Could the UK lose its status as a global hub?

The row over Heathrow expansion could damage the UK’s status as a global hub, warns the airport’s boss. The impact on the business traveller community would be dire, warns Clarendon Serviced Apartments

Heathrow Airport is not without its problems. For a start, many argue, it’s too small. The airport has helped to turn London and the UK into a major global hub for business but it is rapidly reaching capacity and urgently needs more room to accommodate more travellers.

It is not as though development stands still. Even at current capacity Heathrow is running at its limit. With the emergence of long-haul and new destinations, the airport could find itself being unable to operate.

A dire warning and one that comes straight from the chief executive of the airport, Colin Matthews. Speaking to the Airports Commission, Matthews said Heathrow was in the last chance saloon in terms of its “status as a leading international hub”. As the commission explored the need for UK hub capacity in the south east and whether it needs to grow or not, Heathrow’s boss explored some of the reasons for the capacity issues at the airport. It is underperforming in terms of long-haul. London’s population is growing and with more capacity the airport could operate to at least 20 more long-haul destinations within a few years. Without it, the UK could be left behind.

The reason for the added urgency, Matthews claims, is the economic downturn. Countries and competitors are now competing far more fiercely than they used to, as each tries to secure the edge. London and the UK has to be able to compete with other hubs around the world. Heathrow, he believes, is the only place that can seize the opportunity and build on the strong foundations. If it is given the chance to expand he predicts that by 2030 Heathrow could have added another 40 destinations.

The expansion at Heathrow is a hot political topic and one that is not likely to be easily resolved. London Mayor Boris Johnson does not want Heathrow to expand. Instead he wants a new airport to be built with four runways. Colin Matthews’ position as Chief Executive at Heathrow means he is likely to voice apocalyptic warnings if the airport is not able to expand. Similar dire predictions are levelled from the other side of the argument for those opposed to expansion.

Yet for the business traveller community, of which Clarendon Serviced Apartments is an important element providing accommodation for those jetting in and out of London, it is an area of concern. Without the ability to compete on the global stage in terms of hub travel the UK’s economic growth might be hampered. International businesses want to be able to fly in and out of the cities they want to do business in. They care little for political discourse and just want to be able to get from A to B, possible via C with the minimum of disruption and waiting time. If London slips of this international travel map because of a want of infrastructure investment it could harm the ability of the capital to attract this global business community.

For companies like Clarendon Serviced Apartments, who have been in business for over 25 years accommodating business travellers in London, developing Heathrow airport is seen as crucial in order to ensure London is still the number one destination for business travellers to conduct business. With accommodation located around the capital including Canary Wharf, the West End as well as further afield in Staines and Egham, Clarendon has developed a broad spread that services a business community used to travelling and wanting to find places to stay in various locations in the capital. Making it more difficult for this community to get into the capital at all will undoubtedly have a negative effect in the industry that works to make their stay in London, however long it is for, a safe and comfortable one.

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