IATA backs third runway at Heathrow

International Air Transport Association's director general and chief executive officer, Tony Tyler (July 2015)

The UK Airports Commission’s recommendation to the government that a third runway should be built at Heathrow Airport has gained support from the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

The association’s director general and chief executive officer, Tony Tyler, gave IATA’s view at the Runways UK conference in London yesterday (6 July).

He says a third runway at Heathrow is the, “right decision,” and adds: “IATA supports expansion at Heathrow. Let me be absolutely clear about that. But, let me be equally clear that we have some serious reservations about the conditions that are attached to this conclusion.”

He feels that there is a need to move forward quickly with the recommendation and says UK prime minister, David Cameron, should indicate publicly that he backs the report’s conclusions. Tyler also believes that the UK government’s Department for Transport should proceed with the next steps.

Tyler wants stakeholders to engage in a purposeful dialogue, which he says will lead to acceptable results on the important issues of costs and managing environmental impacts. “There is common ground. The aviation industry is committed to environmental sustainability. And we can only deliver the promised economic and social benefits of a third runway if using it makes business sense to airlines.”

In his view, the expansion hurdles, which have been raised about how the third runway at Heathrow will be funded and its impact on the environment, can be overcome. “There are abundant global standards and best practices that can guide us towards the outcome of an environmentally sustainable and financially viable critical piece of infrastructure to serve the UK’s connectivity needs,” Tyler comments.

He raises a concern on whether the political will exists in the UK to have the additional Heathrow runway built, as he feels the country’s policy record on supporting aviation, “is not encouraging,” and expansion would take a lot of political commitment.

Tyler explains that despite different opinions on where a runway should be built, most agree air connectivity is, “valuable,” and new capacity is needed in the South East of England. He feels that capacity expansion comes down to an issue of looking at the cost and benefit analysis and judging which options offer the greatest advantage as a whole.

Tyler praises the Commission’s long term view as he thinks the decision is about equipping the country to service demand for the next 50 years. He says policymakers need to decide if they want the country to benefit from the jobs and economic development runway expansion will bring. “The decision for a new runway…is about the future of Britain as a nation that sees itself as a vigorous global centre of business and culture,” Tyler concludes.