London Gatwick will seek permission to use an emergency landing strip for additional flights after the world’s busiest single-runway airport missed out on a government-backed expansion program.
The U.K. hub, which is struggling to expand after London Heathrow was selected as the location for a new runway serving southeast England, will make the proposal as part of a new five-year master plan to be revealed later this week, it said Monday.
“The draft plan will set out for our local communities, partners, airlines, and stakeholders three possible growth scenarios,” it said. Those will include “the possibility of bringing its existing standby runway into routine use.”
Opening up the emergency runway would deliver an “incremental increase” in a capacity that would complement the expansion of other airports in the region, Gatwick said, adding that the development will be open for views and feedback and would be fully compliant with international safety requirements.
The British Airline Pilots’ Association said the proposal is welcome so long as it meets safety rules, saying airport expansion has become even more vital with the U.K. poised to exit the European Union.
However, the opposition is already taking shape. The Communities Against Gatwick Noise and Emissions campaign group said the airport was seeking to expand by “stealth” and raised concerns about planes touching wings and having to cross paths because of the proximity of the existing runway to the emergency strip.
Gatwick said in June that it planned to spend 1.11 billion pounds ($1.5 billion) on expanding the capacity of its two terminals to almost 53 million travelers a year by 2023 from close to 46 million passengers in 2017 by making the most of existing infrastructure. It said that would include lengthening a pier to add eight more jets and building a new arrivals hall and baggage-claim area.