Commons Gate

Open Skies - The Draft EU-US Air Transport Agreement (HC 395-i)

Transport Committee 13 Mar 2007

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Evidence given by Mr Willie Walsh, Chief Executive, British Airways (BA), and Mr Stephen Ridgway, Chief Executive, Virgin Atlantic, Mr Nigel Turner, Chief Executive of BMI, and Mr Lawrence Hunt, Chief Executive of Silverjet, Mr Douglas Alexander MP, Secretary of State for Transport and Mr David McMillan, Director of Civil Aviation, Department for Transport.

Q67 Mr. Eric Martlew: The last place I want to go to is Heathrow. Why is it so important that you can fly from there?

Mr Turner: Traditionally, Heathrow is the largest international airport and it has been for many years. It certainly has a lot of imperfections which BMI would like to bring to your attention, but we do not have two or three hours. It remains the largest interlining place in Europe and it is very important for airlines and for people wanting to travel all around the world. The regions of the United Kingdom cherish their links into Heathrow and therefore onwards to the rest of the world. It does provide links where foreign investment can come in to Scotland, the north of England, et cetera. It is where the market is. It is a simple fact.

Q68 Mr. Eric Martlew: Is that the same for you, Mr Hunt?

Mr Hunt: I am with you and I cannot imagine for one minute why anybody wants to fly from Heathrow but 66 million people a year do and that is a big market to which I am denied access. I think that is completely unfair and it puts me at a massive disadvantage.


Q84 Mr. Eric Martlew: Where do you get the extra slots to fly to North America?

Mr Turner: We have a slot portfolio and we would rearrange those. It would be wrong for me to say which slots.

Q85 Chairman: Is "rearrange" code for "buy"?

Mr Turner: It is not necessarily, but it might do.

Q86 Mr. Eric Martlew: You would like to get rid of some of your domestic routes but not because of the Chancellor or Mr Caborn, but because you want to fly to the States?

Mr Turner: I can assure you we would try and obviously acquire extra slots if we could. At the end of the day, we have no intention of stopping any domestic routes that are economically viable.


Q110 Mr. Eric Martlew: What benefit do you see to the consumer? Do you believe that the price of flying across the Atlantic will come down if you sign this Agreement?

Mr Alexander: Well, there has been work undertaken which has been presented to me in recent days by the CAA and by their economic research team in terms of the potential benefits. I mentioned a figure in my introductory statement in terms of £215 million a year forgoing economic benefits if this Agreement is not signed. That is perhaps the most obvious example, but there is also the issue of the level of price presently charged on the transatlantic route at the moment and the indication from the CAA, if I recollect, is that it was approximately a 40 per cent premium on London-New York fares as well, so there could potentially be very real consumer benefits immediately and benefits which are reflective of the kind of competition and lower fares that we have seen as a result of the Open Aviation Area within the European Union in recent years.


Q129 Mr. Eric Martlew: On the ?250 million, what is that as a percentage of the total?

Mr Alexander: Probably because I have not examined the econometric model I cannot give you a percentage figure. If it would be of assistance to the Committee, perhaps I can let you see the evidence that was presented.


The complete session may be read at

This is an uncorrected transcript of evidence taken in public and reported to the House. The transcript has been placed on the internet on the authority of the Committee. Neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record. The transcript is not yet an approved formal record of these proceedings.

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On behalf of Eric Martlew, 3 Chatsworth Square Carlisle Cumbria CA1 1HB