Low-fare airlines respond to UK Airports Commission report

Following the UK Airports Commission’s rerecommendation that a third runway should be built at London Heathrow Airport, low-fare carriers easyJet, Ryanair and Flybe have all reacted to the Commission’s report.

Carolyn McCall, CEO of easyJet, remarked, “easyJet supports the Airports Commission’s clear and unanimous recommendation and agrees that expansion at Heathrow will provide the greatest passenger and economic benefits – including lower fares – by opening up the airport to increased competition. Expansion at Heathrow will bring significant benefits to all parts of the UK and is in the best interests of all passengers – both business and leisure, long- and short-haul.

“Expansion at Heathrow must be delivered sustainably. Local noise and environmental impacts need to be addressed and easyJet supports the Commission’s recommendations on these issues,” McCall added. “We now urge the Government to quickly proceed with the Commission’s recommendation and start the work to increase the aviation capacity for the UK.”

McCall went on to explain easyJet’s plans at an expanded Heathrow. “easyJet would open a base at Heathrow (in addition to our other existing London bases – Gatwick, Luton, Stansted and Southend) enabling easyJet to provide new routes and increase competition on dozens more UK and European routes,” she declared. “This would include new services to Inverness, Isle of Man and Jersey and increased services and more competition for Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Belfast as well as new and increased services for many other key cities including Amsterdam, Geneva and Zurich.

"easyJet's costs are significantly lower than legacy airlines, so even allowing for an increase in charges at an expanded Heathrow, easyJet's fares on these services would be lower than those paid by passengers today,” McCall emphasised.

Ryanair has vastly different ideas about capacity in the southeast of the UK as chief marketing officer Kenny Jacobs explained. “Ryanair believes that the proposed Heathrow runway – which won’t be delivered for 10 or 15 years – won’t solve the runway capacity crisis in the southeast. Ryanair strongly advocates taking politicians out of runway decision making and allowing each of the three London airports, Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted, to build three competing runways which will solve the capacity crisis in the South East for the next 100 years, while at the same time allowing competition between the airports to deliver this capacity efficiently.

“It remains a fact that additional runways in Stansted and Gatwick can and will be delivered much earlier than any Heathrow third runway,” Jacobs stressed.

Flybe welcomed the Airports Commission’s report but highlighted the need for the UK regions to remain connected to the capital.

“Flybe supports the need for additional runway capacity and, as the UK’s largest regional airline, we support the choice of Heathrow by the Airports Commission,” said Flybe CEO, Saad Hammad. “As part of its expansion plans, Heathrow has articulated a clear vision to enhance regional connectivity and it is crucial that this is delivered. The new runway capacity must be made financially accessible to the whole of the country, with guaranteed slots at reduced rates to regional operators to make this an asset for the whole of the UK, not just the southeast.

“Flybe therefore welcomes the Commission’s recommendation that the Government should alter its guidance to assess Public Service Obligation routes on an airport-to-airport basis, and should use them to support a widespread network of domestic routes into Heathrow. Similarly, we endorse the Commission’s view that the Heathrow owners should offer reduced charges and start-up funding for regional services,” added Hammad. “The economic case for Heathrow is clear, but safeguards are needed to protect the interests of regional customers. It is now over to the politicians and we look forward to the Government’s response.”

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