|Summaries of, and links to, the latest aviation news stories appear below. News is archived into topics|
For a daily compilation of UK articles on national and regional transport issues, see Transportinfo.org.uk
|For more stories about specific airports see UK Airport News Info Also: Aviation Environment Federation|
Transport & Environment
Anna Aero ACI Europe TravelMole Low cost airline news Press releases from CAA IATA BAA BA Ryanair easyJet Jet2.com FlybeFor climate change ECEEE news and Guardian Climate and NoAA monthly analysisCheck Hansard for reports on Parliament
Latest news stories:
Covid-19: IATA emails reveal airline industry plan for tax breaks, subsidies & voucher refunds
Lobbyists around the world are coordinating a massive effort on behalf of airlines to push governments to remove environmental taxes and set up bailout funds - due to Covid-19. An email from IATA to its members shows how the airline industry is lobbying for public money to be poured into funds to restart or maintain air travel - and for any planned tax increases to be delayed for up to a year. The email describes “an aggressive global campaign” to ensure that airlines can offer passengers vouchers rather than cash refunds if flights are cancelled. This saves airlines money now, and also means CO2 emissions will increase as passengers re-book at a later date, instead of not travelling. Campaigners are concerned that the aid to airlines may last longer than the Covid crisis, even when things are back to (near) normal, and would allow the airline industry to receive public support without any undertakings to governments to reduce future carbon emissions. Governments can’t afford to be bailing out polluting sectors without strict green conditions. IATA also wants the baseline of carbon emissions for CORSIA to be based only on 2019 emissions, not 2019 and 2020 as intended, due to the pandemic this year.
Natural England objects to proposed jet fuel from waste plant, backed by BA, Shell and Velocys
BA has been trying to get some jet fuel made from domestic waste that would otherwise go to landfill, so it can claim it is using "low carbon" fuels. There were plans for a plant in east London, by Solena, back in 2014 but that never got off the ground; Solena went bust in October 2015. Now BA and Shell and Velocys are hoping for a plant on an 80-acre site on Humberside, to convert waste that would go to landfill, into jet fuel. However, Natural England are worried it could harm local wildlife and have filed an objection. Velocys says the plant would turn household waste into 60 million litres of "low-carbon" jet fuel every year. The project is backed by £4.5m of investment from Shell and British Airways, alongside a £434,000 grant from the Department of Transport. In a letter dated 20 February 2020 Natural England said it objects to the development because trucks ferrying waste to the site could increase nitrogen oxide levels - which can cause serious health impacts for humans and wildlife. It is also concerned construction and waste from the site could disturb nearby habitats for rare birds. It is now for North East Lincolnshire Council to decide whether to approve the scheme.
GMB call on Heathrow to reverse “kick in the teeth” reneging on paying London Living wage from April 2020
Historically the GMB union, which has the most members at Heathrow, have lobbied strongly all along the way for Heathrow expansion. They hope for more jobs. Even better paid ones. But Heathrow has often not done much to help its workers. With a struggle, in 2018, the GMB managed to get Heathrow to agree that contracted workers would be guaranteed London Living Wage of £10.55 per hour by April 2020. Now the GMB says workers are devastated to learn that "Heathrow Ltd have informed contract companies within its direct supply chain that is reneging on its agreement to fund implementation of the London Living Wage to its employees that was promised to workers from April 2020 onwards." GMB says this is unfair. Heathrow is currently only working (from 6th April) with one runway due to the dramatic decline in air travel due to Covid-19. The GMB says Heathrow much honour its agreement, to ensure workers (security, cleaning) etc still working at the airport - employed by outsourced contractors - get the Living Wage from April 2020. Workers were expecting this rise in their wage packets this April.
Karl Turner asks: Where next for the UK’s airport policy?
