Letter to the Editor published at Financial Times on Thursday 24, January 2013.
Sir, “London needs a better main airport” you argue (editorial, January 23). We agree and are investing accordingly. Since 2010 we have invested £36m in snow-clearing equipment. Because of this, the runways were cleared quickly last Friday and cancellations were dramatically fewer than during the last significant snow. But Heathrow is full every day, and any delays caused by snow or poor visibility lead to cancellations because there are no spare slots available. Cancellation of flights because of snow clearing is not “an embarrassing failure” as you suggest, it is an inescapable piece of arithmetic at an airport that is full. That is why there is an urgent need for further capacity at London’s hub airport. We agree that, in the interest of British business, capacity constraints should be addressed by politicians as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, we are not waiting on politicians while we make continual improvements to the passenger experience. As well as the investment in snow-clearing, we have invested £10bn in new passenger facilities since 2003 including Terminal 5, a refurbished Terminal 3 and 4, and the new Terminal 2, which opens next year. This investment is paying off. The proportion of passengers rating their journey as “very good” or “excellent” has increased from 39 per cent in 2006 to 75 per cent last quarter. Last year, Heathrow showed it can deliver for the country by providing an excellent service during the operationally complex period of the Olympics and Paralympics.
Contrary to your claim, London does have a hub airport on which it can rely come rain or shine. It just does not have one, yet, with any spare capacity.