London is “the best connected” city in the world but the UK needs to bolster its aviation competitiveness post-Brexit, according to Iata.

Brian Pearce, Iata chief economist, said: “Global connections to cities will be key to enhancing Britain’s trade after Brexit.

“UK aviation will be particularly important – connections to markets elsewhere than Europe will be critical.”


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Speaking in London at the launch of an Iata report on UK Air Transport Regulatory Competitiveness Indicators, Pearce said: “Aviation is a bridge between cities that stimulates trade.”

He explained: “We looked at more than 100 countries [and] calculated a city connectivity score. The UK came fifth in the world.

“London is the best-connected city [in the world] and has seen a substantial improvement [in connectivity] over the last five years.”

But Pearce said: “It’s not just about the absolute level of connectivity. Think of connections as bridges – how congested are they?

“We found a strong relationship between productivity and air connections relative to an economy’s size. On that basis, the UK does not score as well.”

Iata also developed a set of scores to measure the ‘policy environment’, based on the experience of passengers and cargo shippers, supply chain competitiveness, infrastructure and regulation.

Pearce said: “The UK does reasonably well on passenger facilitation but scored below its EU peers on infrastructure and supply chain management.

“If you look at availability of capacity, the UK rates pretty poorly. Only the Netherlands scores more poorly.”

When it comes to UK infrastructure charges and taxation, Pearce noted: “The UK also scores pretty poorly compared to its EU peers.

“The World Economic Forum Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index rated the UK 148th out of 148 countries due to a combination of Air Passenger Duty and Heathrow charges.

“That hinders the UK’s ability to maximise [the benefits of] air connections.”

He added: “Although the UK scores well on passenger facilitation, its visa policies still score lower than its peers.”

Pearce said: “The shortage of capacity and high costs are the biggest aviation issues [the UK faces].”

Iata regional vice president for Europe Rafael Schwartzman said: “Aviation is a truly strategic sector for a country that wants economic prosperity. Iata hopes this study will assist the UK in making the right decisions.”

Responding to news yesterday that France had announced a tax on flying, Schwartzman said: “We are committed to reducing the environmental impact [of flying].

“But we don’t see taxation as one of the levers to tackle environmental impacts. It won’t develop new aircraft engines. It won’t stop aircraft flying around airports while they wait to land. It won’t drive more efficient air space.”

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