Here’s the ultimate argument in great London airport debate

Expansion of Gatwick or Heathrow – this is literally a billion-pound question. This time we asked for an opinion from an expert who is not directly involved in it. Thus, he might have a fresh look.

Heathrow by Lawrence Sinclair on (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Heathrow by Lawrence Sinclair on (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Dominik Sipinski, business analyst and journalist at research centre for policy analysis Polityka Insight and aviation website, said in an interview with Transporting London that a third runway at Heathrow, although costly, because it would be built in a tunnel over the M25,  would bring enormous benefits to the UK economy.

“Heathrow is more than twice the size of Gatwick (73 million passengers versus 38 million at Gatwick) and the economies of scale in aviation are priceless. Hubs such as Heathrow thrive not because of the local passengers, but due to transfers. Carriers, such as British Airways feed passengers from national and continental routes and let them connect onto intercontinental, long-haul flights. Only some fraction of them actually commence or conclude their journey in London; many never even leave the airport. Such flights, nonetheless, bring jobs and money to the local economy. And when they’re supplemented by fair share of business passengers traveling to and from London, this is a perfect mixture.”

He added that Gatwick biggest disadvantage was that it would never be competitive enough.

Gatwick, even with a second runway, won’t be able to be the only British hub. Expanded Gatwick would create a double-hub situation, since Heathrow with its two runways and five terminals would remain attractive for airlines. There is serious worry that many carriers would be reluctant to move to Gatwick, as it wouldn’t be able to accommodate all their traffic and they wouldn’t want to split their operations.

Sipinski, who is an expert in aviation, told Transporting London that even despite the plan for building a high-speed rail link between the two airports that it wouldn’t be possible to seamlessly connect the airports which are located 25 miles from each other.

He added that the expansion of Gatwick would only make sense in one case: if the likes of British Airways moved there entirely from Heathrow. “This won’t happen,” he said.

Expanded Heathrow will continue to be one of the leading global aviation hubs, bringing millions of travelers to London (as well as millions who just travel through it). Gatwick will remain a mostly point-to-point airport. Such a strategy, based on the third runway in Heathrow, is the best fit for the London area.


You can follow Dominik at @dominiksipinski.

Now read about who will win the debate according to bookies: What are the odds? Heathrow v Gatwick


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