Thursday, August 20, 2015

Gatwick Short Retort to Report Recommending Air Freight and Passenger Increase at Heathrow

Questions Posed as Verbal Battle Includes Cargo Sector
Shipping News Feature

UK – Gatwick Airport has given a scathing response to the Airports Commission’s long awaited Final Report into options for providing new airport capacity by 2030, which recommends an expansion at Heathrow airport, including increased air freight facilities, a decision which was greeted by mixed feelings by many with interests in the air cargo sector, when it was finally released last month. Gatwick claims that there are several ‘key errors, omissions, and flaws’ in the report, questioning various aspects and predicted outcomes in a 48-page reply, ultimately asking for the ‘Airport Commission’s work to be critically reviewed and corrected’, something the government is charged to do.

One of the provisions is for a ban on night flights, which Gatwick argues ‘would inevitably mean fewer services if applied, but this was not factored in to the Airports Commission’s own traffic forecasts for Heathrow. The restrictions would impact on the number of long haul flights to and from growth markets in the Far East, the issue at the heart of the decision to recommend Heathrow’. Gatwick CEO Stewart Wingate said:

“We expected a well-considered examination of all options, but instead the final report contains so many omissions and basic errors that its reliability as the basis of aviation policy must be called into question. The findings of this report simply do not add up. Britain is in danger of losing out once again if we repeat mistakes of the past – Heathrow has failed time and again and the Airports Commission report and the conditions placed on expansion have not solved the huge obstacles confronting it.

“In recent weeks, it has become abundantly clear that Heathrow won’t meet these conditions, nor will they pay for the £6 billion in surface access improvements needed, and Heathrow’s airlines have shown they don’t want to pay for the runway. The recommendation for Heathrow is unravelling by the day. I remain confident that when all the risks and benefits are properly considered, Gatwick will still represent the best option for UK airport expansion.”

In July, the Airports Commission opined that Heathrow was the most suitable site for expanding London's air cargo capacity by developing a third runway, with Sir Howard Davies, the Commission's chair, also saying that an expansion at Gatwick was still a credible option. In recommending Heathrow, the Commission set out a series of provisions in order to ease the worries of those directly affected by the increase in both passenger and freight flights. Responding to these latest criticisms, Sir Howard Davies gave a forthright response of his own to the Gatwick boss saying:

“This dossier appears to repeat many points which Gatwick made to the Commission in the course of its work and which, unsurprisingly, were carefully considered. They did not alter the Commission’s view that Heathrow was the best option. Using colourful language, as Mr Wingate has done, does not turn weak points into strong ones, and does him and his company no credit.”