A Heathrow director has told residents living under the flight path, “you will not even hear the aircraft passing over your house” as he called for the capital’s biggest airport to fly 24 hours a day.

Akbar Al-Baker, the head of Qatar Airways who sits on Heathrow’s executive board and represents the Gulf state’s sovereign wealth fund, made the comments at a new flight launch event this week.

His company is the second biggest shareholder in the airport with a 20 per cent stake.

He said: “The thing that is impending Europe’s growth is that airports are locked up from 11pm until 5.30am, which is a very, very critical time for east-west transfer.

“If you live under the flight path of an airport, I assure you, over a period of time you will not even hear the aircraft passing over your house.”

The comments were met with concern from anti-expansion protesters.

John Stewart, chairman of Hacan, said: “He has no idea what it is like to live under the Heathrow flight path.

“He has no evidence to say the noise will only be an issue within the airport itself.

“Our other concern is that this man is not only a director of Heathrow but his company is the second biggest shareholder in it.”

But the west London airport distanced itself from the comments and said it had never argued for round-the-clock flying.

Sir Nigel Rudd, chairman of Heathrow, said: “Mr Al-Baker’s views are his own and do not represent the views or policy of the Heathrow board or executive committee.

“We recognise that adding the flights Britain needs for growth must come hand in hand with reducing aircraft noise for residents.

“Round the clock flying from London is not an option. We take the concerns of local communities very seriously and have never argued for 24-hour flying.”

Campaigners slammed the airport and said they rushed out comments due to embarrassment caused by Mr Al-Baker’s claims.