Qatar's Al Baker says Heathrow noise gripes are "excessive"

Qatar Airways CEO, who is a board member of the London airport, says UK national interest should be the first priority
Qatar's Al Baker says Heathrow noise gripes are
By Courtney Trenwith
Tue 20 May 2014 11:31 AM

Akbar Al Baker, the outspoken CEO of Qatar Airways and a board member of Heathrow Airport, believes the UK should put national interests ahead of Heathrow resident complaints against aircraft noise if it wants to compete with rival European and Gulf airports, while Britons made “excessive” fuss about noise levels from aircraft flying over their homes, London’s The Telegraph newspaper reported.

The west London airport is very close to capacity but British politicians have been unable to agree on expansion plans – either new runways or extending an existing runway – and the industry has repeatedly warned the country risks losing business to others if it does not act quickly.

Al Baker, who joined Heathrow’s board after Qatar Holding bought a 20 percent stake in the airport in 2012, said tight restrictions, particularly around nighttime flying, meant European airlines could not grow as fast as Gulf carriers.

Qatar and neighbouring UAE have among the fastest growing aviation industries in the world.

Dubai International Airport recorded the highest passenger numbers of any airport during the first quarter, overtaking Heathrow for the first time.

Meanwhile, Qatar opened its new Doha international airport, which will eventually accommodate 50 million passengers – still below Dubai’s second airport, which will be the largest in the world when it’s completed with capacity for 160 million passengers.

Gulf residents “are not making so much fuss” about aircraft noise, he said.

“If you live under the flight path of an aeroplane, I assure you that over a period of time you wouldn’t even hear the aircraft passing over your house,” Al Baker said.

“In addition to that, today’s aeroplanes are so efficient vis-à-vis the noise emissions that as soon as the aeroplane is out of the airport perimeter you would hardly hear them.”

Al Baker said residents’ gripes about noise levels should not outweigh national interests related to expanding the UK’s runways, and suggested the UK would lose business to European hubs such as Paris and Frankfurt if it didn’t act fast.

“I know that people require freedom but I think this is too excessive,” he said. “Sometimes national interests must be considered also. If you don’t increase the airport size at Heathrow or Gatwick you will be overtaken by other airports which will then connect to your country by high-speed train.”

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