24 JULY 2017


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Article from BTNews 24 JULY 2017

COMMENT: Strategy of confusion

Last Monday’s issue of Business Travel News in many respects predicted the announcement on Friday of the government’s aviation strategy White Paper proposing to make best use of existing runway capacity in the South East. Reader's own comments at the end of the article make the point too.

BTN suggested that when RAF Northolt in West London reopens after resurfacing, the present private jet access is swopped for regional services. It would mean no increase in aircraft movements, a reduction in noise and much increased revenue for the Treasury – and a real boost for the provincial airports not currently connected to Heathrow.

Over the coming months there is a golden opportunity to assess Northolt by a committee from the MOD, Treasury and CAA. The airport could in the short term be the answer to London’s airport capacity problems.

The consultation document over the government’s long-term aviation strategy seeks input on topics from baggage to the environment as it prepares the industry for life after Brexit.

The government said consultation would take place over the next 18 months and will culminate in publication of a final aviation strategy by the end of 2018. Crucially, the government added this would be separate from negotiations over access to European markets after Britain leaves the EU, although protecting and promoting the sector after Brexit would be a key focus of the consultation.

As with anything to do with Brexit, there are problems, with some commentators last week noting that with much of the focus of airline executives on airport expansion and the still uncertain status of flying to and from the UK after the EU departure, there was concern that the new strategy could prove a distraction.

BTN canvassed some views, with Airlines UK chief executive Tim Alderslade summing up the situation by saying: "We would caution ... that the strategy process is kept as simple as possible, given the government's already packed aviation agenda."  He added: “We welcome the Aviation Strategy as a sign government truly recognises the value and importance of aviation to the UK. We stand ready to work with and support ministers in developing this plan.

“For UK airlines, we are looking for a strategy that will, among other key issues, assess the need for a substantial reduction in or abolition of Air Passenger Duty, the highest tax on air travel in the world; the requirement for a well-funded and effective border operation, opportunities to improve surface access and the current rules governing charges at airports.

“To tackle these issues successfully – the responsibility for some of which lies outside the Department for Transport – will require effective and considered engagement across Whitehall, something we haven’t always seen.”

Airport Operators Association (AOA) chief executive Karen Dee said: “Aviation is a UK success story: as a sector, we employ around 1m people and contribute £1bn a week to the UK economy.

“A new Aviation Strategy is a welcome opportunity to build on this success. It should enable aviation to unlock further economic and productivity growth across the UK, allowing aviation to help deliver on its other priorities.

“It should also be an opportunity to work across government to put the passenger first. This includes addressing barriers to better connectivity, like the fact the UK charges the highest Air Passenger Duty in the world, and supporting Border Force to provide not only a secure UK border but also excellent customer services to travellers.”

The Board of Airline Representatives in the UK (BAR UK), representing 70 airlines, also welcomed what it called the government's vision for the future of UK aviation.

Chief executive Dale Keller said “We commend the government’s recognition that aviation is a principle enabler and driver of the UK economy and the need for a cohesive and effective strategy to deliver growth and consumer benefits.

“Global connectivity will be paramount to the UK’s success as we leave the European Union and it is essential that issues like border security, the customer experience, and tackling the world’s highest passenger tax, are intrinsic to the new strategy.

“It is vital that this important piece of work does not remain a strategic document, like the stagnated 2003 White Paper, but is quickly and decisively acted upon with an effective implementation programme.”

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OUR READERS' FINEST WORDS (All times and dates are GMT)

All comments are filtered to exclude any excesses but the Editor does not have to agree with what is being said. 100 words maximum

sally pavey, UK

This comment is so pro-aviation and gives no consideration to what the impact is on those on the ground. This is all about the greed of aviation and nothing about a balanced approach. Shame on you