London’s airport operators gave donations-in-kind to UK prime ministers: report

Several London airports gave non-cash donations to several Conservative MPs, including three former Prime Ministers
Yau Ming Low /

A new report alleged that operators of London-based airports gave non-cash gifts to Britain’s last three prime ministers.

According to a report by openDemocracy, the country’s last three prime ministers received donations-in-kind or non-material gifts and/or services from London-Heathrow Airport (LHR), London-Gatwick Airport (LGW), and City Airport (LCY) operators. Analysis by the publication said that Boris Jonhson, Lizz Truss, and Theresa May are among the Conservative MPs who have accepted more than £275,000 ($340,676) in non-cash donations since 2019.

The donations include a separate sum to the Conservative Party.

openDemocracy detailed that Johnson used LHR’s VIP suite 34 times, while May visited it at least 44 times. Truss, during her short tenure as the head of the county’s government, used both LHR and LGW private suites at least 14 times.

All three airports have expressed their desire to expand their facilities and/or runways, including LHR, which has been battling opposition to build a third runway since the 2000s. British Airways, which has a main hub at the airport, has been calling for an expansion of LHR since 2003, when the airline published a study on the future development of air transportation in south east England.

“There is an overwhelming case for developing Heathrow. Adding a short runway in 2011 would be sufficient to maintain the competitiveness of the UK’s aviation hub at least until 2030,” the report noted at the time.

The same year, the UK Department for Transport (DfT) also published a report which stated that further development of LHR was “supported, including a further new runway and additional terminal capacity to be delivered as soon as possible (within the 2015-2020 period) after the new runway at Stansted, but only if stringent environmental limits can be met”.

Meanwhile, LGW unveiled plans to utilize its Northern Runway, a taxiway that acts as a runway when the airport’s sole runway is not useable, in July 2023.

At the time, the airport’s chief executive officer (CEO) Stewart Wingate said that the continuous usage of the Northern Runway would ensure the long-term future of LGW, as well as provide economic well-being for families and businesses across the region.

LCY’s plans to expand to be able to accept up to 9 million passengers per year were rejected recently, with the local council voting against it. The airport wanted to expand the times when flights are permitted to take off and land from the in-city airport, with the plans including minor design changes to the airport’s layout.

“Our proposals include no more flights than are currently permitted and – a UK airport first – a commitment that only cleaner, quieter, new generation aircraft will be allowed to fly in any extended periods,” the airport’s spokesperson told AeroTime in an email at the time.

AeroTime approached LGW and LCY for comment.

“With regard to access to the Windsor Suite, we always take a view on how to maintain a safe and efficient operation at the airport,” an LHR spokesperson said in an email to AeroTime. “At our discretion, we have the option of providing access to the Windsor Suite where we consider it will make the best use of the airport’s security resources. As the register reflects, the proper reporting procedures have been followed.”

UPDATE September 19, 2023, 9:15 am (UTC +3): The article was updated with a statement from LHR.

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