In response to the difficulties that small regional airports have faced, a number of them are joining together to form the Regional and Business Airport Group. Its members include Exeter, Norwich, Southend, Newquay, Durham and Blackpool. They hope to promote the advantages of regional airports, make the case for regional airports to government, and get more support. They say their airports help to rebalance the economy, and serve less well-connected regions – but they will need financial help. They want a cut in their level of Air Passenger Duty, and less regulation. Unless a buyer is found for Blackpool airport by 15th October, it will have to close. Manston, Bristol Filton, and Plymouth City airport have closed. Others have been taken over by councils or sold for token sums of money. The small airports with under one million passengers per year had much larger drops in numbers during the recession, from 2008, than larger airports. One analyst considers a small airport needs at least half a million annual passengers, to be viable. The small airports suffer from low cost airlines driving down fees. The FT says over 40% of European airports do not make a profit.
Regional airports band together to promote sector
By Rob Gill (Buying Business Travel)
6 Oct 2014
Regional UK airports have formed a new group to promote their services as a deadline for the possible closure of Blackpool International Airport looms.
A group of airports including Exeter, Norwich, Southend, Newquay, Durham and Blackpool have set up the Regional and Business Airport Group to promote the advantages of regional airports and lobby the government to reduce the impact of regulations and taxes such as APD on smaller airports.
If Blackpool is closed, it will be latest blow to the regional airport industry following the end of flights at Manston in Kent earlier this year.
Other regional airports such as Cardiff and Prestwick have also been taken over by regional governments. While Cambridge Airport will lose its Cityjet services from October 25, only five months after the flights started.
A study by the Smith Institute think tank this summer said that regional airports were suffering due to a lack of direct flights to Heathrow.
The report, entitled ‘Making global connections: The potential of the UK’s regional airports’, found that only six UK regional airports now had flights to Heathrow – this compares to 26 regional airports with Heathrow services in the 1980s.
“This lack of connectivity resulted in the point-to-point traffic not having services to London and consequently these communities suffered considerably in terms of economic investment and growth,” said the report, which has been submitted to the Airports Commission
UK regional airports join forces as Blackpool fights for survival
October 5, 2014 (Financial Times)
By Andrew Bounds in Manchester and Jane Wild in London
After years of losses, Blackpool airport has only days to find a buyer if it is not to join the growing numbers of the UK’s smaller airports that have been forced to close.
Although the country’s smaller regional airports generate thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of pounds in economic activity for their local economies, many are struggling or have shut down in the years since the financial crisis. Balfour Beatty, which owns Blackpool airport, has been trying to sell it since August and has made losses on it for several years.
Unless the company finds a buyer by October 15, it is likely to be the “end of an era for the airport” after almost a century of operation, according to Blackpool council.
Manston, in Kent, which shut in May, and Bristol Filton, which closed in December 2012, were both sold to property developers, while Plymouth City was closed in December 2011. Last year the Scottish government had to step in to buy Glasgow Prestwick for £1, following the example of the Welsh government, which took Cardiff into public hands in March 2013.
In response to the tough climate, a number of the smaller operators are banding together to form the Regional and Business Airport Group, to make the case for regional airports. Its members include Exeter, Norwich, Southend, Newquay, Durham and Blackpool.
John Spooner, head of Regional and City Airports Management – which operates Blackpool – said the government had to offer more support. “The government should recognise that small airports serve a vital role in their policy of rebalancing the economy and if they’re going to serve the less well-connected regions they are going to need some breaks.” The cost of regulation and air passenger duty tax weighed heavily on the smaller locations, he added.
Regional airports have suffered as airlines have focused on a few bigger airports such as Manchester, Birmingham and Edinburgh. Owners who often bought when demand from passengers was forecast to grow exponentially have ended up with heavy losses.
In 2007, a number of UK airports with fewer than 1m passengers annually saw declines of 40 per cent or more in the next five years, compared with an overall UK drop of 8.1 per cent.
“You need half a million to a million passengers a year to service an airport,” said David Bentley, an analyst at the Centre for Aviation in Manchester. “Since 9/11 [the September 11 terrorist attacks], regional airports have been left competing for low-cost carriers, who can drive down their fees. Over 40 per cent of airports in Europe do not make a profit.”
In response to their predicament, many airports have tried to diversify and create new streams of revenue, often through new uses of land on their site, such as creating business parks. Newquay in Cornwall looked in danger last year when Flybe announced it was stopping its daily London Gatwick service. The government stepped in to subsidise the route and has helped to fund a £6m industrial park development.
Southend has turned around its long-term decline and expanded. Owned by the Stobart group haulage company, it has attracted easyJet and also operates a freight business. The entrepreneur Sir Peter Rigby has been a supporter of regional airports, buying Coventry, Exeter and Norwich.
But others remain in difficulty. Peel Group, the property business which owns three airports including Liverpool John Lennon, this year bought back a majority stake in LJLA from the operator of Vancouver airport in Canada for £1.
Liverpool had been one of the fastest growing airports in the 2000s but has been hit by Manchester’s success in luring back budget carrier Ryanair. Passenger numbers have fallen from 5.2m in 2007 to 4.3m in 2013. Peel is not actively marketing the airport but would be open to offers, one person close to the group said.
Mr Spooner said Blackpool might survive if it could attract flights that could not get popular slots at Manchester. “Aviation has had one of the toughest periods it has encountered and Blackpool has had a history of passenger numbers growing and falling.” said Mr Spooner. “It’s too early to say it’s the end of Blackpool airport.”
Blackpool Airport will close down next month unless a buyer can be found. Since the end of last month, owners Balfour Beatty have been trying to find a buyer to take over the operating interests in the terminal, which was bought for £14m in 2008. But in a statement, the company today said that unless an agreement can be reached before October 7, it is “likely the airport will close” with the last commercial flights taking place on October 15th. The airport has been making a loss for a number of years. Three airlines fly out of the terminal.
Blackpool airport (losing about £1.5 million per year) put up for sale by Balfour Beatty
August 31, 2014
Blackpool Airport has been put up for sale by Balfour Beatty, which bought it in 2008. The airport is saying the sale will not affect flights, and it hopes to get new routes. Balfour Beatty paid £14m for the airport, and has now has decided to sell its operating interests in the site as part of a wider decision to sell all its interests in regional airports. But it will continue to own the land on which the terminal stands. Alan Cavill, assistant chief executive at Blackpool Council, which sold the airport in 2004 for £13 million, welcomed the news. A London-based restructuring specialist is handling handle the sale and inviting expressions of interest from would-be buyers before September 10th, but no price has been put on the airport. Balfour Beatty has invested almost £30m in the site since 2008. But passenger numbers have dropped over the years from a peak of around 500,000 in 2007. It gets passengers from the North West of England, Southern Scotland, Cumbria and Cheshire. The airport makes an annual loss of about £1.5m per year. Three airlines are based at Blackpool including Jet2 with 13 destinations.
LibDems have voted against an amendment, by Lorely Burt (Solihull) and Stephen Gilbert (St Austell and Newquay), to reverse Lib Dem policy of no new net runways. Party policy remains opposed to a new SE runway. The amendment proposed continuing opposition to Heathrow, but backing Gatwick expansion (Gatwick helped with conference expenses – and lobbied relentlessly). It was supported by Nick Clegg, Danny Alexander, Vince Cable, Ed Davey and Susan Kramer. However, no cabinet minister spoke in favour of it during the debate. Ed Davey and others made rather poorly informed comments about aviation becoming “cleaner and quieter” in future, meaning a new runway could be built without breaching environmental limits. “According to one party source, Clegg was also worried about going through an election campaign saying the Lib Dems would block a new runway, only for it to be agreed by parliament soon after the election.” LibDems will not back a new runway if in coalition after 2015. Julian Huppert played a central role in defeating the amendment. Caroline Pidgeon spoke strongly against it, and tweeted that “softening on airports is bad for environment, for London and for the LibDems‘ credibility.” What this does to voters’ faith in LibDems not selling out to big business, at the expense of the environment, in future is not clear.
There were several speeches denouncing the excessive lobbying at the conference by Gatwick. Like supplying free WiFi, below.
Or sponsoring the conference App:
Lib Dem conference 2014 – Clegg defeated as Lib Dems
vote to block Gatwick expansion: Politics live blog
Rolling coverage of all the day’s developments at the Lib Dem conference in Glasgow, including the vote on whether the Lib Dems should drop their opposition to a new runway in the south east
Clegg’s defeat over Gatwick – Snap analysis
Gatwick vote – Snap analysis: “How damaging …?” is the question the broadcasters always like to ask, and it’s fair to apply it to the Gatwick vote. I’ve described it as a defeat for Nick Clegg, because the leadership was supporting the Gatwick amendment, but some inverted commas may be in order (“defeat”) because Clegg had not exactly put his authority on the line over this. He proded the party towards voting for the amendment (which, as Duncan Brack explained, would have overturned existing policy), but he did no more than that. It was noticeable that no cabinet minister spoke up in favour of it in the debate, not even Ed Davey, the energy secretary, who defended the amendment on the airwaves this morning. (See 9.35am.)
Will this make a difference to where the new runway goes? Almost certainly no. The Davies commission is going to report after the election and it will recommend a new runway at either Heathrow or Gatwick. A Miliband-led government or a Cameron-led government would almost certainly back the Davies recommendation. Following today’s vote, the Lib Dems will have to vote against if they are in opposition and, if they are in coalition, they will probably have to negotiate an opt-out agreement allowing them to abstain or to vote against. But, as long as both main parties committed to airport expansion, the Davies plan will probably get implemented.
