Below are news items relating to specific airports
Alistair Osborne in the Times, on how Virgin/ Branson have made fools of the government over Flybe bailout
Alistair Osborne, in the Times, writes about Flybe and the con that has been perpetrated, to get it given government finance. Flybe is 30% owned by Delta and Virgin Atlantic, with 30% owned by Stobart and 40% by New York hedge fund Cyrus Capital. Last February, the trio bought Flybe’s assets for just £2.8 million. Flybe has the contract to operate 4 daily flights from London to Newquay, partly paid for by Public Service Obligation (PSO) by government and Cornwall Council. This is paid in the belief that the flights are "essential" for "connectivity" but are not commercially viable. (Most passengers in fact are on leisure trips). Those Heathrow slots are very valuable to an airline, and could be used for flights that bring in more profit for the owners. A slot pair at Heathrow can fetch $75 million. Flybe has got the flights moved from Heathrow to Gatwick. Newquay-Gatwick offers far fewer international connections than Heathrow. The Heathrow slots will be used for other more profitable Flybe flights, feeding Virgin services. "And now Flybe’s owners have made fools of the rest of the nation by convincing ministers they need some sort of taxpayer bailout."
Sadiq Khan announces green new deal for London if re-elected in May, and says Heathrow 3rd runway would be “catastrophic”
Sadiq Khan has announced that he would introduce a green new deal for London and make the city carbon-neutral by 2030 if re-elected in May this year. He also outlined the steps that he would take in the future to combat the climate crisis, and air pollution. He said his plans "will help to address the inequality that exists in our city and create the green jobs and industry that can sustain our communities in the future.” Asked about Heathrow expansion, Sadiq Khan said: “A new runway at Heathrow would be catastrophic… I think that a new runway at Heathrow won’t happen for the foreseeable future because of the legal challenges going ahead.” The election for Mayor will be on 7th May, and is a two-horse race between Sadiq and the Tory candidate, Shaun Bailey. Other cities such as Copenhagen and Oslo have made similar commitments to become carbon-neutral.
Delay till May for Shapps to decide whether to allow Manston Development Consent Order (“DCO”)
The decision by the DfT on whether to re-open Manston as an airport again for air cargo has been delayed for four months. It had been expected on 18th January. The airport has been closed since 2014. RiverOak Strategic Partners, the consortium behind the scheme, had applied for the airport to be considered as a nationally significant infrastructure project. Having had 3 months to digest the Planning Inspectorates' report, the DfT now want more information from RiverOak by 31 January. The Secretary of State (SoS) Grant Shapps has set a new deadline of 18 May 2020 for the decision to be made. The Aviation Strategy is expected before summer recess, with the DfT consultation on climate imminent, so the DfT are giving themselves until May to avoid shooting themselves in the foot on carbon, as they did with Flybe. RiverOak are trying to argue that Manston could be successful on cargo, as "the air freight market is ripe for an alternative to the overcrowded London airports system". Some people in the area are hoping Manston could provide jobs; others are deeply concerned about the noise from old freighter aircraft during the night, flying over residential areas (the approach path is right over Ramsgate).
Flybe saved after ministers agree a government loan + deferral of APD, and review of APD on domestic flights
The immediate future of Flybe was secured on 14th January evening, after ministers agreed a rescue deal with shareholders to keep the loss making regional airline flying. The package of measures includes a potential loan in the region of £100m and/or a possible short-term deferral of a £106m air passenger duty (APD) bill to the Treasury, to help it sort out its debts. Also a pledge to review APD on domestic flights before the March budget. Flybe’s owners Connect Airways – a consortium led by Virgin Atlantic – were persuaded to commit millions more to cover ongoing losses. The government is still in negotiations to finalise any loan to Flybe. The deal was condemned by IAG as “a blatant misuse of public funds” and Virgin “wanting the taxpayer to pick up the tab for their mismanagement of the airline”. Moves to cut APD on domestic flights are totally at odds with any serious attempt to cut CO2 emissions from aviation, as most UK domestic trips can be made on (lower CO2) rail routes. Air travel is already subsidised, by paying no VAT or fuel duty. Some routes deemed socially necessary could be subsidised under EU rules – Flybe’s Newquay to London route is already funded from taxpayers.
Any plans by UK government to remove APD on domestic flights would be unhelpful on CO2 emissions
Responding to the news that Boris Johnson's Tory government is considering dropping all APD on domestic flights (just cutting it for Flybe would not be legal, for competition reasons) groups that understand about the need for cuts in carbon emissions reacted with dismay (to put it politely). Doug Parr, chief scientist at Greenpeace, commented: "This is a poorly thought out policy that should be immediately grounded. The Government cannot claim to be a global leader on tackling the climate emergency one day, then making the most carbon-intensive kind of travel – flying – cheaper the next. Cutting the cost of domestic flights while allowing train fares to rise is the exact opposite of what we need if we’re to cut climate-wrecking emissions from transport. The aviation sector has got away for years with increasing its carbon footprint. The last thing we need is another incentive for them to pollute more.” Caroline Lucas commented on Twitter: "Addressing #Flybe problems by reducing #APD on all domestic flights is utterly inconsistent with any serious commitment to tackle #ClimateCrisis. Aviation already subsidised - no tax on fuel. Domestic flights need to be reduced, not made cheaper." Jenny Bates at Friends of the Earth said on Twitter: "APD cut on domestic flights would be "unacceptable & reckless” we at @friends_earth say-we must cut aviation emissions not encourage them."
