The boss of Birmingham airport today declared support for expansion of Gatwick rather than Heathrow.

Chief executive Paul Kehoe said that a second Gatwick runway would lead to “greater competition and choice across the UK’s long-haul airports, allowing Birmingham airport to continue to grow and fire the Midlands engine”.

People want to fly direct from their airport of choice, he argued, citing 12 new airlines using Birmingham in the past year.

He backed a network of long-haul airports, linking all regions into global growth opportunities.

Kehoe said: “The decision on where the south-east’s next runway should be built is of national significance. It not only affects London but passengers and businesses across the UK as well.

“Of the two options before the government, we support Gatwick’s expansion plan because it will foster greater competition among airports and allow other UK long haul airports to continue to compete and grow their own direct services.

“Heathrow’s plan could constrain this growth with the direct international connections that airports like Birmingham have fought for being lost to west London.

“A decision for Heathrow would simply mean a return to the monopoly of the past, reducing choice, increasing fares and threatening the business of Birmingham and other UK airports.”

Gatwick chief executive Stewart Wingate claimed: “Expansion at Gatwick will deliver exactly the same number of passengers to the same number of worldwide destinations as expanding Heathrow.

“The only difference is that, with Gatwick expansion, those connections are better spread across the UK’s major airports, including Birmingham.

“Expanding Gatwick will enhance competition between UK airports, providing a low-cost alternative that serves the London and south-east market, but doesn’t cannibalise future growth from regional airports.

“For the UK to achieve truly balanced economic growth, aviation policy must nurture growth in direct flights from airports such as Birmingham, instead of using taxpayers’ money to concentrate our global connections in west London.”

The government is due rule on a new runway this summer having delayed the decision in December after the Airports Commission recommended expansion of Heathrow.