Transport secretary Justine Greening has lost her job in today’s cabinet reshuffle opening the way for the expansion of Heathrow with a third runway.

The south London MP was considered to be a serious potential block to the third runway coming back on the political agenda due to her previous campaigning against it.

Greening’s replacement as transport secretary is former chief whip Patrick McLoughlin, a former junior transport secretary.

The MP for West Derbyshire has previously voted for the government to rethink plans for a third runway at Heathrow and his constituency is some distance from the flight path of the hub airport. 

Although the third runway has been ruled out by all three main political parties the problem of air capacity in the south east has forced it back on the agenda.

Chancellor George Osborne is understood to be very much in favour of the expansion of Heathrow, while other cabinet colleagues prefer the option of a new airport.

High profile opponents of Heathrow expansion in the coalition cabinet, including business secretary Vince Cable, have kept their roles.

Luke Pollard, head of public affairs at Abta, said: “It is all change for ministers with travel and tourism portfolios.

“It is too early to read too much into a change of personnel at the top so we will wait to see what moving Justine Greening and Theresa Villiers from the DfT will mean in terms of a new approach to aviation from government. 

“It is essential that the government urgently addresses key issues in aviation, particularly airport capacity and taxation. 

“There has been much debate that the long-awaited consultation on capacity is being moved forward and this could well be Patrick Mcloughlin’s first big announcement as transport secretary.

“In addition, we look forward to discussing how domestic, inbound and outbound tourism can help economic recovery with Maria Miller MP, the new secretary of state for Culture, Media and Sport.

“Abta has a close working relationship with DfT and DCMS ministers and we have already been in touch with those departments seeking early meetings with the new Ministers.

“We have a strong story to tell about how travel and tourism can provide more jobs and boost the economy but we are reliant on government looking again at aviation capacity and plans to hike Air Passenger Duty in particular.

“We will be using the opportunity this reshuffle offers to reinforce the view of Abta members in Westminster in relation to tax, infrastructure and consumer protection.”

London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) chief executive Colin Stanbridge said: “We congratulate Patrick McLoughlin on his new role as secretary of state for transport.

“We hope this is the turning point in government that leads to some decisive action on the need for more aviation capacity.

“He needs to make sure that the proposed Independent Commission on capacity considers all the short and long term options including the third runway at Heathrow Airport and that this commission reports its findings as quickly as possible.”

The government this week announced an independent inquiry into airport policy saying no options were off the table including the third runway.

The Greening reshuffle was one of many changes to the makeup of the coalition government announced today that has potential implications for the travel industry.

Culture Media and Sport secretary Jeremy Hunt, who was embroiled in the row over Rupert Murdoch and News Corp, has become the new health secretary replacing Andrew Lansley. Greening was tipped to replace Hunt in Cabinet.

Another key ministerial change was transport minister Theresa Villiers who was moved to Northern Ireland secretary.