BAA has abandoned hopes of building a third runway at Heathrow in the face of staunch opposition from the Conservative party.
The airport operator, which is owned by Spanish building group Ferrovial, will not submit a planning application ahead of the general election in June, which the Tories are clear favourites to win.
Reports suggest the company will not fight for the extra runway if the Conservatives win the next election. Although BAA itself has insisted that it had not axed the expansion plans.
The Tories have promised to include a commitment to scrap plans for a third runway at Heathrow in their general election manifesto.
At last week’s party conference shadow transport minister Julian Brazier said: “We are absolutely firm on our opposition to expansion at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted. It will definitely be in the manifesto.”
Instead, he said the party would aim to build more high-speed trains and raise capacity at regional airports.
BAA said in a statement: “We remain convinced that a third runway is the only viable, costed and thought through way of meeting the need for extra runway capacity to maintain this country’s global connections to the rest of the world, particularly in an era where long haul links to markets such as China and India are increasingly important.
“The process was always going to take until after the general election. We continue to work on the application and will take as long as is necessary to prepare a proper submission.”
British Airways has said it will expand its operations at Madrid airport if the Conservatives are elected and carry out their pledge to scrap plans for a third runway at Heathrow.
A BA spokesman said the struggling airlineit would have no alternative but to expand overseas because of the lack of take-off and landing slots.
He told The Mail: “If we are not able to grow at Heathrow, we would look elsewhere. And with airline consolidation, Madrid would be an obvious place for expansion, especially as it is a hub airport.
“The airport has built two new runways, giving a total of four. There is room for expansion.”
BA would also abandon rights to some short-haul flights from Heathrow to replace them with long-haul flights.