The government has now signalled it will not hold a vote on airport expansion in the south-east of England until next year at the earliest after Conservative whips warned of possible resignations over the issue.
The two main contenders are Heathrow and Gatwick but around 60 Tory MPs are thought to oppose the Heathrow option which might include lengthening an existing runway.
The Conservative MP for Richmond Park, ex-London mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith, has already made it known he would resign from the party and stand as an independent if the favoured option is Heathrow.
Adding to airport capacity in the south east was a decision that had been “delayed for far too long”, Prime Minister Theresa May told a recent meeting of the cabinet.
Cabinet members opposed to an expansion of Heathrow include Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Education Secretary Justine Greening.
The issue is not now expected to go before Parliament until late next year at the earliest.