Creating a second runway at Gatwick would impact less people than expanding Heathrow.

The claim from the Sussex airport’s chief executive Stuart Wingate came as he suggested that the prospect of a third runway at Heathrow was unlikely.

Interviewed by the London Evening Standard, he said Gatwick could expand until the mid-2020s with the use of its single runway and has plans for 45 million passengers a year.

Under an agreement with the local community, a second runway could not be built before 2019.

But experts believe that the Government may eventually back such a development.

“Clearly the density of population around Stansted and I’m sure it’s the same for Gatwick as well is less than the density of population around Heathrow,” Wingate told the newspaper.

He doubted the idea of the so-called ‘Heath-Wick’ virtual hub airport, by joining up Gatwick and Heathrow with a fast rail link, stressing that it would be expected to cost billions.

The proposals for a “Boris island” airport in the Thames Estuary faced economic, safety and access challenges, Wingate added.

His focus is on modernising Gatwick and opening new routes to emerging economies.

“We are starting to move onto the turf that to date has been occupied by Heathrow,” Wingate said.

“We are aiming to become London’s gateway to Asia and the emerging economies.”