25 MARCH 2013

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Article from BTNews 25 MARCH 2013

COMMENT: Davies must report earlier

The last seven days could have been enlightening for the air transport business, and indeed the whole country.  Yes, the Government admitted that it contributes around £18bn to the British economy.  But in truth it was just another week of dithering.  Whilst this once great industry burns, Downing Street just fiddles about, or in this case takes a penny a pint off beer, the 2013 version of the Cornish Pasty crisis of 2011. 

The aviation news of the week was ‘buried’ and Davies looks doomed even before it is published. 

Air Passenger Duty stays and will increase.  The Treasury (Government) buries its head in the sand when it comes to alternative ways of attracting the same (or more) revenue.

As anticipated by Business Travel News, the Aviation Policy Statement surfaced late last Friday (22 March) and does not seem to have been picked up by anyone with the honourable exception of the Airport Operators Association, who at least acknowledged it and clearly found its contents far too complex for an instant reliable analysis.  The fact that it had been put together by yet another non-aviation consultancy helped to confuse.

In 2003 the 175-page Future of Air Transport was published.  It was criticised at the time for its optimism and spoke of up to 600m passengers passing through British airports in 2030.  (The 2012 figure is 220m with virtually zero growth – and these include offshore helicopter flights.) 

The detractors have been proved right.  Whilst Stansted and Cardiff are exceptions with the collapse of passenger throughput, a 30m Luton is but a dream (9.6m 2012). 

As for Davies it will not report until after the next election.  Will the Prime Minister of the time have the courage to carry out its recommendations?  The current PM did stick to his election promise of stopping Heathrow Three, but whoever is in charge summer 2015 will not be under such constraints.  The PM can promote whatever he thinks best and then try to sort out a working legal path for success.  He will be strongly opposed.  We may live in a democracy but when it comes to nimbiism it does not work. 

Probably 95% of those opposing Heathrow Three moved into the area knowing full well that the airport and its plans existed.

The future of air transport in the UK is a mess.  There is only one solution.  Davies must report before the next General Election and all the parties should be obligated to state their policy.  That way we might make some progress.

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