If one party changes its leader, that could change. For example, if Boris Johnson were to become Tory leader, he would resurrect the “Boris island” idea. He is very strongly opposed to expansion at Heathrow.
(Having attended the press conference for the launch of the Davies commission’s interim report, I got the impression it would plump for Gatwick, where the political opposition is lower, but the airline industry wants Heathrow and many experts think that’s what Davies will recommend.)
So why did Clegg want to drop the party’s opposition to expansion at Gatwick? Partly because he genuinely believes that technological advances could reduce the noise impact of a new runway significantly. (This is the argument Ed Davey was using this morning.) But not being opposed to Gatwick would also make future coalition talks easier.
And, according to one party source, Clegg was also worried about going through an election campaign saying the Lib Dems would block a new runway, only for it to be agreed by parliament soon after the election. There were fears that this could look like another tuition fees broken promise.
But, actually, the tuition fees comparison is not appropriate. The problem for the Lib Dems over tuition fees was not that tuition fees went up, but that the Lib Dems voted for an increase having promised not to. They won’t make the same mistake again over Heathrow or Gatwick. Now any prime minister wanting to approve a new runway after 2015 will definitely have to do so without Lib Dem votes.
Clegg defeated as Lib Dems vote to block Gatwick expansion
The Gatwick amendment has been defeated.
That means Lib Dems are still opposed to any airport expansion.
It’s a defeat for Nick Clegg, who wanted the amendment passed.
This is what Clegg said on this last week.
I do happen to think the environmental impact can … be consistent with some form of airport expansion, given the rapid improvement in environmental performance of modern aircraft.
Duncan Brack, the vice chair of the Lib Dem federal policy committee (and a former special adviser to Chris Huhne), is summing up the debate now.
He says the federal policy committee is opposed to the Gatwick amendment. It contradicts existing party policy, he says. And there is still room for expansion in regional airports.
Suggesting that you can expand airports without increasing emissions is “simply not credible”, he says.
What new voters would the Lib Dems attract from this initiative, he asks. It would make the Lib Dems look like the Tories or Labour, he says.
(The Lib Dems are confusing as a party. On this issue, the leadership is at odds with the federal policy committee.)
Stephen Gilbert, the MP for St Austell and Newquay, is summing up now on behalf of the Gatwick amendment.
Planes are getting cleaner and quieter, he says. The Lib Dems will never support airport expansion if it threatens their commitment to tackling climate change, he says.
And Heathrow expansion will never be supported by the Lib Dems, he says.
But the party cannot lock the regions out of growth, he says.
Addressing Caroline Pidgeon (see 11.04am), he says “Boris island is as dead as George Osborne’s leadership aspirations.” He goes on: “It ain’t going to happen.”
(I’m not sure that’s a good analogy. Boris island may be dead, but I would not entirely write off Osborne as a future Tory leader.)
Back in the hall, the debate on the pre-manifesto motion is still going on, and, on the Gatwick amendment, it looks as if the leadership may find it hard to win.
Julian Huppert, the Cambridge MP, wants the leadership to lose.
To all at #ldconf – please come to auditorium to oppose amendment 4 on aviation at 12:20. It’s bad for regional growth & bad for environment
In the debate on the pre-manifesto, some delegates are strongly attacking the Gatwick amendment. The opponents of the amendment are more vocal than the supporters.
One of the best speeches came from Caroline Pidgeon, a Lib Dem member of the London assembly. She said that she had investigated this on behalf of the London assembly and that there was spare capacity at Gatwick, Stansted and Luton. Heathrow said that it needed an extra runway for more flights to Asia, but two thirds of their flights are short haul, she said. She said that London was the best-connected city in Europe. And the Gatwick amendment would put the “Boris island” estuary airport on the agenda.
She also said that having an extra runway at Gatwick would damage the regions.
“I understand some other regional airports may want to expand in the future for their local economy within tough envrionmental limits. But allowing Gatwick or Stansted to expand would put a stop to the very thing the movers of this amendment want – more regional growth. Money would go into the south east and expand Gatwick or Stansted.”
London LD veteran Mike Tuffrey leading charge against leadership move to allow new runway at Gatwick. ie amendment 4.
Davey says Gatwick stance is not a U-turn
Ed Davey, the energy secretary, was doing broadcast interviews for the Lib Dems this morning. He was talking about £100m Green Deal story announced overnight (see 9.11am), but he also managed to scoop the conference season “no shit, Sherlock” award for the most glaring statement of the bleeding obvious.
I don’t think we’re going to see the repeat of the last election where you in the media had what you called ‘Cleggmania’ when everyone fell in love with Nick Clegg.
Actually, when he read his comment in context, it’s not quite as daft as it looks. Here’s a summary.
Davey said that the Lib Dem amendment on Gatwick was not a U-turn. The party was not dropping its environmental concerns to airport expansion, he said; it was just recognising that expansion could go ahead at Gatwick without those environmental criteria being breached.
What we’re saying is the environmental criteria we’ve always had may well be able to allow expansion elsewhere [from Heathrow], given technological change. It’s not a U-turn on environmental criteria … We’re in favour of the environmental criteria if they can be met. They clearly can’t be met at Heathrow.
An AirportWatch member who attended the conference writes:
Julian Huppert MP (Cambridge) played a central role in defeating the amendment and thereby maintaining Lib Dem opposition to any new runways at either Gatwick or Stansted. Without his efforts, which galvanised the support of grassroots party members, the vote may well have been lost.
For those who are not aware, the intention of the amendment was to narrow down – and strengthen – Lib Dem opposition to a third runway at Heathrow but to open the door for extra runways at Gatwick and Stansted.
It was a very divisive amendment, strongly supported by the Lib Dem leadership, notably Nick Clegg, Danny Alexander, Vince Cable, Ed Davey and Susan Kramer. It was tabled by Lorely Burt (Solihull) and Stephen Gilbert (Cornwall). Gilbert spoke at a Gatwick-sponsored fringe meeting yesterday arguing for airport expansion.
Lib Dems could change position on airport expansion
The Liberal Democrats are heading for a possible U-turn over their opposition to airport expansion.
The party has been committed to a blanket ban on the construction of any new runways in south-east England.
But two Lib Dem MPs at the party’s conference in Glasgow have tabled an amendment that would allow Gatwick Airport to be exempted.
The party leadership backs that plan – putting them on a collision course with many party members who support the ban.
The issue will be debated on the conference floor on Tuesday.
Sources close to Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg are suggesting that airport expansion could take place without increasing carbon emissions due to technological advances.
BBC political correspondent Iain Watson said dropping opposition to any new runways at Gatwick, Heathrow or Stansted could make any future coalition talks easier.
The airport expansion amendment has been tabled by Solihull MP Lorely Burt and Stephen Gilbert, who represents St Austell and Newquay.
There is no guarantee that it will be adopted as party policy and it is likely to face fierce resistance, with high profile figures including former London mayoral candidate Lord Paddick expected to speak against it.
Business Secretary Vince Cable has said expansion at Gatwick was “a preferable alternative” and “less problematic” than expansion at Heathrow, which is near to his Twickenham constituency.
But Peter Chivall, of the Green Liberal Democrats group, urged the party leadership to “see sense”.
“We will be giving away thousands of votes in the South East and elsewhere if we approve amendments like this and showing, in effect, we’re just a patsy for big interests,” he told BBC News.
“We know that the only way you can restrict aviation and restrict the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by planes is to restrict the number of runways. And that’s the way we have to go.”
So far, former minister Jeremy Browne is the only senior figure in the party – apart from Mr Cable – to throw his weight behind an extra runway.
“For an internationalist party like the Liberal Democrats to consciously cut us off from the rest of the world would be a big mistake. So I’m with the runway option,” he told BBC Two’s Daily Politics.
Lib Dem Transport Minister Baroness Kramer said the government must be prepared to defy the recommendation of Sir Howard Davies’ Airports Commission, which is due to report after the general election.
“Any government that says ‘we will automatically do what Davies recommends’ is abdicating the responsibility they were elected to exercise,” she told a fringe meeting.
Sir Howard’s three shortlisted options include adding a third runway at Heathrow, lengthening an existing runway at Heathrow, and a new runway at Gatwick.
Virgin Atlantic has announced plans to scrap its domestic airline, Little Red, after just over 18 months in service.
The airline has struggled to fill seats on its services linking London Heathrow with Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Manchester, and finally admitted defeat after weeks of speculation that the operation would be axed.
Virgin’s daily services to Manchester will end in March 2015, while the Scottish services will cease next September.
Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Atlantic’s president, claimed that Little Red, which was operated by Aer Lingus for Virgin on a “wet lease”, ie with the Irish airline’s planes and crew in Virgin colours, had benefited consumers but “the odds were stacked against us”.
It came into being in March 2013 after competition authorities made British Airways relinquish Heathrow slots for domestic flying, in the wake of BA’s takeover of bmi.
While over a million customers have so far flown on Little Red, Virgin admitted that demand has been predominantly from point-to-point customers rather than the connecting traffic it had hoped for, feeding more passengers on to its more profitable long haul routes.
Virgin Atlantic chief executive Craig Kreeger said: “Little Red came about through an enduring passion at Virgin Atlantic to make a difference for our customers. We really wanted it to be a success and everyone involved worked extremely hard and has given it their best efforts.
