Associations and airlines have said the UK government is facing its ‘last chance’ to save the country’s aviation sector from further damage as the consultation closes on its aviation policy. Views were submitted yesterday from British Airways, ABTA and the Board of Airline Representatives in the UK (BAR UK) before the government’s consultation closure on ‘Developing a sustainable framework for UK aviation’.
All three agreed that the government needs to act now to address the industry and its future growth,particularly in London and the South East of England. Blocking airport expansion and increased taxation were named as drawbacks in the industry, inadvertently delaying route growth in the UK while European airports soak up business from emerging markets. Mike Carrivick, chief executive of BAR urged the government to consider Heathrow as a hub for the UK instead of London as a whole.
“The ditching of the previous administration’s aviation policy has effectively banned any new runways at the three largest London airports and set back the economic role of aviation by over 10 years,” he said. “The UK can only maintain one hub airport and for the foreseeable future that has to remain as Heathrow.It’s our aim to show that whilst the UK dithers, other countries are grasping the economic opportunities offered by the lack of key hub airport capacity where it matters – London. That’s the core issue that needs urgent action”.
Mark Tanzer, chief executive of ABTA and Keith Williams, chief executive of British Airways added slow aviation growth would also affect the national economy. “The Government’s imposition of punitive levels of air tax in the form of Air Passenger Duty, and lack of support for the growth of airport infrastructure or runway capacity is having a negative impact on the industry and is a real missed growth opportunity for the UK economy. This scoping document shows that the Government is open to hearing the industry’s concerns but it must take these on board if we are not to risk fundamental and lasting damage to the travel industry and the UK economy as a whole,” said Tanzer.
Williams also highlighted that the high-speed rail link between Heathrow and Gatwick,dubbed Heathwick, would not help resolve capacity issues in London. He warned that the proposed ‘virtual hub’ would not be enough to support growing passenger numbers. “The Government must take action now. There are no easy choices, but avoiding these choices is to undermine the UK aviation and aerospace industry and to hinder the economic recovery,” said Williams. “The UK Government has a choice. It can pursue sustainable growth, or simply manage a steady decline”.