Walsh in blinkers

By | Category: Travel rumblings

WillieWalshLast weekend, the Independent on Sunday carried an interview with Willie Walsh, the boss of IAG which runs both British Airways and Iberia. He said there was no political will for a third runway at Heathrow and that the report from Howard Davies to be delivered after the next general election will be considered on political grounds not economic ones. There I agree with him as I do with the fact that most visitors want to fly into London – and business people certainly want to – rather than to other parts of the UK.

The interview comes across as that from a man who is aware that he has given up on trying to use reasoned arguments with politicians. And I certainly agree with him him there as well.

He says we will be making a mistake if we don’t let Heathrow expand and thinks a second runway will be built at Gatwick as there is less political fallout. But it is obvious that Heathrow is still the apple of his eye.

He makes no mention of Britons wanting to fly from Britain and we, frankly, don’t care which airport we fly from because all we want are flights that leave on time and arrive on time, easy access and less hassle than is currently the case in using Heathrow and reasonable fares.

The problem which he seems not to recognise at Heathrow is that can it expand much further? It is hemmed in by housing, motorways and industry. To move large swathes of it won’t be easy and is probably impossible so somewhere else needs to be found.

Gatwick has a lot more space, better rail links and a motorway link. If Labour wins the next election there is only one seat in the vicinity that they might lose. If the Conservatives win, there will be many more. So I can almost guarantee that, what will happen, will either be nothing or that Gatwick will expand. And for those hubbing in London there will need to be a fast commuting link between Heathrow and Gatwick unless they can plan to run from Gatwick only those flights where little or no hubbing is required.

Walsh shouldn’t be bemoaning the wrong decision being taken but be thinking more how to make whatever solution is decided upon, should work for the benefit of passengers. If that means Gatwick, a new airport elsewhere or even Boris Island, so be it.

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