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An aviation agenda for a new Government

An aviation agenda for a new Government


5 min read Partner content

As Ministers in the new Conservative Government get down to work they face some crucial decisions that will help to determine whether aviation continues to be a UK success story, making a vital contribution to the country’s growth and prosperity.

Right at the top of the list will be the need to take decisions to enable the sector to grow. The UK needs to compete in both established and emerging markets, and this requires excellent aviation connectivity right across the country, ensuring the UK has both vibrant point to point airports and world class hub capacity.

The AOA supports all airports that wish to grow and believes in making best use of existing capacity at UK airports. The 2013 Aviation Policy Framework, which ostensibly gives permission for UK aviation to grow right around the country provided it deals with its carbon and noise impacts, needs to be implemented over the course of the next parliament. And policy makers should commit to act swiftly once Sir Howard Davies’ Airport Commission has delivered its Final Report on airport capacity in the coming months.

Aviation is clearly crucial for UK plc, its economy and its connectivity. In the UK the sector accounts for over £50 billion in GDP, a million jobs, and £8 billion in tax revenue. It is an essential facilitator of economic growth, helping to boost business, trade and tourism by connecting to markets and destinations around the UK and all over the world. That is why we will be calling on the new Government to renew the commitment made by its predecessor to support future growth in aviation and to ensure that the UK remains one of the best connected countries in the world.


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UK connectivity has, for the past few years, been in decline, while it has been increasing in countries such as Germany and France, which both have, for example, much better connectivity with BRIC countries such as China. The Airports Commission has been clear that maintaining the UK’s connectivity with the rest of the world will require making better use of existing capacity at its airports as well as building an additional runway in London and the south east, at either Gatwick or Heathrow by 2030. The Commission will make its recommendation shortly.

These are decisions that successive governments - over many years - have ducked. Now is the time for the new Government and Parliament to bite the bullet.

Another area where early decisions are required is Air Passenger Duty (APD.) Despite reductions in the longest haul APD rates, and the recent and very welcome decision to abolish the tax for children, it remains by far the highest aviation tax in the world and is damaging the UK’s competitiveness with the rest of Europe.

Prime Minister David Cameron has already made it clear that the UK Government will act quickly to implement the recommendations of the Smith Commission on further devolution to the Scottish Government, including giving Holyrood the powers to take decisions on APD in Scotland, where the SNP Government has plans to cut it by 50%. Encouragingly, the PM has also said that he would not want airports south of the border to be disadvantaged by the planned cuts in Scotland.

So we welcome the recognition by the new administration that it would be unfair if one part of the UK were able to levy a substantially reduced rate of APD compared to other areas, and we will be pressing the UK Government to ensure that any future reduction in APD in Scotland is matched immediately by a cut everywhere. This will ensure that no part of the UK is unfairly disadvantaged and we do not see a distortive tax policy undermining what is the most competitive aviation market in the world.  

Beyond the areas of sectoral growth and APD, we will also be working to persuade the Government to support a number of policies that could help the aviation sector and thus, the economy, to prosper. These include:

  • Incentivising the take-up of sustainable aviation fuels, to further assist the industry in providing ‘cleaner, quieter, smarter’ aviation.
  • Continuing to support UK tourism, by retaining the GREAT campaign, improving the visa service, expanding the Tourism Council and working with the aviation industry to encourage route development, through the Regional Air Connectivity Fund and effective international marketing of new links. Improving surface access to airports by road and rail through a single national transport strategy.
  • Speeding up planning, by setting clear land use policies in noise contours, curtailing the building of housing and other noise-sensitive buildings around airports, so that in future fewer people live in areas where there is aircraft noise.
  • Ensuring that aviation security is aligned with the nature of threats and work towards securing better borders for inbound passengers.

With this kind of policy support from the new Government and Parliament, the aviation sector can deliver record-breaking growth over the next few years. This would be good news for passengers, business, tourism, jobs and prosperity – and ultimately families and businesses up and down the UK.

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