Airport in pole position for new runway, says chief executive

jpco-29-5-13 Gatwick Diamond Business Forum (Pic by Jon Rigby)
jpco-29-5-13 Gatwick Diamond Business Forum (Pic by Jon Rigby)

Gatwick Airport should be in pole position to be chosen as the Government’s preferred option for runway expansion, according to its boss.

Speaking at the Gatwick Diamond Economic Growth Forum on the issue of a potential second runway, Stewart Wingate, chief executive officer for the airport, also outlined the short-term measures he was implementing.

The event, held at the Arora Hotel, on Thursday (May 23), was an opportunity for business leaders around the Gatwick Diamond to debate common issues affecting their companies, including expansion at Gatwick Airport.

Mr Wingate said: “We think if we play our cards right then there’s no reason when we get into 2015 we should not be in pole position as the best option.

“We believe it [a second runway] is right for Gatwick and the right thing for the region.”

Sir Howard Davies, chair of a committee on airport capacity in the south east, will publish a shortlist of preferred options at the end of the year, and present a report in 2015 after the general election.

Mr Wingate believed a constellation of two-runway airports around London would be more practical than a new airport in the Thames Estuary, or further expansion of Heathrow.

He added: “Heathrow is just in the wrong place and has such a large environmental impact.

“The environmental impact of Gatwick is an absolute fraction of the environmental impact of Heathrow.”

He said 250,000 people lived in the 57 decibel noise contour at Heathrow, compared to around 3,000 around Gatwick.

Mr Wingate added Gatwick was forging ahead with measures to make the most of spare capacity, improve passenger experience, and entice new air carriers and routes.

The airport is growing at around 5 per cent a year, and has attracted Norwegian Air Shuttle, Lufthansa, and added new routes including flights with Easyjet to Moscow. A new route with Garuda to Jakarta will give Gatwick the first non-stop flights from Europe to Indonesia.

Crawley MP Henry Smith said: “The importance of the airport and aviation to the local economy can’t be overstated, while the future of aviation and airport capacity is somewhat controversial.” He said he would continue to lobby the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the scrapping of air passenger duty, which he estimated took around £16bn from the country’s economy.