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19 Oct 2016

BY Sophie Griffiths

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Airport expansion announcement won't be confirmed until 2017

An announcement on expanding airport capacity in the south-east will not be confirmed until late 2017 after prime minister Theresa May delayed the decision to allow some cabinet colleagues to voice their viewpoints.

GATWICK Aerial view of runway
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Heathrow or Gatwick? Why we won't find out the victor until 2017/18

The issue of a third runway at Heathrow has split the government, with some, like foreign secretary Boris Johnson, bitterly opposed.

However, the likelihood of expanding Gatwick seems to have all but disappeared, with the business case for Heathrow seen as overwhelming.

The travel trade’s view is more mixed. Some, like Nicholas Harding-McKay of south London-based Travel Designers, called for bold thinking: “They should expand both Heathrow and Gatwick,” he said. “We have to think of the long-term economic viability of the country, especially with Brexit.”

Alan Glen, Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association president, also said connecting flights from Scotland, particularly to Heathrow, were important. “We have always favoured Heathrow because of the connectivity. How relevant is expansion to Scotland unless we can connect to it?”

Glen added that conversely, Edinburgh and Glasgow airports had both increased their direct routes because of the unavailability of slots at Heathrow. “It’s Catch 22, we want Scottish airports to be successful and have direct services as well,” he said.

Kristina Hulme of Travel by Design in Cheshire said connectivity from Manchester was important, with no routes currently to Gatwick. “Heathrow has been a lot more visible but we do a lot to the Caribbean and parts of Italy [from Gatwick] and not having a link for these connections has been a thorn in our side,” she said.

Gemma Antrobus is managing director of Haslemere Travel, mid-way between Heathrow and Gatwick. “For us there’s no favour over one or the other,” she said. “When you’re an agent selling the world, having good connections can only help, because not having them puts people off.”

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