Then, Heathrow accounted for 67 million passengers, 11 million fewer than are squeezed onto its two runways today.
Twelve years ago, the Department for Transport revealed its intention to expand the airport and a consultation process began.
Since then, political parties have expressed support and opposition, with the coalition government cancelling plans in 2010.
When he was Prime Minister, David Cameron spoke publicly against expansion, but ordered an independent commission led by Sir Howard Davies, to investigate the issue in the hope that all political parties would back the recommendations.
The Davies Commission published his findings in July 2015, giving its backing for a northwest runway at Heathrow in favour of expansion of Gatwick or any other London airport.
Davies’s proposals were approved by the government in 2016, but the vote to ratify it in parliament was delayed after a further investigation into air quality and noise pollution was ordered.
The latest step means that the third runway now has backing from all political parties.
However, there will be vehement opposition from those who live around the airport and from environmental campaigners, as well as rival expansion projects.
There may also be objections from those airlines which do not wish to pay for the £14 billion cost of building a new runway, burying part of the M25 under it and constructing a sixth terminal at the London hub.
All this means it will probably be well into the 2020s before passengers – and the travel industry – feels any benefits.