Heathrow says flight paths being tested are “not indicative of future flight paths” Really?

Heathrow airport has managed to thoroughly upset and anger thousands or residents in areas affected by its flight path trials. The airport had some 500 complaints per day last month – the highest number in its history, and it can barely cope with them. There has been particular anger that there was no warning about the trials, even to the Mayor’s office or to local councils. The flight path changes are part of a drive to overhaul the UK’s airspace by 2020 and use more accurate precision navigation technology – which means narrow, concentrated flight paths that make things easier for air traffic control, to get more planes into the same airspace. NATS wants this “for the UK to remain competitive.” How Heathrow’s PR people have said that the routes being tested “are not indicative of future flight paths”. But that seems difficult to believe. Looking at maps produced by Heathrow earlier, for the Airports Commission, the routes there seem to be remarkably similar to those on trial, over Ascot and nearby areas. The document says they are “indicative and subject to consultation”. When is an indicative flight path not indicative ?


Heathrow apologises over new flight path tests

Heathrow apologises over new flight path tests
Image via Shutterstock

Residents of affluent commuter towns and villages are in uproar over low-flying aircraft as airports test new flight paths.

Heathrow was flooded by an average of 500 complaints a day last month – the highest number in its history – after it began using new flight paths over Berkshire and Surrey.

Residents in Ascot complained the aircraft noise was drowning out conversations and disturbing sleep. Some claim it will force them to move from the town.

The airport apologised for the disturbance caused by the trials, which began six weeks ago with no warning and will end early, because of the backlash, the Sunday Times reported.

Heathrow received 14,301 complaints last month, up from 3,357 in the same month last year. Last week the airport said it was ending the trial two months early on November 12.

London mayor Boris Johnson said the “colossal level of complaints” in recent weeks showed that building a third runway at Heathrow “will never be acceptable”.

“It is beyond belief that no warning was given to my office or to local residents that these trials were to begin, and I will be writing to the secretary of state to ask for a full explanation,” he told the newspaper.

Gatwick, Stansted, Birmingham, London City and Luton airports have also either designed new flight paths or are planning to fly aircraft in a more concentrated pattern on existing routes.

The changes are part of a drive to overhaul the UK’s airspace by 2020 and use more accurate navigation technology.

Instead of following navigational beacons on the ground when approaching or departing airports, aircraft will use satellite navigation.

This system, known as performance-based navigation, will allow pilots to fly their routes more precisely and noise will be concentrated along narrower flight paths.

It could also allow the distance between flight paths to be reduced and enable aircraft to make more fuel-efficient turns, and climb more quickly or descend later.

The change has prompted some airports and National Air Traffic Services to test new flight paths for departing aircraft flying below 4,000ft.

Heathrow is testing five departure routes. One goes over Ascot and Sunninghill in Berkshire and Windlesham and Lightwater in Surrey, while others concentrate flights over Old Windsor, Twickenham and Hampton.

Heathrow insisted the routes being tested “are not indicative of future flight paths”.

Sustainability and environment director Matt Gorman said: “We are sorry for communities that have experienced an increase in noise as a result of these trials. We are taking that feedback into account in the design of any future trials and in thinking about how we communicate about those trials.”

Birmingham airport has been testing two new flight paths for departing aircraft since May, which residents claim is causing misery in the villages of Balsall Common and Hampton in Arden.

Gatwick received about 200 complaints a day when a flight path was tested over West Sussex earlier this year.

At Stansted, Nats is proposing to double the number of aircraft flying over Essex towards Clacton, while cutting the number of flights departing towards the Thames.

London City is proposing a more concentrated flight path over Poplar, Leyton and Wanstead in east London but fewer flights over Romford. Luton would see fewer flights over St Albans but more flights over the village of Sandridge.

Nats said: “Modernising the airspace is essential for the UK to remain competitive.”



One comment below the article says:

“People” made conscious decisions to move to Ascot for the peace and quiet Jimbo, they didn’t move near the airport. And some of us have made sacrifices to do so. It’s different if you know you’re buying in to noise or have no choice.


Comment from an AirportWatch member:

This repeats the statement:

“Heathrow insisted the routes being tested “are not indicative of future flight paths.”

But on checking

http://your.heathrow.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/01-Heathrow-3RNW-Air-and-Ground-Noise-Assessment.pdf  (contains many maps)

which presumably has been submitted to the Airports Commission as supporting technical data (it mentions the Requirements of the Airports Commission and their Sustainability Appraisal Framework (SAF) with respect to aircraft noise).

This shows many of the maps in Appendix H which contains very similar concentrated routes marked “indicative and subject to consultation”.

When is an indicative flight path not indicative ?

For example, this map below (Page 265 of the document.  MLD means new runway Mixed, North runway Landings, South runway Departures):

Indicative 3 runways flight paths westerly MLD


Ascot appears to be overflown on pages 265,266,271,276,277,279 and 282. It even has a curved landing approach going over it in some options!


This document states:

“The routes presented should be seen as indicative of the principles and not definitive. Each route is presented as a 1 kilometre wide zone (500 metres either side of a centre line). The designs, while challenging some of today’s assumptions, are considered realistic and deliverable.”


