Monday, August 14, 2017

How Arora Group ruffled feathers with Heathrow runway proposal

London:  When the British government gave the go-ahead to the construction of a third runway at Heathrow airport last October, it seemed it had finally put an end to the long running and heated battle over the future of the first new full length runway that south-east England had had since the Second World War.

That assumption was put paid to decisively last month as the Arora Group, an established hotel and property empire owned by Indian-origin businessman Surinder Arora, revealed that it had submitted a proposal as part of the consultation the government had launched, that would knock a startling £6.7 billion off the cost of the project.

Crucially, the project received backing from airlines, including the International Airlines Group, which owns British Airways (the biggest airline at Heathrow). “Arora’s Heathrow proposal is a welcome alternative to the airport’s own costly scheme,” its CEO Willie Walsh told the FT last month.

Speaking at the group’s 600-bed Sofitel Heathrow, Arora, who was born in Sultanpur Lodhi in Punjab, is quietly confident that his move has ruffled feathers at the very least, and shaken the project out of the complacency it was in danger of falling into, with his very public campaign. (The group has a fully dedicated website outlining the proposal and how it differs from Heathrow’s plans, submitted to Howard Davies, who headed the independent commission recommending the expansion at Heathrow over the alternatives).

Arora sees his bid as a crucial part of challenging the Heathrow “monopoly.” “The way in which the business is currently regulated in the UK…the airport has no incentive to be efficient — in fact, they are incentivised to be inefficient, not doing things in a different way,” he said. “That’s what led us to come up with a different idea — in the 21st century, we should be looking at what they do in other countries where different terminals are owned by different entities that create competition…Heathrow is the most expensive airport in the world and there is no reason why this should be the case and unless we think outside the box it’s not going to change.”
13/08/17 Visdya Ram/Business Line