"The U.K. needs a vibrant economy, it needs a vibrant air-travel system and customers need choice. Everybody benefits from that," Ridgway told CNBC Europe.
The main criticisms of the plans focus on noise and air pollution, which would be increased under the changes.
The expansion wouldn't breach the European Union's air pollution limits and the government's own noise limits, government officials said.
"There are strict limitations on air quality and noise," Stephen Nelson, CEO of BAA, told CNBC's Steve Sedgwick, while conceding "There will be more over-flying of planes in West London."
"There's a huge economic advantage and social advantage to expanding this airport," added Nelson.
UK Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly said in a statement after releasing the consultation plans that Heathrow airport has operated at nearly full capacity and that relatively minor problems cause severe delays, and the plans would help maintain the airport's lead over rivals in continental Europe.
"Heathrow supports 170,000 jobs, billions of pounds of British exports and is our main gateway to the global economy," Kelly said.
"If nothing changes, Heathrow's status as a world-class airport will be gradually eroded - jobs will be lost and the economy will suffer," Kelly added.