Politicians have been afraid to take tough decisions on airport expansion, the head of British Airways' parent company has told MPs.
The question of expansion had been "kicked into the long grass" and would stay there for "a considerable time", added International Airlines Group (IAG) chief executive Willie Walsh.
He told the House of Commons Transport Committee that the airport expansion issue was "too difficult" for politicians and governments to handle.
Mr Walsh added that he was working on the principle that there will be expansion at Heathrow for many years and there will be no third runway at the west London airport.
He told the committee that he envisaged there would still be only two runways operating at Heathrow even as late as 2050.
"New runway capacity is required, but I don't believe that capacity will be provided," Mr Walsh said.
The Government has set up an aviation commission headed by former Financial Services Authority chief Sir Howard Davies which is due to finally report on aviation capacity in the summer of 2015.
Mr Walsh said he was "not optimistic" that the Davies Commission would lead to any expansion any time soon. He said a similar three-year commission in the late 1960s had led to nothing, with the report "still sitting somewhere".
He went on: "This issue is too difficult for politicians and governments to deal with. We are positioning our business on the basis that there will be no expansion."
Mr Walsh said the opposition to a third runway at Heathrow by the coalition Government had been "wrong" and the decision to cancel the expansion at the west London airport was "a mistake".