25 NOVEMBER 2019


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Article from BTNews 25 NOVEMBER 2019


Karen Dee joined the Airport Operators Association (AOA) as chief executive on 1 March 2017. She has more than 20 years’ experience in policy development, communications and representation activities within the transport sector, incorporating roles in government, consultancy and trade associations including the Department for Transport and the CBI.

The AOA annual conference, previewed in BTN last week, takes place this year at an important moment, exactly two weeks from polling day. Whatever the outcome, the next government will have some major issues to tackle, from Brexit and the future UK-EU relationship to how to respond to the climate emergency.

Our conference will reflect on these topics, too, and should give the next government a steer on what our industry believes is the best way forward.

As AOA, we have set out in our own election manifesto our view on what the next government’s agenda should contain. Aviation is already a UK success story, given the numbers of people employed, the value generated for the UK economy and the many industries which rely on aviation to enable their own success.

But we believe we can do better still: not all areas in the UK are well connected to airports and, as a result, opportunities for growth are lost. An Aviation Strategy should seek to address the gaps and build on the success to ensure all parts of the UK form part of a globally connected country.

But we cannot achieve that without addressing the fundamental sustainability challenge facing us all. While our industry is among a handful of industries that face some major hurdles on our road to decarbonisation, we believe that net zero is within reach.

Not only is it within reach, but there are in fact great opportunities to generate jobs and growth through investing in sustainable aviation technologies. For example, building a UK sustainable aviation fuels industry could see the UK become a world leader in this field.

We already have the necessary research and development strengths and airlines that are committed to supporting the nascent industry. Alongside the continued investment in new aircraft and engine technology, as well as airspace modernisation, this will create green aviation jobs and export opportunities. These innovations will also ensure we can meet future aviation demand while staying on course to hit the UK’s net zero target by 2050.

Our conference will look at these topics in the round, but also reflect on the political landscape that is necessary to make these opportunities a reality. We will have a former transport secretary, Sir Patrick McLoughlin, and a former aviation minister, Jim Fitzpatrick, reflect on where they see their respective parties going after the election and George Parker, political editor of the Financial Times, give his reflections on how the election campaign is going.

We need a supportive political landscape – a genuine partnership on sustainable aviation between government and industry, along the model of the Aerospace Growth Partnership – but we also need to get the investment to ensure this is delivered.  Ours is an industry that does not usually rely on government funding, but on government creating the stable investment climate for private investors to support the industry’s ambitions.

We are pleased to be joined at our conference by some of those leading investors, who will give their take on what is necessary for them to continue to see the UK in general, and our aviation industry in particular, as an attractive prospect.

Many of you are already due to attend and we look forward to welcoming you on 28-29 November at County Hall for some fascinating discussions.

Tickets are still available for this must-attend event, so do join us and participate. We know government attendees will be taking note of the ideas and suggestions we will be raising, enabling the conference’s discussions and conversations to serve as a springboard for the new government’s aviation agenda.


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