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  December 7th, 2015 | Written by

Heathrow CEO: Why Government Should Approve Heathrow Expansion

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  • Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye: “We will connect all of Britain to global growth.”
  • Heathrow handles over a quarter of all British exports by value.
  • British exports to China via Heathrow are up by 117 percent year on year.
  • Expansion will double Heathrow’s cargo capacity

Speaking at a recent meeting of the UK Airport Operators Association (AOA), Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye set out why the Heathrow airport expansion is the right option for government on the basis of the airport’s role as an engine for the economy, its importance as a UK-based global hub, the critical part air freight plays to business, and its role as a good neighbor.

A recent study by the Airports Commission, a body set up by the British prime minister, found that

Heathrow’s expansion plan would deliver over $300 billion of economic growth, and up to 180,000 new jobs across the UK.

“We will connect all of Britain to global growth,” said Holland-Kaye.

Heathrow has been important British exports by businesses both large and small. “Heathrow is Britain’s biggest port,” said Holland-Kaye, “handling over a quarter of all British exports by value.  Anything high value, fragile, with a short shelf life or requiring just in time delivery goes in the belly of a passenger jet from Heathrow. Think Scottish salmon, pharmaceuticals, Brompton bikes, Formula 1 cars, or emergency aid.”

Britain’s fastest growing export markets are in Asia and South America, Holland-Kaye noted. “In fact,” he said, “exports to China via Heathrow at £7 billion [$10.6 billion] are up by 117 percent year on year.”

Heathrow recently appointed a head of cargo tasked with helping get British exports through the airport more quickly and predictably. The goal, according to Holland-Kaye, is to more than halve throughput time to four hours.

“With expansion, we will double our cargo capacity, providing the infrastructure needed to meet the government’s goal of becoming Europe’s second largest exporting nation,” said Holland-Kaye. “And just think how much more we could export if we had direct flights to the great cities of China, Xian, Chongqing, Wuhan, Tianjin, cities that are already as large as London, whose names I can barely pronounce, and yet which will be as familiar to our children’s generation as Atlanta and Chicago are to us.”

Heathrow also has plans to become one of the first airports to be 100 percent digital and to have dedicated air-to-air transfer service to speed up regional connections.

“This will make our exporters more competitive,” said Holland-Kaye, “but it doesn’t get over the real issue that some of our cargo routes are already full. How do you grow exports if your largest port is full?

“If the government is serious about keeping Britain as a leading trading nation,” he concluded, “they will back Heathrow expansion.”