The economy would gain an annual £1 billion boost if there was just one extra flight a day to the eight fastest-growing world destinations, according to the CBI.
The employers’ organisation claimed the UK was failing to keep pace with major European competitors in winning new direct air connections to key developing markets such as Brazil, China and Russia.
The report out today suggest a daily flight connecting the UK with any of the Brics countries or Turkey, South Korea, Indonesia or Mexico would generate trade worth £128 million a year.
The CBI called for “immediate improvements” in access to airports and said efforts were needed to maximise capacity at Heathrow, where the £2.5 billion Terminal 2 project is due to be completed next year.
There should be new runway capacity in southern England in the medium term while long-term options, from 2030 onwards, should include a new London airport.
The CBI is calling on Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Birmingham airports to be considered for the medium term.
Measures covering the next few years will be outlined in an interim report from the independent Davies Commission into UK airport capacity at the end of the year.
CBI business environment policy director Rhian Kelly said: “The Davies commission must be bold and set out a clear path forward.
“It needs to provide all of our airports with a sustainable licence to grow, with the ability to link exporters with new opportunities. This means tackling the growth pinch-points in the air and on the ground.”
CBI chief policy director Katja Hall said: “Boosting exports is critical to our long-term growth. Every day we delay expanding our connections, we risk falling further behind our competitors.
“Firms in high-growth economies are not waiting for us to make a decision before taking their business to countries with much better flight links.”
Aviation minister Simon Burns said: “This government is determined to find a lasting solution to maintain the UK’s global aviation hub status and secure the kind of benefits that the CBI has identified.
“That is precisely why we have asked Sir Howard Davies to conduct a detailed, independent review of all the options, based on the most up-to-date information.
“Previous attempts to tackle the question of airport capacity have failed, often due to a lack of consensus on the evidence. Our approach is to build a strong political consensus so we can plan for the future. A rushed decision is not an option.”
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