Heathrow gains support of MPs as traffic slides

Marion Dakers
HEATHROW Airport yesterday reported a rare fall in traffic for October as Hurricane Sandy wrought havoc with its schedule.

But there was a ray of sunshine for Britain’s biggest airport, as a survey suggested that MPs would prefer to see expansion at Heathrow than a new hub in the Thames Estuary.

Forty-six per cent of politicians surveyed by Ipsos Mori either strongly supported or tended to support an expansion of Heathrow, including a third runway. Thirty-four per cent opposed such a move.

Conservative and Labour MPs were equally supportive of a bigger Heathrow, though the Liberal Democrats surveyed were less enthusiastic.

But the Thames Estuary option, backed by London Mayor Boris Johnson, garnered just 16 per cent support across all parties. Nearly six in 10 MPs either strongly opposed or tended to oppose a major new airport to the east of London.

The coalition has asked Sir Howard Davies to assess the options for improving Britain’s air capacity, with an interim report due next year.

In October, Heathrow passenger traffic fell 0.1 per cent on a year ago to 6m, which the airport said was due to storm-related disruption and the late falling of UK schools’ half-term break.

Stripping out these events, Heathrow thinks its traffic for the month would have been up 1.7 per cent year on year.

The number of planes taking off and landing at the west London hub fell 3.2 per cent to 39,638.

Stansted continued to suffer falls in passenger numbers. Traffic at the airport, which BAA is selling after a competition ruling, fell 3.1 per cent to 1.59m passengers in October, while 3.5 per cent fewer aircraft passed through.

For the airports formerly grouped under the BAA name, including Glasgow, Aberdeen and Southampton, total traffic was flat on a year ago at 8.75m passengers. Gains in the Scottish airports offset the slide in London.