Norwich to Heathrow? Airport welcomes third runway announcement as chance to improve UK links

Richard Pace, managing director at Norwich Airport. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Richard Pace, managing director at Norwich Airport. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2017

Norwich Airport bosses have welcomed approval for Heathrow's third runway, saying that the expansion can fuel growth in the Norfolk economy.

The vote in Parliament will revive hopes once more of direct flights between Norwich and Heathrow, with the government mandating that almost 15% of the fresh capacity from London must be used for regional airport links.

Norwich Airport managing director Richard Pace has previously spoken of his desire to forge links with the country's largest airport, while Flybe has said it wants to introduce new domestic flights from the airport as soon as new slots become available.

The carrier – which flies to eight destinations from Norwich – has repeated that hope since Monday's vote, saying it is looking forward to working with Heathrow to 'explore the viability and commercial feasibility of developing more domestic routes to ensure the expanded airport benefits the whole of the UK'.

Mr Pace, who last year unveiled Norwich Airport's 30-year vision, said the Heathrow expansion offered the best chance to improve connectivity from regional airports around the country.

'The UK's regional airports have a critical role to play in catalysing further investment and supporting sub regional economic expansion. We have the spare capacity to start delivering this and therefore we very much support the third runway as long as Heathrow's important commitment to regional airports is safeguarded,' he said.

'Norwich Airport stresses the importance of industry and government ensuring that the significant existing capacity at UK regional airports is also put to use connecting and enabling UK regional economies.

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'London Heathrow runway three and making best use of existing regional capacity at Norwich Airport are dual goals and not mutually exclusive.'

The government announced last week that it was prepared to intervene to reserve slots at Heathrow for domestic regional flights. These safeguards already exist to protect flights from one city to another, but it would be the first time the measure has been used for flights from Heathrow.

Norwich Airport's only current link to a major hub airport is to Amsterdam, from where passengers can fly on to nearly 500 destinations, but last year's masterplan identified Dublin and Paris as targets for future hub flight routes.