Birmingham International Airport has been urged to press ahead with expansion plans as business leaders warned the lack of direct links with China and India was "an embarrassment".
The pleas came as a Government paper yesterday confirmed a second runway will be built some time after 2020, four years later than originally planned.
But the airport was unable to reveal when it will apply for planning permission for an extension to the existing runway, which will allow long distance flights.
Jerry Blackett, chief executive of Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, said: "The business community wants the extension in place before the 2012 Olympics, so we would like to see an application early in the New Year."
However, environmentalists and residents living near the airport attacked Ministers for continuing to back expansion plans at all.
They called for a rethink following the recent Stern report, which called for radical changes to our lifestyles in order to avoid climate change.
A White Paper three years ago backed the airport's plans to extend the existing runway to 3,000 metres and to build a second runway by 2016, to deal with soaring demand for air travel. The Department for Transport yesterday published a progress report, saying the new runway would not be needed for another four years.
The airport currently serves 9.3 million passengers a year and expects this number to increase to 33 million by 2030.
But it has concluded it can cope with just one runway longer than expected, because larger aircraft have meant fewer planes are needed.
The paper also revealed that runway extensions at Bristol and Leeds-Bradford Airports, authorised in the White Paper, have now been cancelled entirely.
But Birmingham business leaders said their main priority was the extension of the existing runway, which would allow long-haul planes to take off from BIA. Mr Blackett said: "This is what makes it possible to reach the West Coast, India and China in one hop.
"It is an embarrassment that in the second city, a hugely important part of the nation's economy, we cannot fly directly to China."
A spokeswoman for BIA said: "The date the airport will apply for planning permission for the extension of its runway will be considered in the final stage of the master plan, next year."
Campaigners said the airport and Ministers were ignoring the lessons of the Stern report, which warned in October that global warming could shrink the global economy by a fifth.
James Botham, of Birmingham Airport Anti-noise Group (BANG), said: "We don't need a second runway and little has changed in this report in comparison to the original White Paper proposals."
Solihull MP Lorely Burt (Lib Dem) backed an extension of the existing runway but added: "I don't think the case for a second runway has yet been made."
Maggie Throup, who led a campaign against the runway involving residents of Catherine-de-Barnes, near the airport, said: "The new Government paper is not very green and doesn't seem to be in line with either short or long term environmental needs."
Richard Heard, BIA managing director, welcomed the Government's report, saying it highlighted the airport's importance to the region's economy.
A separate Government report by former British Airways chief executive Rod Eddington, had shown that air travel could play an important role in an environmentally-friendly transport system, he said.
"Birmingham International Airport recognises that aviation needs to pay its environmental costs. However, the Stern and Eddington reports have shown how airports can grow and still be green," said Mr Heard.
* Is Birmingham Airport in danger of holding back the city as a global destination? Tell us your thoughts at the messageboard.