BA adds its voice to chorus calling for third runway
British Airways chairman Martin Broughton says Hong Kong could lose passenger and cargo traffic to rival cities if it does not build a third runway.
He said he was 'surprised that consultation has been held back' on the development of the third runway.
Broughton, who was speaking during a brief visit to Hong Kong to mark the 75th anniversary of British Airways' first flight to the city, indicated Hong Kong was facing a regional threat from cities such as Shanghai.
Drawing a comparison with the failed attempt to build a third runway at London's Heathrow, Broughton said he felt 'great frustration' towards Britain's government, which 'can't see beyond the few voters that were important for them to do the right thing for UK PLC'.
He said restricting capacity and imposing hefty passenger departure taxes had made Heathrow uncompetitive. 'I would hate to see the same mistake here,' he said.
The seven-year wrangle over plans to develop a third runway at Heathrow ended in May when the project was scrapped soon after the Conservative-Liberal Democrat government took office.
Broughton said Heathrow had already lost direct air links to 20 destinations. This had reduced its connectivity and made it less attractive.
The London gateway was also one of only two of the world's top 30 international airports to see a drop in passenger traffic last year, according to preliminary figures from the Airports Council International.
The global airports body said Heathrow handled 65.9 million passengers last year, down 0.2 per cent, making it the world's fourth-busiest airport. Atlanta was the busiest, handling 89.3 million travellers, followed by Beijing with 73.9 million and Chicago with 66.7 million.
By comparison, Hong Kong was the world's busiest cargo airport, handling 4.1 million tonnes last year, up 23.2 per cent year on year. Chek Lap Kok was also the 11th-busiest passenger airport in 2010 following a 10.6 per cent increase in the number of travellers to 50.4 million.
'I would hate to see it [Hong Kong] fall behind,' Broughton said, but threats from airports including those in Shanghai, Seoul, Bangkok and Singapore were growing.
Broughton, who was chairman of Liverpool Football Club until the end of last year, said he had not raised his concerns with the Airport Authority or Hong Kong government officials because 'it wasn't on my agenda'. He was questioned about a third runway during a British Chamber of Commerce lunch on Monday.
Exporters, freight forwarders, airlines and their global representative body, and some legislators, have urged a third runway be built.
Broughton said he hoped Hong Kong would be more pragmatic in its thinking on the airport's development and the benefits of that expansion to its economy than people in Britain were over Heathrow.
British Airways, which started operations to Hong Kong in March 1936 using a nine-seat propellerdriven aircraft which took eight days and made 24 stops, has two daily flights to Heathrow. Broughton said there were no plans to reintroduce a third daily service.
Support for a third runway also came this week from Brian Cusson, president for North Asia of US transport giant United Parcel Service. Speaking on Monday after announcing a four-times-a-week non-stop Boeing 747-400 freighter flight between Hong Kong and Cologne, Cusson said: 'We would love to see that.'
He noted that UPS still needed traffic rights for the Cologne route but was confident about air cargo growth between Hong Kong and Europe.