A second runway at either Gatwick or Stansted makes the “most economic sense” in the medium term to solve serious capacity problems in the South East, the boss of EasyJet claims.

Chief executive Carolyn McCall called on the government to press ahead with an inquiry into a second runway at Gatwick or Stansted after a third runway at Heathrow was again ruled out by transport secretary Theresa Villiers.

McCall believes Stansted is “most ripe” for capacity development, even though it has suffered from dwindling passenger numbers.

Speaking in Lisbon, where EasyJet has launched its latest base, McCall told the Daily Telegraph:  “Theresa Villiers has closed the door to Heathrow again, which I think clearly must be frustrating. From where we sit, we are very concerned that the options that are currently being debated are not real solutions to the capacity issues.”

Extra runways at Gatwick and Stansted “are the things that should be evaluated now,” she said.

“It would make the most economic and environmental sense as you already have airports there and they are not in the centre of cities,” McCall said.

It was “striking” how other European governments supported their airports while the UK was stuck in a “circular” debate about aviation capacity, she added.

“In Europe there is a stark contrast…there is no debate. In Amsterdam, the government and airport is completely aligned about developing Schipol. In [Milan] Malpensa, they are continuing to grow. No one is debating ‘should there be more capacity and should we have another runway?’ There’s just a real focus on the fact that air passengers bring money into the economy and they are really important for growth.”