Heathrow has hit back at smaller rival Gatwick’s attempt to try to undermine its expansion plans.

This follows the West Sussex airport, which is trying to become the British gateway to emerging markets, telling the government’s Airports Commission that the UK could have better connectivity with a second runway at Gatwick rather than a third at Heathrow.

Heathrow chief executive Colin Matthews (pictured) highlighted that Gatwick did not support a flight to New York, and therefore questioned how it could enable routes to less popular destinations in emerging markets that would be important for British trade, the Financial Times reported.

“Gatwick’s proposal to prevent Heathrow expanding, while adding a new runway at its own airport, endangers Britain’s competitiveness,” he said.

“Only a hub airport with the scale to compete internationally can provide the long-haul flights the UK needs.”

Gatwick said it was “absolutely focused on securing new short and long-haul destinations to the UK”.

Gatwick added it was not against Heathrow making the case for expansion, but predicted this would prove impossible because the hub is already Europe’s noisiest airport.

Since Gatwick was sold by Heathrow’s owner in 2009 to a consortium led by Global Infrastructure Partners, the airport has added five airlines serving long-haul destinations.

The airport mainly handles traffic to European destinations – long-haul flights account for only about 20% of passengers.