But it is delusional to pretend that expansion has only been temporarily delayed. Lobbying the CAA to approve hundreds of millions of pounds of additional levies on passengers and airlines to pay for a defunct scheme adds insult to injury.
Having admitted the parlous state of the airport’s finances, all sides must come up with a realistic plan to put it on a more resilient, efficient and greener footing. British Airways, Virgin, the other airlines and their passengers should not be asked to foot the bill for Heathrow’s spiralling costs; rather they would be justified in demanding lower passenger fees so traffic can recover.
Assuming the Government does not want to tap up taxpayers for a bailout, the private sector, including existing or new shareholders, should contribute to a refinancing.
What is the incentive for them to do so?
It is reasonable to allow Heathrow to expand incrementally and cost-effectively, as long as environmental targets, including reducing noise and emissions, are met. Additional spare capacity would improve resilience and reduce delays, including taxi times and stacking in the air, simultaneously reducing both emissions and fuel costs while allowing some headroom for revenue growth.
I have spent the last seven years leading an independent consortium of aviation experts and investors promoting a detailed proposal to extend one of the existing runways as the best way to put both Heathrow and other international airports on a sound footing for the future.
Not only is an extended runway a substantially cheaper option, it brings no new communities into the noise footprint and would actually reduce emissions from the airport by 10pc, mostly due to fewer delays and shorter taxiing times.
Ministers have been sitting on whether to conduct the necessary review of airports policy for a year. The parlous state of the airport’s finances means they should now get on with it, as the first step to making Heathrow fit for the 21st century.
Jock Lowe is a former director of flight operations for British Airways and a director of the Heathrow Hub extended runway consortium