Birmingham Airport chief executive Paul Kehoe has rubbished calls for a “Heathrow solution” to the UK’s air problems.
Mr Kehoe said existing plans for Birmingham would allow it to accommodate 36 million passengers – freeing up capacity at Heathrow and meaning there was no reason for London business leaders to “tear their hair out” over their air travel needs.
He said: “A world-class city region, whether in London, the Midlands, the north west or the north east, deserves world-class aviation links.
“Without them, businesses and jobs will drift away. It is simply not true that Britain needs a bigger hub airport.
“Heathrow already handles 70 million passengers a year. The Department for Transport estimates Britain will need space for 125 million more passengers a year by 2030.
“There is no way that Heathrow, even with a third runway, can possibly answer this demand.
“And an estuary airport would require a new town the size of Manchester to cater for the workers and their families.
“London’s business leaders are tearing their hair out. This situation doesn’t help business people in the regions hoping to attract investment to their own local economies.
“The situation demands that we look beyond Heathrow, and consider how other national airports, including Birmingham, can help.
“Birmingham handles nine million passengers and has the spare capacity to double this figure to 18 million passengers today.
“Better utilisation of Birmingham would free up slots at Heathrow for the south east market.
“Airports like Manchester, Liverpool and Edinburgh can make a similar contribution. All would benefit from better connectivity.”
And, writing on a business travel website, Mr Kehoe accused Heathrow of hijacking the ‘hub’ term for its own purpose.
“It is by no means certain that Heathrow is a hub airport.
“A single hub airport cannot answer London’s needs, let alone Britain’s needs.
“The Government must commission independent economic research, and identify policy levers to pull.
“It must solicit views and aspirations from across the UK regions, and not rely on London-based think-tanks or policy units.
“Above all, Government and business must ignore the pleas of aviation ‘gurus’ who advocate a status quo or a return to twentieth-century thinking and concentration of power.
“UK Plc deserves better than that”