Heathrow expansion approved, but IAG chief is a critic

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British Airways plane at Heathrow
Photo Credit: Timothy Bolitho/Shutterstock.com

The U.K. Parliament on Monday approved a 14.4 billion pound ($19 billion) plan to build a new runway at London Heathrow by 2026.

But the move garnered criticism from the head of the U.K.'s flagship airline.

Parliament voted 415-119 in favor of the long-discussed third runway. The runway is expected to enable a combined 260,000 more departures and arrivals per year at capacity-constrained Heathrow, which is Europe's most trafficked airport. It would open up room for an additional 356 daily arrival and landing rights at the airport, according to a June 2017 House of Commons briefing paper. Such rights, known as slots, are highly valued at Heathrow. Oman Air paid a record $75 million for one slot pair in 2016, the paper notes.

As of last summer, British Airways controlled by far the largest share of Heathrow slots at 52%.

In an interview with Sky News, Willie Walsh, CEO of British Airways parent IAG, criticized the expansion plan, saying it is too expensive and that there is "zero" chance that it will be complete by 2025.

But Walsh cast aside the notion that IAG is opposed to the expansion because it wants to protect British Airways' dominant market position at Heathrow.

"We do support the expansion of Heathrow but it has to be at the right price," he said.

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