“A significant programme of airspace modernisation is underway across Europe, including in the UK and in London which will be completed over the next decade. Airspace, often designed several decades ago, will be able to take advantage of the latest technology to navigate aircraft more precisely and operate more efficiently. Such ‘Precision Based Navigation’ (PBN) can also offer significant noise benefits. It allows routes to be redesigned more precisely to avoid the most densely populated areas. Heathrow recognise that this could mean a greater concentration of aircraft on specific tracks. However it will also be possible to create a number of routes for arrivals and departures, and to alternate these routes to deliver predicable periods of respite. ”


“All aircraft will operate using Precision Based Navigation (PBN). This system gives a high degree of accuracy to aircraft routing and positioning that enables shorter distances between aircraft on the same route. ”


It has been assumed the following when designing the take-off flight paths:
• All aircraft fly straight ahead to 1 nmi from the end of the runway to maintain an efficient operation and allow for aircraft separation requirements. These splits are not required from a runway being used in Departures and Landing mode (DL), as the assumption is that any two departures will be separated by an arrival;

• Turns in departure routes have a radius of not less than 2 nmi to allow for Code F size aircraft;

• Continuous climb departures can be conducted from all runways, independent parallel departures can be conducted from any two runways and routes from different runways in use at the same time must diverge;

• Required Navigational Performance (RNAV) Standard Instrument Departures (SIDs) exist with any pair of diverging routes, permitting one minute departure separations for non wake vortex separated pairs of aircraft;





An AirportWatch member comments:

Matt Gorman says these flight paths are not “indicative of future flight paths.” But if not, why are they testing them.

Looking at the old ERCD noise report for the 2007 Third Runway consultation


it is clear how similar the concentrated flight paths in Figure 2.5 were to the recent trials.

It is to be hoped that Mr Gorman can publish the indicative flightpaths which the CAA used to calculate the reduction in population noise exposure for the recent third runway proposals submitted to the Airports Commission.



Heathrow trial flight paths map


Suburbia in revolt at new flight paths

LOW-FLYING aeroplanes are causing uproar in affluent commuter towns and idyllic villages

  • 5 Oct 2014 (The Sunday Times)






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New AEF Policy Briefing setting out how a new south east runway is not compatible with UK climate policy

The Aviation Environment Federation (AEF), a policy-focused UK NGO, is producing a series of policy briefings, to inform the airport expansion/runway debate. The issue remains whether to build a new runway, not merely where.  AEF’s new briefing “AIRPORT EXPANSION AND CLIMATE CHANGE – Is a new runway compatible with climate policy?” is a concise, easy to read, document setting out the facts very clearly.  A key point is that a new runway would have very significant climate implications that fall outside the remit of the Airports Commission to address. AEF explains how both the Committee on Climate Change and Airports Commission have stated that demand for flights in the UK will have to be restricted to prevent CO2 emissions from the aviation sector overshooting the level consistent with the Climate Change Act.  However, neither has identified how this can be achieved if a new runway is built, leaving a policy gap. That gap would result in the UK’s climate targets being compromised. The options are to dramatically increase the cost of flying (by the UK acting alone), restrict capacity available at regional and other South East airports to below today’s levels – or better and more acceptable – make optimum use of existing airport capacity.


New AEF Policy Briefing: Is a new runway compatible with UK climate policy?

Image Credit: Drian Underwood via Flickr

Image Credit: Adrian Underwood via Flickr

A major consideration for the next government when considering the recommendations of the Airports Commission will be whether a new South East runway should be ruled out on climate grounds. Our new policy briefing examines this concern and considers what options would be available to a future Government if a new runway is built in order to ensure that the aviation sector plays its part in meeting climate change commitments.

We are publishing our briefing at a time when high profile members of Labour, the Conservatives  and the Lib Dems have all indicated that they remain open to the possibility of an additional runway in the South East. [The LibDems have now voted, at their conference, against a new south east runway, though the leadership wanted to get an amendment to back a new Gatwick runway. David Laws, writing the LibDem manifesto for the 2015 election, has said the party will respect the views of its members, and not just dismiss them, to back Gatwick].

We believe that a new runway would have very significant climate implications that fall outside the remit of the Airports Commission to address.

Briefing summary

The Airports Commission’s analysis has built on the work [Dec 2009 CCC] of the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) in modelling the increase in demand for flights that can be accommodated while keeping aviation emissions at a level compatible with the Climate Change Act by 2050.

Both the CCC and Airports Commission have stated that demand for flights in the UK will have to be restricted to prevent carbon emissions from the aviation sector overshooting this level. However, neither has identified how this can be achieved if a new runway is built, leaving a policy gap that would, we argue, result in the UK’s climate targets being compromised.

If a new runway is built, the available policy options would be to either dramatically increase the cost of flying (by the UK acting alone) or to restrict capacity available at regional and other South East airports to below today’s levels.

Both options would be likely to be politically undeliverable.

AEF’s view, therefore, is that rather than constructing any new runways, making best use of existing airport capacity continues to be the best approach to managing future aviation demand.

This briefing on the climate change impacts of a new runway is part of our series of briefings on the work of Airports Commission which examines why the question about UK airports should be ‘whether’ and not just ‘where’ to build a new runway.

[Earlier briefing: AEF Policy Brief: should the UK build a new runway? ]




Is a new runway compatible with climate policy?”

Download: Airport expansion and climate change: is a new runway compatible with climate policy?

Image Credit: Adrian Underwood via Flickr















Below are two extracts from the briefing:

The Airports Commission has concluded that one new runway in the South East would be compatible with the UK’s climate commitments. But in reality new runways cannot be reconciled with legislated carbon goals unless a significant gap in the policy for reducing aviation emissions is addressed by the next government.


Under the Climate Change Act, the UK is required to reduce emissions by 80% of 1990 levels by 2050.  While aviation emissions are not formally included in the five year carbon budgets, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has recommended setting aside 37.5 Mt of the UK emissions budget in 2050 for aviation, equivalent to the sector’s emissions in
2005. The Airports Commission refers to this as the emissions cap. According to the CCC, a higher level of aviation emissions would be high risk and not economically optimal.

