Almost 3,500 people took part in a survey organised by the No 3rd Runway Coalition on aircraft noise during Covid lockdown. The aim was to see what impact the absence (or near absence) of aircraft noise had on people who are usually overflown. 80% of respondents found the experience of fewer flights to be positive. 49% noticed the reduction in flights all day long. 52% said there had been an impact on their sleep. The most common themes in responses were the beneficial effect of fewer flights on mental and physical health, through a reduction in noise, and (from postcodes close to roads providing access to the airport) an appreciable improvement of air quality. Health impacts mentioned included improved sleeping patterns, greater use of gardens, and greater enjoyment of green spaces. The survey also included responses from around airports other than Heathrow (Gatwick, Stansted, Birmingham, Aberdeen, Leeds Bradford). Paul McGuinness, Chair of the Coalition, said: “With powerful clarity this survey presents a picture of just what will be lost, in quality of life terms, when flights resume at Heathrow.” The absence of flights has been a unique opportunity to appreciate how great the impact of the noise normally is, with Heathrow working at full capacity.
1st July 2020
From the No 3rd Runway Coalition
Thousands of people from across London and surrounding areas have found the experience of fewer flights to have had a positive effect on their lives, a survey has found (1).
The survey, initiated by the No 3rd Runway Coalition, examined the impact on local communities under a flight path during the lockdown period.
From substantial reductions in the level of annoyance from noise, to the absence to its several, distinct negative impacts on health, this atypically large sample from around Heathrow airport’s hinterland, seems to have produced a singularly unified report (2).
The most common themes were the beneficial effect of fewer flights on mental and physical health, through a reduction in noise, and (from postcodes close to roads providing access to the airport) an appreciable improvement of air quality (through reduced air pollution).
Of the 80% who found the experience of fewer flights to be positive:
A range of consequential, positive benefits were also cited, from improved sleeping patterns to greater use of gardens, and greater enjoyment of green spaces.
A wide range of responses was received from across London and surrounding counties. There was also a range of responses from communities near other airports (Gatwick, Stansted, Birmingham, Aberdeen, Leeds Bradford).
Paul McGuinness, Chair of the No 3rd Runway Coalition, said:
“With powerful clarity this survey presents a picture of just what will be lost, in quality of life terms, when flights resume at Heathrow. In the past, residents have been told that it’s difficult to measure Heathrow’s impacts, because there has never been a flight absence against which to compare them. But lockdown has provided that opportunity. And communities have realised just how detrimental the airport’s activities are. Statistically, Heathrow has long been the world’s most disruptive airport, as a direct consequence of its location, at the heart of the UK’s most densely packed residential community. Flights should be reduced at airports sitting amongst concentrated residential areas, and certainly not increased.”
Professor Stephen Stansfeld from Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry, Queen Mary University of London, said:
“Your survey has revealed striking improvements in local quality of life and perceived health and sleep following the reduction of flights resulting from lockdown. People are reporting both improved air quality and a great reduction in noise. As a society this should make us stop in our tracks and consider whether we shouldn’t cut down on air travel in the future. This ‘natural experiment’ has made us realise the true cost of air travel to the population living around airports.”
Dr. Anna Hansell, Professor in Environmental Epidemiology,
University of Leicester, said:
“Lockdown resulted in a remarkable natural experiment, giving an unprecedented reduction in transport levels. While there has been a lot of media attention to the drop in air pollution during lockdown, there was also a large reduction in transport noise. There is little information on the changes in noise to date, so this survey of people’s experiences of changes in aircraft noise is very welcome. I note that over 2500 people of nearly 3200 surveyed found the experience of fewer flights to be positive, while only 100 found this to be negative. However, as with any survey, it’s important to know about how the respondents came to take part. For example, people who feel more strongly about transport noise may have been more likely to take part.”
David Simmonds, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Heathrow and Regional Airports and MP for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner, said:
“I welcome the research undertaken by the No 3rd Runway Coalition. It is apparent from the survey results that residents under these flight paths have been considerably affected by overhead flights. The travel industry has been transformed by Covid-19, and the country’s long-term air travel needs are as yet unknown. We do know that many of us, including my constituents, are spending a great deal more time at home enjoying the outdoors wherever possible.
“This research confirms that an increase in overhead flights will greatly disrupt residents’ enjoyment of their homes and local outdoor spaces. In this new world we live in, that eventuality is both undesirable and unnecessary.”
-The survey was conducted using an online questionnaire shared via the Coalition’s mailing lists and social media channels.
-To ensure that this was not entirely self-selecting we also paid for an audience panel, via Smart Survey) which supplied 1128 responses.
For more information, contact:
Rob Barnstone on 07806947050 or email@example.com
EasyJet says it has begun consultations on plans to close its bases at Stansted, Southend and Newcastle airports, though it will keep routes using those airports. It will no longer keep planes there, or base crew there. EasyJet may also be cutting its number of employees by up to a third, about 4,500 out of 15,000 overall, due to Covid. About 1,300 cabin crew could lose their jobs, and also 727 pilots (which is about a third of the total). The Unite union said “There is no need for this announcement at this time, especially since Easyjet has taken a multi-million pound government loan which it ought to be putting to use defending UK jobs.” But there is little demand for flying at present, and no certainty about Covid in the coming months. Easyjet currently has 11 bases in the UK, with 163 aircraft, serving 546 routes. There are 7 aircraft based at Stansted, with 335 crew. At Southend, there are 4 aircraft and 183 crew; and at Newcastle there are 3 planes and 157 crew. The job cut proposals are not limited to the bases that may close. EasyJet does not expect 2019 levels of demand to be reached again until 2023.
EasyJet says it has begun consultations on plans to close bases at Stansted, Southend and Newcastle.
It follows an announcement by the airline that it may need to reduce staff numbers by up to a third because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Unite union said nearly 1,300 UK crew members faced losing their jobs.
Pilots’ union Balpa said it had been told by EasyJet that 727 of its UK-based pilots were also at risk of redundancy. That is equivalent to one in three of its pilots, Balpa said.
EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren said: “The lower demand environment means we need fewer aircraft and have less opportunity for work for our people.
“We are committed to working constructively with our employee representatives across the network with the aim of minimising job losses as far as possible.”
However, Balpa general secretary Brian Stratton said the job cuts were “an excessive over-reaction”.
“EasyJet won’t find a supply of pilots waiting to come back when the recovery takes place over the next two years.”
And Unite said the plan to make 1,290 cabin crew redundant was a “massive blow” for a “battered industry”.
“There is no need for this announcement at this time, especially since Easyjet has taken a multi-million pound government loan which it ought to be putting to use defending UK jobs,” said national officer for civil aviation Oliver Richardson.
Easyjet currently has 11 bases in the UK, with 163 aircraft, serving 546 routes.
Even though it is looking at closing the Stansted, Southend and Newcastle bases, it said the airports would remain part of its route network.
That means it will continue to fly in and out but will not have aircraft and crew based permanently at the airports.
Easyjet has seven aircraft based at Stansted, with 335 crew. At Southend, there are 183 crew and four aircraft. And there are three aircraft based in Newcastle, with 157 crew.
The job cut proposals are not limited to the bases that may close, a Unite spokesman said.
Newcastle Airport said it was “saddened to hear of possible job losses and the significant impact this would cause.”
“This is very disappointing for the airport, airline and the North East as a whole and we sympathise with everyone affected by this announcement.”
EasyJet said in May that it planned up to 4,500 job cuts as it struggled with the collapse in air travel due to the coronavirus crisis.
It has started to fly passengers again, but does not expect 2019 levels of demand to be reached again until 2023.
Airlines have been hit hard by lockdowns and travel restrictions around the world, with many announcing job cuts.
Reuters reported on Tuesday that Air France/KLM would present a plan to unions on Friday to cut more than 6,500 jobs over the next two years as the airline deals with the effects of the coronavirus crisis.
By Stephen Moyes (The Sun)
30 Jun 2020
EASYJET will sack up to 4,500 staff and close hubs at Stansted, Southend and Newcastle airports in another blow to the travel industry.
The devastating announcement was made today as the airline also admitted the rest of its UK network is “under review”.
EasyJet are to sack 4,500 staff and close three of its airport hubs
EasyJet are to sack 4,500 staff and close three of its airport hubsCredit: PinPep
Pilots union BALPA said 727 cockpit crew faced the axe – around one in three of easyJet’s 2,300 pilots in the UK.
It’s another bitter pill to swallow for an aviation industry that has been hammered by coronavirus with flights grounded and borders closed.
The airline will still continue to run flights to the airports, even if they no longer operate as hubs.
Pilots union BALPA said 727 cockpit crew faced the axe – around one in three of easyJet’s 2,300 pilots in the UK.
EasyJet is expected to lose between 4,500 and 5,000 jobs across its entire network – around 1,900 UK employees are due to go, including 727 pilots.
