SMEs and other UK firms are losing out because other European airports offer cheaper flight options, says the chairman of tour operator Scott Dunn.
Andrew Dunn, founder and chairman of Scott Dunn, the luxury tour operator, said that building a third runway at Heathrow should be top priority to stop UK businesses being left behind by European competitors.
He said: “What irritates the hell out of me is that the UK is losing out to other European hubs such as Amsterdam and Madrid and Frankfurt. People and businesses are bypassing London entirely because it is more expensive.”
He added: “I fundamentally feel that we should have a third runway at Heathrow. If we had more runways it would become more competitive because we could get more aircraft in there, and it would less expensive for passengers and businesses to fly from the UK. Heathrow is a good hub, but if you look at how many aircraft are taking off, they are just one after another.”
Dunn, whose £35 million turnover business arranges holidays for UK customers who fly in and out of Heathrow and Gatwick, as well those who use European hubs, is furious at the endless prevarication taking place and says the government should urgently give the go-ahead to get on with building the third runway now.
He said: “I am cross at the pussy footing around it that has gone on from one government to the next. Every government is side stepping the issue. It takes so ridiculously long. We need to get a move on.”
Indeed Dunn said that not only should the government say yes to the third runway, it should actively start planning for a fourth runway at Heathrow too – and a second one at Gatwick.
He said: “We need to plan ahead. No-one appears to be planning long term in terms of the runways that we need, and Britain definitely needs a third runway and possibly even a fourth at some point. And I would also go one stage further and get a second runway at Gatwick, and couple it with a very high speed rail link into London. Because then it would sort out the problem for the next 30-40 years.”
He added: “Gatwick is a leisure route and people have got more leisure time and they are going on more holidays than they have ever been on before. And good stuff is happening in air as well, all the new aircraft coming in are much more efficient, in terms of fuel and noise and the overall experience.”
Dunn said that people who are currently calling for a new airport to be built in the Thames Estuary or elsewhere around London are totally missing the point.
“It is madness to say we are going to build something brand new. How long is that going to take? It is going to take an incredibly long time. Look how long it took to build Terminal 5 at Heathrow. The Chinese can build an airport in about two years, but we are not Chinese. It is going to be twenty plus years to build something new, in which time we will have absolutely lost our competitive edge at Heathrow. And who will pay for somewhere completely new? It will cost billions and inevitably passengers and businesses will have to pay for it.”
Dunn is pleased that Sir Howard Davies, chairman of the Independent Airports Commission, is conducting an investigation into the UK’s future airport needs, but is disappointed that the full report will not be presented until after the next General Election in 2015.
He said: “When you look at what the Chinese can build in a fraction of the time you think, oh my Lord, we need to get a move on.”