There will never be a third runway at Heathrow, International Airlines Group chief executive Willie Walsh told BBC’s Question Time last night (Thursday).

Asked if he thought the lack of expansion at Heathrow was a catastrophe, he said: “It’s not a catastrophe, but without question in 20 years’ time we’ll suffer for it. The future of the economy is being damaged by lack of capacity at a hub airport.”

He said he could not envisage a third runway at the airport, despite campaigning for it in previous years. “I argued for a third runway and it was approved by the Labour government in 2009.

“My view is we will never see a third runway at Heathrow, we will never see Boris Island. We will debate this issue, and 30 years from now, there will be people sitting here talking about a commission that took three years.

“Nothing’s going to happen because there is no cross-party consensus. There is no political will to tackle difficult issues. I run my business as best I can with two runways.”

Ken Clarke, now a minister without portfolio, added: “We have to have a commission and we have to respect the conclusion – we should sign up in advance to take it.”

Journalist and presenter Janet Street-Porter said flying would be obsolete in 50 years’ time, with people opting for videoconferencing instead of “the horror of getting on a plane”.