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With a government decision expected next week, should Heathrow and Gatwick both get new runways?

An airplane over London
The government is expected to make a decision soon (Source: Getty)

Paul Wait, chief executive of the Guild of Travel Management Companies, says Yes.

Absolutely yes. Approval to expand both Heathrow and Gatwick would be the most positive economic step-change in recent times for the UK. Businesses either based in our island nation, or wanting to operate in the UK, need greater air capacity. Without the routes to travel and expand, no business can make meaningful investments in the UK.

Expansion of both airports is a clear message that the UK is open for international business and, therefore, economic growth. Our research, in partnership with Oxford Economics, shows a direct link between business travel and economy prosperity. A 1 per cent increase in international air connectivity has the potential to increase trade by 0.09 per cent, the equivalent to around £600m. The potential positive knock-on impact is staggering.

With greater capacity at each airport, there is room for growth to short and long-haul business travel destinations, and greater connectivity with the UK’s regional airports. UK businesses would no longer have their wings clipped.

Jochen Schnadt, chief commercial officer of BMI Regional, says No.

While it is important that the UK offers a world-class airport hub, granting approval for expansion at both Heathrow and Gatwick would be unnecessary and entirely misguided. With air capacity already available and underused at regional airports, the government should instead focus on ensuring regional connectivity.

What has been proven in virtually every market around the globe is the key ingredient for any major hub is high-quality regional connectivity to its immediate hinterland. With delivery of any new runway not expected for another 10 to 15 years, it is vital that the government maintains focus on effecting increased capacity now, by helping the regions to maximise the potential of their airports.

Improved air connectivity is essential for many regions of the UK and is a well-proven mechanism to induce growth in foreign direct investment and jobs, enhanced productivity and a boost in innovation – none of which will be created by simply approving two new runways in the South East.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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