London's Airports

Articles, LondonUnlockedEditor


Two pieces of airport news to flag up this morning.

Firstly, Luton has set out plans to improve its transport infrastructure for people arriving at the airport.

Secondly, Newham Council will meet later today to decide whether or not to approve a 50% increase in the number of flights using City Airport. If approval is granted 1,000 jobs will be created, and a valuable gateway for the Olympics in 2012 improved.

Out of context, these two pieces of news may appear trifling (City Airport, even if granted the 50% increase would still only carry 160,000 flights per year, dwarfed by Heathrows c471,000, many of which are long-haul). However, given the wider shake-up of the market, Londoners should benefit disproportionally from even small changes.

BAA's sale of Gatwick, and the opening up of competition between London's two largest airports, will drive down costs, prices, and should improve the service offered at both sites. Tied with Boris Johnson's plans for an estuary airport (instead of a third runway at Heathrow), and his party's intimations that a high-speed rail link will be installed to discourage internal flights between, initially, London and Manchester, Londoners are about to see a massive shake-up of the air transport market.

What could result from all this is a London with three efficient and well-connected airports for international travel, high speed rail leading to the rest of the country, and smaller satellite hubs which deal primarily with short-haul international travel. Competition should reduce prices, and business and the London economy benefit from the stability and capacity offered.

A few things need to occur before this Camelot is realised, not least the challenges of a change of Government and Gatwick needing to find a buyer. However, both look likely currently. It will take time, but London could be on cusp of a golden age of international travel.