General News

Below are links to stories of general interest in relation to aviation and airports.

 

Comment: Would banning frequent flyer programs do much to cut in air travel?

Might making frequent flier benefits, and airline loyalty programmes, illegal be effective, in reducing the amount some people fly?  It has been suggested that it might, as so many flights are taking by the same people flying often.  It is likely that frequent flyer programs stimulate demand by encouraging members to take extra flights to earn rewards or maintain a privileged status.  The writer of a report for the UK Committee on Climate Change said: “The norm of unlimited flying being acceptable needs to be challenged.”  Interestingly, Norway banned frequent flyer incentives from 2002 to 2013, although the aim was to break up airline monopolies.  It could be complicated, if airlines have international partnerships with other airlines, so if an airline could no longer offer a loyalty program, customers could instead sign up with one of its partners.  But the value might be more symbolic, indicating that flying for the hell of it is not something to be rewarded.  However, ending the schemes might have the effect of increasing competition among airlines that can no longer buy customer loyalty with the promise of an upgrade or a free flight, with lowered fares (or lowered airline profits).

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Welsh Assembly Member questions £21m Cardiff Airport loan from taxpayer – on top of an earlier £38m loan, not yet repaid

Monmouth AM Nick Ramsay has criticised the Welsh Government for its ‘blank cheque’ approach to funding for Cardiff Airport. Mr Ramsay said: “The Welsh Government has committed to this new loan without providing any detail on what the money is for or when it will be paid back. This comes on top of a previous loan of £38 million in 2015 which has also yet to be paid back. Transport minister Ken Skates said the funding – in the form of a loan the airport will pay back – would support “ambitious plans for the future” including a target of two million passengers a year.  Mr Ramsay questioned the fairness of the loan, saying: “Businesses in my constituency do not receive this level of support from the Welsh Government and will understandably be questioning the fairness of these funding priorities.  We need far more clarity on what this money is being provided for and when we will see an end to what effectively amounts to a “blank cheque” for the Airport. ... the public have the right to expect a coherent and rigid timetable for this money to be recovered.” But following the transport minister’s announcement, the Welsh Conservatives said Cardiff Airport would do better if it were re-privatised, where it would not need Welsh taxpayers to shoulder the financial burden.

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Southampton Airport soon to submit runway extension (164m) proposals, hoping to more than double passengers in 10 years

Southampton Airport is soon going to submit plans to extend its runway, perhaps by the end of October. The airport proposes to extend the runway by 164 metres and if approved by Eastleigh Borough Council, work will start in early 2020 for completion by the end of the year. There are the usual claims about more jobs being generated.  Friends of the Earth, the Green Party and Extinction Rebellion have joined together to fight the plans. Calling themselves Airport eXpansion Opposition (AXO) they accept the need for a small regional airport, however, because of the climate crisis believes people must fly less. AXO is urging residents to sign a petition calling on the council to reject the plans. The airport wants some of the people who travel to London airports, for their European flights, to travel instead from Southampton. They want more economic benefit from flights by local people.  There is the usual greenwash of wanting "sustainable growth", which makes little sense for growing carbon emissions. There will be public drop-in sessions, where the plans can be seen.  Winchester City Council wants to be fully involved, as the airport's expansion would affect its residents. 

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Sadiq Khan attacks London City Airport expansion plans – “unfettered growth is not an option”

Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, has warned London City Airport that “unfettered growth is not an option” as he criticised its plans for expansion. He said residents must have a break from plane noise, and the airport should take its air pollution and environmental responsibilities more seriously.  The airport, in a densely populated area of east London, is increasingly used for holiday travel - not business - and it wants to increase the current cap of 111,000 flights/year to 137,000 by 2030 and to 151,000 by 2035.  It hopes for 5 million passengers this year, but wants up to 6.5 million per year.  The Mayor said the current plans “would not be in the interest of Londoners”. He said noise from planes was a “fundamental issue” as changes to flight paths three years ago meant some areas were being flown over too often. Also that breaks from flights – overnight, and for 24 hours from lunchtime on Saturday – “must not be eroded” and the airport should use new technology to give residents more relief, not just to maximise profits. He said the airport must consider CO2 emissions from flights in its carbon reduction plans, as its current target of "net zero emissions by 2050 "does not include flights – only airport terminals, vehicles, and other ground operations.

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Tower Hamlets Mayor’s letter to London City Airport consultation, opposing changes that will negatively impact residents

The Mayor Tower Hamlets, John Biggs, has sent a letter to the London City Airport consultation, to express his concerns about the airport's expansion plans. This is in addition to the more detailed response sent by the council itself. Mr Biggs says: ..."the negative impacts of increasing flights at LCA would be unacceptable in terms of increasing noise levels and exacerbating climate change. The level of noise coming from aircraft needs to be tightly regulated and we believe lower thresholds for disturbance need to put in place. ...  To protect residents from noise disruption LCA must retain the current 24 hour closure of the airport at weekends between 12.30pm Saturday - 12.30pm Sunday to provide respite for our residents from the noise. To limit the level of disturbance caused to our residents the restrictions on early morning, late night and weekend flights should also be retained,  ...In Tower Hamlets we have declared a climate emergency and 40% of our residents live in areas with unacceptable levels of air quality. I would like to see further commitments by the airport on its plans to limit the amount of emissions from airport operations."  See the full letter.

