Gatwick; Boss Is Confident

An airport chief has stepped up the stakes in the battle for UK runway provision by saying he will resign if his airport fails to make the shortlist for expansion.

Gatwick chief executive Stewart Wingate made the resignation threat after being asked how confident he was that the West Sussex airport would be one of the runway options put forward by the Government-appointed Airports Commission.

He replied that he was `"absolutely confident'' and then added that he would resign if Gatwick was not on the commission's shortlist.

Mr Wingate was speaking as budget airline Norwegian announced new low-fare services from Gatwick to the USA starting next summer.

The commission, chaired by former Financial Services Authority chief Sir Howard Davies, is due to make its first report on airport provision by the end of this year.

Earlier this month, Sir Howard said the commission's emerging thinking was that some additional runway capacity was needed in south east England in the coming decades and that reliance on existing runways was "a sub-optimal solution''.

Mr Wingate is keen for Gatwick to get a second runway but faces tough opposition from Heathrow where the west London airport bosses are equally eager to see a third, extra, runway built.

London Mayor Boris Johnson is among those who favour a brand new airport in the Thames Estuary or, possibly, expansion at Stansted airport in Essex.

Sir Howard's team are due to publish their final report, recommending long-term solutions, in the summer of 2015.

With the whole subject of airport expansion proving, as ever, a political hot potato, this final report will, crucially, come out after the May 2015 general election.

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