The government needs to urgently develop a sustainable strategy for airport capacity but not prioritise business travel over holiday flights.
The message comes from Abta’s response to the transport select committee inquiry into aviation strategy.
The association warns that any attempt to “manipulate” traffic by the government by restricting leisure flights at busier airports would hamper the growth of the outbound sector, which directly accounts for 1.6% of UK GDP (£22 billion), as well as limit choice for consumers.
The importance of Government holding a review on the impact of Air Passenger Duty on the economy is also highlighted. Abta wants APD to be considered as part of the whole aviation policy framework.
Key points made in Abta’s response are:
- The need for the government to urgently create a comprehensive strategy for aviation to drive growth and maximise the UK’s connectivity, particularly to burgeoning economies
- The importance of that strategy having cross party support to ensure new capacity can be built quickly without political hold ups
- The demand for extra capacity is particularly high in the South East and the UK risks losing passengers to European hubs if it cannot accommodate them in the regions
- To address capacity issues Abta supports a third short runway at Heathrow and a second runway at Gatwick. It also supports a runway extension at Birmingham and an additional new runway at either Edinburgh or Glasgow. It backs other regional airports seeking to expand but not as a substitute for additional capacity in the South East
- The need to strike a balance between the economic benefits of meeting demand and the needs of the industry, with the impact aviation has on local communities and the environment. It is essential that airports work in harmony with the local communities around them
- An independent impact assessment of the effects of APD on the economy must be included as part of the overall aviation strategy
- Alongside capacity, the passenger experience on the ground must also be addressed, ensuring that passengers can easily access airports via public transport and can pass through immigration quickly.
Chief executive Mark Tanzer said: “The airport capacity debate has been going on for too long whilst our European neighbours have been continuing to invest in their infrastructure.
“We urgently need swift and decisive action from the government to put an end to the debate and move forward with plans to create the capacity we so desperately need. It is vital these plans take into account the needs of all types of aviation, whether it is cargo, business or leisure.
“We must at all costs avoid a situation where there is a hierarchy of importance for aviation.”