A third runway at Heathrow and a second at Gatwick have both made the Airports Commission shortlist this morning.
The commission, headed by Sir Howard Davies, also shortlisted the option of lengthening an existing runway at Heathrow and added the possible consideration of a new airport at the Isle of Grain in Kent.
A final report will be delivered by summer 2015.
Shortlisted: A third runway at Heathrow remains an option
Today's interim report is available here.
Colin Matthews, Heathrow's chief executive, said: "We have thought afresh about how a third runway can be delivered. Our new option is different from the previous proposal for a third runway and will deliver the flights Britain needs while continuing to reduce the total number of people affected by aircraft noise."
1. New runway considered at Gatwick.
2. Two potential runway options at Heathrow:
- A new 3,500m runway constructed to the northwest of the existing airport, as proposed by Heathrow Airport Ltf, and spaced sufficiently to permit fully independent operation.
- An extension of the existing northern runway to the west, as proposed by Heathrow Hub Ltd, lengthening it to at least 6,000m and enabling it to be operated as two separate runways — one for departures and one for arrivals.
3. Thames Estuary proposal not shortlisted.
4. Stansted Airport not shortlisted.
Stewart Wingate, CEO at Gatwick, said he was pleased that Gatwick had made the shortlist.
He said: "Expansion at London Gatwick can give the country the economic benefits it needs at an environmental cost it can afford with the lower fares and greater choice that passengers want. It can be delivered more quickly and at lower cost.
"The real debate starts now, not least on the environmental impacts and business case of each option. There is a lot of hard work and intense scrutiny ahead, but we are confident that by summer 2015 there will be a wide recognition that expansion at Gatwick is the right choice for the future."
Charlie Cornish, the chief executive of the Manchester Airport Group, which owns Stansted, said: "Stansted has a bright future. Indeed, we are the only London airport that can grow substantially in the next ten years.
"Since we took ownership in February this year we have already signed up new airlines and destinations to meet growing passenger demand. Our immediate priority is to continue to transform the airport experience for our passengers.
"As London continues to grow to the east and high-tech industries along the London to Cambridge corridor grow Britain's economy, Stansted has a critical role to play in supporting the country's economic growth. At the right time we will bring forward proposals for a second runway at the airport to support this growth."
Welcoming the news, the Board of Airline Representatives in the UK said the report was "sensible".
Dale Keller, chief executive of BAR UK, said: "Despite the inevitable challenges and disagreement that will follow, the vast majority of airlines believe that expanding Heathrow is now the only sensible way forward for the UK.
"Sir Howard and his team have correctly identified that other proposals would cost billions in public funding and could create mass relocations and associated social upheaval and economic pain, or not deliver on the core objectives.
"Unlike rail, it's the world's airlines and their customers who will ultimately pay for the new airport infrastructure through airport charges. Since aircraft are a moveable asset, the UK cannot risk building capacity where the airlines and their customers don't want it.
"Airlines are also highly supportive of the inclusion of an optimisation strategy, with Sir Howard acknowledging that this is not only an issue of airlines adding more flights to meet increasing demand, but also about improving resilience and the customer experience.
"The travelling public want the industry and the government to reduce delays caused by congestion and to fully meet their future travelling needs. This can only be achieved by having three or more runways together in the right location."