Airline bosses gave the grim news to union chiefs of pilots and crew, and devastated staff were left gobsmacked.
An easyJet spokeswoman told The Sun: “As part of our update to the market on 28 May 2020, easyJet set out that it may need to reduce staff numbers by up to 30% as well as optimise its network and bases as a result of the pandemic.
“easyJet has today started formal consultation on proposals with employee representatives including Balpa and Unite on all of its UK based pilots and crew.
“The proposals include the potential closing of three of its bases in the UK – London Stansted, London Southend and Newcastle. These airports would remain part of easyJet’s route network.”
EasyJet told how it won’t reach expected revenue levels post lockdown until 2023.
EasyJet currently has 163 aircraft in the UK at 11 airports, serving 546 routes and flying more than 52 million passengers a year.
Johan Lundgren, easyJet CEO, said: “These are very difficult proposals to put forward in what is an unprecedented and difficult time for the airline and the industry as a whole.
“We are focused on doing what is right for the company and its long term health and success so we can protect jobs going forward.
“Unfortunately the lower demand environment means we need fewer aircraft and have less opportunity for work for our people.”
Unfortunately the lower demand environment means we need fewer aircraft and have less opportunity for work for our people
Brian Strutton, pilots union Balpa general secretary, said: “We know that aviation is in the midst of the covid-19 crisis and we had been expecting easyJet to make an announcement of temporary measures to help the airline through to recovery.
“But this seems an excessive over-reaction and easyJet won’t find a supply of pilots waiting to come back when the recovery takes place over the next two years. ”
Last November, easyJet acquired Thomas Cook’s slots at Gatwick and Bristol airports for £36million.
The aviation sector has been severely hit by coronavirus, with British Airways haemorrhaging £20million a day.
Bosses want to axe 12,000 staff and ‘fire and re-hire’ the remaining 36,000 staff on lower wages.
Meanwhile, The Sun understands Virgin Atlantic’s future is “bleak” as it emerged yesterday they can’t afford to pay staff for holidays.
Airline insiders admitted it is “touch and go” if Sir Richard Branson’s carrier will survive the coronavirus pandemic meltdown.
Staff were reeling last night after being told bosses will not top up monthly furlough salary payments with annual leave taken.
Virgin said: “Any annual leave you have accrued while on furlough leave is to be considered taken.”
Bosses went on: “When you return to work your remaining annual leave allowance will be your usual annual entitlement, minus any annual leave you have already taken this year, which includes annual leave accrued and taken during furlough leave.”
Rachel Clarke, head of people services at Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Holidays, told staff: “We recognise this is a different approach to the government guidance, and we understand this is a big ask
“We’re asking for your help with annual leave, because unfortunately, as we strive to safeguard the future of the business, it’s just not affordable at this time.”
The airline is planning to re-start passenger flights from July 20.
Staff who get the boot from the airline after that date will receive redundancy in August on a contractural minimum of 28 days notice.
Around 8,000 Virgin workers were furloughed at the start of lockdown, with staff paid 80 per cent of their salaries up to £2,500 a month for three months.
The scheme has been extended until October but cash-strapped Virgin has to contribute to the scheme from September.
A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson told Sun Online Travel: “Following the rapid acceleration of Covid-19 and extensive travel restrictions, coupled with a sharp drop in customer demand, it is imperative for Virgin Atlantic to take swift and decisive action to safeguard its future.
“Therefore, any annual leave our people have accrued while on furlough leave is to be considered taken. This equates to two days for every month of furlough leave.
“We’d like to thank all our people for their continued commitment and solidarity and the sacrifices they have made to support the company during the most challenging period in our history”.
In terms of a battle for survival, the airline added: “We continue to explore all available options to secure additional external funding as part of a comprehensive, solvent recapitalisation of the airline. As per the Chancellor’s letter of 24 March, HM Government is considered as a lender of last resort, and rightly so.
“We greatly appreciate the support our stakeholders have shown to date and believe we can deliver a comprehensive financing package that ensures Virgin Atlantic continues to provide essential connectivity and competition to consumers and businesses in Britain and beyond.”
Bristol Airport has not yet decided whether to appeal against a decision to refuse its expansion plans. North Somerset Planning and Regulatory committee councillors went against the council officers’ recommendation earlier this year, to reject the expansion plans which would have allowed the airport to increase its current capacity from 10 million to 12 million passengers per year. The councillors ruled that environmental and societal impacts outweighed the economic benefits of the expansion. The airport has 6 months in which to appeal, and that time ends of 19th September 2020. A spokesman for the airport said a decision on whether to lodge an appeal had yet to be made and was still under review. The decline in air travel demand will be a factor in the decision. The costs of a public inquiry could run into tens of thousands of pounds for North Somerset Council. It has confirmed it will defend any appeal but said it was unable to comment on any potential costs. It would be for the Planning Inspector who is overseeing the case to decide what costs and conditions to impose on North Somerset Council, if it loses.
Airport bosses have until mid September to lodge an appeal
By Heather Pickstock – North Somerset reporter (Bristol Live)
26 JUN 2020
Bosses at Bristol Airport say no decision has yet been made on whether to appeal against a decision to refuse its expansion plans.
North Somerset Planning and Regulatory committee went against their own officers’ recommendation earlier this year to reject the expansion plans which would have allowed the airport to increase its current capacity from 10 million to 12 million passengers per year.
During the debate – which lasted four and a half hours – councillors ruled the environmental and societal impacts outweighed the economic benefits of the expansion.
The decision then had to go back to the same committee for ratification, with the airport given six months to appeal.
The cut off date for the airport to submit an appeal is September 19, it has been revealed.
A spokesman for the airport said a decision on whether to lodge an appeal had yet to be made and was still under review.
A Bristol Airport spokesman said:”The decision risks putting the brakes on the region’s economy and shutting the door to international trade and tourism at a time when the UK needs to show it is open for business.By preventing Bristol Airport from meeting demand for air travel from within the region it serves, the council will simply exacerbate the situation which already sees millions of passengers a year from our region drive to London airports in order to fly, creating carbon emissions and congestion in the process.
“We are reviewing North Somerset Council’s reasons for refusing the planning application and will make a decision on our next steps.
The costs of a public inquiry could run into tens of thousands of pounds for North Somerset Council.
The authority has confirmed it will defend any appeal but said it was unable to comment on any potential costs.
The appeal system operates on the basis that all sides meet their own expenses. The costs incurred by the council depend on the nature on the grounds of appeal, the amount of evidence the council needs to prepare, the length of the appeal and legal fees which would be incurred.
Appeals can be a very costly process for councils especially if the planning inspector decides to uphold the appeal and overturn the council’s decision to refuse.
It would be for the Planning Inspector who is overseeing the case to decide what costs and conditions to impose on North Somerset Council if they disagree with its decision.
There is also a danger if the decision is overturned that North Somerset Council loses its powers to enforce any conditions on the applicant when it comes to the development.
A planning inquiry for an application of this size could take several weeks with witnesses and experts called to give evidence for both sides.
There is a chance the Secretary of State may decide he wants to have the final say in the decision.
If this is the case the planning inquiry will still go ahead but the planning inspector will make a recommendation to the Secretary of State and the final decision will then be in his hands.
Bath and North East Somerset Council has rejected an application by Bristol Airport to increase the number of night flights. The airport wants to increase the number of night flights to 4,000 throughout the whole year, starting in summer 2021. Currently the airport is allowed 3,000 night flights throughout the summer months and 1,000 in winter. The airport wants to be able to move some of their winter allocation to the summer, when demand is higher. Bath and North East Somerset Council rejected the application – stating it would have a negative impact on people living in towns near the airport. The request for more flights comes after the council opposed the expansion of Bristol Airport in March 2019. Then in March 2020 North Somerset Council threw out the plans, (which included increasing passenger numbers by an extra two million each year and building more car parks) on the grounds they were “incompatible” with the council’s declaration of a climate emergency. The extra night flights would cause noise nuisance to people in both councils.
North Somerset Council’s Planning & Regulatory Committee has gone against the advice of their own planning officers and have refused permission for Bristol Airport to expand. It has been a “David versus Goliath” battle of local campaigners against the airport, (owned by the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan). The airport wanted to expand from 10 million to 12 million passengers per year, with large carpark and other building. The opposition to the plans was huge, on ground of carbon emissions, as well as noise and general local damage. There were almost 9,000 objections sent in by members of the public, against 2,400 in favour. Councillors voted 18-7 against the plans, with one abstention. Councillors were persuaded that paltry economic benefits to the airport and airlines were far outweighed by the environmental harm. There would be large land take for the parking, and the extra carbon emissions would make targets of carbon neutrality for the area unachievable. Because the councillors went against the officers’ recommendations, the decision will return to the same committee to be ratified. If the decision is ratified, the applicant has six months to lodge an appeal, which would be heard at a public inquiry.
