21st May 2005

Airport communities stand firmly united – unlike the aviation industry

Press release issued by AirportWatch – 21 May 2005

Airport communities at Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted have reaffirmed their united opposition to extra runways at these and other UK airports as proposed in the Air Transport White Paper issued almost 18 months ago.

The announcement comes on the eve of the launch of the pro-expansion industry initiative ‘Future Heathrow’ on Monday (23 May) and follows a week in which the aviation industry has shown itself to be hopelessly divided over developing air transport capacity in the south east. There is deep conflict within the industry over whether Stansted or Heathrow should be developed as the first new runway for over 50 years and as well as how any such project should be funded.

Speaking under the banner of AirportWatch on behalf of the campaign groups from each of the three main south east airports, the umbrella group’s chairman John Stewart said: “Having tried and failed to divide the community groups and environmental organizations opposed to major airport expansion, BAA is now seeking to apply its strong-arm tactics to the aviation industry, regulator and Government to ensure it can keep all its options open.”

“We have said all along that the environmental and social impacts of expansion at Stansted, Heathrow or (potentially) Gatwick would be wholly unacceptable to all AirportWatch members, not least because of the major impact it would have in terms of exacerbating climate change problems.”

Aviation is the fastest growing source of global warming emissions which are responsible for the problem of climate change.

AirportWatch argues that the removal of aviation’s wholesale tax exemptions which result in the underpricing of air travel and artificially high demand would mean that no new runways would be needed anywhere in the UK. [Ref: The Hidden Cost of Flying published by the Aviation Environment Federation, February 2003]


  • At present there is no tax on aviation fuel which costs the airlines only a quarter of what is paid by motorists. Additionally, no VAT is paid on aviation transactions. All this means that each year the aviation industry in the UK receives tax concessions of around £9 billion [Ref: The Hidden Cost of Flying]. The figure across the European Union in 1999 was put at over £20 billion [Ref: The Myths of Flying by Van de Pol, published by Friends of the Earth Netherlands, 1999].
  • Forecasts produced by the Department for Transport show that if the aviation industry paid VAT on all its transactions and if a tax was gradually imposed on aviation fuel so that by 2025 airlines paid the same rate for fuel as motorists paid for petrol, the fall in UK air fares would have been halted and demand reduced to the extent that no new runways would be required over the next 30 years

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