Now we have had the report from Airport Commission recommending expansion of Heathrow Airport, it strikes me we have to wonder if it is really better for passengers not withstanding the obvious adverse impact on the quality of life for Londoners particularly near to the airport and in West London.
The report has not only disregarded the possibility of a network of competing airports throughout London and the rest of the UK, its recommendation would effectively recreate a monopoly at Heathrow that will suck in long haul connections from the regions of the UK and drive up prices for passengers.
Regular air travellers in London will be accustom to using a variety of airports in London & the South East including City, Luton, Gatwick, Stansted, determining by price and easy of getting to the airport where to take their journey from home or the office. Yet we will be forced to take all our long haul air journeys via Heathrow with this recommendation from Howard Davies with very clear implications to consumer welfare. We have this already with flights to the US where clearly Heathrow has a stranglehold and pound for pound these trips are a lot more expensive than similar length trips to Asian destinations to emerging economies where at least we have many more options.
We can see some of the benefits of competition between the different London airports with low-cost long haul a real option from Gatwick on the transatlantic flights offered by Norwegian Airways using new Dreamliner aircraft going to New York for as little as £179 while consistently achieving load factors in excess of 90 per cent In October, Norwegian, will introduce a daily connection from Gatwick to New York (JFK). Will this progress if Heathrow is given a monopoly on long haul flights by Howard Davies? I think not.
The irony is that the Competition Commission ( now the Competition & Market Authority ) in 2011 broke up the monopoly that BAA had over airports in London and South-East when it owed all three major ones – Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted – where for years it had underdeveloped the two smaller airports. Now it appears Heathrow Holdings PLC have got their way completely with continued expansion of Heathrow without any responsibilities for the other two, after having to sell off the others. More so as it looks like becoming a private monopoly of long haul flights if Howard Davies recommendations are accepted by the government.
The matter needs referring back to Competition & Market Authority, for the sake of the consumer and travelling public if nothing else.