Airlines dismayed by UK airport consultation delay

Airlines and the aviation industry have voiced their dismay that the Department for Transport (DfT) is to further delay its consultation into airport capacity.

Mike Carrivick, chief executive of BAR UK said the extra delay showed a “lack of courage” by the government after it announced its consultation into UK airport hubs will now not be revealed until ‘later this year’. The results were originally meant to be announced next week and have already been pushed back from March.

“Delaying important decisions until later in the year demonstrates a lack of courage and the paralysis afflicting strategic policy making within the government,” said Carrivick. “Many of our member airlines wish to expand their UK services to meet the market needs but the lack of policy is driving them to other countries”.

Transport Secretary Justine Greening published a draft Aviation Policy Framework today, where she wanted to encourage foreign airlines to launch routes from airports other than Heathrow. Other measures listed included reducing delays at Heathrow and addressing environmental issues through supporting ETS and incentivising noise reduction. It plans to bring forward the recruitment of 70 new border staff at Heathrow amid recent criticisms and is also working with authorities in the USA to speed up entry.

“London is already one of the best connected cities in the world, but there is still an important but challenging debate to be had on how we accommodate the long-term growth of aviation,” said Greening in a statement. “This framework provides the building blocks for this debate and I look forward to working with the industry, residents and other interested parties on this once they have had the chance to consider these measures”.

Virgin Atlantic ‘s chief executive Steve Ridgway said the framework was overdue but warned that more ‘dithering’ would further impact the UK’s competitiveness with other countries. 

“We’ll take seriously the Government’s growth agenda, and claims to support aviation growth, when they get on with consulting on options to allow that growth to happen where businesses, holidaymakers and UK visitors need it.  The UK cannot afford any more false starts, so we hope that this delay indicates the Government is reconsidering its position on hub capacity,” he added. 

The DfT is also pressing ahead with changes to the rail network into the UK’s airports, including an investment of £500m into a new western connection into Heathrow. HS2 is to go ahead; while £44m will be spent upgrading Gatwick Airport’s station and 30 electric trains will be used on Stansted Express. 

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