“It was always a huge challenge on behalf of the consumer, as the totally inadequate number of slots made available by the European Commission did not deliver close to BA’s network position, even when supplemented by our own slots to fly between Heathrow and Manchester. The time lag between the takeover of bmi and our entering the market also meant Little Red initially faced an uphill battle to win recognition and convert customers to its services.”
Branson added: “When the competition authorities allowed British Airways to take over British Midland and all of its slots, we feared there was little we could do to challenge BA’s huge domestic and European network built through decades of dominance. To remedy this, we were offered a meagre package of slots with a number of constraints on how to use them and we decided to lease a few planes on a short term basis to give it our best shot. The odds were stacked against us and sadly we just couldn’t attract enough corporate business on these routes.”
Virgin Atlantic said it remains committed to its longhaul operations in both Manchester and Scotland, from where it flies seasonal routes to American holiday destinations.
The airline’s shorthaul carrier’s demise came after a major review of Virgin Atlantic’s wider network, which saw a number of routes including Mumbai and Tokyo axed as it focuses on transatlantic routes after its tie-up with Delta. The airline has made substantial losses over the last few years.
Losses narrowed in 2013, but that’s now four losses in five years
Virgin Atlantic Airways (VAA) Limited reported a pre-exceptional pre-tax loss of £74 million for the year ended 31-Dec-2013, according to its 2013 annual report filed at the UK’s Companies House.
VAA changed its accounting year end from Feb to Dec and so its last two sets of statutory accounts are for the 12 months to Feb-2013 and the 10 months to Dec-2013, but it has provided proforma 12 month figures for the profit and loss account for the calendar years 2012 and 2013.
The proforma 2013 pre-exceptional pre-tax loss compares with a loss of £105 million in 2012. The pre-exceptional operating loss narrowed to £76 million from £105 million in 2012. Revenues grew by 3.6% to £2,588 million.
Note that these results differ from those of Virgin Atlantic Limited, which also includes Virgin Holidays and a brand licensing company in addition to the airline and whose summary results have been the subject of a press release from Virgin. Our analysis focuses solely on the results of Virgin Atlantic Airways Limited.
…… more at
Last year, Singapore Airlines increased its stake in Virgin Australia to tap into the Australian market
29 August 2014 (BBC)
Virgin Australia Holdings has posted an after-tax loss of A$355.6m ($332.6m; £200.5m) for the full year ending in June.
The result is more than triple the firm’s previous year’s loss of A$98.1m.
The carrier blamed weak consumer sentiment, overcapacity in the market and carbon tax costs for the loss.
Virgin also said on Friday that it would sell a 35% stake of its frequent flyer program to a private equity firm, valuing the program at A$960m.
The carrier, which is Australia’s second largest behind Qantas, saidongoing uncertainty around the economy had also contributed to its full year loss and that it would not provide a forecast for the following financial year.
Virgin’s underlying loss for the year of A$211.7m was in line with market expectations.
….. and it continues at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-28977837
Virgin domestic “Little Red” flights a ‘disaster’ at only 33% full, (probably less than that) as passengers stick with no-frills rivals
11.10.2013Virgin Atlantic’s venture into domestic aviation, with its “Little Red” airline, has proved financially disastrous. During the first 6 months flying from Heathrow to Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Manchester, the average flight has been only one-third full, [probably in fact much lower, as Virgin figures appear to be wrong] even though the Virgin plane is cheaper than a Virgin train (on the day fare £64, cf £76). “Little Red” flights from Heathrow to Manchester started in late March, and Heathrow to Scotland began early in April. Few passengers have been tempted so far. The load factor of 33% contrasts to the industry standard of close to 80%, while low-cost carriers such as easyJet and Ryanair achieve around 90%. Virgin is prepared to sustain some losses on this route, as it feeds traffic to lucrative intercontinental flights. With so few seats filled, each passenger contributes disproportionately to noise and pollution. John Stewart of HACAN, said: “This confirms what many have suspected – that a big problem at Heathrow is that so many planes are far from full. Full planes may lessen the pressure for a third runway.”http://www.airportwatch.org.uk/?p=17846
“Little Red” airline had only 37.6% load factor in 2013 – lowest in industry
8.6.2014Virgin Atlantic’s domestic airline, Little Red, has had poor ticket sales in the first year of its launch, in March 2013. Its planes have been on average less than 40% full (37.6%). The point of Little Red is to feed passengers from the north of England and Scotland into Virgin Atlantic’s long-haul network from Heathrow. Its low use has been public knowledge since its launch. The CAA’s airline data is now available for the year. Little Red’s load factor is the lowest in the aviation industry – well behind rivals BA and easyJet, with load factors (proportion of seats filled) of 72.4% and 77.8% respectively for 2013. In an interview with The Telegraph last month, Virgin Atlantic’s chief executive, Craig Kreeger, refused to reveal Little Red’s load factor, saying rumours of the service’s demise had been “greatly exaggerated”. Virgin claims its load factor will rise this year. A shockingly high carbon way to travel, if the plane is largely empty. Virgin cuts its losses in 2013 to £51m from £102m.http://www.airportwatch.org.uk/?p=21758
Virgin to launch domestic UK sub-brand called “Little Red” at end of March to compete with BA
Virgin Atlantic has unveiled details of its UK domestic service, which is being called, Little Red. It will launch on 31st March in Manchester, 5th April in Edinburgh and 9th April in Aberdeen, with a total of 26 daily services to Heathrow. Little Red will be Virgin’s first ever domestic flights in the UK. Virgin won key Heathrow take-off and landing slots after Bmi was taken over by IAG last year. Virgin hopes these domestic flights will feed traffic onto its international service. Virgin says Little Red will compete with BA on domestic air routes. BA operates around 52 daily flights between Heathrow and Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow. BA also runs services to Scotland from Gatwick and London City airports.Apparently Virgin has partnered with a number of brands “to offer exclusive products on board including Irn Bru on Scottish flights, plane shaped Tyrells crisps and Bacardi Martini miniatures. It will later offer Krispy Kreme doughnuts, yoghurts from The Collective Dairy and Rude Health granola” ! Why ?!
In February 2014 the European Commission adopted new guidelines on how Member States can financially support airports and airlines in line with EU state aid rules. The aim is to ensure fair competition. The aim is to avoid overcapacity and the duplication of unprofitable airports, or support for an airport that is too close to another. Aid is allowed if there is seen to be a genuine need for accessibility by air to a region, to help economic growth. Many low cost airlines have derived benefit from subsidies to airports, and now a number are having to make repayments for money they should not have obtained. The EU has confirmed that Germanwings must pay €1.2 million, Ryanair €500,000 and TUIfly €200,000 that they got from Germany’s Zweibruecken airport, in the form of lower fees. Zweibruecken is only 25 miles from Saarbruecken airport. Brussels Airlines separately faces an EU probe into €19 million that airlines at Belgium’s Zaventem airport received from the state to fund operating costs from 2014 to 2016. And there are other cases. Belgium’s Charleroi airport must give back €6 million in aid.
Germanwings, Ryanair and TUIfly Told to Repay Airport Aid
By Aoife White
Oct 1, 2014 (Bloomberg)
Deutsche Lufthansa’s Germanwings, Ryanair Holdings Plc and TUI’s TUIfly were ordered by European Union regulators to repay illegal subsidies they got from Germany’s Zweibruecken airport in the form of lower fees.
Germanwings must pay €1.2 million, Ryanair €500,000 and TUIfly €200,000, the EU said in an e-mailed statement today.
Lufthansa affiliate Brussels Airlines NV separately faces an EU probe into €19 million that airlines at Belgium’s Zaventem airport received from the state to fund operating costs from 2014 to 2016.
“Duplicating unprofitable airport infrastructure or unduly favoring certain airlines wastes taxpayers’ money and distorts competition,” said Joaquin Almunia, the EU’s anti-trust chief. Governments can support airports to improve transport links in a region or help economic growth, he said.
The EU has been investigating subsidies to several regional airports across Europe that may have benefited Ryanair and rival carriers. The Brussels-based European Commission must approve large state subsidies to airports and airlines. The commission criticized as “a waste of public money” aid for Zweibruecken given that it is only 40 kilometers (25 miles) away from Saarbruecken airport.
Germanwings and Meridiana Fly SpA must also repay aid granted to them by Sardinia’s Alghero airport, the EU said, without saying how much money was involved.
Germanwings spokesman Heinz-Joachim Schoettes said the company would examine the EU decision. TUIfly spokesman Jan Hillrichs said the funds were used to advertise Zweibruecken airport and the company’s services in the region, according to the contract.
Belgium’s Charleroi airport must give back €6 million in aid, the EU said, ending a probe it started 12 years ago into aid for Ryanair to start routes at the airport, 56 kilometers south of the Belgian capital Brussels.
The EU said most of the aid was justified because it had helped the area’s economy grow. Belgium must demand a higher concession fee from the airport in future, the EU said.
Ryanair didn’t receive subsidies at airports in Charleroi, Germany’s Saarbruecken, Frankfurt-Hahn and Sweden’s Vasteras because it paid above-cost prices for fees, the EU said.
Ryanair legal director Juliusz Komorek said today’s decisions showed that Ryanair’s agreements with the four airports didn’t involve illegal state aid, following EU decisions on seven other airports. Ryanair stopped flying from Zweibruecken in 2009, the company said in an e-mailed statement.
Vincent Grassa, a spokesman for Charleroi airport, declined to comment because its management team is studying the case. Brussels Zaventem airport representatives also declined to comment because it didn’t directly receive the funding the EU is probing.