Improved efficiency of aircraft should permit some growth in the amount of flying without aviation CO2 emissions breaching the carbon cap. The Airports Commission assumes a shift to larger aircraft would mean passenger numbers could increase by 67% and the number of aircraft movements by 38% by 2050.



Today, aviation takes up around 6% of UK emissions and the proportion is forecast to increase. The Airports Commission’s analysis suggests that emissions may breach the aviation cap even without expanding capacity. See graph below. Building a new runway would lock in future increases in CO2 emissions through significant investment in carbon-intensive infrastructure.

Airports Commission InterimReport Appendix 3 graph on CO2




AEF Policy Briefing:    http://www.aef.org.uk/uploads/AEF_Briefing_Climate.pdf



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Small regional airports band together to promote the advantages of regional airports and lobby government for support

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.

Blackpool airport’s owner Balfour Beatty has set the deadline of tomorrow (October 7) to find a new buyer or it will be closed from October 15. Currently three airlines use the airport: Jet 2, Aer Lingus Regional and Citywing.

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)

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 closure shock

29 September 2014 (Blackpool Gazette)

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.

They are Jet2.com,  Stobart Air, and Citywing



Blackpool airport (losing about £1.5 million per year) put up for sale by Balfour Beatty

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.

Click here to view full story…







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Belfast International Airport seeks enterprise zone status

Belfast International Airport is planning to seek enterprise zone status, to become similar to Manchester’s Airport City. The Manchester one was confirmed as one of the government’s enterprise zones in March 2011, and is able to offer businesses incentives to locate there to create new jobs and stimulate economic growth. Belfast International airport has 100 acres of developable land, and it wants to get enterprise zone status from the government, so it can include logistics centres, warehouses, distribution, offices and leisure uses. But the airport does not have many long haul flights, and tourism in Northern Ireland is below the volume they would like. Belfast International only had around 4 million passengers in 2013, (compared to  Belfast City airport, with about 2.5 million). It had about 5.2 million on 2007 and 2008, so has been in decline for some time.


Belfast International Airport seeks enterprise zone status

BBC News NI)


Related BBC Stories

Belfast International Airport is planning to seek enterprise zone status, according to its managing director.

Graham Keddie said the airport wanted to develop land around Aldergrove into a project similar to Manchester’s Airport City.

Manchester Airport was confirmed as the location of one of the government’s enterprise zones in March 2011.

Centred on the £800m Airport City development, its status means businesses will be offered incentives to locate there to create new jobs and stimulate economic growth.

Mr Keddie, who took on the role in August, said Belfast International was looking to develop its land more effectively.

“We’re very lucky compared to other airports in the UK and Ireland, to have 100 acres of developable land,” he said.

“We should be turning this into an airport city similar to Manchester.


“Planning was in place, we’re just currently checking that planning remains in place. Once we’ve checked that out we’ll be looking to develop and to get enterprise zone status from the government if we can.”

Mr Keddie said the project could include “logistics centres, warehouses, distribution, offices and leisure uses”.

He said the airport was in discussions to bring more new routes into Belfast, with a direct flight to Canada “top of the priority list”.

Belfast International could work in partnership with another regional Irish airport to make the route viable, he said.

Earlier this year, US airline United Airlines said it planned to suspend its service between Belfast and Newark for the first three months of the year.

But the airport has since announced a number of new flights, includingWizz Air services to Poland and Lithuania, Easyjet flights to Iceland and a seasonal Virgin Atlantic service to Orlando.

Mr Keddie said he agreed with former Northern Ireland Tourist Board CEO Alan Clarke’s assessment that Northern Ireland did not get enough visitors from its investment in all-island body Tourism Ireland.

“I think as ‘team Northern Ireland’ we have to get more out of Tourism Ireland,” he said.

“We have to work with them to get more. A lot of it is us asking and driving forward what we need to do.

“If you look at Northern Ireland it has a lot to sell.


“We have just been in Chicago with airlines at what’s known as the routes conference, and selling NI is quite easy when people realise we have Game of Thrones, golf, Titanic, Cathedral Quarter – it’s amazing what this place has, and to sell it should be very easy.”

He also called for air passenger duty (APD) to be scrapped in Northern Ireland to help its airports compete with Dublin.

The tax on international flights has been scrapped but it is still £13 per passenger for short-haul flights.

“We’re fighting Dublin with one hand tied behind our backs. We have APD, they don’t,” he said.

“If we could get rid of APD it would help us enormously.

“There are other ways of competing – customer service, offering the right product to passengers – that comes back to getting the right airlines in and that depends on demand.”




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LibDem conference votes against new runways in south east, keeping existing policy

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.

Embedded image permalink

Or sponsoring the conference App:

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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


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.



  7 October 2014 Last updated at 01:44

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.

‘See sense’

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.


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Virgin scraps its unsuccessful, loss-making “Little Red” domestic services from 2015

Virgin Atlantic has announced plans to scrap its heavily loss-making domestic airline, Little Red, after just over 18 months. It has struggled to fill seats on its services linking Heathrow with Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Manchester, and finally admitted defeat after weeks of speculation. Virgin’s daily services to Manchester will end in March 2015, while the Scottish services will cease next September 2015. 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, could never make money. It was started in March 2013 after competition authorities made BA relinquish Heathrow slots for domestic flying, in the wake of BA’s takeover of bmi. Its aim was to feed in passengers from the regions, to make Virgin’s long haul Heathrow flights more profitable. However, instead most passengers were just on point-to-point flights. Richard Branson complains that the slots they had for Little Red were inadequate.  Its load factor was around 30 – 35%, which was about the lowest in the whole industry. Virgin Atlantic has made losses for years, requiring cuts in flights to (business?) destinations to focus on the profitable tourist ones to North America.


