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Birmingham Airport Bids To Outdo Heathrow

(c) Sky News 2012

Birmingham is making an attempt to be seen as an alternative international hub to Heathrow, as the London airport struggles to expand its capacity.

And as part of a campaign to promote itself as a viable option, the Midlands airport has started an advertising campaign on London's Underground (Other OTC: UGSI.PK - news) network.

Birmingham Airport chief executive Paul Kehoe said: "For too long policy makers have been infatuated with seeing airport expansion in the South East as the only solution to the problems facing Britain's aviation industry.

"Heathrow has been throwing its weight about trying to get a third runway back on the political agenda but the truth is that this reliance on a centralised airport system in the South East has made the industry too regional, uncompetitive and inflexible."

Speaking on Jeff Randall Live Mr Kehoe added that: "For many years all we've had is London is the answer. 

"There are 42 other million people in the UK, outside of the South East that require adequate air transportation to these brand new markets in India, in China and in Brazil."

Mr Kehoe suggested that passengers should fly in to the Midlands and it would then be easy for passengers to get to London by high speed rail - in as little as 38 minutes.

The Birmingham bid comes ahead of a Government's consultation paper on the UK's aviation policy next month.

The Midlands airport boss said that the UK requires an aviation strategy that distributes aviation capacity across Britain rather than concentrate it in the South East.

He claimed that the Birmingham option would help rebalance the UK's economy and his airport could double in size without any further investment from 9 million passengers a year to 18 million.

Last month, Heathrow Airport was being criticised for its long queues due to a "lack of effective planning" and "shortage of staff" within the UK Border Agency.

Some experts, however, have questioned the Birmingham plan's viability.

Aviation analyst David Learmount told Sky News: "The problem is that Birmingham is not an international hub like London.

"International passengers can fly in from anywhere and catch a connection to anywhere from Heathrow. Birmingham won't get enough passengers flying through to fill connecting planes."

London Mayor Boris Johnson previously offered a different solution to a third runway at Heathrow, and advocated an entirely new airport in the Thames Estuary.

A spokesperson for Heathrow operator BAA told Sky News Online: "None of the options are easy, but we believe all options should be on the table and the Government should fully consider the technical, operational, financial, and environmental pros and cons of each."

Mr Learmount added: "The Government won't let a third runway at Heathrow happen, as it would be political suicide for the Tories, but if they get re-elected they will do a quick U-turn and let it be built.

"That said, Heathrow, too, is in the wrong place. I would create three more runways at Gatwick and Stansted and close Heathrow altogether for safety reasons, as it is situated too closely to residential areas."

Meanwhile, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) almost doubled its forecast for European airline industry losses to $1.1bn (£707m) for 2012.