Regulators approved state funding for Frankfurt-Hahn, Saarbruecken, Alghero and Vasteras.
Ryanair, which helped pioneer the low-cost business model in Europe, reduces costs partly by operating from smaller airports. Before 1997, when Ryanair started its first route to Dublin, Charleroi airport had about 30,000 passengers a year, Ryanair said. It had 6.8 million passengers last year, the airport said on its website.
Consultation on rules for European Commission state aid to airports and airlines
July 2013Under the European Commission, state aid is granted to various sectors of the economy. However, a key issue is the impact it has on distorting the market, and giving an unfair advantage to those companies or organisations receiving it. Airports and airlines are one sector that receives large amounts of state aid through the EC. The Commission’s DG Competition is tasked with overseeing state aid. There have been earlier sets of guidelines on state aid to airports and airlines, but there is a current consultation – due to end on 25th September (which may be extended). The exact amount of state aid given to the aviation sector is somewhat shady, but is at least €3 billion, for those subsidies that are fully notified.There have been widely publicised cases, such as that of Ryanair at Charleroi airport. Transport & Environment have produced an easy-to-read briefing on the state aid situation, and people are urged to respond to the consultation. The state aid gives the aviation industry unmerited subsidy, and helps to encourage very high carbon travel.http://www.airportwatch.org.uk/?p=17424..
European Commission Commission adopts new guidelines for state aid to airports and airlines
20.2.2014The European Commission has now adopted new guidelines on how Member States can financially support airports and airlines in line with EU state aid rules. The EC says the guidelines are “aimed at ensuring good connections between regions and the mobility of European citizens, while minimising distortions of competition in the Single Market.” The aim is to ensure fair competition for flag carriers down to low-cost airlines, from regional airports to major hub airports and avoid overcapacity and the duplication of unprofitable airports. Aid is allowed if there is seen to be a genuine need for accessibility by air to a region. Operating aid to regional airports (with less than 3 million passengers a year) will be allowed for a transitional period of 10 years under certain conditions, in order to give airports time to adjust their business model. Airports will less than 700 000 passengers a year get more favourable treatment. Start-up aid to airlines to launch a new air route is permitted provided it remains limited in time. The formal adoption of the new guidelines in is expected by March 2014.
European Commission to clarify state aid to airports – making ineligible those with over 3 million passengers per year
13.2.2014Across Europe, State aid to small regional airports has until now been ambiguously regulated by measures that date from 1994 and 2005. Much of the aid has probably been illegal, because it has been operational aid that is used to subsidise airport fees for airlines. These savings are then passed on to customers – subsidising their flights. Budget airlines such as Ryanair have taken advantage of this situation and made a lot of profit on it, as well as encouraging artificially cheap air travel. The European Commission is now to produce new guidelines on state aid to airports and airlines, to be publicised on 19th February. The Commission has 50 pending cases of suspected violations of state aid rules, but none has been acted upon for fear of forcing small airports to close. Large airports and airlines have complained that they are being put at a disadvantage by subsidies to their smaller competitors. It is likely that the new guidelines will only allow state aid for 10 years from now, and introduce a threshold so airports with over 3 million passengers per year are not eligible. Environmental campaigners are angry that the guidelines will legitimise a previously illegal practice. It will cause a growth in air travel, contrary to the aim stated by the EU’s white paper on transport of moving passengers from air to rail.http://www.airportwatch.org.uk/?p=19947
Bankrupt Alitalia to get € millions of state aid from Italy’s state postal service
The near-bankrupt Italian airline Alitalia is to receive an emergency capital injection from Italy’s state-owned post office. Italy’s government did not say how much Poste Italiane SpA, the Italian postal service, would be investing – but it might be up to €100 million. The Italian government hope the link between Poste Italiane and Alitalia would lead to a synergy of logistics, in passengers and cargo. Italy’s civil aviation authority had warned just hours earlier that the airline risked being grounded if new financing was not found urgently. Alitalia needs some €455 million to stay afloat. The Italian government justified what amounted to state intervention saying Alitalia was considered a national asset. It filed for bankruptcy in August, as high staff costs, industrial relations issues and surging oil prices further dented its finances. It is being suggested that Alitalia might be able to merge with Air France-KLM to help get it out of its financial problems. Alitalia went bankrupt in 2008, and was re-launched in 2009.
Heathrow airport makes a lot of how important its flights to emerging economies are, and how limited its slots are for this. So it would be logical to imagine that spare slots would be used for just this sort of flight. Heathrow is keen on making statements like: “The UK will fall behind in the global race if it cannot connect to growing economies.” And “Global air transport provides access for our key industries to established and emerging new markets, which will help deliver economic growth across the UK.” So one might expect that, if spare slots come up, they would immediately be used for these long haul destination, to emerging economies. However, Heathrow will now be getting new British Airways flights to … guess where? Olbia in Sardinia; Kos and Corfu in Greece and Split in Croatia from summer 2015. And these will use Airbus A319s and A320s. To be fair, it is moving its Las Palmas flights to Gatwick. Other purely holiday destinations Heathrow offers in the Med are Mykonos and Santorini, which started earlier this year. There are also Pisa and Porto. And the Heathrow destination map includes many, many more … Ibiza, Nice, Tunis, Malta, Malaga….
More Mediterranean leisure routes are being added from Heathrow by British Airways next summer.The airline is introducing Olbia in Sardinia, Kos and Corfu in Greece and Split in Croatia to its network from May 1.
The new routes follow last week’s announcement that the airline will also start serving Seville, Las Palmas in Gran Canaria and Funchal in Madeira from Gatwick.
Weekend day-trip tickets and cheaper hand baggage-only fares starting at £39 each-way are being introduced
Flights to all four new destinations will be on Airbus A319s and A320s from Heathrow.
The airline is also installing new cabins in 95 of its Airbus short-haul aircraft, which includes leather seats and mood lighting.
BA strategy director Lynne Embleton said: “It’s great to be able to offer an increasing number of Mediterranean destinations for customers flying from Heathrow for that weekend break in the sun or for longer holidays.
“We know these new short-haul routes are going to prove very popular after launching services to Mykonos and Santorini earlier in the year.”
BA uses its new BMI slots at Heathrow, not for emerging economies, but largely leisure destinations. As usual.
27.6.2014BA got 42 daily Heathrow slots from taking over BMI. And it said very publicly, in March, that it would be using these to fly to the emerging economies – in Asia, Africa and Latin America - which is part of the myth that the aviation industry is peddling at present. So what are the slots actually being used for? One flight per day to Seoul. The rest are domestic UK (Aberdeen Edinburgh, Belfast, Manchester, Leeds Bradford), or Zagreb, Las Vegas, Barcelona, Marseilles, Phoenix, Zurich and Bologna – with more flights to some. So that is where the money is. So much for the allegedly desperate need for slots to fly to second tier Chinese cities. This really proves what a lot of misleading PR is being put out by BAA and the airlines at Heathrow.· British Airways returns to the Isle of Man
· New routes from London Heathrow to Seoul and Zagreb
· New routes from London Gatwick to Las Vegas and Barcelona
· Bologna and Marseille flights move from Gatwick to Heathrow
· Increased frequency on numerous routeshttp://www.airportwatch.org.uk/?p=2401.
More BA routes from Heathrow …. to key business destinations …. Palma and Ibiza
17.1.2013Anyone reading the statements from Heathrow about the capacity crisis and how there is a need for more flights to the emerging markets might be puzzled by recent news from British Airways. Back in February 2012 Willie Walsh said he planned to expand IAG into lucrative emerging markets, such as Latin America and he hoped to use the extra Heathrow take-off and landing-slots from BMI to accelerate growth into emerging markets. But BA has now announced that it is putting on new flights from Heathrow to Palma (Majorca) from March, and to Ibiza. These are in addition to Mexico and Alicante, as well as Bologna and Marseilles announced earlier. There are also new flights to Leeds Bradford (and a mention of links for business connnections) and a new flight to Chengdu in China, announced earlier, as well as Almaty (Kazakhstan), Dublin, and Seoul among others, where there is likely to be a business component. It is hard to believe there is much business benefit from weekend flights to Alicante or Palma or Ibiza.http://www.airportwatch.org.uk/?p=749..Contrast this with Willie Walsh’s statement last year:
IAG’s Willie Walsh targets emerging markets
Willie Walsh’s plans to expand International Airlines Group (IAG) into lucrative emerging markets, such as Latin America, will dominate the carrier’s annual results this week as it announces a doubling of operating profits.
The group, owner of British Airways and Spanish carrier Iberia, hopes to use the extra Heathrow take-off and landing-slots that will be gained through its proposed BMI takeover to accelerate growth into emerging markets.
Higher oil prices have made US airlines work to control costs. Between 2002 and 2012, the price of jet fuel quadrupled and fuel bills rose from 15% to more than 40% of the operating costs of US airlines, and their single largest operating expense. Airlines have made many efficiencies to cut fuel consumption, including now flying more slowly. Most of the fuel economies which have been implemented in the last decade will not be undone, even if oil prices were to fall (partly due to the possible future costs of CO2 emissions). There is an optimal cruising speed for each aircraft based on altitude. Flying faster increases the amount of fuel burnt. Historically, commercial aircraft have flown on average about 8% faster than their optimal cruising speed. Getting the aircraft to its destination quicker to pick up another load of passengers and minimise crew cost was worth the extra fuel expense. There is a trade-off between fuel consumption and time. But between 2004 and 2011, the average ground speed of seven major US airlines fell by 1.1%. More than anything else, however, airlines have focused on reducing excess weight.
