The UK risks losing its place as a premier aviation hub due to government policy on air passenger duty and Heathrow expansion, industry leaders have warned.
Tim Clark, president of Dubai-based airline Emirates, told a World Travel Market audience: “Demand for air travel is growing at a pace. If the UK doesn’t want to be part of that, it is a pity.”
Referring to the government ban on a third Heathrow runway and last week’s increase in APD, Clark said: “At some point this is going to come back to bite you.”
He argued: “Heathrow is the jewel in the crown of every long-haul carrier and the airport every new carrier wants to get into. London is the financial services centre of the world.
“The UK remains high on the list of countries people want to visit and do business in. What is going to happen in the next 25 years? The UK is a very powerful market. Don’t play with that.”
Colin Matthews, chief executive of Heathrow operator BAA, agreed: “It is important we do not damage ourselves [in the UK].”
He said: “Ministers are perfectly straightforward about APD – that it is revenue-raising – and it would be naïve to think governments do not need to increase revenue. But we must seek to make it equitable.”
Matthews added: “It is ironic there is a government trade mission to China at the moment, when you can only fly from Heathrow to two places in China. We just have to make the best of what we have.”
- More from World Travel Market at travelweekly.co.uk/wtm2010