20 JANUARY 2014
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The great and the good of British air transport gathered at the Grange Tower Hotel last week to hear an intense day of presentations and discussion organised by Runway UK regarding the Government’s Airport Commission. (see ON TOUR)
In attendance were (in no particular order) politicians, regulators, airport operators, financiers, lawyers, aircraft suppliers, construction companies, consultants, lobbyists and of course the media (the fourth estate). Represented were virtually every aspect of the complex industry called air transport. The ‘Not in my back yard’ crew were also seen en masse.
All that is except not a single delegate from the UK’s senior airline, British Airways.
OK, Willie Walsh, Chief Executive of IAG, which now owns the once mighty flag carrier for the country, shows a disdain for the Downing Street ordered mission, and the airline’s own Chairman and Chief Executive seems to be non-communicative. But surely with 40,000 staff someone could be found to relay proceedings back to Waterside. One could argue very strongly that whilst BA offered no speaker (but were presumably asked) a questioner from the floor could have at least raised the profile of the airline. Can you imagine Lord King or Lord (Colin) Marshall failing to use the opportunity to “Fly the Flag”?
Virgin Atlantic chose to send their Chief Executive who explained his airline’s view and used the opportunity to promote Virgin’s future. The same with new US services upstart Norwegian. easyJet are not involved with the Commission to the same extent but were around monitoring the situation. Other carriers kept a watching brief. At the end of the day Grange Tower was a totally airline event. Airports are part of an airline's operation.
Runways UK has done an excellent job in raising the profile of the Airports Commission. The real problem is new concrete. Gatwick and Heathrow are full. Walsh wants to divert business to Madrid. Air France is keen to grow Amsterdam and you can be sure Frankfurt, Milan, Zurich and Istanbul are going to further develop their themes as gateways to Europe. Sadly Davies has got it wrong. We need a new runway for 2020 and interim solutions for the Heathrow hub well before that.
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