Higher oil prices have had a traumatic effect on U.S. airlines, forcing carriers to re-examine every aspect of the way they do business in a bid to control costs.
Between 2002 and 2012, the price of jet fuel quadrupled from 70 cents per gallon to over $3. Fuel bills rose from 15 percent to more than 40 percent of the total operating costs of U.S. airlines to become their single largest operating expense.
The airlines have responded by changing almost every element of their operations – from restricting capacity growth, eliminating short routes and hiking baggage fees to instructing crews to fly aircraft more slowly and reducing the amount of water carried on board for lavatories and washing.
The results have been impressive. After peaking in 2005, jet fuel consumption in the United States has fallen by almost 15 percent, the equivalent of more than 200,000 barrels per day, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).
U.S. airlines’ fuel saving programme is just one example of how higher oil prices over the last decade have transformed transportation, and led to demand destruction which is likely to prove permanent. Most of the fuel economies which have been implemented in the last decade will not be undone, even if oil prices fall.
“There is a strong correlation between airline mission fuel efficiency and fuel price,” the National Center of Excellence for Aviation Operations Research wrote in a recent report (“The impact of oil prices on the air transportation industry” March 2014).
“There is ample evidence that airlines adopted new operational strategies to reduce total fuel burn for the same amount of traffic,” the centre concluded.
Some of the changes have been obvious. U.S. airlines have restrained growth in capacity and increased seat occupancy.
U.S. airlines measure capacity in available seat-miles while utilisation is measured in revenue passenger-miles.
Between 2007 and 2013, the number of available seat miles flown in the United States was cut by around 34 billion (3.25 percent) while revenue passenger-miles rose by 6 billion (0.8 percent).
The result is that seat occupancy, which the airlines call “load factor”, has risen from around 76 percent in 2004 to almost 83 percent in 2013, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
While airlines have mostly maintained capacity on major trunk routes, shorter and less profitable ones with lower load factors have seen the number of seats cut or been eliminated altogether.
Carriers have also shrunk the amount of space between seats to increase the number of passengers on each flight and saved more space and weight on the aircraft by installing thinner seats.
Other changes have been much less visible. One of the biggest fuel savings has come from flying aircraft more slowly.
From the perspective of fuel consumption, there is an optimal cruising speed for each aircraft based on altitude. Flying faster increases the amount of fuel burnt.
Historically, commercial aircraft have flown on average about 8 percent faster than their optimal cruising speed. Getting the aircraft to its destination quicker to pick up another load of passengers and minimise crew cost was worth the extra fuel expense.
The trade-off between fuel consumption and time is captured in the airline cost index and implemented in the carrier’s flight management system.
But between 2004 and 2011, the average ground speed of seven major U.S. airlines decreased by 1.1 percent, resulting in an even bigger reduction in fuel consumption, according to the centre for operations research.
Airlines have been pushing for other changes in crew behaviour and operations. Several airlines told the operations researchers they had instructed pilots to use only one engine while taxiing around the airport in order to save fuel.
Most airlines are also trying to maximise the use of ground power for aircraft instruments, heating, cooling and starting turbine engines when the aircraft is on stand rather than using the aircraft’s own auxiliary power units (which consume jet fuel).
One airline has stipulated ground power must be plugged in within 1 minute of the plane arriving at the gate.
More than anything else, however, airlines have focused on reducing excess weight.
In most cases, airlines found aircraft were carrying more water than was actually consumed on the journey. By modelling consumption by the number of passengers and the length of the flight airlines have been able to cut the amount of water loaded on board.
The number of magazines carried has been reduced, and those that are must “pay their way”. Airlines have removed onboard ovens from flights that didn’t need heated food. Safety equipment for a water landing has been removed from aircraft which do not fly over water.
One airline told the researchers that its weight reduction programme had cut the weight of a typical Boeing 777 by 700 pounds.
For some fleets, average weights have actually been cut by as much as 10-15 percent, according to the operations research centre.
USING BIG DATA
One of the most attractive targets for weight reduction is the amount of fuel carried on board. Aircraft must carry contingency fuel to deal with delays, storms or diversions but the reserves add significantly to aircraft weight.
Most airlines are now trying to trim the amount of contingency fuel by using modelling to estimate how much extra fuel must be carried to ensure safe operation of the aircraft based on weather conditions and the availability of alternative airports in case the flight must be diverted.
In fact, big data and computer modelling are revolutionising most aspects of aircraft operation, but changing behaviour is not always easy.
There is often a tension between trusting decisions about contingency fuel, water and flying speed up to the professional judgement of the pilots and allowing them to be determined by a computer model. In many cases pilot contracts limit the operational data which gets reported back to the airline and the ways in which it can be used.
“Two airlines noted the difficulty of enforcing the single engine taxi policy,” the operations researchers explained. “The reason for this is because pilot contracts with airlines often limit access to pilot specific performance data, which includes specific reverse thrust settings.”
Cutting fuel reserves has been a particular source of contention. “For pilots, fuel is like insurance, they take extra fuel to deal with uncertainties in flight. They more fuel the less they care if uncertainties like traffic or weather come up. For the pilot, carrying more fuel means less stress.”
But most airlines are now using computer models to encourage pilots to modify their decisions, and in some cases to compel changes in operating practices.
The result has been a huge improvement in fuel efficiency. Between 1991 and 2012, U.S. airlines cut their fuel consumption at an average annual rate of 2.27 percent per revenue passenger-mile.
Between 1991 and 2001, when jet fuel prices were stable, most of the improvement came from upgrades in the aircraft fleet. Older more fuel hungry aircraft were replaced by more modern and efficient ones. After 2004, however, most of the gains have come from network rationalisation and changes in operating behaviour.
Each model of aircraft has a maximum range speed for a given total load (fuel plus payload), which is the speed at which it is most fuel efficient Flying slower or faster than this optimimum speed increases fuel consumption per mile flown.
There is an optimum speed for efficiency because the component of drag resulting from airframe skin friction against the air increases at a square function of air speed, but the drag resulting from generating lift decreases with air speed. (These are technically called parasitic drag and induced drag, respectively.)
The desirability of a low maximum range speed to reduce environmental and climate impacts is at odds in aircraft design with the benefit to revenue streams of making that design speed higher, to increase the passenger miles flown per day.
Aircraft weight is also a factor in fuel economy, because more lift-generating drag (induced drag) results as weight increases. If airframe weight is reduced, engines that are smaller and lighter can be used, and for a given range the fuel capacity can be reduced. Thus some weight savings can be compounded for an increase in fuel efficiency. A rule-of-thumb being that a 1% weight reduction corresponds to around a 0.75% reduction in fuel consumption.
Flight altitude affects engine efficiency. Jet-engine efficiency increases at altitude up to the tropopause, the temperature minimum of the atmosphere; at lower temperatures, the engine efficiency is higher. Jet engine efficiency is also increased at high speeds, but above about Mach 0.85 the aerodynamic drag on the airframe overwhelms this effect.
This is because above that speed air begins to become incompressible, causing shockwaves form that greatly increase drag. For supersonic flight (Mach 1.0 and higher), fuel consumption is increased tremendously.
Nonetheless, jets have about twice the cruise speed. The early jet airliners were designed at a time when air crew labor costs were higher relative to fuel costs than today. Despite the high fuel consumption, because fuel was inexpensive in that era the higher speed resulted in favorable economics since crew costs and amortization of capital investment in the aircraft could be spread over more seat miles flown per day.
Today’s turboprop airliners have better fuel efficiency than current jet airliners, in part because of their lower cruising speed and propellers that are more efficient than those of the 1950s-era piston-powered airlines.
Among major airlines, those which have turboprop equipped regional carrier subsidiaries typically rank high in overall fleet fuel efficiency. For example, although Alaska Airlines scored at the top of a 2011-2012 fuel efficiency ranking, if its regional carrier—turbo-prop equipped Horizon Air—were dropped from the consideration, the airline’s ranking would be lower.
As over 80% of the fully laden take-off weight of a modern aircraft such as the Airbus A380 is craft and fuel, there remains considerable room for future improvements in fuel efficiency.
The weight of an aircraft can be reduced by using light-weight materials such as titanium, carbon fiber and other composite plastics. Expensive materials may be used, if the reduction of mass justifies the price of materials through improved fuel efficiency.
The improvements achieved in fuel efficiency by mass reduction, reduces the amount of fuel that needs to be carried. This further reduces the mass of the aircraft and therefore enables further gains in fuel efficiency. For example, the Airbus A380 design includes multiple light-weight materials.
Airbus has showcased wingtip devices (sharklets or winglets) that can achieve 3.5 percent reduction in fuel consumption. There are wingtip devices on the Airbus A380. Further developed Minix winglets have been said to offer 6 percent reduction in fuel consumption.
Winglets at the tip of an aircraft wing, can be retrofitted to any airplane, and smooths out the wing-tip vortex, reducing the aircraft’s wing drag.
NASA and Boeing are conducting tests on a 500 lb (230 kg) “blended wing” aircraft. This design allows for greater fuel efficiency since the whole craft produces lift, not just the wings.
The blended wing body (BWB) concept offers advantages in structural, aerodynamic and operating efficiencies over today’s more conventional fuselage-and-wing designs. These features translate into greater range, fuel economy, reliability and life cycle savings, as well as lower manufacturing costs.
