welcome decision. For our chapter members, accessibility to cities and regions all over the UK and Ireland via key airports such as Heathrow is a critical element in the decision making process when associations choose a destination. Increased capacity and the potential to open up the UK and Ireland to more international delegates can only strengthen our offering in terms of competing for international association business and I am confident that it will be considered a welcome development.”

QEII Centre in Westminster says announcement “sends a clear signal that the UK and London are open for business”

The QEII Centre in Westminster is pleased with the news and believes it sends a message that the UK is open for business. They said in a statement: “For 30 years the QEII Centre in Westminster has provided a stage for world-leaders providing game-changing and innovative ideas as well as pioneering research. Therefore, as international meetings form such an important part of the QEII’s business mix, we welcome decisions to increase airport capacity in to London. London’s inbound capability and global and national connectivity is key for its success across the meetings, business and leisure sectors. It sends a clear signal that the UK and London are open for business.”

NEC Group CEO welcomes news but asks Government to consider rest of UK in future policy

John Hornby, NEC Group chief executive officer has welcomed the news but states that the rest of the UK must be factored into future policy. He told CN: “We welcome the Government acknowledgement that the UK requires runway capacity to drive economic growth, but we are keen to see the whole of the UK recognised further in future policy so we end up with a UK economy that is balanced and not South East centric.

“Birmingham is making good progress in readdressing this balance. The city already has significant infrastructure in place and by 2026 HS2 will be in its maiden year, benefiting businesses by opening up the region’s connectivity locally, nationally and internationally.

“While our region’s collective offer is being further enhanced through a connected set of master plans which are currently in progress and demonstrate our long-term vision, Government backing is necessary to drive our continued efforts.”

What are the plans?

Martin Fullard


Martin Fullard

Martin Fullard: journalist, presenter, producer. Martin is the Deputy Editor at Conference News and Conference & Meetings World magazines. He leads the digital channels on Mash Media’s Conference Division as well as heading up Mash TV. He is formerly a web editor at a national newspaper in the Middle East and motoring journalist.

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