A leading figure at EasyJet has criticised the industry focus on hub-airport capacity in the southeast.

Paul Simmons, easyJet UK director, told the Abta Travel Matters conference in London: “The whole debate around airports is focussed on hubs. Yet a hub is not the only game in town.”

Simmons said: “The vast majority of air traffic in the UK does not touch a hub. Connecting passengers are actually quite small.”

He said the Davies Commission set up by the government to examine the issue “needs to look at the industry as it is”.

However, Simmons added: “We take a positive view of the Davies Commission.

“It’s an attempt to take the noise out of the issue. It’s frustrating but it’s probably the right thing to do to try to get a cross-party view.”

Bristol Airport chief executive Robert Sinclair said: “The government has realised something needs to be done, but these issues move incredibly slowly.

Sinclair suggested regional airports could “help mitigate the issue”. He said:

“We see a significant opportunity for the government to take a more balanced approach, rebalance the economy and alleviate the pressure on capacity in the southeast.

“I’m not suggesting regional airports can solve the capacity issue in the southeast. We can’t solve it, but we can mitigate the issue.”

Sinclair reported inbound traffic to Bristol had tripled in five years thanks to daily flights from Amsterdam Schiphol, Paris Charles de Gaulle and Brussels.

He said: “From Bristol, you can make it to the world from Europe’s hubs.”