Heathrow reports record passenger numbers as airport expansion debate heats up

Guy Bentley
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Heathrow has had record passenger numbers (Source: Getty)

Heathrow and Gatwick have reported record high passenger numbers for the month of July, adding fuel to the argument that both London airports are in need of expansion if the UK is to maximise its position as business and tourist destination.

Passenger numbers at Heathrow were up 0.5 per cent on July 2013 to 6.97m. Gatwick enjoyed a rise of six per cent year-on-year to 4.1m. As soon as the figures were revealed both airports were making the case that theirs was ripe for expansion.

"Only Heathrow can deliver daily. Gatwick can't, Heathrow can," said Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye.

However, Nick Dunn, Gatwick's chief financial officer, pulled no punches saying a third runway at Heathrow would "diminish the choice available to British passengers."

"We support competition, reduced fares and two world-class London airports serving the UK as a whole," he added.

The airports commission will decide which is best-placed to expand the UK's air capacity after 2015.

The debate over airport expansion has been intense with a variety of interested parties arguing their case. Last year, the Institute of Economic Affairs published a report arguing that airport expansion needs to be wrestled from the government's hands.

Airports should have the ability to find an agreement with those directly affected by expansion. A wide-ranging solution would be to radically decentralise the tax system, ensuring the tax revenue generated by airports stays in the locality rather than being transferred to Whitehall, the report argues.

The areas surrounding airports could become "tax havens," where residents can enjoy both low taxes and excellent local services.

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