A decision on Bristol Airport’s major expansion bid will not be made this year. They submitted proposals to boost passenger numbers from 10 million to 12 million a year by the mid-2020s, and to expand the airport’s on-site infrastructure. A decision had been due over the summer but people are continuing to comment – there are currently about 3,780 objections and 1,800 letters of support. Reasons for opposing the expansion include climate change, traffic levels, air pollution and noise. When they declared a “climate emergency”, Bath and North East Somerset Council members also voted to oppose the airport’s expansion, amid concerns about increased congestion on rural roads in their area. There is also doubt about alleged economic benefit. The airport and its supporters always talk up the possibility of more jobs, and improved “access international export markets.” In reality, the majority of air passengers are on leisure journeys. The application will be considered by North Somerset Council’s planning and regulatory committee meeting in 2020, with possible dates the 22 January, 19 February and 18 March.
With very low numbers of planes using Heathrow (97% down) over the past 3 months, due to the Covid lockdown, this has been an excellent opportunity to get data on air pollution – comparing days with, and without, the planes. Using data from Air Quality England, local group Stop Heathrow Expansion have found that five air quality monitors around Heathrow which breached the maximum legal limit in March – May 2019 have shown an average 41% improvement in the same period in 2020. Our current air quality laws state that nitrogen dioxide concentrations must not average more than 40 micrograms per cubic metre (µg/m3), per year. This level is often exceeded at a range of locations around Heathrow. Readings from a site on the Northern Perimeter Road showed a 50% improvement in air quality. Another site outside Cherry Lane Primary School had a 46% reduction in NO2 emissions, from 44.1µg/m3 in March – May 2019 to a safer 23.9 µg/m3 in the same period in 2020. As well as fewer planes, there were fewer road vehicles. Air pollution figures from inside the airport boundary were substantially lower, showing the source is planes, not only road vehicles, as Heathrow likes to claim.
22nd June 2020
From Stop Heathrow Expansion
· Local Heathrow air quality improved by 41% since March
· Pollution monitors that regularly breached legal limits now safely within them
· Call for improved local air quality to be maintained as much as possible post-lockdown through Government adopting World Health Organisation guidelines for air pollution in its Environment Bill.
Research by campaigners has found an improvement of over 40% in local air quality around Heathrow Airport in the three months to the end of May 2020, compared with the same period in 2019.
Using data from Air Quality England, Stop Heathrow Expansion have found that five air quality monitors around Heathrow which breached the maximum legal limit in March – May 2019 have shown an average 41% improvement in the same period in 2020.
Our current air quality laws state that nitrogen dioxide concentrations must not average more than 40 micrograms per cubic metre (µg/m3), per year.
The lockdown has seen readings of one monitor, located on Heathrow’s Northern Perimeter Road showing a substantial 50% improvement in local air quality. Another site located outside Cherry Lane Primary School, close to the Heathrow junction of the M4 motorway, saw a 46% reduction in NO2 emissions, from 44.1µg/m3 in March – May 2019 to a safer 23.9 µg/m3 in the same period in 2020.
Of the five sites assessed, the three Hillingdon sites breached legal limits from January – December 2019 (Table 2). The sites in Slough and Hounslow, on major roads linking Heathrow to central London and the Thames Valley, there were recorded breaches throughout the 2019, with readings such as 45.7 µg/m3 recorded at the Hounslow monitor in April 2019 alone.
A monitor within the Slough Borough, on a key road linking Heathrow to Langley and Slough, saw a 35% improvement in local air quality – from an illegal reading of 41.2µg/m3 in 2019 to 27.2µg/m3 in 2020.
Similarly, a monitor on the A4 within the London Borough of Hounslow saw a 36% reduction in nitrogen dioxide, from an average of 39.6µg/m3 in 2019 – with individual months such as March and April 2019 showing concentrations of 40.0 and 45.7µg/m3 respectively – to just 25.4µg/m3 in March – May 2020.
This substantial improvement in local air quality around Heathrow is due to the reduced airport operations and a 97% reduction in passenger traffic. This in turn:
· reduced the number of planes polluting the local atmosphere;
· substantially reduced the number of private car journeys;
· reduced the number of cargo-related HGV movements on the local road network.
Despite claims by Heathrow that the poor local air quality is due to non-airport related traffic and their own operations, the reduction in the airport-related workforce has led to reduced private car journeys of employees (50% of airport-related employees travel to work by car). Staff car parks are empty as evidenced by the ‘drive thru’ COVID-19 testing centre at Heathrow.
It is vital that post-lockdown, our air quality is not allowed to exceed the legal limits. Heathrow must take more robust action to ensure its workforce, and the workforce of its partners, uses alternative methods of transport to travel to work and provide greater provision for active travel such as walking and cycling. Passengers must be discouraged, in the strongest possible way, from travelling to the airport by car.
Stop Heathrow Expansion is calling for the Government to adopt into UK law the World Health Organisation guidelines, with a commitment to non-regression. The guidelines state that in order to protect the public from harmful pollutants, nitrogen dioxide concentrations must not average more than 40 micrograms per cubic metre, per year.
The Government’s Environment Bill should provide greater powers for holding large polluters, such as Heathrow, to account, where there is evidence that a breach or severe detriment in local air quality is due to the operations of the organisation. The Bill must include a legally binding commitment to meet WHO guideline limits for NO2 and other harmful pollutants, with a commitment to non-regression.
The Bill presents a unique opportunity for the UK to become a world leader in limiting toxic pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide, in the pursuit of cleaner air and to protect the health of local people not just around Heathrow, but around other airports across the UK.
Unite, the principal union for aviation workers, has accused Heathrow of using the Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse to permanently cut the pay and conditions of its workforce, a move Unite has described as being about ‘greed, not need’. The airport is proposing to cut workers’ terms and conditions including: Pay cuts of up to 37%; the closure of the final salary pension scheme; removal of paid breaks and all allowances; weakening the redundancy agreement, and not paying workers for the first 3 days of sickness. Unite says all the cuts would be permanent, and if Unite does not agree to them, Heathrow will sack its entire workforce and rehire them on poorer terms and conditions. Unite represents around 4,500 workers who are directly employed at the airport. Heathrow will not compromise with Unite. In the meantime, Heathrow paid its shareholders a dividend of £100 million this year. And John Holland-Kaye claims it has a £3.2 billion “war chest” and that it could survive till the end of 2020, even with almost no flights. So it is particularly galling that it is needing to reduce its wage bill by so much. Many of the workers have kept working, during Covid, to help the airport stay open. Unite will fight using whatever industrial, political and legal channels are necessary.
22nd June 2020 (Unite press release)
Unite, the principal aviation union, has accused Heathrow Airport Limited (HAL) of using the Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse to permanently cut the pay and conditions of its workforce, a move Unite has described as being about ‘greed, not need’.
Heathrow is proposing slashing workers’ terms and conditions including:
All of the cuts would be permanent and if Unite does not agree to the attack on workers’ pay, HAL is committed to sacking its entire workforce and rehiring them on poorer terms and conditions.
Unite has sought to enter into negotiations to attempt to find common ground but HAL has refused to compromise. Unite has proposed savings in security of £48 million but this is not considered sufficient.
Unite represents around 4,500 workers who are directly employed at the airport working in security, engineering, the fire service, passenger services and airside operations.
In March at the beginning of the pandemic, HAL paid its shareholders, which includes the Qatari royal family, a dividend of £100 million.
Unite will undertake a ballot of its members to get their views on the attacks on terms and conditions. If there is an appetite for strike action a formal industrial action ballot will swiftly follow.
Unite regional co-ordinating officer Wayne King said: “These are not well paid workers as it is but they have worked extremely hard to make Heathrow the highly profitable airport that it is today.
“To attack their pay and conditions in this way and at under the cover of the public health crisis is a disgraceful act from a business with billions in the bank.
“HAL does not need to make these cuts permanent they want to. This is about pure greed and not need.
“Unite has tried to negotiate an acceptable compromise but these have been rejected outright.
“Our members have continued to work on the frontline throughout the pandemic, potentially placing their health and that of their family at risk, to protect the interests of the airport.
“As a thank you HAL wants to slash workers’ pay and conditions.
“If HAL is not prepared to return to the negotiating table and consider acceptable alternatives, then Unite will seek to resolve this attack on its members through whatever industrial, political and legal channels necessary.”
Notes to editors:
The Commons Transport Select Committee were very critical of British Airways for its appalling treatment of staff, sacking them and making them reapply for jobs on lower pay and worse conditions.
