No increase in airport capacity in the southeast of England can be expected for another 40 years as politicians are “afraid” to make tough decisions, according to IAG chief executive Willie Walsh.
The boss of the British Airways and Iberia parent company also claimed there was no “business case” for a second runway at Gatwick.
Walsh told the Transport Select Committee that he had been reduced to the position of “interested observer” in the latest aviation debate as he believes the government-backed Davies Commission will fail to make any progress.
The commission, chaired by former Financial Services Authority boss Sir Howard Davies, is the latest in a long list of white papers and policy reviews published since the Second World War.
“If you look at the history of these commissions … my own view is that the issue is too difficult for politicians and governments to deal with and I’m not optimistic anything will change for the foreseeable future,” Walsh said.
“I still believe that in 2050 BA will be operating from a two-runway airport at Heathrow and I don’t see anything that would indicate or convince me that would change.”
But rival hub airports are fast catching up with Heathrow, he warned.
Dubai airport, ranked 99th in the world in 2001, would overtake Heathrow as the world’s number one international hub in “two to three years”.
Walsh added: “The UK has the number one international hub airport in the world and the debate that we have had is how can we constrain that, should we close it down, should we stop the growth, should we artificially try and create something to compete with it.”
He claimed many-long haul carriers would rather fly from Heathrow than Gatwick and said he could see no sound business case for a second runway at the Sussex airport, the Daily Telegraph reported.
“I’m not aware of any discussions that have taken place between Gatwick and the airlines operating at Gatwick to see if the airlines actually want another runway at Gatwick and to see how the airport proposes to fund the building of a second runway,” Walsh said, adding that BA tried to create a second hub at Gatwick in the 1990s.
“It was a failure, it cost us a fortune, we will not try to do it again.”