Virgin Atlantic scraps Little Red domestic services

Daily services fron London to Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Manchester to cease in 2015
  • The Guardian,

    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

    22.5.2014 (CAPA)
    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



    Virgin Australia trebles its full year losses

    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 ?!










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Vince Cable: Gatwick runway is “a preferable alternative” and “less problematic” than Heathrow runway

Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat business secretary, is reported as saying, at the LIb Dem party conference, that he backs the expansion of Gatwick over Heathrow. His speech on Monday did not mention airports, but he is reported by the BBC as saying expansion at Gatwick was “a preferable alternative” and “less problematic” than a third runway at Heathrow. His constituency of Twickenham is close to Heathrow, and badly overflown. So it unsurprising that he has previously voiced his opposition to a new Heathrow runway. In December 2013 Mr Cable said: “The Davies Commission interim report has put Heathrow at the front of its thinking which is questionable economically, damaging environmentally and probably undeliverable politically…. I fully support the need to improve UK business links with airports in the emerging markets of Asia which is important for jobs, but this could be achieved more quickly by reforming and reallocating airport slots; by building up point to point services; and by strengthening the capacity of UK regional airports.” He wants the UK economy to be “knowledge based, outward looking, and green.”



Vince Cable said airport expansion at Gatwick is “a preferable alternative” and “less problematic” than expansion at Heathrow – which is near his Twickenham constituency.


“The next generation would certainly not thank us for a legacy of under-investment, over stretched infrastructure, and unaffordable homes

“We’ve also got to communicate to the country our long term vision of what we want the economy to look like.  It’s got to be knowledge based, outward looking, and green. And a key step is the industrial strategy ….”   … and so it continues …..



Vince Cable backs Gatwick expansion

Vince Cable backs Gatwick expansionLiberal Democrat business secretary Vince Cable is backing the expansion of Gatwick over Heathrow.

The government coalition partner party is due to unveil its policy on airports at its party conference in Glasgow tomorrow (Tuesday).

But Cable is reported by the BBC as saying expansion at Gatwick was “a preferable alternative” and “less problematic” than a third runway at Heathrow.

The MP for Twickenham has previously voiced his opposition to expansion of Heathrow – one of three options shortlisted by the Airport Commission chaired by Sir Howard Davies.

Cable said last December: “The Davies Commission interim report has put Heathrow at the front of its thinking which is questionable economically, damaging environmentally and probably undeliverable politically.

“My strong view is that the Davies review should not decide to press ahead with Heathrow options and I will be making that view known in the strongest terms.

“I fully support the need to improve UK business links with airports in the emerging markets of Asia which is important for jobs, but this could be achieved more quickly by reforming and reallocating airport slots; by building up point to point services; and by strengthening the capacity of UK regional airports.

“Such is the impact of noise on hundreds of thousands of people in London that pushing ahead with Heathrow expansion is almost certainly the worst option for expanding airport capacity.”



A comment below the article says:

The whole basis of the Davies Commission is political, to sweep the hard issues under the carpet until after the next election. With the Lib Dems looking at electoral annihilation next May it is hardly surprising that one of the few that might survive, and whose constituency is below the LHR flight path is going to argue for LGW. A turkey doesn’t vote for Christmas. Willie Walsh of BA has made it clear that he does not expect to see a third runway at LHR during his tenure leading BA and politicians hate taking hard decisions. I expect it will be another 20 years before there is another runway at LHR by which time I, and those taking the decisions now, won’t care any more.


This decision is already firmly in the political arena. The Davies Commission is merely a shameful political device to postpone a critical decision beyond the next election to avoid electoral disadvantage in key marginal seats. It is the triumph of political cynicism over the needs of the country.




LibLink: Vince Cable opposes Heathrow expansion

Vince Cable’s constituency of Twickenham is already under the Heathrow flightpath, and he is strongly opposed to any further expansion of the airport.He writes:

The Davies Commission interim report has put Heathrow at the front of its thinking which is questionable economically, damaging environmentally and probably undeliverable politically.

My strong view is that the Davies review should not decide to press ahead with Heathrow options and I will be making that view known in the strongest terms.

I fully support the need to improve UK business links with airports in the emerging markets of Asia which is important for jobs, but this could be achieved more quickly by reforming and reallocating airport slots; by building up point to point services; and by strengthening the capacity of UK regional airports.

Such is the impact of noise on hundreds of thousands of people in London that pushing ahead with Heathrow expansion is almost certainly the worst option for expanding airport capacity.

There is a petition to sign as well.

* Mary Reid is the Tuesday Editor on Lib Dem Voice.





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EU orders Germanwings, Ryanair and TUIfly to repay large sums for subsidies wrongly obtained

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

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.

Charleroi Airport

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.

Low-Cost Pioneer

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.

To contact the reporter on this story: Aoife White in Brussels at awhite62@bloomberg.net





Transport & Environment (T&E) have produced a short (and easy to read) briefing on state aid for airports and airlines.

It is at     State Aid for Airports and Airlines



Consultation on rules for European Commission state aid to airports and airlines

July 2013
Under 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.


European Commission Commission adopts new guidelines for state aid to airports and airlines

The 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

Across 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.

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.



…. and there are many more  ………..