13th June 2020
Heathrow has about 7,000 directly employed staff, and has experienced a reduction in flights of around 97% due to Covid. It has It has already cut a third of its managerial roles – people on relatively high pay. It is now trying to encourage staff who were employed before 2014 to offer to take voluntary severance (which is different to redundancy). Any payments over £30,000 are subject to tax. If someone is redunded, that post cannot be legally filled for several months. With severance, the job can then be refilled. Heathrow is trying to get rid of those on more generous contracts, with better terms and conditions, and employ staff on worse contracts. That is what British Airways has done, to the fury of the unions. The Unite union is a staunch supporter of Heathrow, and seems to have agreed to go along with Heathrow’s severance offers. It is likely there will also be many redundancies, as air travel demand is unlikely to pick up to earlier levels for several years. A total of 76,000 people are employed across 400 different companies at Heathrow. About 25,000 of those jobs might be at risk.
The issue of whether Heathrow could ever pay for a 3rd runway is one that has become even more pressing, now the airport has been hit very hard by Covid-19. Its finances have been shaky for a long time. In an analysis, by Chair of the No 3rd Runway Coalition, Paul McGuinness, sets out the facts. Heathrow has claimed that it “can survive with no passengers for the next 12 months, so our’s is a very good position to be in”. But in fact Heathrow admitted to its staff (email of 6 April) that the publicised “£3.2 billion war chest” is merely the liquidity that can be mustered when “we have drawn down all the cash and credit facilities at our disposal”. So, yet more borrowing to be repaid in the future — presumably by passengers. Looking into Heathrow finances, it is clear that it has sold assets and borrowed against those that remain, in order to finance enormous dividend payments to shareholders (92% of which do not pay UK tax), while avoiding corporate taxes. It has an eye watering level of debt. By the end of 2019, its borrowing against its assets was £15.449 billion, so it had reached a leverage ratio of 97% — higher than any comparable UK infrastructure or utility operation. Read the whole blog for details.
With a chain of subsidiaries as long as a runway, and thirteen sets of accounts, getting one’s head around Heathrow’s finances can be — as if by design — quite a challenge. But, once undertaken, it reveals a company that has sold assets and borrowed against those that remain, in order to finance enormous dividend payments to shareholders (92% of which do not pay UK tax), while avoiding corporate taxes.
Moreover, it reveals an eye watering level of debt, which looms in stark relief to some of the recent, rather boastful statements made by its CEO (John Holland-Kaye) and attributed to the company’s “Chairman” (Lord Deighton).
In both the recent Accounts of Heathrow Airport Holdings Limited and the accompanying Press Release, the company’s Chairman, Lord Deighton, is said to claim that the airport had received “over £12 billion of private investment” from its shareholders over the last decade. This is more than misleading. It is fallacious.
When BAA plc’s stable of airports was forcibly broken up in 2009, under monopoly rules, the investment of FGP Topco (Heathrow’s holding company) was a mere £13.1 million. BAA plc was acquired for £10.7 billion, paid by adding this to its borrowings of £3 billion pre-acquistion, so that it started its life as FGP Topco in 2007 with borrowings of £13 billion, adding over another £1 billion to its current “fair value” debt which, with coming interest payments, rises to £16 billion. And since then, money has been generated first from the sale of assets, and then from a thorough recapitalisation of remaining assets, to keep the operation in place and pay large dividends to the shareholders.
Along with Heathrow, the initial investment also bought 4 other airports (Standsted, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Southampton). The sale of these produced £8 billion, which was used to pay significant dividends to shareholders; since when loans have been secured against the remaining fixed assets.
By the end of 2019, Heathrow had increased its borrowing against these assets to £15.449 billion; meaning that with an assets value of £15.8 billion, it is now so highly geared with debt, that it has reached a leverage ratio of 97% — higher than any comparable UK infrastructure or utility operation.
Of this borrowing, £1.389 billion was actually added in 2019; from which £500 million was paid in dividends. Additionally, and despite a £14 million loss in the final quarter of 2019, the holding company paid its shareholders an interim dividend of £100 million this year, on 20 February 2020. So, even after the money which could have been put away for a rainy day (such as now) had already been disbursed in dividends to Heathrow’s mainly foreign investors, every asset has been mortgaged up to the hilt, to release yet more cash — with significant portions being directed towards shareholders’ bank accounts.
Heathrow has had 538 Charges (a borrower’s right to seize assets, in the event of non-payment of a loan) listed against it at Companies House.
“£12 Billion of investment” has not come from shareholders, as claimed in the statement attributed to the company’s “Chairman”, Lord Deighton. Money has come from the divestment of company assets, through secured borrowing (recapitalisation) — and significant portions of this have gone to shareholders.
The recent boasts from the company’s CEO, John Holland-Kaye, started in April, just as surprise was being expressed at the fragility of aviation sector players, under Covid-19 pressures. And he has continued to speak of the business’s “current financial strength”.
Yet in an internal email of 6 April, the CEO explained to staff that whilst the airport’s pre-crisis revenue was £250 million per month, and its operating and maintenance costs were only £190 million, its monthly debt repayment bill was (and remains) a staggering £75 million per month — meaning that Heathrow’s indebtedness has the airport’s core business running at a £15 million monthly loss, even in good times.
To compound this state of affairs, Heathrow already runs a large current account overdraft which, because it is unsecured debt (that could be called in at any point), renders Heathrow technically bankrupt. Tellingly, within the company accounts, Heathrow now admits that it is run as a “going concern” (accountancy jargon to indicate that a business may wish to defer some of its prepaid expenses to a future accounting period).
On BBC’s Newsnight (28th May 2020), Holland-Kaye repeated the earlier public brag, telling the programme “we’re very well funded so we can survive with no passengers for the next 12 months, so our’s is a very good position to be in”. But such a public suggestion of “financial strength” must be delusory. For he has had to admit to staff (email of 6 April) that the publicised “£3.2 billion war chest” is merely the liquidity that can be mustered when “we have drawn down all the cash and credit facilities at our disposal”. So, yet more borrowing to be repaid in the future — presumably by passengers (if the current account creditors have not already called in the overdrafts, tipping Heathrow into Administration).
In fact, Heathrow’s financial frailty was recognised several months ago, leading to Heathrow having to file a “Section 642 Notice” in November 2019 — so as to reassure the markets and financial regulatory authorities that it believed it could fulfil its massive debt obligations. Yet, on 2 June 2020 the ratings agency, Standards & Poor’s, put the debt of Heathrow Airport’s principal funding vehicle (Heathrow Funding Ltd) on “credit watch with negative implications” — a second credit downgrade in just two months. And on 16th June 2020, it was announced that Heathrow is seeking waivers on covenants from holders of £1.1 billion of bonds.
The boast that Heathrow can somehow find a way to stand on its own two feet for “12 months” is pertinent however. For it is equally (as may have been the intention) an indication that, without any revenue to pay interest on its bonds, and with the threat of bankruptcy, Heathrow will be looking to the taxpayer for assistance at the end of this period — despite its notorious record for avoiding corporate tax on previous large profits, through its carefully designed, multi-layered, debt-ridden, labyrinthine corporate structure.
In 2019 alone, Heathrow may have felt able to pay £500 million to shareholders, out of the £1.89 million of additional borrowing; but by setting off the financing of their massive debt against tax (notwithstanding the avoidance of £110m withholding tax on the interest paid on bonds), Heathrow managed to keep their corporate tax contribution to just £28 million. Extraordinarily, by historical standards, this is a large payment of corporate tax by Heathrow. Research by The Times (published 10th January 2016) found that “HEATHROW has handed its owners £2.1bn in dividends over the past four years — but paid only £24m corporation tax in almost a decade”.
It is usually expected that companies pay dividends on profits. But because of the enormous interest payments it has to make to its creditors, Heathrow minimises it taxable profit. So their shareholders simply receive their dividends from this borrowing, which is secured by mortgaging its assets to lenders. And, then, the enormous cost of interest payments to creditors is used to generate tax credits to minimise its corporate taxes.
The Treasury and the Bank of England are demanding certain conditions of those companies who receive corporate “bailouts” from taxpayer funds, under the Covid Corporate Financing Facility: there must be neither staff bonuses, nor dividend payments to shareholders, whilst the company is in receipt of taxpayer support. But, with Heathrow having all but given notice that it is anticipating a need to seek government assistance, should it not be asked to adhere to those conditions, now?
For just as it siphoned off £100 million of dividends on 20 February (as it simultaneously slashed the wages of those who operate the airport and protect our borders), would it not be entirely characteristic of Heathrow to make yet another large dividend payment just before it calls the Treasury for a lifeline? And most reasonable individuals on the “Clapham Omnibus” would surely think that this indebted company, that has enriched its shareholders through recapitalisation, and hardly paid any corporation tax, should not be permitted to get away with any such thing.
On an entirely different note, does it not seem absurd that this company was claiming that it could fund a 3rd Runway? They always knew that they could never get back the billions that they have paid out to shareholders, on the back of debt. The plan was simply to mortgage every newly built asset to the eaves; using passenger charges to finance the debt and pay dividends to shareholders who, themselves, would not contribute a penny. Hence Heathrow’s spat with the CAA over raising passenger charges: because rather than taking the upfront capital risk, as responsible corporations do, they planned all along to transfer the risk onto their customers, and away from themselves and shareholders — as corporate pygmies might.
