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Poll backs airport capacity growth

Travellers favouring airport expansion are now keener on more capacity at regional airports than building a new runway at Heathrow, according to a poll.

As many as 84% of the 1,011 UK holidaymakers polled said the UK needer greater airport capacity, the survey from the organisers of London-based World Travel Market (WTM) showed.

Of those, nearly two in five (39%) reckoned regional airport expansion was the best option, with 16% opting for Heathrow expansion, 13% for Gatwick expansion and 13% in favour of building a new airport in London.

A further 16% believed no extra capacity was needed, while 3% said another alternative, such as expanding both Heathrow and Gatwick airports, was the best way forward.

The move towards regional expansion shows a shift in attitude from a year ago, when a similar survey showed that expansion at Heathrow was the clear favourite.

WTM also asked the views of 1,229 senior travel industry executives. A total of 89% considered that the UK needed greater aviation capacity, an increase on 2013 figures.

Industry representatives were almost equally split between expanding Heathrow and existing regional airports, with 31% opting for Heathrow and 30% opting for regional airport expansion.

A further 15% believed Gatwick expansion was the best solution and 11% preferred a new airport to be built in London.

Simon Press, senior director of travel trade exhibition WTM which opens in London tomorrow, said: "The fact that more holidaymakers are thinking about alternatives to Heathrow expansion shows there is still much to be debated on the issue of aviation capacity. Regional expansion is certainly becoming more popular among both the industry and airport users.

"It's perhaps not surprising. As tour operators have expanded their product range and airlines have added more services from airports around the country, the customer has begun to reap the benefits of greater choice and convenience."

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