Willie Walsh has pledged to fight Heathrow “every inch of the way” on its plans for a third runway, insisting the development could be made “at a fraction of the proposed cost”.
Walsh, chief executive of the International Airlines Group (IAG) which owns British Airways – by far the biggest airline operating at Heathrow – said he believes he will win
He told the Airlines for Europe aviation summit in Brussels on Wednesday: “I don’t believe Heathrow will be able to convince people its current plans are viable.
“We are going to fight them every inch of the way.”
Asked if he plans a legal challenge against the runway plans, Walsh said: “I don’t think we will need to challenge Heathrow in the courts. There will be plenty of people doing that. We’ll challenge them on the fundamental argument.
“We’ll win this in a debate with Heathrow, moderated by the CAA and supported by the government.”
He said: “There is no doubt Britain will benefit from the expansion of Heathrow, but it could fund the development at a fraction of the costs proposed at the moment.
“Heathrow wants to spend £71.6 billion on a third runway and 99% of it is nothing to do with the runway.” The problem, he said, is that “the return is guaranteed. The system in place incentivises airports to waste money at our expense and at consumers’ expense.”
Walsh also hit out at the idea of Heathrow being allowed to raise its charges to airlines to pay for the runway while its under construction.
He said: “I don’t support pre-funding. Airlines don’t have the benefit of saying to customers ‘Will you help us pay for new aircraft in advance?’ Pre-funding [of developments] is a drug airports have got on to and they have to get off it.”
“The airport should bear the risk. If the risk is borne by the airlines, it’s unacceptable.”