Southend airport boss takes swipe at London’s aviation infrastructure

Southend airport boss takes swipe at London’s aviation infrastructure

London’s aviation infrastructure has been condemned by the boss of Southend airport.

Glyn Jones, chief executive of the Essex airport’s owner Stobart Aviation, warns that London’s airports will be full to bursting point this year – 13 years ahead of official forecasts.

At the same time, the airspace infrastructure remains outdated and a new London Airspace Management Programme has failed to bring any improvements.

He blames political prevarication for letting London down, despite the government backing a third runway at Heathrow last autumn.

Jones highlighted delays during last year’s August peak at a “flagship” airport in the south-east and described rail access to London’s airports as a “joke”.

He called for action on developing the single European sky so airspace issues can be handled on a Europe-wide level rather than just in the UK.

Jone said: “In aviation, and especially airspace, capacity is always king, yet the planning system appears to offer it only ever as a last resort.

“We must find a way to make the complex simpler and the planning system needs to be solution based.

“The situation at present offers neither; indeed, we have turned the matter of dealing with our complex planning system into an industry in its own right. This has to change.”

He also called for airports to be allowed to charge for facilities and benefits – in turn they should be held airports to account for delivering what is promised.

“Let the market really decide if it wants a maximum five-minute wait at security, by charging for it. And oblige those who want to sell that service, to fund it,” Jones said.

Airports should also be kite-marked for on time performance and use the information to drive competition and service quality.

He wants to see rail franchises to airports and make it easier for airports to bid for them.

“At London Southend, the airport operates the train station. Why not extend that to operating an airport rail franchise too, specified with the needs of the airport passenger in mind, not simply as an add-on to an already congested commuter service,” Jones said.

He added: “There’s a common thread here. The market. That is the real driver of service and solution based planning.

“Operating airports like a service rather than as infrastructure businesses, responsive to passenger as well as airline and real estate customer needs, for me, is the heart of the solution.

“This is the spirit at Stobart Aviation and at London Southend airport. And as a direct result of this spirit, what we have here, now, is a new airport for east London.”

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