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Heathrow expansion: the BALPA viewpoint

by Brian Strutton BALPA General Secretary

Yesterday saw the announcement that the Government is backing expansion at Heathrow. BALPA has strongly welcomed this announcement. And it’s about time too. Despite this being a positive decision for the economy, we’re still disappointed that the final deciding vote in the Commons won’t actually be held until next year. Pending the official vote next year, Heathrow has announced it would begin construction in 2021. It is estimated it will take about four years to complete, although it is believed this could be longer, so we may not actually start to enjoy the benefits until closer to 2030.

Bringing benefits

This is definitely a step in the right direction for the aviation industry – with expansion in the South East bringing increased jobs for our members, as well as workers in many other sectors. And while we know that expanding Heathrow is not going to be cheap, the return is expected to be huge; the Davies Commission, which backed Heathrow in its final report, estimated a third runway would bring a boost of more than £58 billion to the local economy as well as bringing up to 80,000 jobs to the South East. These figures are even higher accounting for the other parts of the UK that would also benefit: an estimated £211 billion to UK economy as a whole as well as 179,000 UK-wide

BALPA has always been in favour of expansion of some kind. We called for the establishment of an independent commission to weigh up the options, and supported Howard Davies’ work. We think once that has been done, the sensible thing would be to implement what the commission recommended – and that’s an additional runway at Heathrow. That’s not to say we’re against expansion at Gatwick – we’re not. It doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game, and Davies said that the Gatwick plan would also bring huge economic benefits. We would like to see this revisited in the future. 

Support from unions

BALPA’s backing of Heathrow has been echoed by many other unions; Unite, GMB and iron and steel workers union, Community, have all publicly announced their support of expansion. Also, in August, BALPA and the TUC wrote to Teresa May asking for a decision, urging: “the Government to announce a clear and final decision to build a new third runway at Heathrow based on the recommendations of the Airports Commission.”

Opening up the UK

We believe that by expanding Heathrow, we will see improved regional UK connectivity, which is a crucial point. Ensuring that the UK’s biggest hub airport is connected to Liverpool, Newquay, Humberside, Prestwick and Durham Tees Valley will open up many more connection possibilities for people and businesses in the regions and nations of the UK, and open up the world to more of this country too.