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Airlines 'shun UK over Heathrow'

World airlines are shunning the UK due to capacity constraints at Heathrow Airport, a survey has found.

As many as 53% of scheduled airlines have either decided to, or are preparing to, base flights in other countries than the UK because of Heathrow's lack of capacity, the poll showed.

And 86% of airlines said they would put on more flights to the UK if additional take-off and landing slots were available at Heathrow, the survey from the Board of Airline Representatives in the UK (BAR UK) revealed.

The survey results are being released at a transport conference in London by Colin Matthews, chief executive of BAA, which runs Heathrow.

He is one of the airline and industry chiefs anxious for the Government to reverse its policy and give the go-ahead for expansion at Heathrow.

In a speech at the London conference, Mr Matthews said: "These figures show that it is a mistake to believe that flights displaced from Heathrow will automatically fly to Stansted, Gatwick or Birmingham instead. The message I hear from airlines is clear: if there's no room at Heathrow then flights will move out of the UK altogether."

He went on: "Instead of Britain taking the lead in forging new links with growing economies like China, we are handing economic growth to our competitors by turning away airlines who want to bring jobs, growth and trade to the UK."

Mike Carrivick, chief executive of BAR UK, which represents 84 scheduled airlines, said: "UK business leaders should be very concerned about the restrictions on reaching new markets at such a critical time in the UK recovery effort.

"The survey's results are a chilling reminder that the Government must act decisively, and soon, in the national interest. Restricting capacity at key airports to the same level as the last decade is actively encouraging airlines and trade to go elsewhere."

Aviation Minister Theresa Villiers said: "We recognise the importance of maintaining Britain's position as one of the best-connected countries in the world. That is why the Chancellor committed us to exploring all the options for maintaining the UK's aviation hub status, with the exception of a third runway at Heathrow."

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