Surveying the chaos at London's airports, it is clear that BAA, bought last year by Ferrovial for £10bn, wants to give "third-world hell-holes a run for their money", said Jeff Randall in The Daily Telegraph. It's an arrogant, incompetent and inflexible monopoly that seems to see itself increasingly as an operator of retail malls and overpriced cafes, in return for which it "puts up with the inconvenience of getting pesky travellers and their luggage on and off planes". The Heathrow experience is now so unpleasant that London's status as a top financial hub is being undermined. The solution is to break up BAA, which controls 92% of air traffic in and out of London and 86% in Scotland. "Only real competition will raise its miserable standards."
Monopoly isn't the key issue, says Adam Raphael in The Independent. Heathrow, now the busiest international airport in the world, is "simply not fit to be a 21st-century international airport". It handles 70 million passengers a year, double what it was designed for. The passenger experience is bad as a result, as are the lives of the millions living beneath the airport's flight path. A planned fifth terminal and third runway (to be squeezed after 2015 into an "already chaotically constrained site") are not the answer. Our European rivals resolved the problem long ago by building new hubs in safer, less densely populated areas further from their capitals. A new airport with high-speed rail links is the only answer. There will be vociferous objections, but it's the price we have to pay if we want to cope with the predicted trebling of air journeys in the next 30 years.
We cant cope and shouldnt try, says George Monbiot in The Guardian. Next week's Camp for Climate Action near Heathrow may cause a "storm of repugnance" but it will publicise the issue. Only those who haven't grasped the implications of climate change could claim "the need to avoid disrupting a few holiday flights outweighs the need to reverse" aviation growth.
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