The government came under intense fire for failing to address the pressing issue of airport hub capacity in its long-awaited aviation policy framework consultation.
Virgin Atlantic led the criticism and was joined by other industry bodies after the Department for Transport confirmed that a separate call for evidence on how to maintain the UK's international connectivity and hub status will follow later in the year.
The airline’s chief executive Steve Ridgway said: “This policy framework is long overdue, and now it is unveiled without addressing the key question – what does the government think about options for airport capacity?
“While the UK dithers, our international competitors race ahead.
“Research has shown that if our hub capacity continues to be constrained, it is likely to reduce economic activity in the UK by £8.5 billion a year by 2021 and lower employment by almost 150,000.
“We’ll take seriously the government’s growth agenda, and claims to support aviation growth, when they get on with consulting on options to allow that growth to happen where businesses, holidaymakers and UK visitors need it.
“The UK cannot afford any more false starts, so we hope that this delay indicates the government is reconsidering its position on hub capacity.”
Airport Operators Association chief executive Darren Caplan said: “Whilst we agree that the government must get it right on hub, we are concerned that a delay pushes the time for decision further away.
“The UK economy needs a thriving airports sector with vibrant point-to-point airports and sufficient world class hub capacity.
“The government must set a clear timetable and deadline to make decisions on this as soon as possible. The more we delay the more jobs, businesses and routes the UK loses to competitors.”
Caplan added: “We welcome the publication of the first draft of the sustainable framework for UK aviation, and look forward to all airports being allowed to grow sustainably, within a decent planning and regulatory framework, whilst delivering on cleaner, quieter, smarter aviation, to ensure the UK economy has the connectivity in needs in order to emerge from recession.”
Sustainable Aviation – an alliance of airlines, airports, aircraft and engine manufacturers, and air traffic service providers – said it would judge the framework on whether it helps the aviation sector deliver cleaner, quieter, smarter flying in the years ahead.
This means working collaboratively with the aviation sector to deliver a proper framework to incentivise and deliver ever lower carbon emissions, and measures to address noise and local impacts around airports, the organization stressed.
Chairman Matt Gorman said: “We will be responding to the Framework’s proposals to deal with aviation’s climate change, noise and local impacts. Aviation has already made terrific strides to deliver cleaner, quieter, smarter flying.
“We urge the government in its final aviation policy to be published next spring to continue to lobby for a global cap and trade carbon scheme; and to work with the aviation sector to support the innovation needed to deliver win-win solutions, benefitting both those impacted by aviation and those who use it too.”
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