Heathrow’s financial history appears to show that every sinew has been stretched to guarantee returns to shareholders and avoid the payment of corporate taxes. Assets have been secured against prodigal levels of debt, only to the advantage of overseas shareholders. And, with there being no chance of these enormous dividend payments being returned, this type of tax avoiding recapitalisation may well look, to some, like asset stripping.
It is possible that Heathrow’s current campaign of boasting is spawned — just like the sort of bragging one finds in a school playground — from a growing sense of weakness.
But such weakness is self-inflicted. And it would be quite wrong for a company that has pauperised itself through such irresponsible financial engineering to be bailed out by those who have acted responsibly and properly paid their tax.
By Paul McGuinness, (Chair, No 3rd Runway Coalition)
13 April 2020
Heathrow airport has defended handing investors more than £100m in dividends despite the aviation industry being brought to its knees by the coronavirus pandemic. Europe’s busiest airport said shareholder payouts were agreed in February “before the significant impacts of Covid-19 on our industry were clear or anticipated”. The dividends will come as a boon to Heathrow’s major investors. But the decision to press ahead with rewarding shareholders could threaten to undermine a concerted effort by Britain’s airports to secure bespoke financial support from the taxpayer. The Airports Owners Association ratcheted up the pressure on ministers over the weekend by calling for lending caps to be lifted for aviation businesses as well as the Government’s furlough scheme to be extended beyond May. Heathrow has agreed a 10% pay cut with its biggest union Unite. Non-unionised staff have been warned they face the sack if they refuse to accept voluntary wage reductions of up to 15%. Around a quarter of Heathrow’s senior management has been made redundant and staff have been told they could be transferred on to the Government’s furlough scheme where the taxpayer foots the bill for 80pc of wages.
Heathrow’s biggest shareholder, Ferrovial, has warned that it could sell its 25% stake if returns are squeezed by the aviation watchdog. This casts doubt about the 3rd runway. Ferrovial says it would not put money into the runway, (costing between £14 and £32 billion) unless the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) grants it “attractive returns”. The CAA ruled in December that Heathrow could not spend more on early construction in order to ensure the runway was built by the end of 2026 as planned. That means that the 3rd runway will now not be completed until 2028 – 2029, at the earliest, and not 2026 as Heathrow and its investors had hoped. The CAA currently has a consultation, that ends on 5th March, on Economic regulation of Heathrow, on the “regulatory framework and financial issues”. The CAA effectively decides how much money Heathrow can make through a complex tariff. This is usually updated every 5 years, although this has been extended by 2 years. A controversial regulatory scheme incentivises the airport’s owners to build, spend more, as then they earn more in returns – the passenger flight charges, now about £20 per passenger. If Ferrovial decides to pull out, it would invest in schemes elsewhere.
The CAA has rejected Heathrow’s desire to spend nearly £3bn on its new runway despite the plans not having received final approval, in a sign that it is losing confidence in Heathrow’s ability to fund the project on budget. The CAA has a new consultation on this. The CAA approved just under half Heathrow’s request; £1.6bn (at 2018 prices) before the DCO is granted, saying that “passengers cannot be expected to bear the risk” of Heathrow “spending too much in the early phase of development, should planning permission not be granted”. This is yet another hurdle for Heathrow. Heathrow now says that instead of opening its new runway in 2026, that has now been put back to 2028/ 2029. That delay makes a large difference to the supposed economic benefit to the UK, which was at best marginal even with a 2026 opening date. Both Heathrow and the Government claim that the project will be privately financed yet there are concerns about Heathrow’s ability to afford expansion as costs continue to rise and the markets begin to question the viability of the investment. Standard and Poor said there is significant concern about the design, funding and construction costs of a 3rd runway which would make it unviable.
Both the airport and Government claim that the project will be privately financed yet there are concerns about Heathrow’s ability to afford expansion as costs continue to rise and the markets begin to question the viability of the investment. Heathrow is already spending over £3 billion on enabling work, before even starting to build. The total cost could be £31 billion, not the alleged £14 billion. In its latest analysis of Heathrow’s business case, Standard and Poor revealed that there is significant concern about construction costs of a 3rd runway. This raises specific concerns – which could result in a downgrading of Heathrow’s investment grade credit rating which would make the 3rd runway unviable. The airport and its holding company, FGP Topco, are losing money. A huge sum is needed for the planned development, especially if more passengers are to travel to/from the airport on public transport. The Conservative Election Manifesto said “no new public money” will be available to support the third runway and that the onus is on Heathrow to demonstrate that the business case is viable. The CAA has decided that Heathrow will be penalised if costs spiral out of control, amid concerns that the project will not be built on budget.
UK tax rules have allowed airports like Heathrow to pay far less tax than they should. It is estimated that Heathrow’s foreign owners have been able to get a tax break of perhaps £120 million per year from the UK government. And the airport’s shareholders (which include the governments of China, Qatar and Singapore – with only 10% by the USS being British – .have paid themselves about £3 billion in dividends in 5 years. Rules on how firms can cut tax bills due to large debt interest payments began in 2017, but the Treasury has given an exemption for infrastructure projects like Heathrow. The think-tank, Taxwatch, said: “In the case of Heathrow, the benefits of the exemption appear to flow overwhelmingly to the owners of the company.” …“The company was bought using a huge amount of debt. Instead of paying back the debt themselves, the new owners managed to push this liability on to Heathrow, making the company liable for large interest payments… The large debt repayments wiped out the company’s pre-tax profit.” Revenues at Heathrow have risen to £2.9billion but its owners have paid little corporation tax, due to massive debts. Between 2007 and 2014 the group reported a total pre-tax loss of more than £2 billion, and paid just £15 million in corporation tax. In the past 3 years it declared pre-tax profits of more than £1 billion, leading to corporation tax payments of £122 million (ie. £70 million in 2018 and £53 million in 2017).
Heathrow Airport has placed a €650m (£558.9m) bond with only weeks to go before the UK is due to leave the European Union. The 15-year bond was backed by current and new investors, which were mostly European, and reached an order book in excess of €2.8bn (ie. there was demand of that amount). Heathrow said the high demand for the bond “shows investor confidence in Heathrow’s expansion plans and resilience ahead of Brexit.” The bond means Heathrow hopes to extend the duration of its debt portfolio – ie. taking more time to pay it all back – for its 3rd runway expansion plans. It said the funds will be used on day-to-day corporate spending. The airport’s director of treasury and corporate finance, said: “The transaction delivers on our strategy of further diversification, longer duration and stronger liquidity.” Heathrow hopes, at the earliest, that the runway might open in 2026 – but it has a large number of hurdles to overcome before them, including the long DCO (Development Consent Order) process, that is the equivalent of a planning application, but for a vast project – with the decision taken out of the hands of the local authority, and made by government instead (a process devised to avoid the sort of long delays they had on Terminal Five).
Leeds Bradford Airport (LBA) has been planning to expand, building a new terminal that would allow more annual flights and passengers – and thus more CO2 and more noise. The plans have been fiercely opposed. Now, with the airport effectively closed for months, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the chief executive has written that the plans are not about expanding. He says the building plans are to improve and modernise the terminal, and “LBA is not expanding because we are not proposing to grow beyond the airport’s existing consented capacity
limit of 7 million passengers. Our present limit is already 7m passengers and LBA is not proposing to increase that limit.” He claims planes are now so (allegedly) “quiet” that tight noise restrictions are not as relevant as years ago. There is the usual stuff about the airport aiming to be carbon net zero by 2023 – which is lovely, though it excludes the carbon from flights, making it somewhat irrelevant. The CEO comes out with all the usual industry platitudes about “clean” planes, and “sustainable” fuels, and future electric planes … none of which mean much. And cycle routes to the airport …
Letter to Planning Department of Leeds City Council, from Leeds Central MP, Hilary Benn, about the application
By Hywel Rees (chief executive of Leeds Bradford Airport)
LEEDS Bradford Airport needs to modernise. The existing terminal building was built in 1965 and it really hasn’t changed much since. It’s 55 years old and struggles to provide the level of customer service that passengers and airlines expect.
LBA’s planning application is not about expansion. LBA is not expanding because we are not proposing to grow beyond the airport’s existing consented capacity limit of seven million passengers. Our present limit is already 7m passengers and LBA is not proposing to increase that limit.
LBA needs to modernise and the only way to do that is to build a new, modern terminal with efficient facilities. The new building will be smaller than the old one because it will make a more efficient use of space. That’s possible because the industry has learned a lot about airport design since 1965.
The proposed new building will be an iconic focal point for Yorkshire. There has been lots of feedback from the public on LBA’s plans and it’s important that these concerns are addressed.