NASA has created a cruise efficient STOL (CESTOL) concept.
Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Applied Materials Research (IFAM) have researched a shark skin imitating paint that would reduce drag through a riblet effect. Aircraft are a major potential application for new technologies such as aluminium metal foam and nanotechnology such as the shark skin imitating paint.
Jet aircraft efficiency
Jet aircraft efficiencies are improving: Between 1960 and 2000 there was a 55% overall fuel efficiency gain (if one were to exclude the inefficient and limited fleet of the De Havilland Comet 4 and to consider the Boeing 707 as the base case).
Most of the improvements in efficiency were gained in the first decade when jet craft first came into widespread commercial use. Between 1971 and 1998 the fleet-average annual improvement per available seat-kilometre was estimated at 2.4%.
Concorde the supersonic transport managed about 17 passenger-miles to the Imperial gallon; similar to a business jet, but much worse than a subsonic turbofan aircraft. Airbus states a fuel rate consumption of their A380 at less than 3 L/100 km per passenger (78 passenger-miles per US gallon)
Chancellor George Osborne has today again underlined his commitment to delivering a shale gas revolution in the UK, in a conference speech that ignored climate change threats. Osborne told the Conservative Party conference that the country needed to fast-track infrastructure decisions if it was to deliver on his vision of becoming the most prosperous and creative nation in the industrialised world. Some verbatim quotes: “We will build the high speed rail, decide where to put a runwayand support the next generation with starter homes in a permanent Help to Buy.” And ” Let’s face it, even today this country has spent forty years failing to take a decision about building a new runway in the South East of England.” While making the case for investment in new high and low carbon infrastructure the speech contained no mention of climate change, despite David Cameron last week telling the UN that he regards it as “one of the most serious threats facing our world”. New Environment Secretary Liz Truss could only manage, on climate, to say this:” we’re now leading international efforts to tackle climate change.”
Osborne promises new wave of high and low carbon infrastructure
Chancellor argues fracking, runways and new roads must be delivered alongside nuclear and renewables
By James Murray (Business Green)
29 Sept 2014
Chancellor George Osborne has today again underlined his commitment to delivering a shale gas revolution in the UK, in a conference speech that ignored climate change threats highlighted by his colleagues and promised urgent action to deliver new roads and runways.
Osborne told the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham that the country needed to fast-track infrastructure decisions if it was to deliver on his vision of becoming the most prosperous and creative nation in the industrialised world. He acknowledged that building new infrastructure was always controversial, but argued that the engineers and industrialists that invented the steam engine would not have waited 40 years to make a decision on a new runway in the south east or “leave these extraordinary shale gas reserves under our feet untouched”.
Referring to the statue of Matthew Boulton, William Murdoch and James Watt in Birmingham’s Broad Street, Osborne said these “golden boys” would have prioritised the development of new infrastructure.
“We should ask ourselves what the Golden Boys in that statue outside would have done,” he said. “Would they have said, our trains may be packed, our roads congested, our transport system can’t cope, but we won’t build any more roads or new railways? No they would not. Would they have said, yes we mined for coal deep underground, and explored for oil beneath our seas, but we should leave the extraordinary shale gas reserves untouched beneath our feet? No they would not.”
He also claimed they would not have delayed decisions to build new nuclear power plants, nor ignored the opportunities presented by GM foods.
“We must choose the future,” Osborne said. “We will tap the shale gas, commission nuclear power and renewables, and guarantee our energy for the future. We will build the high-speed rail, decide where to put a runway and support the next generation with starter homes in a permanent Help to Buy. We must learn from the past, not be the past.”
However, while making the case for investment in new high and low carbon infrastructure the speech made no mention of climate change, despite Prime Minister David Cameron last week telling the UN that he regards it as “one of the most serious threats facing our world”.
The speech also made no specific reference to clean technologies or the green economy and only one mention of renewables, despite it repeatedly hailing the promise of disruptive technologies.
Separately, Osborne committed to ensuring the UK has the lowest business taxes of any large industrialised economy and he stressed that spending cuts across Whitehall would continue, predicting that £25bn of further cuts were needed to eradicate the deficit and arguing that tax increases were not an option if the UK is to remain competitive.
Osborne offered no new energy or environmental policy commitments, but his outspoken support for fracking and airport expansion is bound to infuriate green groups who responded angrily to the speech on Twitter.
“Barely days after David Cameron touched down from the UN Climate talks, his Chancellor is promising more roads, more airports and more fracking – with no mention of the solutions needed to slash emissions,” said Friends of the Earth campaigner Donna Hume. “By pledging support for polluters, the Chancellor is not just making a mockery of the government’s environmental commitments, he’s throwing away the chance to create thousands of jobs in new green industries.”
The address came after Conservative Environment Secretary Liz Truss argued the government was delivering bold action to improve the environment and leading international efforts to tackle climate change.
“Families can enjoy clean rivers and beaches and have peace of mind in their own homes while children get to know the sound of birdsong in our woods and meadows,” she said. “This is not about targets or turbines. It’s about real improvements practical conservative environmentalism where a strong, healthy environment is a core part of a strong, healthy economy.”
She also praised the use of cutting-edge technology in a booming UK food industry and stressed that action was being taken to tackle rising flood risks.
“Our defences against flooding are being upgraded to make them more robust,” she said. “We are spending £3.2bn – half a billion more than the last government – better protecting 165,000 houses and 580,000 acres of farmland… I am determined that our flood defences will always be strong enough to protect us against the ravages of a changing climate.”
However, Friends of the Earth climate campaigner Guy Shrubsole argued that the coalition’s flood defence spending was still well below the level recommended by the government’s own climate change advisers.
“It’s encouraging that Liz Truss is ‘determined our flood defences will always be strong enough to protect us from a changing climate’ – but this requires investment, not just wishful thinking,” he said. “Climate change and cuts to flood defences under the Coalition mean there’s actually a half-billion pound hole in our flood defence budget. The Chancellor needs to state clearly that he will invest to protect millions of British homes from the ravages of climate change.”
Meanwhile, Shadow Environment secretary Maria Eagle accused Truss of ignoring a host of rural and environmental issues that demand urgent action. “Liz Truss made no mention of food banks, water bills, air pollution, the badger culls, horsemeat, forests or green jobs,” she said. “She told the country that British food ‘never had it so good’ while over a million people rely on food banks each year. This was a speech by an out of touch Environment Secretary with nothing to say about the real issues facing the British people.”
“And it’s not just roads. We’ve doubled spending on cycling. We’ve got the Airports Commission to deal with capacity in the south east. We’ve ordered thousands of new train carriages so commuters can get a seat. Rebuilt stations like Manchester Victoria, Reading, Nottingham and Wakefield. We’ve started electrifying rail lines so they are faster, cheaper to run and environmentally-friendly.”
!Backing the billions that business is investing in things like the new London Gateway port and our key airports like Heathrow, Gatwick and here in Birmingham.”
The future for Britain is to be a low tax country where people play by the rules.
The future for Britain is to be a pro-business country.
And we also have to build for that future.
Big decisions on infrastructure have always been controversial and always will be.
The railways were bitterly opposed in the nineteenth century.
The motorways were opposed in the twentieth century.
Let’s face it, even today this country has spent forty years failing to take a decision about building a new runway in the South East of England.
There are always one hundred reasons to stick with the past, but we need to choose the future.
We will build the high speed rail, decide where to put a runwayand support the next generation with starter homes in a permanent Help to Buy.
