Heathrow has so little spare capacity to handle extra flights that it took four years for an airline hoping to launch routes to Mexico, one of Britain’s key emerging market trading partners, to complete the deal.
Colin Matthews, chief executive of Heathrow, said the four-year wait experienced by Aeromexico highlights how Britain is being held back economically by the Government’s inertia on airport expansion.
Britain has a goal to double bilateral trade with Mexico to $4.2bn (£2.6bn) by 2015 but Aeromexico has been waiting since 2008 for takeoff and landing slots to become available at Heathrow.
The airline will launch three flights a week from London to Mexico City in December, bringing the total number of connections between Heathrow and Mexico’s capital city to seven a week. That compares with 14 weekly flights between Paris Charles de Gaulle airport and Mexico City, and 19 from Madrid.
Mr Matthews said: “The centre of gravity in the world economy is shifting and Britain should be forging new links with economies like Mexico. But with this single deal taking four years to complete, the UK’s lack of hub airport capacity is causing us to fall further behind the rest of Europe.”
Heathrow is currently operating at 99.2pc of its capacity. The airport claims the UK is missing out on vital jobs and trade because of the Government-imposed limit on the number of flights that can take off and land at the airport.
Mr Matthews is expected to step up his campaign for expansion at Britain’s only hub airport following this week’s rebranding of BAA to Heathrow, which was carried out to reflect the fact Heathrow will account for 95pc of the group’s business in future.
But the airport is facing growing competition from Gatwick, which has commissioned a study into a second runway.