On noise, it’s surprising that, at the moment, there is absolutely no limit whatsoever on the number of night flights at LBA involving modern aircraft such as the 737 max and the A320neo family. This is because, like LBA’s terminal building, the night-time restrictions at LBA are out of date.
When the current restrictions were drafted in the mid-1990s, no-one expected modern aircraft to be as quiet as they are today, so the current restriction becomes less relevant as more modern aircraft are introduced. That’s not what was intended at the time, of course, so LBA is proposing a new, modern system of quotas to bring LBA into line with other airports in the UK.
Leeds Bradford Airport consultation extended as support group claim airport is ‘unreasonably targeted’
On the environment, LBA’s plans mean that the new terminal building will be rated BREEAM “Excellent”, meaning it will be the most environmentally friendly terminal building in the UK. We see this as an integral part of our commitment to operate a carbon net zero airport by 2023.
Of course, most carbon in aviation is emitted by aircraft, not airports. In the past, the aviation industry has not been very good at publicising the enormous improvements that have already been made to aircraft efficiency over the years. Yet, modern aircraft are about 80 per cent more fuel efficient and 90 per cent quieter than they were in the 1950s.
That trend is going to continue because cleaner aircraft are obviously sustainable in the long term, but also cheaper to run, providing airlines with a natural incentive to introduce them. As sustainably sourced synthetic fuels are developed and as electrification becomes more viable, aircraft will become cleaner and quieter than ever.
Tackling climate change is an international challenge. Restricting flights at LBA will only mean that the people of Yorkshire will have to travel further to catch flights, typically by road.
As we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, LBA’s plans offer Yorkshire the opportunity to help kick-start its economy, helping the construction and tourism sectors to recover in the short term and, in the longer term, creating the high value, knowledge-based jobs that Yorkshire needs.
LBA also supports the construction of a new railway station, less than a mile from the airport. It will enable direct trains to and from King’s Cross Station in London on the Azuma service that operates three times a day on the Leeds to Harrogate line. No other airport outside London would have a mainline service of that quality on its doorstep.
Our plans include proposals for a liveried coach service from the biggest local railway stations, improved bus services, better cycling facilities and incentives to encourage more use of public transport.
LBA’s plans are fundamentally different from the plans submitted recently by other UK airports. This is for two reasons. First, LBA is not proposing any increase in passenger numbers beyond its existing consented capacity. Second, LBA is replacing existing infrastructure; the old terminal building will be demolished when the new one opens.
All the other planning applications across UK airports either involved an increase in consented capacity or infrastructure or both. LBA needs to modernise. LBA’s plans are a sensible but exciting response to that challenge.
Hywel Rees is chief executive of Leeds Bradford Airport.
The airport has submitted a planning application to Leeds City Council, to replace the current terminal building with a new one by 2023, to increase passenger numbers from 4 million a year to 7 million a year. Opponents to the plans say that will make the climate emergency “worse” and that the current pandemic means there’s “no need” for it. Local people, in Group for Action on Leeds Bradford Airport (GALBA) say the expansion will increase CO2 emissions, at a time when countries around the world are being urged to drastically then. It will also bring more noise for local communities, increased air pollution, and more traffic congestion. Instead “We need to rebuild a healthy economy in Leeds. We don’t need an unsustainable development like this.” Leeds City Council declared a climate emergency in 2019, but conveniently does not include the CO2 emissions from the airport’s flights in its carbon budget. But the flights alone would exceed Leeds’ entire carbon budget by 2035. The airport is trying hard to persuade the Council that its expansion is needed, in competition with Manchester, and the (alleged) economic benefits it would bring would be huge. Will it be able to afford £150 million, now there is the Covid fall in demand?
The ruling on Heathrow’s 3rd runway on 27th February, by the Court of Appeal, put the scheme seriously in doubt – on the grounds of its carbon emissions. The DfT had decided not to take proper account of the extra carbon emissions, in relation to the UK’s commitments under the Paris Agreement, when it produced the Airports National Policy Statement . The ruling is ground-breaking, because it sets a global precedent that can now be used to challenge other developments which damage the environment. The expansion plans of Leeds Bradford would result in a possible increase in passengers from about 4 million per year now to about 7 million. This means the plans are not considered large enough to require the National Policy Statement and DCO route. Instead the application goes through the usual planning process. So the Heathrow ruling may not have a direct bearing on this case, though the principle of the need to properly account for carbon emissions from new developments, may be used to argue against it if it went to appeal. Leeds has declared a climate emergency, and its local Citizens’ Assembly resolved that the airport should not expand, due to its carbon emissions.
Kirklees Council leader has been urged not to back the use of public money to help the £41 million expansion of Leeds Bradford Airport. The call came from Kirklees Greens leader, Cllr Cooper, who says pumping £5 million into a proposed new rail interchange – the Leeds Bradford Airport Parkway scheme – would inevitably increase international flights and could undermine regional carbon emissions targets. Such a commitment of public money, increasing carbon emissions at a time of climate crisis, was foolhardy. The airport’s expansion plans are being considered by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA), a group of leading councillors and officers from West Yorkshire councils, plus York, that works on major infrastructure projects. The rail interchange would include a new railway station on the Harrogate railway line and associated access works, assisting access to the airport. The scheme is being promoted with claims it will improve air quality … slightly dubious reasoning there … Cllr Cooper: “Kirklees Council cannot ignore the impact of air travel and the threat it poses to all the actions that we need to be taking to reduce global emissions.”
Leeds Bradford is planning to expand, spending £150 million on a new terminal that would allow more annual flights and passengers. Local residents object to the plans as an ‘abdication of responsibility’ and claimed an eco-friendly terminal would be pointless if the numbers of flights increased, as this would massively increase CO2 emissions. The Council meeting had been suspended for 20 minutes due to protests from climate campaigners, locking themselves to railings and holding a die-in. As well as the terminal, the airport wants to reduce the night period with no flights by 90 minutes, so instead of the current 8 hours of quiet at night, there would just be 6 and a half hours. The airport wants to start work in winter 2020, with an opening in 2023. “If we have to go to carbon offsetting, that is what we will do.” The airport is terrified of not growing. The extra noise will blight the lives of thousands of residents under the flight paths. The decision by the Leeds Council City Plans Panel was to take no view on the pre-application and ask the Airport for further information.
Leeds Bradford Airport wants rules that impose a range of night-time flying restrictions to be relaxed, so it can operate more flights. The current restrictions, since 1993, are that the airport can only operate 4,000 flights a year during the night-time period, which is 11pm to 7am. Now the airport wants the night-time period reduced from 8 hours to 6.5 hours, so it is from 11.30pm to 6am – an hour and a half less. The WHO says people should have a quiet period for sleep for 8 hours per night. Most adults need between 7-8 hours of good sleep per night. That is not possible, if the night period is only 6.5 hours. That also does not include planes arriving later than 11.30pm, for delays etc. The change the airport wants means lots of flights in the “shoulder periods”. ie. between 6am and 7am, and between 11pm and 11.30pm. This enables airlines to fit in more “rotations” so they can make more return trips to European holiday destination airports, making more money for airlines. The plans will be discussed by Leeds City Council’s on January 30th; the airport may submit a planning application in the coming months.
In 2019 Luton airport put out plans to expand, from 18 million passenger per year, (mppa) up to 32 million. This expansion, being over 10 mppa, needs to go through the Development Consent Order (DCO) route, rather than a normal planning application. The airport is owned by Luton Borough Council which is also the local authority that should regulate it. Now with a massive decline in air travel demand, due to Covid, Luton airport has decided to delay the process, and not submit its DCO this summer, as originally intended, but in 2021. It claims it wants to be more “green” with less environmental impact, etc etc (tricky with so many more passengers and flights, and thus more noise, more CO2, more air pollution and more congested surface transport). Local opposition groups are pleased about the delay, as is Hertfordshire County Council, which is against the plans due to the adverse noise impact. Luton is too dependant on the airport, and so has suffered from the loss of jobs, and income from the airport, due to the pandemic. It would be wiser to delay until there is clarity on the government policy on aviation carbon, in its ambition of aiming for zero carbon by 2050.
17 June 2020
By Georgia Barrow
The application to expand Luton Airport has been delayed, as the company looks to make it the “UK’s most sustainable airport over the next 20 years”.
Luton airport is working on creating a greener development model for its expansion plans before submitting an application.
Campaign groups and Herts County Council have welcomed the news of the delay, which comes as the aviation industry faces uncertainty amid the coronavirus outbreak.
London Luton Airport Ltd’s new approach says it recognises the challenges of delivering a greener development model for an expanded airport in Luton, and supporting essential economic recovery from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic for the region and the UK.
A Development Consent Order application to support expansion of the airport from 18 to 32 million passengers per year is now expected to be submitted to the government during 2021, rather than in summer 2020 as originally outlined.
Cllr Andy Malcolm, who is chair of LLAL and also Luton Council’s portfolio holder for finance, said: “We are an airport owner entirely focused on supporting and improving people’s lives, and driving economic and employment growth, both in Luton and neighbouring communities.
