Virgin Doomsday scenario?! Bring out the Branson! Online poll

February 24, 2008 at 4:16 am | Posted in Airlines, Aviation, Branson, Business, CBI, City, Heathrow, Heathrow airport, Heathrow expansion, London, Travel, TUC | Leave a comment

“With more runways being built in other European cities such as Frankfurt, it is more important than ever that London expands its capacity. Business travellers need an airport that flows seamlessly, not one that seizes up due to lack of space on the runways.

“Businesses will move their global headquarters elsewhere in Europe, and they will take thousands of jobs with them if a third runway [is not] at Heathrow. Routine delays and circling overhead by all airlines, that simply increases pollution levels, will only be stopped with extra capacity.”

Branson’s comments come ahead of the deadline for submissions on the Heathrow issue to the Government on Wednesday. He joins an unlikely alliance of Richard Lambert, director-general of the business lobbying group the CBI, and Brendan Barber, general secretary of the TUC, in calling for expansion to be given the green light. They claim it could generate around £10bn for the UK economy.

From today’s Sunday Telegraph article, Branson: City to suffer without third runway.

As I was eating my cheese and pickle sandwich on the train to Paddington the other day, reading about today’s planned biofuel-powered jumbo jet experiment, it occurred to me that Sir Richard is sounding more like an old duffer than an entrepreneur. Kids are more inspired by recent announcements about solar-powered flight than biofuels trials with cautionary notes attached. Branson’s City friends may be important but they do not, in any case, represent the British economy as a whole.

The airlines still don’t get it. They drum up business for cheap leisure antics, then complain that business travel is squeezed and runways are seized up. An exclusive business model justifiably demands high prices due to its personal attention, comprehensive and responsive service, and ability to prevent you rubbing shoulders with the lower classes. Exclusive travel offerings do not sit well next to cheap’n’cheerful mass marketing if you provide these services in the same location. Executives and plain vanilla consumers may be divided by class into lounges, and even on seats, but you cannot prevent them mingling at check-in and through security and immigration checks.

I totally agree with the City guys that business should be allowed to move freely in all sorts of ways, including through airports. Where it falls down is this idea that you can combine cheap air travel with exclusive service on the same flight, and allow the businessmen free flow while the masses are held back if there is congestion. The airline model cannot cope with that because people of all classes are bundled onto the same flights.

Personally, I would recommend that the City push for Heathrow to be the exclusive highly-prized City-access airport they so rightly deserve. This means that City chiefs should be calling for all cheap leisure flights to be prohibited from operating from Heathrow. Only the miniumum of short-haul business flights or high-fare-paying passengers should be allowed to use Heathrow until high-speed rail alternatives are fully operational. Let holidaymakers (whose time is less valuable by Government definition) use Gatwick, Stansted or Luton. That should sort it out, without having to add a third runway or a sixth terminal 😉

Virgin Atlantic have an online poll for Expanding Heathrow – Show your support!

Please feel free to vote NO!


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