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Manchester Airport boss Andrew Cowan called the comments 'concerning'
Richard Bell

Manchester Airport CEO slams Heathrow’s ‘preposterous’ claims over UK role

Manchester Airport CEO Andrew Cowan has slammed ‘concerning’ and ‘preposterous’ comments made by Heathrow boss John Holland-Kaye this week (February 5) before the Transport Committee.

When quizzed on the potential economic impact of the proposed third runway at Heathrow, Mr Holland-Kaye appeared to play down Manchester’s role in connecting UK businesses with crucial international markets.

Andrew Cowan said: “It is concerning that Heathrow continues to make misleading claims about its role in the UK economy.

“Contrary to Heathrow’s claim, it is far from being unique in connecting UK businesses to global markets. We’ve shown with new services to China, the US and the Middle East in the last few years, that Manchester Airport is the North’s global gateway and plays a huge role in driving the Northern Powerhouse forward.”

He added: “The truth is that airports across the UK are doing far more to support jobs and stimulate regional economic growth than Heathrow ever will.”

Speaking further, Mr Cowan said the next 10 years will be crucial for the UK economy and for rebalancing economic growth.

He continued: “That’s why we need Government and politicians to focus on what they can do now to support growth and improved connectivity across the UK – and not be misled by Heathrow’s preposterous suggestion that it somehow has a monopoly on connecting Britain to the world.”

Manchester Airport’s presence on the global stage continues to grow, with new routes to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, Boston, Seattle, Singapore (now direct), Beijing, Hong Kong, Phuket and Muscat launched in the last three years.

Passenger numbers rose year on year by 8.5% in 2017.

Editor’s note. Below is a transcript from the Transport Committee meeting, dated February 5 2018.

Q323 Chair: “The case for a new northwest runway at Heathrow seems to be based primarily on the need to maintain the UK’s hub status, but what specific evidence is there to support the assertion that the UK will benefit from extra hub capacity?“

John Holland-Kaye: “What is unique about a hub airport like Heathrow is that we can develop long-haul connections typically to the business destinations that the UK needs in order to grow its economy. It is important not just for London but for the whole of the UK that we are connecting all of Britain to the growing markets of the world.“

Q326 Martin Vickers: “Major cities are developing more direct routes to other major cities all around the world, so surely that reduces the number of transfer passengers.“

John Holland-Kaye: “It is an interesting example. What we see happening typically in global aviation for long-haul destinations is that network carriers operating out of a hub airport are growing the number of destinations they serve; they are adding more secondary cities. A good example would be Cathay Pacific, which has recently started a four-day-a-week service from Hong Kong to Manchester. That is fantastic connectivity for Manchester and is exactly the right thing for the UK. That is on the back of having eight direct flights a day to Hong Kong every day of the year from Heathrow.

“We have been able to help develop trade via Heathrow for Manchester businesses that are now being served directly. That is a very good thing to have, but it is not a substitute for hub connectivity. Hong Kong to Heathrow is one of the busiest airline routes in the world; it is absolutely right that other cities should be able to develop connections, but it will be a long time before Manchester has a direct flight to Mexico City, or to some of the secondary cities in China that it desperately needs to be trading with.

“Until that time, Heathrow will be able to fill the gap and make sure that we are helping businesses in Manchester, Scotland, Belfast or the west to develop.“

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