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15 MAY 2017
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Calling an election may make sense politically to the parties concerned but it has the unwelcome side effect of diverting attention from certain matters that really should be in the process of being dealt with. Like, say, for instance, um – aviation! All good wishes to the Airport Operators Association (AOA) therefore, which last week released a general election manifesto of its own.
The declared intention was to set out “how a new government can build on the success of the aviation sector and enable aviation to help deliver on the opportunities offered by the UK’s exit from the EU by providing the vital overseas connectivity a truly global Britain will require”.
The document also details how the sector, through a new Aviation Strategy, can underpin a new government’s growth agenda, supporting job creation and investment across the country, and through this enable other businesses to grow as well.
Behind all that, we can read the subtle message: We’re important. Don’t forget us. One could ask how could an industry like ours possibly be shut out from what might be considered more important discussions. The simple answer is it has happened before. The AOA clearly does not want it to happen again.
The manifesto sets out five priorities, of which the first ought to be self-evident – but see above. It is to create an Aviation Strategy that supports sustainable airport growth across the country.
That’s self-explanatory. The AOA says such a strategy should sit alongside the Airports National Policy Statement which sets out the need for expansion in the South East, with the crucial part being to make best use of existing capacity which can accommodate significant growth in demand. This will require, for example, improved surface access to airports so that more businesses and consumers have fast access to domestic and international destinations.
Second on the priority list, says the AOA, the government needs to prioritise a new legal framework for the UK’s aviation connectivity after Brexit. Excellent connectivity, it says, will be a precondition of making a success of Brexit and a new government should prioritise new agreements to replace the current EU ones.
Third is the need to set out a vision and policy framework to modernise airspace, which, the AOA points out, has a finite capacity and has changed little since its creation in the 1960s. Modernisation could add more than £29bn to UK GDP and 116,000 jobs by 2035.
Fourth, and dear to the heart of most in the industry, the AOA says the government should “review and cut Air Passenger Duty to boost the UK’s international competitiveness”, bringing APD in line with our nearest competitors by reducing it by 50%, thus ensuring the UK is “Brexit ready”.
And AOA’s fifth request is for the new government to “ensure that the UK’s border regime is secure but welcoming”.
AOA chief executive Karen Dee said of the document: “Aviation is one of the UK’s success stories, employing nearly a million people in all parts of the country and enabling businesses to reach new and existing customers with ease.
“The AOA believes we can do better still, delivering more value for UK consumers and businesses as well as supporting a future government’s growth agenda.
“The AOA election manifesto sets out an ambitious agenda for the next government and we look forward to working with ministers and officials to deliver on this, enabling aviation to play its full part in helping to secure the UK’s future prosperity.”
An election throws up a storm of words, pledges, promises and a few things less savoury. In all the fuss and fluster, let’s hope the AOA’s document will manage to stand out as one of the voices of reason. Future ministers, please note.
All comments are filtered to exclude any excesses but the Editor does not have to agree with what is being said. 100 words maximum
Andrew Sharp, United Kingdom
Sadly, Brexit will be taking up much Parliamentary time which could better be devoted to consideration of Heathrow R3. It is a real tragedy that the two are taking place at the same time.