UK aviation organisation, the Air League, has released “an independent perspective on the Government’s Aviation Strategy”, which has been accepted as evidence for the debate by the Transport Committee.
The document notes the five key challenges facing the UK aviation industry: lack of runway capacity in the South East, particularly at London Heathrow; air passenger duty (APD); the lack of air links from UK regions to the Heathrow hub; environmental emissions; and the lack of strategic understanding of the importance of aviation to young people and the community.
Figures put forward by the organisation show that Heathrow offers 166 destinations to passengers, a significantly lower amount than its European counterparts, Paris Charles de Gaulle (244), Frankfurt (264) and Amsterdam Schiphol (252). The Air League argues that, unlike Heathrow, these airports have already enjoyed runway expansion; Paris Charles de Gaulle now has four runways, Frankfurt three and Schiphol five.
Growth at these European airports continues to increase, as it does in the Middle and Far East, but the group points out that Heathrow’s growth is projected to decline over the coming years. Furthermore, it suggests that the need to expand Heathrow will become more important as emerging countries grow richer.
Air links from UK regions to Heathrow have also suffered. The Air League’s comment states: “Five years ago, there were 124 flights a week from Edinburgh to Heathrow, 115 from Glasgow and 54 from Belfast – now there are 109, 60 and 42. Amsterdam Schiphol Airport has 22 links to UK regional airports and KLM advertises itself as Scotland’s favourite airline. Heathrow by comparison has six links to UK regional airports.” It argued that rail investment alone would not provide a solution for this.
The document also points out that APD is now significantly higher than anywhere else in the world, suggesting that UK families would find it cheaper to fly onwards from Amsterdam than from their own national airports.
It also argues that governmental assumptions have ignored the aviation industry’s significant environmental improvements, claiming that commonly-held views are now outdated and inaccurate. Furthermore, it adds: “The aviation industry has a programme in hand to ensure that by 2050 it will not be generating any more CO2 [carbon dioxide] than it did in 2005.”
Although the organisation admits that the UK Government “is to be congratulated on developing apprenticeships”, it argues that the “background mood music is still that aviation is a rich person’s pastime”. It believes professional flight training fees should be lowered to continue encouraging young people to be a part of the industry.
In conclusion, the Air League suggests that the aviation strategy needs to be “much more integrated and focused than it is at present”, warning that: “Once the UK’s position as a global aviation leader is lost, it will be next to impossible to recover.”
For the full story, read the March 2013 issue of Airports International.