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Heathrow tries to make out that its 3rd runway is vital, as it will lower fares (so increasing yet further the number flying)

Heathrow has accused British Airways of acting against “the consumer and national interest” by attempting to slow down its expansion and "depriving passengers of lower fares." They would say that, wouldn't they?  BA’s parent company, IAG, has complained to the CAA about the approximately £3.3bn Heathrow will spend on preparations for the third runway, accusing the airport of covering up costs that will affect airlines.  BA is of course not pure in this; it wants to prevent other airlines at Heathrow, competing with it. It has no qualms about its CO2 emissions rising. Heathrow wants airlines (IAG is the main airline company using Heathrow) to pay towards its 3rd runway plans, before the expansion is complete. IAG is not at all keen on that. Rather pathetically, Heathrow is terrified of being overtaken by any other European airport. Holland-Kaye said: "In two years’ time Charles de Gaulle [in Paris] will overtake Heathrow as the biggest airport in Europe.”  They like to make out that would be a terrible thing for Britain (which it would not be).

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Global air freight tonnage has been falling for the past year – IATA expect no growth in 2019

Heathrow hopes, if it ever got its 3rd runway (looking increasingly unlikely for a range of reasons ...) to get a 50% or so increase in air freight.  Manston hopes to re-open as a freight airport.  But the increase in tonnage of air freight over the past few years has not been large.  In the UK over the past 10 years, CAA data show an increase in tonnage of 11.6% between 2008 and 2018. Global data from IATA, which produces a report on air freight for most months, indicates tonnages have been falling for the past year.  The comments from August 2019 state:  "• Industry-wide air freight tonne kilometres fell by 3.9% year-on-year in August – a faster speed of decline compared to the previous month. ... the industry continues to face headwinds from weakening global trade and softness in a number of key economic indicators. • The deterioration in air freight has been broad-based across the regions in August .. . [as in the] past nine months, Asia Pacific was the main contributor to the industry decline. • Industry-wide air freight capacity increased by 2% compared to a year ago. With capacity rising against contracting demand, the industry-wide air freight load factor dropped by 2.7% compared to a year ago". IATA says growth is anticipated to be flat in 2019.

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Manston airport decision before long, after Planning Inspectorate sends recommendation to Grant Shapps

Government planners, the Planning Inspectorate (PINS) , have made their decision on whether a bid to reopen Manston Airport as a cargo hub should be backed. The recommendations have been sent to Transport Secretary of State (SoS) Grant Shapps, who  has 3 months to decide whether to grant planning permission to site owners RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP) in the form of a Development Consent Order (DCO). The decision is made the SoS because the airport re-opening is considered a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) which is not decided by a local authority. If the SoS approves the plans, the owners RSP will probably use the airport primarily for air cargo.  In July Stone Hill, the site's previous owners, agreed to sell the land to RSP for £16.5m, instead of their plan to build up to 3,700 homes on it.  The tonnage of air freight has risen by only 11% in the UK in the past 10 years, with most going through Heathrow. But RSP says "there has been continuing growth in the air freight cargo market, driven chiefly by the increase in e-commerce and ... e-fulfillment..."  Manston re-opening will be strenuously opposed by local people, largely to noise over Ramsgate, from old, noisy freighters, often at night.

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SSE will be in the High Court from 12-14 November for a Judicial Review challenge of the decision of the Secretary of State for Transport (SST)

Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) will be in the High Court from 12-14 November for a Judicial Review challenge of the decision of the Secretary of State for Transport (SST) to allow Uttlesford District Council (UDC) to determine the 2018 Stansted Airport planning application for 43 mppa.  The essence of the SSE challenge is that the application should be treated as a nationally significant infrastructure project (NSIP) under the Planning Act 2008 - because it is nearly 10 million extra annual passengers - and therefore determined by the Secretary of State for Transport, rather than UDC.  Part of the challenge relates to the CO2 emissions impact of the proposed development. It is not satisfactory for the DfT to say the limiting of aviation carbon emissions is not an issue for Local Planning Authorities (LPAAs). The SST cannot just sit back and allow LPAs to sanction major airport expansion projects all over the UK, and at the same time tell them to disregard aviation CO2 emissions of these airport expansion projects.  Many airports plan expansion, and the combined carbon emissions way exceed even lax future cap targets.  SSE will be trying to pin down the SST on this key issue.

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Environment minister Zac Goldsmith says ‘bonkers’ Heathrow expansion ‘unlikely’ to go ahead, and would not survive a proper review

Zac Goldsmith, the environment minister, said he did not believe the plans for a Heathrow 3rd runway would survive a government-commissioned review - despite the Commons backing it last year. In mid August, the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the project could still be scrapped after questioning whether it “stacks up” financially.  Zac said of the runway plan: “I think it’s a bonkers scheme, and all the arguments that I’ve been using for the last ten years and repeating ad nauseam are true, in my view, and I see nothing to persuade me that they’re wrong… It’s currently out of government hands because it’s been through parliament.... Unfortunately, Parliament voted for it overwhelmingly – I’m still surprised by some of the MPs who voted for it, who nevertheless campaign heavily on things like climate change and air quality, but they did.”  He added that the airport will “struggle to come up with the cash”, so needing the Government to stomp up “really vast sums of money”, which the public would oppose. An “entirely objective” review into the plans would find that it was “a bad project”, and it may not survive the detailed planning and policy processes.

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