Liz Truss’ (Environment Secretary) speech is recorded as saying:
29th September 2014
POLITICSLiz Truss: Speech to Conservative Party Conference 2014
The Conservative Party: Conference.I have to confess that I was both delighted and surprised…….. when the Prime Minister offered me this role.I was delighted…because I love the countryside.I represent one of the most productive agricultural areas of the country in the finecounty of Norfolk….…..and I am infatuated with British food.But I was also surprised to be appointed because I have so much in common with….. Ed Miliband.We both grew up in left-wing households.We both have parents who are academics.His father talked about Marx and Trotsky over the dinner table.My mother took me on protests.I went on marches.I made banners.I went to peace camps.For me, it wasn’t ballet or My Little Pony.Instead, it was saving the planet…..and the CND.The most useful thing I learned…..was how to make myself heard in a crowd.Which I still make plenty of use of today.But while Ed stayed with the predictable Left Wing Establishment.I, Conference, became a rebel.I became a CONSERVATIVE.And I rebelled for 3 reasons.Because I believe that you can shape your own destiny. Because I believe people should succeed on merit.And as a practical Yorkshire girl….I believe in not just talking……. But in getting things done….And, when it comes to the Environment, the Labour Party have always been good attalking.While we’ve been really good at doing.It was a Conservative who pointed out that CFCs were damaging the ozone layer.It was a Conservative who championed international efforts to ban them.It was a Conservative who signed the Treaty phasing out their use.And the name of that Conservative was Margaret Thatcher. The ozone layer is getting better and we’re now leading international efforts totackle climate change. We have cleaned up almost 10,000 miles of river and improved our beaches.Numbers of important birds like the linnet and the goldfinch are on the rise.We are planting a million trees and over 20,000 acres of woodland.Our defences against flooding are being upgraded to make them more robust.We are spending £3.2 billion – half a billion more than the last government – better protecting 165,000 houses and 580,000 acres of farmland.We are constantly vigilant.All this means that families can enjoy clean rivers and beaches……..and have peace of mind in their own homes….….. while children get to know the sound of birdsong in our woods and meadows.This is not about targets or turbines.It’s about real improvements….. …….practical conservative environmentalism…….. where a strong, healthy environment….…..is a core part of a strong, healthy economy. And our Long Term Economic Plan. And that is exactly what our farmers and food producers need.Just like our country…….there once was a time that our food was in decline.We had an inferiority complex about our traditional dishes.We’d lost pride in our country……..and we’d lost pride in our food.The amount of British Food we consumed and produced went down.The last Labour government…….tied our farmers up in red tape….…… wasted £600 million on EU fines ….……..and left us with the worst bovine TB problem in Europe.The fact is: Labour don’t care about the countryside.They think that we can’t grow enough of our own food.They think that we can just outsource it.Well they are wrong.Decline is not inevitable.Under this government, food and farming is one of our biggest success stories.It’s our largest manufacturing sector….…….bigger than aerospace and car production put together.Modern farming is not about shire horses and steam.It’s about systems and satellites.At every stage of the supply chain there is cutting edge technology….….whether it’s GPS in tractors…..automated celery rigs…… or Sainsbury’s employing an army of coders.That’s probably why it’s one of the fastest growing areas for entrepreneurs.We’re helping producers compete by slashing red tape and opening up publicprocurement….as well as nearly 600 new overseas markets – thanks to the hard work of mypredecessors Owen Paterson and Caroline Spelman.Our exports have increased by more than £1 billion in the past four years.And the results are superb.We are growing wheat more competitively than the Canadian prairies.We’re producing more varieties of cheese than the French.And we are even selling tea to China.Yorkshire Tea.When it comes to British food and drink….……we have never had it so good,As well as exporting our fantastic food abroad, I want to see more British food soldin Britain.Two-thirds of the apples and nine-tenths of the pears that we eat are imported.Not to mention two thirds of the cheese.And that is a disgrace.From the apple that dropped on Isaac Newton’s head to the orchards of nurseryrhymes……..this fruit has always been a part of Britain.I want our children to grow up enjoying the taste of British apples as well as… Cornish sardines, Norfolk turkey, Melton Mowbray pork pies, Wensleydalecheese, Herefordshire pears……. and….of course… black pudding.Under a Conservative majority government, I want Britain to lead the world in food,farming and the environment.In a fortnight I will be in Paris at the world’s largest food fair…….bigging up British products.In December, I’ll be in Beijing negotiating new markets for pork.I am determined that our farmers and producers will have access to more marketsboth at home and abroad……..generating jobs and security for millions.I am determined to press ahead restoring habitats,….cleaning rivers….and improving the quality of our atmosphere…..….so that future generations can breathe clean air and enjoy the countryside.I am determined that our flood defences will be always be strong enough to protectus against the ravages of a changing climate. And I will not rest until the British apple is at the very top of the tree.
Data from the ONS (the government’s Office of National Statistics) shows each year how many foreign tourists visit the UK and how many Britons travel abroad, for holidays or business or to visit friends and family. The figures for 2013 show that the “tourism deficit” (the difference between the money spent by inbound visitors to the UK, and the money spent by Brits on their trips abroad) remains around £13.7 billion. So we export much more money by our air trips than we get into the UK economy from foreign visitors coming here. The countries with the largest number of visitors to the UK remain, in descending order, France, Germany, USA, Ireland, Netherlands, Spain, Italy and Poland. The countries which pay the most into the UK economy from their visits are, in descending order, USA, Germany, France, Australia, Spain, Italy, Ireland and Netherlands. The countries whose citizens spend the most per day are the UAE and other Middle East countries, Egypt, Nigeria, Norway, Denmark, Hong Kong and Russia. 51% of all overseas visitors come to London. The countries whose citizens spend most in London are Americans and Middle Eastern countries.
The top ten inbound markets for the UK in terms of number of visits during 2012 accounted for two in three visits (66%). It is noteworthy that only two long-haul markets, the USA and Australia, appear in the top ten. Looking at spending by inbound visitors, the top ten markets account for 54% of all spending, with the USA worth almost £1 billion more than the next most valuable market, France. All of the top ten markets measured in terms of value are ‘developed’ rather than ‘emerging’ source markets for international tourism.
2013 saw the highest number of visits to the UK by overseas residents since the IPS began in 1961, it also saw the highest recorded spending.
Overseas residents made 5.6% more visits to the UK in 2013 compared with 2012 leading to an historical high of 32,813,000 visits.
Earnings from visits to the UK rose by £2.4 billion (12.7%) compared to 2012 to reach a record level of spending in the UK of £21 billion.
The number of nights spent in the UK also grew 6.6% in 2013 to a total of 245.3 million overnight stays.
Visits from North America continued to show a decline, 0.3% down on 2012, however spending from the region increased by 2.9%. Visits from Europe and ‘Other Countries’ showed increases of 5.7% and 9.3% respectively and spending from these regions also grew by 10.5% and 21.6%.
Holidays remain the main reason for visits to the UK accounting for 12.7 million visits, a rise of 6.4% on 2012. Business visits and visits to friends and family continued to show growth, up 7.0% and 4.2% respectively.
Overseas residents made 16.8 million overnight visits to London in 2013, an increase of 1.3 million (8.6%) from 2012, and spent an estimated £11.3 billion on visits to the Capital.
Overnight visits to the rest of England grew by 6.1% to 13.6 million while visits to Scotland and Wales both showed increases after falls in 2012, Scottish visits up 9.8% and Welsh 3.5%.
Trends in visits abroad by UK Residents
UK residents made 3.5% more visits abroad than in 2012 and spent £2.5 billion (7.6%) more during these visits. The length of visit also increased in 2013 up 4.7% to 611.5 million nights.
Holiday visits abroad grew by 4.0% as did visits abroad to friends or family, up 5.7%, however business visits fell by 1.9%. The picture for expenditure was the same with spending on holidays and visits to friends and family rising 8.4% and 11.8% respectively, while expenditure on business visits abroad fell 3.0%.
Visits to North America and ‘Other Countries’ grew in 2013 after falls in 2012, both up 0.7% and 2.7% respectively. Visits to Europe continued to rise, increasing by 3.9% in 2013.
Spain continues to be the top destination for UK residents visiting abroad, accounting for 11.7 million visits, an increase of 5.8% on 2012. Visits to France grew 0.8% in 2013 following a fall in visits since 2009. Visits to Morocco and Tunisia continue to grow in 2013, both increasing by 28.7% and 17.0% respectively. At the same time visits to Egypt continue to decrease, showing a fall of 1.0% in 2013, following the trend of recent years.
The average length of stay on visits abroad remained broadly constant in 2013 at 10.5 nights, however average spending on these visits increased by 4.0% from £573 in 2012 to £596 in 2013.
Latest ONS data looks at travel and tourism in 2013
The latest ONS data shows the highest recorded number of overseas visits to the UK since 1961. There were 32,813,000 visits to the UK in 2013, a 5.6% increase since 2012. Over the same year, spending by overseas visitors increased by 12.7% to £21,012m. The number of visits to London in 2013 was the highest since 1961, with half of all visitors to the UK visiting London. There were 16.8m overseas visitors to London in 2013 and they spent £11,256m.
Increase in visits to London over the last 10 years
A total of 16.8m overseas visitors visited London during their visit to the UK in 2013. This was the highest recorded number of overseas visitors since 1961. The proportion of all overseas visitors to the UK who visit London has been increasing steadily over the last ten years, from 47.3% in 2003 to 51.2% in 2013.
Two-thirds of visitors from North America and other countries outside of Europe visited London during their visit to the UK in 2013 (65.8% and 67.1% respectively). Just under half (48.6%) of European visitors to the UK visited London in 2013. Half of all overseas visitors visiting London were on holiday. Over the last ten years, the number of overseas visitors visiting London for a holiday has increased from 4.9m in 2003 to 8.5m in 2013 (71.9%). Over the same period business visits have increased by 18.5% and visits to friends and family increased by 34.8%.
Over the last 10 years the top 10 countries of residence for overseas visitors to London have remained fairly constant. In both 2003 and 2013 visitors from the United States of America, France and Germany were the top three visiting countries.
Table 1: Top 10 visitors to London over last 10 years (numbers in thousands)
Tourist spending in London almost doubled in last 10 years
Expenditure in the UK by overseas visitors in 2013 had increased by 12.7% since 2012 to £21,012m. Of this overall expenditure, 53.6% was spent in London. The amount spent by overseas visitors in London almost doubled (increased by 91.9%) between 2003 and 2013. Overseas visitors spent £11,256m in London in 2013 compared to £5,867m in 2003. The increase in spending has been largely driven by the increase in holiday visits to London over this period. In 2013, just under a half (47.9%) of spending by overseas visitors in London was by those on holiday.
In both 2003 and 2013, visitors from the United States of America were the highest spenders in London. The top 10 spending countries have changed over the last 10 years, with countries from Asia, Central and South America, and the United Arab Emirates replacing the Netherlands, the Irish Republic and African countries as high spenders.
The average spend per visitor to London is higher for some countries than others which explains why the list of top 10 visiting countries is different to the top 10 spending countries. Visitors from the United Arab Emirates and countries in Central and South America, Asia and the Middle East have a higher average spend per visitor than countries, such as France, Germany and Italy that have higher number of residents visiting London.
Table 2: Top 10 spending countries, visiting London over last 10 years (expenditure in millions)
Where can I find out more about overseas travel and tourism statistics?
