Future of the UK’s Regional Airports Considered

Newquay AirportOn January 19 the UK’s House of Commons Transport Select Committee heard evidence from the aviation industry on the importance of regional aviation and how it supports transport infrastructure and importantly the development of regional economies. John Spooner, Chairman of Regional & Business Airports Group (RABA) which has 16 member airports gave evidence to the Committee explaining the vital importance of regional airports and the role they play in local economies. He highlighted how key aviation activities helped to create jobs and described the fiscal and regulatory regimes which add significant costs that small airports don’t have the economies of scale to absorb. Mr Spooner also called for a more flexible and supportive policy framework around planning.
This prompted a statement from Newquay Cornwall Airport which plays a vital role in RABA as many of its objectives are aligned with the airport’s own challenges. Its Managing Director, Al Titterington, who represents the airport on the group and supported the evidence been given at the Select Committee said: “it is critical that the Select Committee hears the views of smaller regional airports like Newquay and understand the challenges which we face, it has called for the evidence and we have produced our compelling arguments. The level of political interest in regional aviation has really grown over the last 12 months, the [railway line] closure at Dawlish last year highlighted how important air connectivity is for regions particularly Cornwall. I am hopeful that the views expressed and the Select Committee’s wider understanding of the impact of regional aviation will be built into its recommendations to Government which I hope will lead to a future regional aviation policy but also fed into the government’s consideration of the Davies Commission Report.”
The Committee was asked to help secure access from the regions to the London airport system and any new runway capacity proposed by Heathrow and Gatwick.
RABA says It was particularly encouraging that the Select Committee appeared to recognise the multitude of social and economic roles performed by the UK’s smaller regional airports – not just connecting the regions to the capital – and to themselves – but also enabling air ambulance, helicopter search and rescue and oil and gas field support services, aircrew, flight and engineering training, aircraft maintenance and a whole host of other activities – providing valuable skilled and unskilled employment opportunities.
The Select Committee was interested to explore why airports such as Plymouth, Manston, Coventry, Blackpool and others had faced enormous challenges during the economic recession and what could be done to ensure that their future – and that of airlines, air ambulances, training and engineering companies and other employers – could be made sustainable in the future.
The Committee was told by RABA that it was essential that the next runway to be developed in the London area served the UK’s regions – and that runway slots must be safeguarded at the right times and at an affordable price for use by flight serving the UKs regions.
The Committee also discussed how the costs of Air Passenger Duty and complying with UK regulatory requirements were particularly damaging to UK Regional Aviation.