The government needs to focus on utilising existing infrastructure to plug a potential "capacity gap" from full airports in the capital, a London business lobby group has warned.
The London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) said the expansion of Heathrow must go ahead to ensure Britain remains competitive in the wake of Brexit, but has also stressed ministers need to implement short-term measures to boost capacity in the meanwhile.
Chief executive of the LCCI, Colin Stanbridge, said: "Brexit has greatly increased the need for additional airport capacity – as a new runway will not be open till perhaps 2025, ministers need to be creative in utilising existing infrastructure."
If the capital does not have capacity to accept flights from key markets then UK competitiveness will be weakened – potentially lost to other European cities.
He added that work on the third runway should take off as soon as possible, saying: “It has taken a long time to secure permission for a new runway at Heathrow - but construction should begin as soon as practical”.
The government's consultation on runway capacity in the South East closes today, and in its submission the LCCI said it was vital there was no "capacity gap" in the period between now and the mid-2020s when Heathrow's new runway is set to become operational.
The LCCI has also warned that the government should consider unintended consequences when mulling airport operating hours and night flights, arguing that early morning arrivals bring a range of benefits to the UK economy.
The business group said flights taking off around the world must be able to arrive at UK airports early to meet demand for convenient departure and transfer time and ensure business passengers reach their destination in time to begin a working day.