Will a third runway at Heathrow reduce flight delays?
Monday, October 24, 2016
UK: The British Government is set to announce its decision on whether to grant permission for a third runway to be built at Heathrow.
Expanding the world's largest airport in terms of international passenger numbers is not the only option available.
But would a third runway reduce the number of flight delays and cancellations? Or would it be better to invest in the UK’s regional airports?
Heathrow is operating near full capacity and has airlines queuing along the tarmac waiting to be able to fly from there. (Not literally)
The same could be said of Gatwick and other regional airports. Airlines that are operating from regional airports concentrate on long-haul flights, neglecting a massive connection market.
The airport working at full capacity has consequences. For instance, there is less room for mistakes and delays will have a higher likelihood of occurring due to the airport's lack of flexibility. Moreover, planes spend longer in the sky waiting to land while space is cleared for them on the tarmac, which is arguably not good for the environment.
There is strong support for investments to be made in the transport infrastructure and regional airports to have better connections to the country's only hub. It is argued that it would enable the airport to operate more efficiently and that it would boost the whole of the UK economy.
The majority of those who oppose the third runway are keen to see a second runway added at London Gatwick. This airport is also operating at close to capacity. Those in support of a Gatwick expansion state that the cost would be less and a new runway at Gatwick would have less impact on the environment, as well as take less time to construct.
It could be argued that if the regional airports were better supported by updated infrastructure, they could relieve some of the burdens from Heathrow. This, in turn, could give the sector a much-needed boost in post-Brexit Britain.
The decision has so far been eagerly anticipated. The latest delay in making an announcement was caused due to the June 23rd referendum and the forming of a new UK government.
Last year, the Government’s independent Airports Commission gave a clear recommendation for a third runway at Heathrow after a £20m two-and-a-half year study into aviation capacity in the UK.
That report came before the turbulence of the British political summer and in the meantime supporters and critics of a third runway have been anxiously waiting.
Whatever is announced by the UK Prime Minister in late October, you can expect this row to rumble on. It has taken 25 years to get this far so don’t be surprised if those on the losing side try to make life hard for the winners.
The rumours are that the incumbent PM will say yes to a third runway and those rumours will be confirmed one way or another this week.