These statistics were analysed by the International Passenger Survey team at ONS. The analysis was based on data from the International Passenger Survey. If you would like to find out more about overseas travel and tourism, you can read the release, view the infographic, or visit the travel and transport page. If you have any comments or suggestions, we would like to hear them. Please email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
VisitBritain data shows countries with highest spending by inbound tourists in 2013: top is USA (12% of the total), Germany (7%), France (6%) and Australia (6%)
4.12.2013Visit Britain has commissioned a report, by Deloitte and Oxford Economics. The report indicates that the tourism sector in the UK is worth some £127 billion per year now, and might grow at 3.8% per year. They say it might be worth £257 billion to the UK economy by 2025. Their report says that UK income from foreign tourists in 2012 was £24 billion, (giving a net UK tourism deficit from outbound tourists of £13.8 billion). The £24 billion contributed £6.7 billion to HMRC. Data for 2012 show that the countries whose visitors to the UK spent the most were the USA (by far the most at 13% of the total), France (8%), Germany (7%) and Australia (5%). Then Ireland, Spain and Italy at 4% each. By far the largest number of visitors came from France (12% of the total), next Germany at 10% and USA at 9%. Predictably those who have come long haul spend more on their visits than Europeans. In 2012 about 73% of inbound visitors reached the UK by air. In 2012 there were 179,000 visits by Chinese people to the UK (0.6% of all overseas visits). They accounted for 1.7% of all nights in the UK by overseas visitors, and they spent £300m spent, accounting for 1.6% of the total spent whilst in the UK by overseas visitors.
The parent group that owns British Airways, IAG, have said that they are now making profits and will give their first dividend, probably in November. This is their first dividend since they were created in 2011 through the merger of British Airways and Spain’s Iberia. IAG has also bought bmi and Spanish budget carrier Vueling since its formation. Analysts believe shareholders will receive their first payment at the end of IAG’s 2015 financial year at the latest, as the controversial turnaround at Iberia, which required the loss of some 4,500 jobs and sparked strikes and political outcry in Spain, has stemmed the losses. IAG posted a €96m pre-tax profit for the six months to June 30 this year, up from a €503m loss at the same time in 2013. IAG says it is on track to improve operating profit this year by “at least” €500m, from €770m in 2013. British Airways’ CEO, Willie Walsh said in August that BA had now returned to profit for the first time since 2007, the start of the financial crisis. BA has barely paid any UK corporation tax for years – it may pay round £61 million for the 2013 financial year.
International Airlines Group is clearing a flight path towards paying its first dividend since its creation in 2011 through the merger of British Airways and Spain’s Iberia.
The airlines giant, which has also swallowed up bmi and Spanish budget carrier Vueling since its formation, is expected to set out a road map towards its first payout to shareholders at a capital markets day on November 7. Invitations to the event were sent out last week.
Analysts believe shareholders will receive their first payment at the end of IAG’s 2015 financial year at the latest, as a controversial turnaround at Iberia, which sparked strikes and political outcry in Spain, drives an improvement in profits.
In August, IAG revealed that Iberia had finally flown back into the black following two years of painful restructuring, which has claimed more than 4,500 jobs at the Spanish flag carrier. IAG posted a €96m (£75m) pre-tax profit for the six months to June 30, up from a €503m loss at the same point the previous year, after Iberia eked out an operating profit of €16m.
The company said it is on track to improve operating profit this year by “at least” €500m, from €770m in 2013.
Oliver Sleath, airlines analyst at Barclays, said IAG is targeting a threshold of €1.8m of earnings before interest and taxes (Ebit) before it will have the confidence to pay a dividend.
He said: “I am expecting IAG to articulate a dividend policy at the capital markets day for a well-covered, regular dividend. Timing will be conditional on IAG’s confidence of hitting their €1.8bn target, but it will probably come at some point in 2015.”
Gerald Khoo, analyst at Liberum, is forecasting a dividend of 12 euro cents a share for 2015.
Mr Khoo said: “2015 seems to me to be the most likely financial year when dividends will start, because it ties in with the medium-term targets management set itself (originally in November 2011, but since raised). The underlying principle was that these targets equated to delivering adequate margins and return on capital for shareholders, justifying additional investment but also opening the door to dividend payments.”
easyJet recently raised the proportion of profits after tax that it will pay shareholders through an ordinary dividend, from one third to 40pc, at its own capital markets day. But analysts believe IAG’s dividend policy will involve a far lower percentage, as payments for new aircraft accelerate.
A spokesman for IAG said: “It is our stated objective to get the business to a position by which we can reintroduce and sustain a dividend payment”
I understood from previous DT articles that BA owed its pension fund a great deal of money. Does this article mean that these debts have been paid off?
The answer is apparently that this is an IAG dividend, not a BA dividend. BA will have come to some agreement with its pension fund trustees about how much they need to pay into the fund each year. Those payments have to be balanced with dividend payments. If they paid no dividends, they could not raise any money through shareholders; the business might then do badly …. and subsequently be unable to pay the pension fund in future. So it is a balance.
British Airways boss Willie Walsh hails return of aviation industry as profits jump
IAG chief celebrated return to figures seen before the Lehman collapse
British Airways chief Willie Walsh has heralded the return of the aviation industry after six years of turbulence as his airlines group enjoyed a 55 per cent surge in profit to land its best second quarter since 2007.
“We’re back to the figures we saw before the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008,” Walsh, chief executive of BA and Iberia-owner International Airlines Group, said.
“The UK’s GDP figures are good, and Spain’s are improving. The economies are obviously not as strong as they were in 2007, but the airlines have improved. We’re more efficient.”
IAG’s operating profit hit €380 million (£301 million) in the second quarter, up from €245 million a year earlier, as Iberia turned around a loss to fly into profit, and BA continued to soar. Walsh said the World Cup damaged demand for flights to Latin America.
“It had a dilutive effect. Business people avoided the area, just as with the London Olympics.” But despite the violence in the Middle East, Walsh said British Airways’ decision not to halt flights to Tel Aviv, as airlines such as easyJet did, was backed by passengers.
At the Labour conference, Shadow Sec of State for Transport, Mary Creagh said, on aviation: “More airport capacity is vital to Britain’s economic success, but David Cameron was too weak to deliver it. So he kicked it into the long grass. That led to Boris Johnson’s fantasy island airport …. The one that would have closed Heathrow, destroyed jobs and put London at risk of flooding. £5 million of public money wasted on his vanity project, but it was never about the country’s future. …. The next Labour Government will make a swift decision on airport expansion in the national interest.” In his speech, Ed Balls, the Shadow Chancellor said there should be no more “dither and delay” on airport capacity, amid signals that Labour is no longer ruling out expansion at Heathrow. He said there must be a rapid and final decision on this after the next election. “Whatever the outcome of the Howard Davies review into airport capacity, we must resolve to finally make a decision on airport capacity in London and the South-East — expanding capacity while taking into account the environmental impact ….No more kicking into the long-grass, but taking the right decisions for Britain’s long-term future.”
Labour Party conference: Ed Balls offers stronger support for London airport expansion
Labour has softened its opposition to expansion at Heathrow Airport despite Ed Miliband’s previous hostility to the building of a third runway there.
Ed Balls, the shadow Chancellor, told the party’s conference that an incoming Labour Government would not allow any more “dither and delay” over the need to boost airport capacity in the south east. Labour sources suggested that the party was now open-minded about whether Heathrow or Gatwick should be expanded, which would be a significant shift in policy.
If it wins power next May, Labour would have to make a big decision on the review led by Sir Howard Davies, chairman of the Airports Commission, which has ruled out the London Mayor Boris Johnson’s plans for a new airport in the Thames Estuary and will issue its final report after the election.
Mr Balls moved Labour closer to saying it would accept the Commission’s verdict. If it backs Heathrow, Mr Miliband would be under strong pressure to make a U-turn. He also opposed a third runway at Heathrow during his successful Labour leadership campaign in 2010.
The shadow Chancellor, who is thought to be keener on Heathrow expansion than Mr Miliband, did not express any preference in his speech between Heathrow and Gatwick.
But he said that Labour would set up a National Infrastructure Commission to “end dither and delay” on decisions on major projects. “Whatever the outcome of the Howard Davies review into airport capacity, we must resolve to finally make a decision on airport capacity in London and the south east – expanding capacity while taking into account the environmental impact,” he said. “No more kicking into the long grass, but taking the right decisions for Britain’s long-term future.”
Mr Balls’ message was seen as part of a drive by Labour to become more “business-friendly” amid criticism that the party has alienated business groups.
Ed Balls pledged no more “dither and delay” on the airports crisis today amid signals that Labour is no longer ruling out expansion at Heathrow.
In his keynote speech, the Shadow Chancellor declared that there must be a rapid and final decision after the next election on the site for new runways.
“Whatever the outcome of the Howard Davies review into airport capacity, we must resolve to finally make a decision on airport capacity in London and the South-East — expanding capacity while taking into account the environmental impact,” he told the Labour conference. “No more kicking into the long-grass, but taking the right decisions for Britain’s long-term future.”
Mr Balls is known to be warmer than party leader Ed Miliband towards a third runway at Heathrow. But he was careful not to express any preference in his speech between the frontrunners for expansion, Heathrow and Gatwick, and did not commit to accept whatever is recommended by Sir Howard Davies, the Airports Commission chairman.
Separately, party sources are making clear that Labour is “equidistant” between the two airports, which have produced rival plans for extra runway capacity. Estimates of pollution that each would produce would be given great weight in any final decision.