London's Heathrow Airport could soften its position on night time flights, in a bid to convince the Government to back a third runway, John Holland-Kaye, the airport's chief executive, said on Thursday (21 April).
In 2015, the Government-appointed Airports Commission stated Britain's biggest airport would only be allowed to build a third runway if it agreed to a ban on scheduled flights between 11.30pm and 6am, after local residents complained of noise pollution.
In the months that followed the ruling, the company running the airport said it was open to "significantly reduce" night flights, although it stopped short of fully committing to implementing the ban.
Holland-Kaye, however, admitted that the airport could soon agree to the night flights curb recommended by the Airports Commission.
"We're consulting with airlines and local communities about how we can deliver what the Airports Commission is asking for," he said. "We'll be able to make a solid comment on that in a few months' time."
An agreement on a ban on night flights could be pivotal for the airport, given the recommendation from the Airports Commission is considered the biggest stumbling block preventing London's biggest airport from expanding further.
The decision is also considered extremely delicate from a political point of view, and Prime Minister David Cameron has postponed any decisions on Heathrow's expansion plans until after the referendum on Britain's European Union membership on 23 June.
"All policy is off the agenda while we go through the EU referendum, government has ground to a halt," Holland-Kaye admitted. "Once the decks are cleared on June 23 we can get on and make the big decisions and the prime minster needs to be thinking about his legacy: how is he going to set up this country for future success?"
Holland-Kaye's comments came as the privately-owned airport released its first quarter results. In the three months to 31 March 2016, Heathrow's revenues rose 3.2% year-on-year to £642m (€814.5m, $919m), while pre-tax profits before exceptional items climbed from £19m to £23m.
On a statutory basis, however, the airport swung to a £39m quarterly pre-tax loss from a £71m profit in the corresponding period a year earlier, due to £62m in fair value adjustments to Heathrow's investments and property.
"It's been a fantastic start to 2016 and Heathrow is performing strongly on all fronts," said Holland-Kaye.
"Our colleagues are delivering excellent value for our passengers - better service at a lower cost."