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Heathrow’s third runway primarily benefits wealthy travelers headed out on holiday, according to data from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), an independent corporation that regulates aviation.

Aviation tax reform campaign group Fellow Travellers analyzed two decades of CAA passenger data to discover that wealthy international leisure tourists were the primary source of pressure behind Heathrow’s recent expansion. The report directly contradicts the government’s statement that a third Heathrow runway would boost the UK economy.

The Runway for the Few report found that Heathrow’s proposed third runway would primarily benefit wealthy vacationers, not boost business travel.

The findings went live just before Members of Parliament are to vote on Monday, June 25, on whether or not to formally approve Heathrow’s runway expansion plan. The British government finally gave preliminary approval for the new runway in June, after years of stalling, with transport secretary Chris Grayling stating that the move signaled commitment to “boosting our economy for future generations.”

Yet the Fellow Travellers report, titled “Runway for the Few,” claims the data shows that “the relative importance of business travel has been dramatically overstated in the discourse around airport expansion.”

“The claimed economic benefits of airport expansion do not factor in the negative effects of outbound tourism,” the report begins. “In 2016, the UK’s tourism deficit was almost equal to the total direct contribution aviation makes to the UK economy, and policies aimed at increasing total air traffic are highly likely to lead to the sector becoming a net financial drain on the UK.”

The report went on to state that UK-originating business travel has decreased by one-third across all major London airports, while 30% of vacationers who earned more than $300,000 took at least 12 flights in 2016, and wealthy British travelers who owned overseas property flew nearly twice as much as those without second homes overseas, according to Fellow Travellers.

“When you factor in the climate change costs of Heathrow expansion — as the government have not deliberately not done — this project looks like an absolutely disastrous investment,” said Leo Murray, author of the Runway for the Few report.

Featured photo by BrasilNut1 / Getty Images

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