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Lib Dems hoping to get more votes by dropping opposition to Gatwick runway

The Liberal Democrats voted at the 2012 conference, exactly two years ago, against any new runway at Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted or the Thames estuary.  But just a short time later, they have apparently abandoned their environmental principles, and decided to change policy, in the hope of saving some of their declining vote. Their pre-manifesto put out only on 9th September, reiterated the No New Runways message, though by June there were indications that they were wavering. Not there will be an amendment at the conference for a change to this policy, and for the Lib Dems to only oppose a runway at Heathrow. They are thus effectively discussing backing a Gatwick runway.  Looking at the map showing location of Lib Dem constituencies, this is quite a cynical move. It seems the party has been led to believe that planes will become substantially “quieter” and “cleaner” and so a new runway would be environmentally acceptable. The problem is that there are no step changes in either aircraft carbon emissions or noise expected for decades. There will be a debate at the Lib Dem conference on Tuesday, and the industry will be there in force, lobbying hard. 



Clegg backs new airport runways

Nick Clegg has set himself on a potential collision course with party activists at the start of the Liberal Democrat autumn conference by backing new airport runways in Britain.

The Deputy Prime Minister said technological advances would help to negate the environmental impact of flying and pave the way for airport expansion.

As Lib Dems gather in Glasgow, Mr Clegg also attacked his party’s Coalition partners, declaring “compassionate conservatism is dead”.

He will attempt to energise activists at a rally in the Scottish city tonight amid gloomy poll ratings, with some research putting the party’s support as low as 6%.

The Lib Dems have previously insisted there would be no airport expansion in the South East ” because of local issues of air and noise pollution” but the position on Gatwick may be softening, according to The Times

In an interview for the newspaper, Mr Clegg said : “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.”

….. and the article continues on other topics ……….

Meanwhile, a poll of 735 party members for the website Liberal Democrat Voice showed 80% continue to support the coalition, but that two-thirds expect the party to slip below 40 MPs at the next election.




Vince Cable: Gatwick runway is “a preferable alternative” and “less problematic” than Heathrow runway

Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat business secretary, is reported as saying, at the LIb Dem party conference, that he backs the expansion of Gatwick over Heathrow. His speech on Monday did not mention airports, but he is reported by the BBC as saying expansion at Gatwick was “a preferable alternative” and “less problematic” than a third runway at Heathrow. His constituency of Twickenham is close to Heathrow, and badly overflown. So it unsurprising that he has previously voiced his opposition to a new Heathrow runway. In December 2013 Mr Cable said: “The Davies Commission interim report has put Heathrow at the front of its thinking which is questionable economically, damaging environmentally and probably undeliverable politically…. I fully support the need to improve UK business links with airports in the emerging markets of Asia which is important for jobs, but this could be achieved more quickly by reforming and reallocating airport slots; by building up point to point services; and by strengthening the capacity of UK regional airports.” He wants the UK economy to be “knowledge based, outward looking, and green.”

Click here to view full story…


Lib Dems and their Zero Carbon Britain aspiration

[now to include a new runway !]

This says:

“The environment has always been a top priority for the Liberal Democrats and while we have achieved a huge amount on our green agenda in the Coalition, it’s hardly a secret that this has been one of the biggest areas of tension.

“Liberal Democrats see our duty to protect our environment for future generations as a central political and moral challenge. This is not something we can, or should, try and sidestep. In this Parliament, we’ve made a big step forward particularly on green energy, but other areas have not seen such progress. So we want to use the next Parliament to make a major leap forward on the environmental agenda across the board.”


“So the choice is clear: if you care about the environment and want to see a greener, cleaner Britain then only the Liberal Democrats can deliver this in Government for you.”​


[For their early September pre-manifesto. But now within a month they appear to be trying to go back on their aviation manifesto, so could anyone take the Zero Carbon Britain aspiration any more seriously?  AW note]. 




Among the other aviation industry lobbying at the Lib Dem conference, which starts on 5th October, there are these fringe events:

Monday 6th. 13.00    CILT Vision for the future of aviation
Monday 6th  17.30   AOA / ABTA dinner Aviation and tourism. A conference discussion     [cost of that??]
Tuesday 7th 13.00   AOA / ABTA Trade, tourism, aviation – is Britain winning the Global Race?


Opinion: You can allow airport expansion and protect the environment

By Christine Jardine  (the Liberal Democrat Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Gordon, in Scotland)

Airport expansion equals controversy.

It sparks inevitable tensions between the demand for larger airports to fuel our economic growth, and concerns about the impact on the environment.

For those living closest to our major airports, especially Heathrow, those fears can be particularly acute as they endure current noise levels and view the prospect of increased traffic with dread.

And for Liberal Democrats it can often feel that our drive to create a stronger economy is being placed in direct opposition to our desire to protect our environment for future generations.

But I believe the two do not have to be mutually exclusive.

It’s because of our cherished commitment to a creating a greener future that our pre-manifesto – includes a commitment to no net increase in runways across the UK.

But if we are to be equally true to our visions for a stronger economy and fairer society we must also look for opportunities for growth across the whole of the UK.

For those of us – like me – who live in areas where our air links will be vital to that economic expansion the current proposal seems short sighted, particularly when you take into account the fact that our concerns about pollution and noise from today’s aeroplanes may be less relevant to the next generation of cleaner and quieter aircraft in twenty, thirty and forty years’ time.

We don’t yet know how technology will improve air travel: carbon emissions may fall faster or slower than currently predicted, and our policy response must be flexible to accommodate the evidence as it emerges.

To rule out new routes now for airlines offering a chance to explore new markets and encourage investment may risk vital missed opportunities and prejudice decades of growth.

