Heathrow and Gatwick have squabbled over rival expansion plans, after both airports announced record passenger numbers.
July was Heathrow’s busiest ever month, according to the airport’s operator, with just under seven million passengers travelling through its terminals, an increase of 0.5% on last year.
But Gatwick also claimed a record-breaking month, with more than four million passengers flying through the airport, up 6% on July 2013.
Both airports used the numbers to bolster arguments for expansion.
Heathrow’s chief executive, John Holland-Kaye, said: “Despite other UK airports having spare capacity, only Heathrow can deliver daily, direct flights to emerging economies that will help Britain win in the global race for growth. Gatwick can’t, Heathrow can.”
However, Gatwick’s chief financial officer Nick Dunn retorted: “Building a third runway at Heathrow will diminish the choice available to British passengers, making it more expensive to go on holiday, to travel for business and to export goods and services.”
Heathrow, the UK’s largest airport, proposes to tunnel a 14-lane stretch of the M25 under a new third runway as part of its expansion proposal.
Gatwick wants to build a second runway and extend capacity at Stansted to break Heathrow’s dominance of the London market.
The government’s Airports Commission is due to make its final recommendation on airport expansion after the 2015 election, although no party has pledged to act on its findings.
A poll of NCE readers found that 47% wanted to expand Heathrow, compared to just 15% who favoured Gatwick.