28 JANUARY 2013

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Article from BTNews 28 JANUARY 2013

COMMENT: London and its airports

It has not been a good seven days for airports around the world.  Narita, Tokyo’s unpopular second gateway suffered 40% closure one day last week.  It has two runways.  Charles de Gaulle managed to loose 20% of flights in one 24 hour period, that airport with four landing strips. And as the media reported London suffered.

Heathrow is far from perfect but every effort was made to ensure that it operated to its full practical capacity.  The area west of London suffered particularly badly from the poor weather.  For the most part the runways were kept clear, the main problem being reduced visibility, increasing aircraft separation slowing the whole system down.  Slow de-icing was another factor.  The congested site that is the present Heathrow did not help either and the terminal capacity, both airside and landside, is limited.

In the middle of it all Gatwick got it wrong in some respects, appearing to gloat over Heathrow’s problems.  All of us can recall when the south London airport has closed completely and missed flights and important meetings.  Sadly the memories of certain newspapers are very short and headlines are headlines.  This time around the really bad weather did not hit south London.  Proposals by Gatwick boss Stewart Wingate that airlines move some of their services for a couple of months of the year did not go down well with operators.

Dale Keller, BAR UK Chief Executive, said: “It should not be for airports, or the Government, to dictate where airlines and passengers fly.  The major cost of delays and cancellations are borne by the airlines and their customers.  The airline community is working with a huge range of stakeholders who all play a role in keeping aircraft flying.  It is simply not cost effective for airlines to split operations over different airports for short periods and it is unlikely their customers would want this either”.

Business Travel News can only concur.

But there is another fly in the ointment.

Stansted.

Assuming that the Manchester Airports Group (MAG) takeover of Stansted goes ahead MAG CEO Charlie Cornish last week came out with a statement indicating that he thought its current single runway sufficient.  Certainly Stansted can double its throughput without worrying about more capacity.

Gatwick wants more airlines.  Stansted wants more airlines.  Luton, Southend and City want more airlines too.  The Mayor wants more airlines also (but on his terms).  The breakup of BAA has certainly promoted competition.  We are most fortunate that the world wants London.

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