Take my own airport for example in Aberdeen. The energy capital of Europe.

It provides a link between our energy industry base onshore and its production facilities offshore, as well as providing connections with others centres in the northern isles and the foreign markets with which trade and the export of our technology is vital to future growth.

But Aberdeen is also a growing hub for alternative energy.

It is no exaggeration to say that limiting the prospects expansion of Aberdeen airport risks strangling growth in our energy industry – traditional and alternative.

And when the high speed rail links which will boost growth in the south become a reality regional airports in those areas which don’t directly benefit can look to exploit the slots at Heathrow which will inevitably become available to ensure they too can see some economic dividend.

None of this means I do not hold our target of Zero Carbon Britain to be sacred.

I think our airports strategy must be evidence based and designed to limit carbon and noise emissions from aviation.

But within these limits we must seek to target economic opportunities across the UK, as well as helping rebalance the economy.

There is no doubt we need an economy where growth is better shared across the country, not purely around the capital.

And in the future we should be able to dramatically reduce carbon emissions, as well as reap the benefits of growth in investment and jobs thanks to sustainable airport expansion.

For these reasons I will be supporting an amendment to our pre-manifesto at conference in October.  [Not brave enough to say which one. She is probably referring to the amendment by Lorely Burt to drop opposition to Gatwick and Stansted runways].

I want to stress the enemy is the carbon and the noise, not the aeroplane or the travel.

I do not want to commit to a policy that, with the best of intentions, could sacrifice tomorrow’s economic growth on the altar of today’s carbon and noise emissions.

Do we really want to commit to a policy which, with the best of intentions, has the potential to sacrifice tomorrow’s economic growth for the same of carbon targets that wouldn’t actually be jeopardised




Clegg backs more airport runways in defiance of his own party policy

Nick Clegg: cares about environmental impact [in theory]


Nick Clegg is risking the wrath of Liberal Democrat activists by supporting the construction of more airport runways.

Speaking before the party’s conference in Glasgow, the deputy prime minister said that airport expansion was “a hot topic in Lib Dem land”, with a debate expected on Tuesday.

He said that he cared about the environmental impact of new runways but that the issue could be solved with improvements in aircraft technology. “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,” he said.

This is at odds with the Liberal Democrats’ pre-manifesto, which says: “We remain opposed to any expansion of Heathrow, Stansted or Gatwick or any new airport in the Thames Estuary, because of local issues of air and noise pollution.” The policy would ban any new runway unless others were closed elsewhere.

Mr Clegg accepted that the policy recommendation was that there should be “absolutely no expansion anywhere” but he added: “There’s a very strong body of opinion elsewhere in the party, people like — various MPs elsewhere in the country — who’ve written some letters and tabled amendments to the conference and so on saying, ‘No hang on, look. We can’ .”

Aware that his comments might provoke a row, he then said: “So that’s one of the open debates we will have and I will not try and say too much.”

The party’s opposition to expansion at Heathrow was never likely to change, a source said, amid some hints that they could adopt a softer stance on Gatwick.

In an interview with The Times,

…. and the full article is at







Standard reports that “Lib-Dems ready to drop Gatwick runway ban from election plans”


The Evening Standard reports that the LibDems are set to use their election manifesto to open the door to a 2nd runway at Gatwick while still opposing a 3rd runway at Heathrow. The Standard says the party is moving towards scrapping its blanket ban on airport expansion in the South-East. “It could be replaced with a series of tests on climate change and local pollution, as well as on levels of noise suffered by communities around airports.”  (Whatever that is meant to mean). The process of writing their election manifesto is being overseen by MP David Laws. It is still at the committee stage of drawing up key policies to be put to members for approval at the LibDem conference in the autumn. A “senior LibDem” is quoted as saying: “We will not endorse an expansion in airport capacity which would increase current noise pollution for the hundreds of thousands of residents living beneath the flight path, or which would break the Committee on Climate Change’s recommendations on aviation, which are needed to meet our carbon reduction targets.” (The CCC targets are rather weak and permit a new runway, with various provisos).




Lib Dems resolute on no 3rd Heathrow runway and no Gatwick or Stansted runways

23.9.2012At the Liberal Democrats’ autumn conference in Brighton, they have voted against new runways at Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted. They also voted against a Thames estuary airport. Dr Julian Huppert told members it was time for the party to set out an aviation policy which “balances the need for growth with the clear environmental threat that we face”. He said we simply must not build airport capacity which would force us to miss carbon reduction targets, and that there is space at existing airports with existing infrastructure for growth in passenger numbers. Many have spare capacity, including Gatwick, Stansted, Manchester and Birmingham. We  need to use existing capacity better. The would like a new hub airport however, but only if  other runways are closed to make up for it, so there’s no net increase in runways or total capacity. However, Nick Clegg has said he will wait to see the outcome of the Davies commission.http://www.airportwatch.org.uk/?p=390 






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Don’t muddle energy efficiency or fuel efficiency with overall cuts in CO2 emissions

Naomi Klein has written a new book, called This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate.  Professor Kevin Anderson has written about one of the key issues of how big business in dealing with carbon emissions, and the need to understand the difference between society (or business) actually cutting carbon emissions, or just cutting them per unit of output. This is a vital distinction, but one often lost in the fog of marketing and publicity. If an organisation manages to cut its carbon emissions by, say 10% while producing the same amount of product, that is great. But if it increases production by, say, 20%, the net impact is an increase in emissions. This is very much the case with the much hoped for carbon efficiencies by the aviation industry. Globally through IATA hopes for “An average improvement in fuel efficiency of 1.5% per year to 2020” (how it is measured is not defined). But the industry wants to expand by at least 5% per year. So regardless of the gains in fuel efficiency, the net effect is more carbon emitted. The aviation industry wants “carbon neutral” growth after 2020, meaning no NET increase in carbon emissions, by trading carbon permits with sectors than are genuinely cutting carbon overall.



