20th April 2013

Airport capacity crisis claims rebuffed

Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) has rebuffed claims that the UK is facing an airport capacity crisis which is damaging the UK economy. Contrary to aviation industry pleading for more runways, SSE says there simply isn’t the demand for more business flights or more routes to emerging markets.

The campaign group’s comments appear in its submission to the Airports Commission discussion paper on ‘Aviation Connectivity and the Economy’.

The response makes clear that it is the corporate interests of the UK aviation lobby rather than concern for UK Plc that is driving calls for additional runways, highlighting specific examples to back this up. Heathrow, for example, flew more people to Miami last year than to the whole of mainland China, and more people to Nice than to either Beijing or Shanghai. Meanwhile, Gatwick flew almost 50 times as many people to Spain last year as to the four BRIC countries – Brazil, Russia, India and China – combined.

As far as Stansted is concerned, operators provide flights every day of the week to Alicante but none at all to any of Europe’s main business centres such as Paris, Zurich and Frankfurt.

SSE also reminds those caught up in the whirl of aviation industry spin that London continues to be independently ranked as the best city in Europe for doing business and as the city with the best transport links with other cities and internationally. In recent years, London has stretched its lead over Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam, in direct contradiction to some of the claims made by the airlines and airport operators. London’s airports also serve more passengers than any other world city and more destinations than any other European city.

Commenting on its response document, SSE’s economics adviser, Brian Ross, said: “We are clearly demonstrating that the UK has neither an airport capacity crisis nor a connectivity crisis. If there was demand for another 100 flights a day to China, there would be ample capacity to accommodate that straightaway. In fact, the overall demand for business flights is declining: overseas business trips by UK residents have fallen by a fifth since 2000.”

“The UK has more commercial runways than either Germany, France, Spain or Italy,” he added. “We even have more runway capacity than Japan – also an island trading nation – which has double our population and twice our GDP.”

The Airports Commission, chaired by Sir Howard Davies, has been tasked by the Government to examine options for maintaining the UK’s status as a global aviation hub. It will produce an interim report towards the end of this year and its final recommendations by mid-2015.

Campaigning to ensure Stansted Airport's authorised operations stay below harmful limits