On 27th February 2020 the Court of Appeal declared the Government’s Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS) to be illegal as the Government had not taken into consideration their commitments on climate under the Paris Agreement. So unless Heathrow succeeds in appealing to the Supreme Court, or Shapps amends the ANPS, Heathrow expansion is unlikely to happen. Expansion at Heathrow would have had a negative impact on the regions of the UK. The forthcoming Aviation White Paper [Aviation Strategy] provides the opportunity for Government to have a rethink about its entire aviation policy, particularly with regard to any future airport expansion. At the very most, UK aviation could expand by 25% on its 2018 level. But the current government projections are for 73% expansion by 2050, with various entirely speculative technologies that do not exist, or would be prohibitively expensive, removing the carbon. Alternative fuels are not going to happen on any scale. The government must avoid financial measures that boost aviation demand or support failing airline businesses, which cannot be justified in light of the climate crisis. .
Big airline polluters likely to increase their CO2 emissions post-Covid, unless this is better regulated
The carbon emissions of EU airlines grew in 2019. There will be a steep fall in their emissions for an unknown amount of time, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. But air passenger numbers repeatedly broke records in the aftermath of global shocks such as the 2008 financial crisis, the September 11 attacks, the Gulf War […]
What the Covid-19 pandemic can teach us about changes to life in future, and tackling climate change
There are lots of comments in the media about how society recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic, and the unique opportunity the crisis has provided for a re-think of many aspects of our economies. Governments and business etc will want to go for maximum economic growth, as soon as the crisis has been dealt with. The climate and ecological crises the earth faces will not have gone away, and will continue to worsen unless decisive and effective action is taken. Time may have been wasted on cutting carbon emissions, due to the virus crisis. There is a risk of environmental constraints being abandoned, in the rush for a return of economic growth. But there is also talk of the de-growth economy - slowing of growth in sectors that damage the environment, such as fossil fuel industries, and strengthening others, until the economy operates within Earth’s limits. Such a transformation would be profound, and so far no nation has shown the will to implement it. Coronavirus has caused unprecedented and rapid societal changes, and social constraints that would have been considered unimaginable just 2 months ago. There are practical lessons and opportunities we could take away from the coronavirus emergency as we seek to tackle climate change, though that is neither short-term, nor rapidly overcome.
AEF asks: how should policymakers react to Covid-19 problems for aviation, and plan for the sector’s future?
The global changes to the aviation sector, caused by Covid-19, have been rapid and radical. It would have been impossible back in January to anticipate how many flights would be grounded, how air travel demand would sink, and how many airlines would be struggling to stay solvent. In a thoughtful piece by the AEF (Aviation Environment Federation), they consider how aviation policy needs to be re-thought, when the virus crisis is over. It is an opportunity to re-think society's relationship to air travel, in a world that has been woken up to the realities of a global pandemic, and its consequences. Even when the sector hopes, post-virus, to get back to "business as usual" flying, the long-term danger of climate breakdown remains - and the threat worsens. The AEF says it is time to cease aviation exceptionalism, and the special treatment is gets on environmental policies and regulations. This needs to change. And there should not be measures to cut aviation tax, as demanded by the industry, that increase air travel demand. That is not justifiable. Covid-19 has demonstrated the desire, by millions, to look after and care about the welfare of others. Perhaps this virus wake up call could bring the dawning of a more responsible age.
DfT consultation on “Decarbonising Transport” – nothing of substance to cut aviation CO2
The DfT has quietly published (no press release or announcement - we are in the Covid-19 crisis) a consultation about Decarbonising Transport. The end date is around June, but not specified. Shapps says: "2020 will be the year we set out the policies and plans needed to tackle transport emissions. This document marks the start of this process. It gives a clear view of where we are today and the size of emissions reduction we need." And, less encouragingly: "We will lead the development of sustainable biofuels, hybrid and electric aircraft to lessen and remove the impact of aviation on the environment and by 2050..." (he actually believes electric planes will make much difference in a few decades??). It also says "Aviation, at present, is a relatively small contributor to domestic UK GHG emissions. Its proportional contribution is expected to increase significantly as other sectors decarbonise more quickly." And while saying we are working with ICAO on its CORSIA carbon scheme (unlikely to be effective) the document states: "...we would be minded to include international aviation and shipping emissions in our carbon budgets if there is insufficient progress at an international level." But overall the intention is to let demand for air travel continue to rise.