This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate.                   Naomi Klein’s new book.


Don’t muddle energy efficiency with reducing emissions!

This is a brief response to Zachary Karabell’s piece for Slate.com entitled “Naomi Klein Is Wrong: Multinational corporations are doing more than governments to halt climate change” (Sept. 30. 2014)

Zachary Karabell’s analysis muddles energy efficiency with absolute reductions in emissions. We are many times more efficient now than we were in 1970 and even more than in 1920 – yet energy consumption and emissions continue their relentless rise. The climate doesn’t give a damn about efficiency, only about emissions. So if companies, governments and individuals, at least the wealthier amongst us, are to make a positive contribution, we need to be deliveringabsolute reductions in our emissions. And if we are serious about avoiding the 2°C characterisation of dangerous climate change, then those absolute reductions need to be in double figures (i.e. over 10% p.a.). Anything less and we certainly should not be claiming to be moving in the right direction – rather moving in the wrong direction, just at a slower rate. So in that regard, Zachary’s subtitle that “multinational corporations” are doing something to ”halt climate change” is categorically wrong. They may be doing something to reduce the rate of increase in climate change – but trying to halt it they are not!

Zachery’s highlighting of Maersk as an example of a company with “sustainability and energy-efficiency central to [its] business model” ignores how history typically demonstrates a divergence between these two goals. Certainly Maersk needs to be congratulated relative to an industry who, even assuming its proposed efficiency measures were implemented in full, is set to triple its emissions by 2050 relative to1990 (or double compared with 2010).[1] Lets be clear about this, Maersk, as the best of a bad bunch, is implementing polices that fall a long way short of anything approaching what would be necessary for a 2°C pathway; but they are in good company. All the other firms noted by Zachary could sail a Maersk ship sideways through the gap between their rhetoric and delivery on climate change.

But it is not all down to the companies. Governments are also failing to implement the umbrella of low-carbon policies within which companies could compete on a level(ish) playing field. At the same time, and not withstanding the recent marches and other good work, civil society demonstrates little appetite for anything other than an ongoing increase in its energy and material consumption – and hence in its emissions.

Zachary’s emphasis on the US reducing its emissions by 10% since 2005 demonstrates our desire to hide, even from ourselves, the real story of an inexorable rise in emissions. In the same way that the climate doesn’t care about efficiency, it doesn’t differentiate between the geographical origin of emissions – they all end up in the atmosphere changing the climate. So it is the carbon-profligacy of our lifestyles that matters, not that we have conveniently exported the emissions to another country. This places a different complexion on the issues.[2]. Between 1990 and 2007 the lifestyles of US citizens had, on average, higher emissions year on year – rising by 34% in seventeen years.[3] The reduction that followed was primarily down to the recession and not the consequence of judicious policies on efficiency and emissions by corporate America or the government. Now, with the US economy picking up, so lifestyle emissions are again showing early signs of returning to growth. There is also no meaningful solace to be gained from the US love affair with shale gas. Whilst it may be good for energy security, in terms of emissions the development of shale gas has gone hand in hand with anincrease in the US production of fossil fuels – measured in terms of their carbon emissions (assuming they are combusted).[4]

So I don’t think Zachary’s arguments that “Naomi Klein Is Wrong” stack up. True to say Naomi does not have all the answers – but who does? Set against even a weak 2°C framing of dangerous climate change, she’s not far off the mark. By contrast to suggest, as Zachary does, that Klein’s rhetoric risks obscuring just how much is being done by large companies around the world to reduce their carbon emissions and environmental footprint” implies a misunderstanding of the timeliness of carbon budgets and their implications for evaluating meaningful action.

However, in the end I think we should studiously avoid setting Zachary’s arguments against Klein’s. When it comes to delivering on our repeated international commitments on climate change we must all solemnly hang our heads in shame, take some time to reflect and then begin anew from where we are today. Meeting our repeated commitments remains an achievable goal – just. But lets not pretend it’s only an incremental step away from where we are today. As Klein rightly notes, “this changes everything.”


[1]  Kevin Anderson & Alice Bows (2012) Executing a Scharnow turn: reconciling shipping emissions with international commitments on climate change, Carbon Management, 3:6, 615-628

[3] For consumption-based emissions see http://www.globalcarbonatlas.org/?q=en/emissions



Some quotes from the Zachary Karabell article:
This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate. She has a sharp, pungent answer to why no concerted action has taken place: “We have not done the things that are necessary to lower emissions because those things fundamentally conflict with deregulated capitalism, the reigning ideology for the entire period we have been struggling to find our way out of this crisis.” With meticulous research and reporting, Klein documents how some corporations and lobbying groups have thwarted action and even manipulated multiple governments into boosting the extraction of gas, coal, and oil.”
“But even if a company is hungry for profit and power—and what successful company isn’t?—that should not disqualify their efforts to address climate change. Take the endeavor recently announced at the Clinton Global Initiative by Sir Richard Branson to tackle trucking efficiency throughout the world. Branson is a particular focus of Klein’s critique, as a poseur capitalist who presents himself as a green apostle while making billions on carbon-intensive industries such as air travel. Yet Branson’s commitment to reducing Virgin’s carbon footprint seems just as genuine as any climate marcher who drove a car to get to Manhattan for the People’s Climate March. We all are forced into carbon complicity, whether as individuals or as corporations.”
“None of us should lose sight of working toward a less resource-intensive future. Getting there requires massive investment of trillions of dollars and concerted effort at multiple levels of society. Dismissing a key element of that change—the multinationals and global NGOs that are trying to make these changes in spite of the sclerosis and opposition of so many governments and in the face of powerful lobbies—may galvanize some activists. But barring a synchronous overthrow of the entire global capitalist system, we need the assiduous efforts of multinationals that simultaneously strive to make heaps of money and to reduce their environmental impact. Without them, we would be many steps closer to the environmental Armageddon that Klein and so many of us fear is nigh.”


