Willie Walsh, IAG Chief Executive, and other airline bosses have appeared before Parliament’s Transport Select Committee to discuss plans for Heathrow’s third runway.
Walsh said: “History does not demonstrate that Heathrow is capable of delivering on time and on budget,” and his confidence that it will be able to do so on this plan was “zero”.
“Heathrow is saying trust me, we can deliver something for about £14bn,” Walsh told MPs. “But we don’t know what it is, when it will be built or the constituent parts. They are saying trust us, give us approval and we will deliver on time and on budget but I don’t trust them and you shouldn’t either.”
The committee was gathering evidence for the National Policy Statement (NPS) which will become the parameters for planning the runway expansion scheme. Representatives from IAG, easyJet, Virgin Atlantic and Flybe gave evidence to the committee. MPs are scheduled to vote on the NPS in June, after which Heathrow will be able to start the planning application process for the scheme.
Airline bosses are concerned that the cost of the expansion will be passed onto passengers in the form of higher ticket prices. Walsh said that Heathrow should “give a guarantee that passenger charges will not increase”.
Virgin Atlantic chief executive, Craig Kreeger, is another advocate of a passenger cost guarantee. He said: “We find ourselves in a position where endorsement is being sought for a plan where the consequence of overspend could be borne by airlines and customers”. He added that the airport “should bear the risk of its estimate being grossly off target whereas today we, or our customers, would be holding the bag for any overspending on a very unpredictable outcome.”
Chief executive of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) took a different line, however, saying that research carried out by the CAA suggested that it was “plausible to build the infrastructure and keep costs flat”. He added: “If prices had to go up by 1p to deliver this then a flat charges cap would be absurd.”
Earlier this week, Lord Deighton, Heathrow’s chairman, wrote in The Telegraph that the airport would be able to deliver on the expansion plan whilst keeping costs down after stripping £2.5bn from the initial budget.