Gatwick Airport will consolidate operations into the South Terminal from 1 April and limit runway opening hours
Gatwick will close its North Terminal and consolidate operations into the South Terminal from 1 April, for a month, due to the lack of demand for air travel because of COVID-19. The runway to be in use between 1400 and 2200 for scheduled flights, but will be available for emergency landings and diversions only, outside these hours. The situation will be reviewed after a month, by 1st May. A decision on reopening the North Terminal will be taken when airline traffic eventually increases and Government public health advice – including on social distancing – is relaxed. Gatwick is hoping to make out that it is being "responsible" in closing, to protect the health of its staff and passengers, while it has been quite happy to have as many flights as it can, to and from other countries suffering high levels of Covid-19 infection, up until now. It is only closing because of the economics, and to "protect its business." In addition London City Airport has announced that it was suspending all commercial and private flights until the end of April. It is also possible that Birmingham Airport could serve as a mortuary during the Coronavirus crisis.
Fresh indication that the government is not intending to support Heathrow expansion
The No 3rd Runway Coalition believe the Government has given its clearest hint yet that it will not support Heathrow expansion. In reply to a question put by Slough MP Tan Dhesi, the aviation minister, Kelly Tolhurst said that “The Court of Appeal has ruled that the designation of the Airports National Policy Statement has no legal effect unless and until this Government carries out a review”. The fresh use of the word “unless” implies consideration has been given to drop the project altogether. The DfT also state that they are focussed on responding to Covid-19 at the moment, which presents further evidence that Heathrow expansion has slipped down the agenda. The Government also say that they “are carefully considering the Court of Appeal’s judgment and will set out our next steps in due course”. However, it is unclear how long is meant by “due course”. Heathrow is struggling, with few passengers, probably having to close one or more terminals, due to restrictions on air travel for an unknown period of time, due to Covid-19. A recent review of senior staff at Heathrow shows no longer a role for overseeing expansion. Heathrow now also appear not to be pushing for the "early release" of 25,000 extra flights, as this would depend on the NPS, which has now been deemed to be invalid, by the courts.
Chancellor tells airlines that the government will not bail them out, due to Covid-19 crisis
Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, has written to the airlines and airports, warning that there would be no sector-wide rescue to prevent companies going out of business because of coronavirus. He insisted that further taxpayer support for the sector would only be possible once they had “exhausted other options” including raising money from shareholders, investors and banks. Companies have been told to access funding already announced last week, including monthly payments of up to £2,500 for every employee temporarily laid off because of the crisis. In his letter he said that airlines and airports could only seek “bespoke” support from the Treasury as a “last resort”, with no guarantee of further help. The comments follow criticism levelled at Easyjet after it paid shareholders £174 million in dividends last week, despite appealing for taxpayer support. Sir Richard Branson, has also been attacked after the airline told staff to take 8 weeks of unpaid leave. He has since promised to invest £215 million to support his Virgin Group business. Many airlines may go bankrupt due to the virus crisis. Some of the smaller airports may close, and larger airports partly close temporarily.
Glut of jet fuel, as aviation demand is hugely reduced – land storage facilities nearly full – now storage in tankers at sea
The world is close to running out of space to store jet fuel that planes do not need, due to the collapse in air travel because of Covid-19 virus. Only about 20% of land-based storage for the product remains -- about 50 million barrels. There is now a shortage of places to keep unwanted jet fuel supplies. Unless oil refineries stop producing jet fuel, this will get worse. The aviation industry normally uses about 7 million barrels of jet fuel per day. Demand is down by about a third now, and could fall by 50% in the next few months. Airlines might be able to store fuel cheaply (perhaps $75 per tonne for two months) and save themselves money in future. It is unclear how much oil refineries have cut production. While land based sites may fill up, tanker ships can be chartered to store jet fuel at sea. However, there is a limit how long it can be stored, due to concerns about oxidation, stability and moisture content, and it degrades much faster than crude oil. Global oil consumption is being reduced by the coronavirus; as well as less air travel, many people are driving less. Refineries may switch to producing more diesel.
