Any new UK airport capacity should be seen as a national asset and not simply a London airport, Flybe chief Jim French has urged.
He made the call in a open letter to new transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin while also demanding a cut in Air Passenger Duty.
The regional airline’s chairman and chief executive said: “At a time of economic challenge, the lack of a coherent and comprehensive transport policy, combined with illogical hikes in stealth taxation on an industry critical to the country’s economic prosperity, is having a detrimental impact on airlines such as Flybe and, ultimately, the economic prosperity of the UK’s regions. This has to change.”
French said the issue of new airport capacity “can’t be ducked if Britain is to retain its position as a world economic player and it is more than a little depressing to see that, once again, the issue has been kicked into the longest of grass.”
He called for the Civil Aviation Authority to guarantee regional access to national hubs, both now and in the period until new capacity comes on line.
“Bluntly, regional access to hub airports must be protected for the benefit of regional economies and connectivity to markets,” said French.
“Meanwhile, connectivity can be satisfied to some extent through airports such as Manchester, Glasgow or Birmingham, which can act in the short term as ‘relief valves’ for London, and also through Schiphol or Paris Charles de Gaulle.
“Medium-term solutions can be found as long as there is courage, imagination and drive from the government.
“Nothing should be ruled out, including radical ideas such as using Northolt as an ‘extension’ to Heathrow. One thing is clear, however – the nation needs a world-class hub airport.”
French called for the “double dip” in APD to be addressed.
“This is where UK domestic passengers pay APD twice, while those flying abroad pay just once, because APD only applies to flights that start from the UK,” he said. “It is clearly inequitable that a return passenger travelling between Glasgow and Belfast City (208 miles) pays £26 in APD, whereas someone flying between Glasgow and Dalaman in Turkey (4,086 miles) only pays £13.
“Flybe paid £64 million of APD to the British government in 2011/12. This equates to about 11% of the revenue we generated in the UK business, something our 3,000 staff find hard to fathom when rail and bus are so generously subsidised.”
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