Khan voices backing for Gatwick

London mayor Sadiq Khan has paid a visit to Gatwick Airport to voice his support for Gatwick's runway expansion and opposition to the Heathrow alternative. Khan was officially at Gatwick to congratulate the airport's decision to increase inward investment by £200m, taking its 2016-21 capital programme to £1.2bn, including expansion of the north and south terminals. But he took the opportunity to voice his favour of Gatwick getting a new runway instead of Heathrow.

“Gatwick is the front door to London for millions of visitors to our city and I salute their decision to spend another £200m on improvements to the airport. They have put together a formidable plan that is a fantastic display of their confidence in London," Khan said.

“The new Prime Minister has a very important decision to make regarding new airport capacity, and I urge her to rule as swiftly as possible in favour of a second runway at Gatwick, which would bring substantial economic benefits."

It is expansion at Heathrow, however, that was recommended by the Davies Commission when it released its long awaited report into south east airport expansion this time last year. Government's stated position is that it accepts the Davies recommendation, but that a final decision will not be made until further investigation is done into Heathrow's claims regarding mitigation of noise and air pollution.

A decision had been expected this summer but this now looks increasingly unlikely in the wake of the EU referendum and cabinet reshuffle, which has put several known opponents to Heathrow expansion, including the new chancellor Phillip Hammond and foreign secretary Boris Johnson, in top government posts. The Maidenhead constituency of the new Prime Minister Theresa May is under the Heathrow flight path.

This week further claims and counter claims have been made by both airports to add weight to their arguments for expansion. A study by Frontier Economics commissioned by Heathrow Airport has found that Gatwick now has fewer long haul flights than it had in 2010, despite still having spare capacity. Over the same period, Heathrow gained six new long haul destinations, according to Frontier Economics.

Speaking to the London Evening Standard, Heathrow's director of strategy, Andrew McMillan said: “Only Heathrow has the passenger demand and freight infrastructure that makes trading routes to Asia, Africa and the Americas viable long term. A third runway at Heathrow is key to the Government’s Brexit plan. Any other option would be a high-risk gamble with Britain’s economic future.”

A spokesman for Gatwick said: “Heathrow’s claims sound increasingly desperate but the facts speak for themselves. We have this year added new links to emerging markets in China and across South America. Gatwick has launched 20 new long-haul routes this year alone.”

Speaking alongside Sadiq Khan at Gatwick, the airport's CEO Stewart Wingate said: “As Gatwick rapidly approaches full capacity, our increased investment paves the way for our second runway project. As we enter a new era for Britain, we must be agile and decisive as a country to show the world that we are open for business. 

“Only Gatwick can deliver the runway Britain needs to boost international competitiveness and trading links at a time when it is most needed, and we can do that before 2025."