Belfast Telegraph

Heathrow runway 'is best option for Northern Ireland'

By Lesley Houston

Chiefs at Heathrow claim their plans to build the UK's next runway are better for Northern Ireland than proposals offered by rival Gatwick.

The claim followed the publication yesterday of the Airports Commission's consultation document on where to locate the next national runway.

A decision is to be made next summer.

Gatwick boss Sir Roy McNulty, who is also chairman of Norbrook Holdings, is adamant a second runway at his airport would offer the best service for Northern Ireland.

Aer Lingus and easyJet all fly to Gatwick from Belfast, while Aer Lingus and British Airways fly to Heathrow.

Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye said yesterday: "We can deliver more of the long haul flights that will carry Northern Irish businesspeople and their products around the world because we're already doing it."

He added: "By unlocking capacity at Heathrow, we can ensure Northern Ireland has the springboard it needs to compete on the global stage and win the race for growth."

Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry's chief executive Ann McGregor said the solution must offer improved frequency and connectivity between Belfast and the UK capital, and safeguard the route in the long-term.

"Increased capacity safeguards the Belfast-London route as under the status quo there will be increasing pressures on airlines to use their highly valuable Heathrow slots to service more profitable routes."

Sir Roy McNulty, meanwhile, reiterated a message he brought to businesses here last month. "Gatwick already serves more passengers travelling to and from Northern Ireland than any other London airport," he said yesterday.

"The Airports Commission has indicated that, given Gatwick's strong domestic route network and the increased international connectivity which would be enabled there, expansion at Gatwick could provide valuable improvements in connectivity."

The Airport Commission's consultation period close on February 3, 2015.

Belfast Telegraph