By Georgie Keate
Airlines and businesses are bitterly disappointed that the announcement from transport secretary Justine Greening today will be limited to emissions and noise levels.
"Delaying important decisions until later in the year demonstrates a lack of courage and the paralysis afflicting strategic policy-making within the government," said Mike Carrivick, chief executive of the Board of Airline Representatives.
Airport policy has become a contentious issue within the coalition, however. Some Tory MPs are pushing for a third runway at Heathrow, but face strong opposition from the Lib Dems.
'If politicians continue to dither on a decision on airport capacity we will start to prejudice London's premier position'
Although opposition to a third runway was in the Conservatives' 2010 manifesto, reports claim chancellor George Osborne might plan to delay consultation until after the next election.
The consultation is meant to explore Lord Foster's £50 billion Estuary airport proposal and discuss the mayor of London's 'Boris island' plan to build an airport on the Thames Estuary.
Businesses are infuriated that the government is not helping to resist global competition. Carrivick said: "While this government struggles internally to establish a clear and defined hub airport policy for the future, competing nations will continue to take away the trade and commerce that should be welcomed in this country."
However, environmentalists are also dead against airport expansion and argue it will damage local communities and speed up climate change.
Labour were fans of a third runway at Heathrow while in government but have not yet said whether they support a government change in policy.