London airport: Heathrow speeding up review of 3rd runway plans after strong post-Covid bounce back

Heathrow considering looking again at its third runway plans (PA Wire)
Heathrow considering looking again at its third runway plans (PA Wire)

Heathrow bosses are speeding up their review of the airport’s third runway plans after a much quicker than expected bounce back in passenger numbers after the pandemic.

Chief financial officer Javier Echave said it was looking at making a decision on restarting the programme - shelved during the covid era - “as fast as we can” as the west London airport gets “fuller and fuller”.

But he stressed it was an “important and complex” issue so could not put a timescale on when this would happen.

Asked whether Heathrow’s business plan involved wanting a third runway, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We are looking at that option.

“As you can see we are getting more and more full and therefore we are looking at when is the right time to really restart the programme.”

Pressed when this decision could be taken, he added: “This is a decision that we can’t rush, it’s an important decision and complex decision and therefore we will get into that as fast as we can.”

The airport today upgraded its forecast of the number of passengers expected to use Heathrow this year from 81.5 million to 82.4 million.

The record currently stands at 80.9 million in 2019.

It is also expected to handle 475,000 aircraft movements this year, only just under the “hard cap” limit of 480,000.

But London minister Greg Hands, MP for Chelsea and Fulham, said: “Any new plan for a third runway will alarm my constituents.

“I will support them all the way in opposing it.”

Mr Hands resigned from the Government in 2018 to vote against the airport’s expansion plans.

Paul Beckford, co-ordinator of anti-Heathrow expansion group HACAN, criticised the “floating” of a third runway with a lack of detail “creating further uncertainty for local communities” who face possible increased air and noise pollution.

Heathrow said it had enjoyed a record-breaking quarter, with passenger numbers up 9.5 per cent to 18.5 million.

It upped its outlook for full-year passenger growth, after notching up its busiest start to the year and expecting the busiest ever summer holiday season.

The group posted pre-tax profits of £189 million for the three months to March 31, traditionally a quiet season for the sector, against losses of £60 million a year ago.

The group insisted it had a “robust operating plan in place to keep the airport running smoothly” as it faces a strike threat.

Trade union Unite said earlier this week that around 800 workers at Heathrow Airport will launch a week of strikes from May 7-13 in a dispute over outsourcing of jobs.