Government considering UK APD cut to save loss-making airline Flybe
Flybe is one of the main airlines that fly domestic routes in the UK - 38% of them. Currently air passengers pay £26 APD on a return domestic flight (and £13 on a return flight to a European airport). Flybe has been struggling for years, as many of its routes are not profitable. It said in October that it recognised, with growing awareness of the higher CO2 emissions from a flight that using the train or coach, (and "flight shame") that some of the domestic routes should be scrapped. Now Flybe cannot pay its APD bill to the government - about £100 million over three years. So the government, which talked up the importance of regional connectivity before the election, is considering removing APD from all domestic flights. That would be entirely the opposite of what is needed, to tackle UK carbon emissions, and those from UK aviation in particular. Aviation is already subsidised by not paying VAT. The loss to the Treasury from cutting domestic APD would have to be made up by taxation from other sources. It is not as if all domestic flights are vital to the economy. Most are leisure passengers, making trips to visit places or people, friends or family.
Heathrow timetable – it will not submit its DCO till end of 2020 at earliest; final decision might be early 2022
The earliest the Transport Secretary (currently Grant Shapps) could make a decision on the 3rd runway would be the end of 2021, or perhaps early 2022. The Standard said it might be the end of 2020. That is not possible. Heathrow hopes to submit its DCO (Development Consent Order) to the Planning Inspectorate at the end of 2020, or it could be delayed into 2021 if they run into problems meeting the requirements of the Airports National Policy Statement. The Planning Inspectorate will launch an inquiry which takes 9 months and then the Inspector will take 3 months to make a recommendation to the Secretary of State - who then gets to make a decision. There is no mechanism for the Secretary of State to make a decision before the conclusion of the planning inquiry unless the government enacts a review under section 6 of the Planning Act 2008 if it feels "there has been a significant change in any circumstances on the basis of which any of the policies set out in the statement was decided."
Nicola Sturgeon defends just “reviewing” support for Heathrow 3rd runway, not yet opposing it
The Scottish Government signed a memorandum of understanding with London Heathrow Airport in 2016, backing a 3rd runway in exchange for commitments to Scotland, including creating up to 16,000 new jobs in England. [That figure was always absolute nonsense, based on incorrect extrapolations from incorrect data showing inflated alleged financial benefits of the runway]. Now Nicola Sturgeon has defended the Scottish Government's stance on the runway, to just review its decision to support it - hoping Scotland would get some economic benefits, eventually. But in view of climate concerns, and the huge increase in aviation CO2 the 3rd runway would generate, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie raised the matter, and asked why Nicola Sturgeon is continuing to review the issue, instead of ending the SNP's support. He said: "Climate change has brought Zambia to the brink of famine, Australia has been burning since September, the ice caps continue to melt. Yet the First Minister continues to support Heathrow expansion." The Scottish Government will bring forward an updated draft climate change plan by the end of April.
Heathrow application to Planning Inspectorate for DCO now delayed from summer 2020 to “towards the end of the year”
Heathrow had originally intended to start its DCO (Development Consent Order) application by the middle of 2020. Now that the CAA has restricted the amount Heathrow can spend on early development costs, the timetable has slipped. Instead of hoping a 3rd runway might be read for use by 2026, that date is now more like 2029. Heathrow says it plans to hold another consultation from April to June, and then feed responses from that into its DCO, which might be submitted to the Planning Inspectorate towards the end of 2020. That is perhaps a 6 month delay. Some time after the middle of January, the Appeal Court ruling on the legal challenges, against the government's approval of the Airports NPS, are expected. The DfT was intending to publish its Aviation Strategy in the first half of 2019. This is now delayed due to changes on carbon emissions, with the UK changing from an 80% cut on 1990 levels by 2050, to a 100% cut (ie. "net zero") and advice on aviation carbon from the Committee on Climate Change.
New calls by CAGNE on Grant Shapps and MPs to curb Gatwick expansion plans
Campaign group, CAGNE, against the expansion of Gatwick, are appealing to newly-elected MPs to help curb the airport’s growth plans. They are also urging local residents, along with the MPs, to protest to the Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps. CAGNE says Gatwick’s expansion proposals will lead to an extra 55,000 flights per year by 2033 - and that there is insufficient infrastructure to cope with the growth. It will also lead to large increases in noise levels and CO2 emissions, which are environmentally unsustainable. Air quality will also deteriorate. CAGNE is calling on transport secretary Grant Shapps to subject Gatwick's expansion proposals to more scrutiny by declaring the proposals a ‘National Significant Infrastructure Project’ (NSIP), which requires it to be subject to a different process than a smaller expansion, of under 10 million more annual passengers. A project that qualifies as an NSIP has to go through the Development Consent Order process. CAGNE said in their letter to Shapps that Gatwick's growth plans "are neither compatible with the current climate emergency, nor with achieving the Government‘s net zero carbon target."