10 December 2013 (IATA press release)

Airlines Expect 31% Rise in Passenger Demand by 2017

930 Million More Passengers Compared to 2012

Geneva – The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released the IATA Airline Industry Forecast 2013-2017 showing that airlines expect to see a 31% increase in passenger numbers between 2012 and 2017. By 2017 total passenger numbers are expected to rise to 3.91 billion—an increase of 930 million passengers over the 2.98 billion carried in 2012.

The IATA Airline Industry Forecast 2013-2017 is a consensus outlook for system-wide passenger growth. Demand is expected to expand by an average of 5.4% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) between 2013 and 2017. By comparison, global passenger growth expanded by 4.3% CAGR between 2008 and 2012, largely reflecting the negative impact of the 2008 global financial crisis and recession. Of the new passengers, approximately 292 million will be carried on international routes and 638 million on domestic routes.

….. and it continues …..




IATA Factsheet

Fact Sheet: Climate Change

Industry Goals:

  • An average improvement in fuel efficiency of 1.5% per year to 2020
  • A cap on net aviation CO2 emissions from 2020: carbon-neutral growth
  • Cut net CO2 emissions in half by 2050 compared to 2005 [Note, NET not gross].

Air Transport’s Climate Change Track Record

  • Air transport accounts for 2% of global manmade CO2 emissions
    • Air transport’s relative contribution has not increased in the past 20 years and is not expected to increase beyond 3% by 2050  according to The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)  [IPCC says: "For the range of scenarios, the range of increase in (aviation) carbon dioxide emissions to 2050 would be 1.6 to 10 times the value in 1992. Link Page 6.  IATA completely ignores the issue of the non-CO2 impacts of aviation, which may as much as double their climate impact. Details in the IPCC paper. AirportWatch note].
  • Air transport has reduced its fuel use and CO2 emissions per passenger kilometer by well over 70% compared to the 1960s. [It was stunningly inefficient then].
  • Although in 2012 passenger kilometer performed increased by as much as 5.3% and tonne kilometers performed by 3.3%, total emissions increased only 1.4% to 689 million tonnes of CO2, compared to 679 million tonnes in 2011
  • Emissions growth of 1.4% in 2012 is the result of
    • A 2.7% capacity increase (accounting for 18 million tonnes of CO2)
    • But was partially offset by an annual percentage efficiency improvement of 1.3%

Carbon-Neutral Growth 2020 (CNG2020)

  • CNG2020 means that aviation’s net CO2 emissions will not increase beyond 2020 levels even as demand for air transport continues to grow
  • The industry is working hard to deliver CNG2020 (Four Pillar strategy), but it is also contingent upon action by other stakeholders, notably:
    • The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) needs to adopt a CO2 emission standard for new aircraft types
    • Governments and fuel companies need to support and scale up the production of sustainable biofuels for aviation
    • Governments and air navigation service providers need to improve air traffic management, and live up to their commitments to deliver the Single European Sky in Europe and NextGen in the United States
    • At its Annual General Meeting in June 2013, IATA members adopted a resolution providing a set of principles on how governments could integrate a single global market-based measure as part of an overall package of measures to put a cap on net aviation emissions from 2020

Four Pillar Strategy to Address Climate Change


  • Short-term: enhancements and modifications to existing in-service fleet
  • Medium-term: accelerate fleet renewal, introduce latest technologies, including drop-in biofuels
  • Long-term: radical new technologies and aircraft designs
  • IATA Technology Roadmap identifies technologies that could reduce fuel burn per aircraft by up to 30%


  • Improved operations can save fuel and CO2 emissions by up to 6% per year (IPCC)
  • IATA helps fuel conservation by compiling best practices, publishing guidance, visiting airlines and training
  • IATA will extend fuel conservation programs and promote airline environmental management systems


  • Governments and infrastructure providers could avoid up to 12% of CO2 emissions by addressing airport and airspace inefficiencies (IPCC)
    • Some 4% of this has already been achieved since 1999 (according to the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation – CANSO)
    • Single European Sky (SES), US NextGen Air Transport System and flexible use of airspace would contribute to these savings

Economic measures

  • To the extent that the industry’s climate change objectives may not be achieved through the first three pillars alone, a cost-effective single global market-based measure is needed to bridge the gap
  • Considering the international nature of aviation, a global approach to aviation emissions must be preferred over a patchwork of individual and uncoordinated policies:
    • A market-based measure should be cost-effective and administratively simple
    • Airlines should only be held accountable once for their emissions
    • A patchwork of measures may lead to the same emissions being covered by more than one mechanism.
  • A global mechanism is needed to prevent market distortions and carbon leakage

At its 38th session, the ICAO Assembly decided to develop a global market-based measure for international aviation. It requested the ICAO Council to finalize the work on the technical aspects, environmental and economic impacts and modalities of the possible options for a global MBM scheme. The results of the work of the Council will be reported to the next Assembly in 2016 for approval.

Updated: December 2013








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