Gatwick Airport's capability to support long-distance flights to growth markets is being challenged by London Heathrow Airport, which has submitted evidence questioning the airport's ability to deliver long-haul business flights.
According to Heathrow, Gatwick must expand to become a hub airport, as a new runway alone will not able to deliver the flights that the country needs.
The new runway will not be able to offer the £100bn of economic benefits and 70,000 jobs that are expected to be generated by a third runway at Heathrow.
Hub airports that enable local passengers to combine with transfer passengers play a key role in allowing airlines to fly to growth markets, and this cannot be achieved by Gatwick's proposals, Heathrow said.
Although Gatwick claims that long-haul flights do not need to operate from a hub airport, it has failed to address flight needs to long-distance business destinations during the decade that Heathrow has been full.
Several airlines that could not access slots at Heathrow airport have failed to make long-haul flights from Gatwick work, Heathrow said in a statement.
Heathrow chief executive Colin Matthews said that Gatwick's proposal to prevent Heathrow expanding, while adding a new runway at its own airport, endangers Britain's future competitiveness.
"It is a zero-hub solution that will lead to an irreversible decline in Britain's international connections."
"Only a hub airport with the scale to compete internationally can provide the long-haul flights the UK needs," Matthews added.
The Heathrow's decision to challenge Gatwick's claims follows Air China's announcement to suspend flights from Gatwick to Beijing, the withdrawal of Korean Air as well as the cancellation of the proposed Garuda Indonesia flight from Gatwick to Jakarta this winter.
In total, 20 long-distance airlines have withdrawn from Gatwick airport during the past five years.
Over the period, it gained only six airlines that are still operating, the majority of which fly to leisure destinations. The airlines that have pulled out of Gatwick are instead operating flights to economic competitors in France, Germany and Holland.
Image: In total, 20 long-distance airlines have withdrawn from Gatwick airport during the past five years. Photo: courtesy of LHR Airports Limited.