Transport Secretary Justine Greening heard a plea from the city’s business community to let Birmingham Airport take the strain as the nation struggles to cope with growing demand for air travel.
Jerry Blackett, chief executive of Birmingham Chamber Group, set out the case for Birmingham Airport in a speech at the heart of Westminster.
He was speaking at a reception organised by Birmingham City council inside he House of Commons itself, attended by cabinet ministers including Ms Greening, Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles and Birmingham MP Andrew Mitchell (Con Sutton Coldfield), the Secretary of State for International Development.
The Department for Transport is currently working on a new aviation strategy, following the decision not to support new runways at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted.
It is expected to publish proposals for consultation next month, and make decisions in 2013.
London mayor Boris Johnson has been pushing his proposal for a new airport in the Thames Estuary off the Kent coast.
But Mr Blackett’s comments marked the latest stage in Birmingham Airport’s campaign, backed by the chamber, to convince Ministers to think about the role regional airports can play, rather than assuming new aviation capacity must be located in London or the south.
Mr Blackett said: “The UK is about to rethink its aviation strategy. It hasn’t done hat for ten years. It’s a very important moment in the policy-making of this country.”
The planned high speed rail network would “change the way we think about economic growth in this country,” he said.
“Why should, as important as Heathrow and London is to us, why should it be the only international hub airport in the UK? What about the regions? What about the airports elsewhere in the country?
“Germany has five hubs and is building a sixth. Why shouldn’t the UK?”
Birmingham was already an international airport and an important asset to the entire UK economy – although it’s role wasn’t widely appreciated, he said.
“It is offering breathing space while this big important decision is made about what long term capacity we should be building.
“It is Britain’s best connected airport – with more motorways, more railway station connections than any other airport.
“So there has never a better time to think about global connectivity and Birmingham’s contribution, and how we will be part of the long-term solution .”
The Department for Transport estimates that the number of passengers using UK airports could reach 540 million a year by 2040, up from 372 million in 2008.
Managers at Birmingham Airport argue that it will be impossible for a new Thames Estuary airport to be built in time to meet this demand, but Birmingham Airport’s current nine million passengers could be doubled today, or increased to up to 35 million if needed.
But the airport has also questioned whether a new airport in the south is needed at all when there is “under used capacity” at regional airports.
The event was also attended by MPs from Birmingham and the Black Country from all parties as well as business leaders, including representatives of Birmingham Airport.