More than 1,000 directors surveyed by the IoD plumped for expansion at Heathrow as the best way to expand capacity, with 27 per cent selecting this option.
Around one in five, or 21 per cent, said a major expansion at an airport outside of the south east would be their preferred option.
Fifty-nine per cent agreed that a lack of capacity at Heathrow is damaging inward investment in the UK, compared to 17 per cent who disagreed. The IoD said that in all UK regions, more directors supported this statement than not.
“We cannot afford to ignore the reality that demand for air travel in the south east will soon be more than our airports can handle,” said Corin Taylor, senior economic adviser to the IoD.
“This means airport capacity must expand, alongside other measures to improve our competitiveness in terms of taxes and immigration processes.”
By 2030, overall demand for flights in the south east is expected to outstrip supply, according to Department for Transport figures cited by the IoD.
Regional airports should be used better to help shoulder extra capacity in the short-term, the IoD recommends, with Birmingham Airport picked out as particularly well-suited.
Nearly two thirds of IoD members said direct flights from the UK to emerging markets are likely to be important to their business in the next decade, flagging up a desire among businesses for new routes in the short-term.
The IoD repeated its criticism of Air Passenger Duty, a levy imposed on all passengers entering and leaving the UK. The group wants the tax to be frozen, a step it says will make the country’s airports more attractive for passengers and potential investors.
The government has commissioned a report into the various options for beefing up Britain’s air links, but it is not due until 2015.