Sunday, 22 April 2012

Birmingham Airport boss accuses BAA of ‘conning industry’

The chief executive of Birmingham Airport has dismissed claims from his BAA counterpart that Chinese airlines are only willing to fly into Heathrow rather than smaller regional airports in the UK. Paul Kehoe of Birmingham Airport said that at the same time that BAA was making the claims, he was in Chengdu talking to Chinese airlines that were willing to consider any entry point into the UK.

Kehoe is particularly aggrieved that BAA have stated that the British economy requires new runways in the south-east and that it is a ‘con’ perpetrated by BAA which goes unquestioned due to their dominance. 

In his defence, Colin Matthews of BAA counteracts Kehoe’s claims by arguing that if Chinese airlines wished to fly into alternative airports where capacity exists, they would have already done so. Speaking about the issue, Matthews said:

"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.  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."

Despite these strong points from Colin Matthews, Kehoe still believes that there is scope for other airports to obtain a percentage of the lucrative Chinese market. He also believes that it is not the airports that are necessarily the problem but visas and airport taxation that are playing a part in putting Chinese airlines and visitors away from the UK.

He also sighted BAA’s strong position within the airline industry where every leader with the exception of Michael O’Leary is scared to upset the airport owners as their business is reliant on lucrative slots at BAA’s airports.

Paul Kehoe has some valid points and I would very much welcome an aviation industry which is not southern heavy. This is no doubt wishful think but Birmingham’s runway extension will allow further long-haul flights while the proposed HS2 (a very long way off yet) will bring London within an hour of Birmingham.

There must also be continued lobbying to the Government over its choking affect from APD which severely affecting the economy. The increased revenue from a rise in APD is having the same effect as paying the minimum amount each month from your credit card bill. It does nothing to the debt and keeps you in the same or worse position.   The process will take longer than anyone would wish for yet should hopefully readdress the balance if the government is willing to use some common sense.