This autumn will be a turning point for UK aviation, as the Government decides what to do about the capacity crunch impacting our sector.
The Prime Minister and his Cabinet must decide whether or not to support the recommendations made by the Airports Commission in their Final Report published in the summer.
The UK aviation market is the third largest in the world, and UK airports have thrived thanks to liberalisation and competition.
We will be urging the Government to support aviation growth in the UK by making a full, proper and urgent response to the Commission’s recommendations, in order to remove uncertainty, maintain momentum and ensure that badly needed additional capacity is delivered.
In addition, acknowledging that it will be at least a decade before any new runway can be completed, the Government should help to ensure that we make the best use of existing capacity across the country, so that all airports that wish to grow are able to do so. It could do this by speeding up the planning process to encourage airport development and by establishing a clear framework to enable the best use of airspace around airports, improving capacity and environmental performance.
The Government must also take decisions on the future of Air Passenger Duty (APD) in the UK. The overall rate of APD is still the highest in the world and needs to be cut further, but there is another issue. Ministers have promised to give the Scottish Government control over APD north of the border (and may do the same in Wales). During this year’s General Election campaign the Prime Minister promised that airports would not be adversely affected by this. The simplest and fairest way for him to honour his commitment would be to ensure that any cut in one part of the UK is matched, immediately, across the whole of the country, so that airports can continue to compete fairly against each other.
Meanwhile, decisions taken in Brussels this autumn could also have a major impact on the future of UK airports. The European Commission has been conducting a root and branch review of its aviation policy, affecting all 28 Member States. For our airport members two issues are particularly crucial: the Commission must resist pressure from some powerful airlines to pile new costs on to airports and, equally, it must reject European airline pressure to introduce new protectionist measures aimed at Middle East airlines. The UK aviation market is the third largest in the world, and UK airports have thrived thanks to liberalisation and competition and it is vital that the Commission continues to support this approach.