Dubai will overtake Heathrow as UK 'not ambitious'

IAG boss criticises UK politicians for 'dithering' over LHR expansion.
Dubai International Airport
Dubai International Airport

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by Shane McGinley

Dubai will overtake Heathrow by next year because, while UK politicians “dithered” over the expansion of the London hub,Dubai’s leaders had the “vision and real aspiration” to push ahead with the emirate's ambitious aviation plans, IAG boss Willie Walsh said.

Walsh, CEO of IAG, the parent company of British Airways and Iberia, said he did not believe British leaders had the political will to push ahead with expansion at the heavily congested London Heathrow airport, UK newspaper the Daily Mail reported.

“Politicians won’t be brave enough to grasp the nettle. I don’t think we have the politicians in place who will deal with it…. Maybe I am cynical but I remain totally convinced that nothing will actually happen,” he said, adding they had “given up on world ambition.”

In the first two months of this year, 12.1 million passengers touched down in Dubai, while traffic at London’s Heathrow reached 10.3 million over the same period.

With Dubai’s traffic growing by more than 15 percent last year, local executives are confident the emirate will soon overtake Heathrow.

In March, Paul Griffiths, CEO, Dubai Airports, said: “We’ve had a great start to the year and February’s traffic gains bring us one step closer to the number one position for international passenger traffic. With only a little more than 800,000 passengers separating Dubai International from London Heathrow during 2013, we are on track to take over the top spot by 2015.” 

Despite runway upgrades earlier this year slowing Dubai’s expansion in 2014, Walsh agreed with the stance advocated by Griffiths: “Next year they will overtake Heathrow as the busiest airport in the world. Once the [runway] work has been completed they are expected to overtake us by quarterly passenger traffic early next year. That will become permanent.”

On top of upgrades at Dubai International Airport, in September Dubai announced it is to spend $32 billion expanding Al Maktoum International Airport at Dubai World Central (DWC), making it the world’s largest airport and increasing its ultimate capacity by 25 percent to more than 200 million passengers a year when it is complete.

While the UK announced another report into possible options at Heathrow, Walsh said Dubai would continue to expand and will overtake Heathrow because it has support from its politicians and business leaders who have “vision and real aspiration”.

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