“Since the second public consultation on our expansion proposals late last year, we have been listening carefully to feedback and a clear message that people want us to go even further to mitigate environmental issues, including noise, air quality and particularly climate change which has become significantly more important to people since our first consultation.
“We are also acutely aware that COVID-19 has sadly impacted on every area of people’s lives and wellbeing, and the effects on aviation have been stark.
“We are confirming that we want to set out a plan for how London Luton can build on its position as arguably the most socially conscious airport in the UK by also becoming its most sustainable.
“This is the right thing to do to support Luton, the region and the environment. We are instructing our teams now to invest all the time they need to work up the proposals in detail.”
LLAL is currently working to support its operator and airlines with ongoing safe travel and passage through London Luton. At the same time, its shareholder Luton Council is preparing an emergency budget to deal with the loss of airport-related and other incomes, and costs experienced during the response to coronavirus.
Andrew Lambourne, speaking for the members of campaign group LADACAN said: “Thanks to strong opposition by campaign groups and local councils, LLAL had already decided to postpone its expansion application to consider the serious environmental impacts we highlighted during consultation.
“But now Luton Council is also facing a self-inflicted financial crisis due to over-reliance on airport revenue – and there is a simple reason for that. Hundreds of millions of pounds of airport fees have been allocated by the board of LLAL to capital projects such as the DART (Direct Air-Rail Transit) and access roads – without adequate transparency and accountability over the risks involved in these investment decisions.”
The delay in the expansion has also been welcomed by Herts County Council.
Cllr Derrick Ashley – executive member for growth, infrastructure, planning and the economy – said: “We have serious concerns about the environmental impact of expanding the airport, including the impact of aircraft noise on neighbouring communities. I hope that the airport will also use this time to look at how an extra 14 million passengers a year will actually get to the airport without this causing serious problems on the roads.
“This delay presents us with an opportunity for some strategic direction from the government, in the form of its forthcoming new national aviation strategy.
“That strategy will need to address the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government’s net zero greenhouse gas emissions target, the delay to Heathrow’s third runway, and government’s environmental expectations of the aviation industry. I strongly believe that the growth of Luton Airport beyond its currently permitted operations should be put on hold until this strategic direction from government is in place.
“Crucially, local communities and key stakeholders need to be engaged and I look forward to the airport providing clarity on how this is going to happen.”
For more, go to futureluton.llal.org.uk.
Environmental campaigners gathered to protest against the proposed expansion of Luton Airport outside a consultation event. Protesters from Extinction Rebellion, Friends of the Earth, LADACAN and SLAE joined forces for the peaceful demonstration. The airport plans to build a new terminal and increase passenger numbers from the current 18 million per year to 32 million a year. Former Herts county councillor Amanda King is now an active member of Extinction Rebellion which she set up locally in Stevenage; the airport expansion demo was its first action. She said: “Flying has the highest carbon footprint of all forms of transport. Taking one return flight generates more carbon than people in some countries produce in an entire year. …[aviation] is expected to account for 25% of CO2 emission by 2050.” As well as CO2, the protesters emphasised the airport expansion will also increase noise, traffic congestion and air pollution. The airport knows there will be hugely increased carbon impact from the expansion, as well as the other negative consequences, but falls back on the old chestnut of there being more jobs and more local prosperity. In reality, most passengers using Luton are British people taking leisure trips abroad (spending their money there).
Proposals to expand Luton Airport have been described as “madness” by a Hertfordshire county councillor. The council unanimously voted to oppose further expansion of Luton airport at a meeting on 26th November, as they realised the expansion plans to increase to 32 million passengers a year by 2039 (from almost 17m now) would harm the environment. The airport’s proposals – to be decided by Luton Borough Council – include a second terminal north of the runway, an extensive new airfield infrastructure and a third station. There is a huge conflict of interest, as Luton Council both owns the airport, and decides on its planning applications. At a time of growing realisation of the climate crises the planet faces, and with no realistic ways to reduce the carbon emissions from aviation, the industry should NOT be given permission to expand. The growth plans of airports across the country add up to a massive expansion in the number of flights and passengers, way above what could be compatible even with aiming for net-zero carbon by 2050 (and that is at least 20 years too late). The motion also called for Luton’s plans to be deferred until the new government has set out the Aviation Strategy, for the UK aviation sector, taking into account the advice of the CCC.
Representatives of groups at some of the largest UK airports have written to both the Secretaries of State for Transport, and Housing, Communities and Local Government, to request a halt to airport expansion. The letter asks them to suspend the determination by all planning authorities of applications to increase the physical capacity of UK airports, or their approved operating caps, until there is a settled UK policy position against which such applications can be judged. Many UK airports are seeking – or have announced their intention to seek – planning approval to increase their capacity and/or their operating caps. In aggregate it has been estimated that proposals announced by UK airports would increase the country’s airport capacity by over 70% compared to 2017. There is no settled UK policy on aircraft noise, or policy on aviation carbon and how the sector will, as the CCC advises, “limit growth in demand to at most 25% above current levels by 2050”. The letter says: “Until a settled policy with set limits is established for greenhouse gas emissions and noise there should be a moratorium on all airport expansion planning applications.”
Conservative Bim Afolami, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, has said the proposed expansion of Luton Airport is both “unsuitable” and “unsustainable”, and its growth would be “Bedfordshire’s gain – Hertfordshire’s pain” in terms of noise and pollution. The airport, owned by Luton Borough Council, published its ambitious growth plan – to expand not only to 18 million annual passengers, but to 36 – 38 million – in December. It hopes to reach the 38 million by 2050 with 240,000 flights a year, using its one existing runway. The local geography is such that adding a second runway would be virtually impossible – slopes. Mr Afolami told a Westminster Hall debate on Tuesday that he “was not against airports” and “recognised the jobs and economic growth the airport brings to the UK and to Luton” ….but “The proposed expansion to more than double Luton’s passenger numbers is both unsuitable to the local area and unsustainable in the context of the constraints that exist in rural Hertfordshire. Luton is just not the right place for an airport of the proposed size of 38m passengers. However, Transport Minister Paul Maynard said that the airport was already “actively engaged” in local consultation.
Luton airport is planning to increase its annual number of passengers to 18 million, from around 15 million at present. Work is under way to achieve this, with new buildings, new taxiways etc. However, the airport is now saying it plans to take advantage of an apparent shortage of runway capacity in the south east, in the coming decade, to try to grow to 36 – 38 million annual passengers. This has come as a surprise to many. Only two weeks earlier an airport senior manager was asked what happens when Luton reaches 18mppa, and he said they would flat-line as the terminal could not cope with any more people. The Chairman of LLACC (the Consultative Committee) did not about it either. Also, LLAL (the arm of Luton BC that owns the airport) recently purchased a huge tract of land nearby (Wigmore Park) and said it would not be used to expand the airport but to diversify business-land investment. However it appears that the airport may be planning a new terminal on the land, as the only way to achieve new growth aspirations. Hertfordshire County Council are doubtful about the expansion, raising many possible negative impacts for the area, including surface access traffic.
British Airways is switching many short-haul flights from its second-biggest base, Gatwick, to Heathrow in July. BA has already warned that it may abandon Gatwick permanently, or drastically cut its operations there. For 30 years, Gatwick has been the base for BA’s leisure routes, including Mediterranean, Caribbean, Latin American and Indian Ocean destinations. BA Airways has a majority of the slots at Heathrow, but this summer it will use only a small fraction of them, for its much-reduced international network. The move may help the airline to cut costs, by increasing the efficiency of the operation at its main base, Heathrow. A daytime short haul holiday flight to the Mediterranean can be slotted in between early and late long haul trips, making better use of aircraft and crew. It will also remove some key BA routes from direct competition with easyJet, which is the dominant airline at Gatwick potentially enabling both airlines to increase fares. There may be more BA routes from Gatwick later in the summer, depending on how the Covid pandemic is being dealt with. BA has been described, by the Transport Select Committee, as a “national disgrace” for the way it has treated its staff, forcing them to leave, and then being re-employed on much worse contracts.
Exclusive: Test bookings for July on a range of traditional Gatwick routes, including Alicante, Faro, Jersey and Venice, found they are now departing from Heathrow
By Simon Calder, Travel Correspondent (The Independent)
British Airways is switching many short-haul flights from its second-biggest base, Gatwick Airport, to Heathrow in July.
Passengers booked on the affected flights, as well as BA flight crew employed at the Sussex hub, are being informed of the move.
The airline has already warned that it may abandon Gatwick permanently, or drastically cut its operations there.
For three decades, Gatwick has been the base for BA’s leisure-focused routes, including Mediterranean, Caribbean, Latin American and Indian Ocean destinations.
