Without An Aviation Policy That Enables Capacity Growth UK Air Passengers Will Suffer, CAA Warns Government

Date: 10 January 2012

The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has today advised Government that without a credible, long-term Aviation Policy Framework that focuses on consumers, not airlines or airports, and allows capacity to develop sustainably, it is likely that prices will rise, route choice will drop and the UK economy will suffer.

Andrew Haines, CAA Chief Executive, said: “Additional capacity would offer significant benefits for consumers, and for the UK as a whole, so long as it is delivered in an environmentally sustainable way. However, as we haven’t built a single runway in the south east of England capable of handling Boeing 747s and Airbus A380s for over 70 years, the difficulty of increasing capacity is obvious. This underlines the importance of an integrated policy framework that addresses environmental and planning dimensions as well as consumer need.

“The challenge facing the Government is to create an aviation policy that stands the test of time – not a policy for five years, but one for thirty years. If the private sector is to have sufficient confidence to deliver additional capacity then it needs to be convinced that government policy is based on robust evidence and is likely to last for at least a generation.”

In Aviation Policy for the Future, published today, the CAA says that safety must always be the sector’s priority, but following that, the Government should focus on improving life for consumers, so long as it is environmentally sustainable.

This consumer focus should secure choice and value in aviation services. UK consumers should have direct access to key global markets, which in practice is likely to mean Government supporting sustainable hub operations. Consumers who do not live in the south of the country already have to use a variety of hubs to travel internationally, and Government should encouraged continued access to a range of European hub airports. In addition, the framework should seek to ensure that the very high levels of short-haul connectivity that consumers enjoy are at least maintained at current levels.

Today, most people in the UK have excellent access to airports, with around 90% of the population living within two hours travel of at least two airports serving international destinations and 70% within one hour of one airport.

However, in the South East, although a number of measures will help improve use of existing facilities and increase flexibility and resilience; these are essentially short-term fixes and are not enough to maintain the UK’s direct access to global markets alone without additional runway capacity. As such, developing appropriate additional capacity would deliver significant benefits to consumers and wider benefits to the UK economy.

However, delivering this capacity is not wholly in the Government’s gift, so the Policy must facilitate a credible path to provision of additional capacity.

The CAA has also set out a series of measures the Government could take to tackle the issue of noise nuisance caused by airports, which has had significant impact on previous proposals to increase runway capacity. These include suggesting local measures to benefits residents, such as council tax relief, as well as wider economic instruments like a UK airport-wide cap and trade system for noise similar to the EU Emissions Trading Scheme for CO2 emissions.

In Aviation Policy for the Future, the CAA sets out five criteria it feels any new capacity must meet to be effective:
1. Overall be beneficial to the consumer
2. Be affordable and commercially viable
3. Be operationally feasible
4. Be integrated into the surface transport network
5. Be environmentally sustainable

Government could help to maintain ‘single-stopover’ access to key global markets for all UK consumers, particularly those who live outside the South-East, by supporting access to a UK hub airport from across the UK or exploring with European partners how to secure short-haul access to a network of competing hubs across Europe.

For further media information contact the CAA Press Office on: 0207 453 6030 press.office@caa.co.uk.

Follow the CAA on @UK_CAA

Notes to Editors
1. Aviation Policy for the Future is available on the CAA website here: www.caa.co.uk/sustainableaviationframework
2. The only runway long enough to handle Boeing 747s and Airbus A380s built at a major UK airport since the Second World War is at Manchester. In addition, London City Airport opened in the late 1980s, but with a shorter runway unsuitable for all aircraft types.
3. Today’s Insight Note follows the publication of the CAA’s response to the Department for Transport’s Aviation Policy Framework Consultation.
4. Aviation Policy for the Future is the final publication of three Insight Notes published by the CAA in December and January 2012. It was proceeded by Aviation Policy for Consumers (Link: Aviation Policy for Consumers ), published on 14 December 2011 and Aviation Policy for the Environment (Link: Aviation Policy for the Environment) published on 20 December 2011.
5. World Economic Forum data can be found in its Global Competitiveness Report 2011-12.
6. The CAA is the UK's specialist aviation regulator. Its regulatory activities range from making sure that the aviation industry meets the highest technical and operational safety standards to preventing holidaymakers from being stranded abroad or losing money because of tour operator insolvency.