Earlier this week, the Conservative Government of Theresa May gave the green light to the construction of a third runway at Heathrow. The decision came after years of debate and finally draws a clear winner on the Gatwick-Heathrow feud. The airport is currently running at 99% capacity, with 75 million passengers. So the expansion should bring up the passenger numbers to around 135 million or more.
As per the CNN Money’s article, the decision was made in part due to Heathrow’s connection. Given that it is the largest international airport in the country, it was logical for them to decide on expanding it. Other arguments raised by airlines such as British Airways included the advocacy of building a super hub, opposed to two large hubs. The airline currently operates two main hubs, one at Heathrow and one at Gatwick.
The significance of the decision comes at a moment when the UK is at a crossroads. With the Brexit vote done, and the May government keen on following through, this signals that the UK is still open for businesses. With the expansion, the airport is meant to add jobs and inject money to the economy. Around $21.5 billion, the runway is the first major airport expansion in the region since WWII.
What This Means:
I see this as positive news for competition. The airport will now be able to operate at a higher capacity. This means more flights, and more chances at lower fares. British Airways will probably expand its presence at Heathrow. Its oneworld partners will follow as well. The same applies to Virgin Atlantic and Delta. I would love to see more Star Alliance presence at Heathrow, although they do not have a major partner at the airport. There is the possibility of the construction of a sixth terminal, probably to be occupied by British Airways and its oneworld partners.
Gatwick is the major loser here. The airport is currently the busiest single runway airport in the world, a title it will probably lose when the new runway is built. I see British Airways and Virgin Atlantic downsizing at the airport, only leaving mainly leisure routes. This is good news for low cost carriers, who would love to expand at Gatwick. The airport will have to find a new life as a low cost hub, since I do not see the legacy carriers staying there for very long.
Although there was strong opposition from both Tory and Labour, I am happy with the decision. This will allow British Airways to solidify its operations at one airport, and permit then to offer seamless (read: no long bus to Gatwick) connections in one airport. I believe this is a good sign by the May government that the UK is still willing to play ball in the world sphere. Also, this shines a light on the perspective the May government has on a post-EU UK. Only time will tell if how Gatwick will live on. Cheers to the major UK carriers like British and Virgin Atlantic, you score a huge win.
What do you think? Should the May government have chosen to expand Heathrow over Gatwick?