British Airways has a majority of the slots at Heathrow airport. For the rest of the summer season – which ends in October – it will use only a fraction of them for a much-reduced international network.
The Independent has made test bookings on a range of traditional Gatwick routes, including Alicante, Faro, Jersey and Venice, and found July departures are from Heathrow.
But flights to Barbados, Bermuda and Dubrovnik routes are still shown as departing from Gatwick.
The move may help British Airways cut costs, by increasing the efficiency of the operation at its main base, Heathrow.
A daytime holiday flight to the Mediterranean can be slotted in between early and late business-focused trips, making better use of aircraft and crew.
It will also remove some key BA routes from direct competition with easyJet, which is the dominant airline at the Sussex airport, potentially enabling both airlines to increase fares.
A spokesperson for British Airways said: “We recommend all customers check for the latest on their flight on ba.com.”
It is not clear if the airline will reimburse passengers who have additional expenses as a result of the airport switch.
European air passengers’ rights rules are ambivalent on the subject and BA has not responded to questions about it.
From August, British Airways is increasing its operations, with routes such as Catania in Sicily added from Gatwick.
On Saturday, BA was described as a “national disgrace” by MPs on the Transport Select Committee for what they called its “wanton destruction of a loyal workforce”.
In common with other airlines, British Airways is cutting about 30 per cent of staff – representing 12,000 out of 42,000 employees.
The airline wants to change the terms and conditions of its remaining 30,000 workers.
The committee said: “We urge British Airways to extend its consultation period to allow meaningful consultation to take place as per its legal requirements, and without pre-conditions.”
Willie Walsh, chief executive of BA’s parent company, IAG, responded: “British Airways is fighting for its survival, in the face of overwhelming and unprecedented challenges, while respecting the fundamental British value of the rule of law. This is not a disgrace. Lying down and surrendering without a fight would be a disgrace and we will not do that.”
Air France has just announced plans to cut 8,300 jobs – but through voluntary redundancy. Three hundred pilots, 2,000 cabin crew and 6,000 ground staff, representing about one sixth of the workforce, are expected to go.
Until March, Gatwick was the world’s busiest single-runway airport. On Monday this week, easyJet operated its first flight for 11 weeks, and is now running a skeleton service to and from the Sussex airport.
Norwegian has announced it will resume flying from Gatwick to both Copenhagen and Oslo in July.
Virgin Atlantic has announced it is to cut more than 3,000 jobs in the UK and end its operation at Gatwick airport, due to the collapse in air travel demand because of the Covid-19 pandemic. This comes soon after rival British Airways said it could not rule out closing its Gatwick operation. Virgin was Gatwick’s 9th largest airline, while British Airways was the 2nd largest, after EasyJet, which is largest – Norwegian is 3rd largest. Virgin Atlantic said it will move its flying programme from Gatwick to Heathrow, but it intends to keep its slots at Gatwick “so it can return in line with customer demand”. The job losses amount to about 30% of the total (the job losses at BA are 28%). Virgin Atlantic also plans to reduce the size of its aircraft fleet from 45 to 35 by the summer of 2022. Even the lobby group, Airlines UK admits that “Airlines are having to adapt to a sector that will be smaller and leaner in future, with no guarantees as to when we will return to pre-crisis levels.” When lockdown restrictions ease and flight schedules are increased again, there will be fewer passengers, fewer and probably more expensive flights and thousands of job losses. The area around Gatwick was too dependent on the airport for jobs etc.
British Airways plans, due to Covid, to lose more than 1,100 pilots and make heavy cuts to its Gatwick airport operation as part of 12,000 redundancies – which is up to 30% of its workforce. Letters sent to union representatives for all sections of the airline set out the deep cuts, as well as drastic changes to terms and conditions across the company. BA plans to lay off almost 80% of crew managers at Gatwick and 60% of other cabin crew, more than 1,100 of almost 1,900 staff. The jobs of just over 400 ground staff will be outsourced to the airport and its contractors. The airline knows “there is no certainty as to when services can return” to London City or Gatwick airports. So BA may not continue at Gatwick. And they had “not ruled out suspending the remainder of our Heathrow operation”. Ground staff at Heathrow are also likely to be forced to accept new contracts with significantly lower pay. All 4,346 BA pilots will be asked to sign new contracts changing their terms and conditions, and accept new rostering arrangements. BA will be seeking to lay off 1,130 pilots. Around 22,000 BA employees were furloughed in April and May.
Gatwick has said it will not ask the Treasury for emergency loans despite fearing that passenger numbers will not return to pre-Covid levels for up to 4 years. Gatwick has already secured a £300m loan from existing banks. It has also cancelled dividends, cut a lot of costs and furloughed around 2,000 staff. Boss Stewart Wingate said: “We think it is probably going to take somewhere between 3 and 4 years to get back to the levels that we were at in 2019.” Gatwick hopes it can ride out months of losses, but want to have flights re-starting by the end of May. Unlike rivals, Gatwick said “you should do absolutely everything you possibly can that is within your control to protect the business” before asking for state aid. Gatwick is open from 2-10pm each day, for a handful of flights. Unlike rival Heathrow, which gave out over £100 million in dividends to shareholders in February, Gatwick’s owners will not be taking a dividend despite the airport announcing an 8% rise in earnings of £432m in the 9 months to December 2019. There may not be dividends till 2022. It is possible that British Airways might leave Gatwick in due course.
Flights using Gatwick will slowly restart from 15th June, so noise, air pollution and CO2 emissions are set to increase again. Local campaigners, GACC (Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign) are asking Gatwick to embed noise and other environmental improvements into their recovery plans. During Covid lockdown, Gatwick was only open for a period each afternoon and evening with no night flights. People normally adversely affected by plane noise have benefited hugely from the welcome break from plane intrusion. GACC wants a continuing ban on night flights, especially as air traffic will not return to pre-Covid levels for an unknown time. The Covid pandemic is a unique opportunity for the airport to re-establish a pattern of working that is less environmentally damaging, in terms of noise and carbon. GACC is asking that as well as a night ban, airlines should prioritise flying their least noisy aircraft in their fleets – and provide incentives that encourage airlines permanently to retire older, noisier and more polluting aircraft. Also to use air traffic control to disperse noise, minimise arrival noise impact, and achieve higher, quicker, departures.
15.6.2020 (GACC – Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign)
Flights using Gatwick are expected to increase from 15 June when the airport’s opening hours increase and some airlines recommence operations.
Noise, air pollution and carbon dioxide emission levels are set to increase again.
GACC asks Gatwick to embed noise and other environmental improvements into the airport’s
Airport requested to stay closed at night, encourage quieter aircraft and optimise arrivals and departures so noise is minimised.
Peter Barclay, Chairman of GACC says “Communities around Gatwick and under flight paths have seen significant noise and air pollution benefits over recent months. Many people value these greatly and want to see them retained. In short, we would like the airport to build back better, starting immediately.”
GACC recognises that some much-needed improvements in the airport’s noise and environmental performance will take time and investment. However, it believes there are a number of actions Gatwick and its airline customers should take now to help ensure that the impact of renewing flights is minimised in the short term.
It has therefore written to the airport asking it to:
Peter Barclay is Chairman of Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign.
There are almost no flights at Gatwick, nor have there been for weeks, due to the Covid pandemic lockdown. When flights will resume is not known, but even aviation optimists think it could take 3-4 years (or more) for air travel demand to again reach the level in 2019 – if it ever does. However, the airport says it is still going ahead ahead with plans to bring its current emergency runway into use as a full runway. But local campaign, GACC (the Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign) has written to Gatwick’s CEO, Stewart Wingate, asking the airport to drop its expansion plans, arguing not only that there is no credible demand case, but it would be incompatible with national and local environmental goals. Peter Barclay, GACC chairman, said the group sympathised with employees and others whose jobs had been affected, but believes there is no credible case for expansion at Gatwick. It is also undesirable that the planning process would absorb council and other resources that should be focused on supporting people and businesses impacted by the pandemic. GACC says the plans for the emergency runway should be withdrawn.
Gatwick airport has said will push ahead with plans for a 2nd runway after the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) ruled that the plan for another runway will not require changes to the airspace around Gatwick. That had potentially threatened to pose a significant barrier. The CAA (paid for by the airlines) that is the regulator for the airlines, said that there would be no change to the design of flight paths in or out of Gatwick as a direct result of the new runway, adding: “The environmental impact relating to this proposal is assessed as nil.” (sic) [Presumably they are ignoring the carbon emissions which will not, of course, be nil]. Gatwick wants to have an extra 50,000 annual flights (up from around 285,000 now) by using its existing emergency runway as a full runway, part of the time. The airspace consent by the CAA effectively allows Gatwick to push ahead with a DCO (Development Consent Order), which is needed for the development, Currently the airport has been hit very hard by the Covid pandemic, with flights down by over 98% compared to last year, airlines facing almost no air travel demand, saying they may leave Gatwick, for Heathrow.