27 JUNE 2016


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Article from BTNews 27 JUNE 2016

COMMENT: Brexit and Heathrow

David Cameron, PM, is to go by the start of the Tory party conference which begins on 2 October. 

We have had a prime minister who over the past six years has generally supported regional aviation (PSOs and other subsidies) but has procrastinated when it comes to London’s airport crisis. 

Readers may recall that back in 2009, Cameron joined Greenpeace in planting in a field north of the airport the first tree of an orchard that would be destroyed under one of the runway proposals. At the time, he was leading the Tories, then in opposition, into the 2010 election and was seeking votes in west London. 

The tree has since died.

Sir Howard Davies’ Airports Commission came down in favour of Heathrow as London’s 21st-century main gateway airport. Cameron deferred a decision, setting up a Cabinet Commission with a remit to produce a firm result as quickly as possible. 

On this issue, the country is still waiting. But for how long? The UK Ltd can’t wait until a new PM is in power. Our whole economic future is under scrutiny now. Our gateway airport it too important.

Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye says the airport could yet make the UK “one of the world’s great economic superpowers” if it was given permission to build a new runway.

He sees the Brexit vote as a real plus for the scheme, telling the BBC: “What Heathrow expansion will do is to make sure we can trade with all the growing markets in the world.

“We want to be a confident outward-looking nation, one of the world’s great economic superpowers, and only Heathrow expansion will allow us to do that. We need to be looking to the world, not just to Europe, for our growth in the future, and that is why it is now critical that we get on with it”.

He added that extending the airport could help to restabilize the economy after the shock Brexit result.

“And not only that,” he said. “We’re also concerned about the stability of the UK economy. Well, what better way to bring stability than an £18bn privately-funded investment in British infrastructure? That is a huge opportunity to create jobs and growth now, which any political party would want to grab with both hands.”

One residue of the Out vote is Air Passenger Duty (APD). Britain will not be stuck with rules that insist this tax is paid both ways on domestic flights. Yes, there will be a loss to the Treasury, but that is the same problem faced by Scotland if it decides to reduce these fees in 2018. Will the reduced income be replaced by more people travelling?

Mr Cameron, make the airport decision. Insist on it as your major lasting legacy. 


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David Bentley, Manchester/UK

In the run up to the British referendum on continuing membership of the EU barely a day passed without Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary making some or other political statement about it, in favour of Remain. There was even a seat sale so that expatriate Britons could fly home to vote Remain. He hinted on more than one occasion that he might reduce capacity in the UK market if the country voted to leave, having already said there would be a 16% cut this coming winter. He also described those Britons who want no further part in Europe as ‘leave loonies.’ That’s over 17 million people. Now that is intelligent marketing. It ranks right up there with Gerald Ratner’s ‘crap jewellery’ quote. Since Thursday there has been no word on any capacity reduction. Only another weird seat sale; this one just before midnight on 23 June to “celebrate remaining in Europe with 1 million seats from £9.99.' That one backfired spectacularly. So will we see any capacity reduction here or was that just a load of wind? My guess is that we won’t because Bjorn Kos, who is unfazed by Brexit or any other political development, is waiting in the wings to step in and clean up. And in my estimation Norwegian has a better product as well as fares that are as attractive as Ryanair’s. The Irish airline is no longer the only show in town and Mr O’Leary has surely woken up and smelled that coffee.