UK government draws up plans to buy airline shares, that would eventually be sold back to private investors, to keep them afloat during Covid-19
The FT has reported that the UK government is preparing plans to buy equity stakes in airlines and other companies hardest hit by the coronavirus crisis, after being warned that the economic packages it has announced so far will not be enough to save them. This is still in discussion. The plans would see the UK taxpayer inject billions of pounds into companies including British Airways in exchange for shares that would eventually be sold back to private investors. The airlines, unlike companies selling essential items, currently have almost zero customers - taking holidays and leisure breaks is no longer desirable, or indeed, permitted. So the airlines and airport will have almost no income. The government plan for the airlines is "an infusion of capital in exchange for equity.” That is safer for the government than a loan, that may never be repaid, even when airlines get back to operating nearly normally. Many airlines already have huge debts. They cannot borrow more commercially. Some airlines wanted state loans and tax relief, but that might not be enough during a sustained shutdown in the global aviation industry. The US might also take equity stakes in their domestic airlines.
Fatih Birol, of IEA, says due to Covid-19 Governments have ‘historic opportunity’ to accelerate clean energy transition
International Energy Agency (IEA) head Fatih Birol is calling on heads of state and international financial institutions to make Coronavirus recovery plans sustainable. He says political and financial leaders have “a historic opportunity” to usher in a new era for global climate action with economic stimulus packages. These stimulus packages are a critical opportunity for governments to “shape policies” in line with climate action. This is a great opportunity to focus, instead of on fossil fuels, on clean energy technologies and accelerating the transition away from fossil fuels. Currently huge sums are spent on keeping the price of fossil fuels low. Instead, now is a unique historic opportunity. This includes the aviation sector, which represents 1% of the global economy but 8% of global oil consumption. When plans to reinvigorate economies get going, they must address climate breakdown; including financial stimuli using low interest rates for low carbon electricity is key - and funding carbon capture and storage technologies. Governments need to increase the production of climate-proof jobs, avoiding jobs in "stranded asset" fossil fuel industries.
Role of ICAO in not encouraging rapid decrease in international spread of Covid-19 by air travel
In the Covid-19 international virus crisis, the airline industry has been they key means by which the virus has spread rapidly, to almost every country. But the industry has been primarily concerned with its own economic interests. There is much more the aviation industry could have done, earlier on, to limit the spread of the disease. The Canadian news website, Ricochet, says only by the 9th March did ICAO's council finally adopted a declaration affirming “the urgent need to reduce the public health risk of the spread of COVID-19 by air transport,” but the damage was already done. Instead of limiting flights as much as possible from the start of the COVID-19 epidemic, ICAO lobbied to delay the adoption of health measures that could harm air traffic. They stressed the role of governments in directing the health checks etc on travellers, avoiding discouraging air travel by those who were likely to have been in contact with infected people. Doing that would have reduced passengers, and thus income and profits for the sector. On Feb 4th ICAO warned governments about imposing “additional health measures that may significantly impede international [air] traffic.” By then the first cases of infection had already been declared two to three weeks earlier in travellers who came from China, most of them by plane.
Heathrow expansion frozen, with Coronavirus crisis adding further costs, uncertainties and delay
Heathrow contractors have been told to down tools, with work put 'on hold' until there is further clarity on any plan for a 3rd runway. It is unlikely to make any progress during the Covid-19 recession, when the number of people flying has been cut to just tiny numbers, and the situation likely to last for at least several months. This comes after the Court of Appeal ruling (27th February) that the Airports NPS is illegal; Heathrow is trying to appeal against this, to the Supreme Court, with a decision on whether to allow the appeal by mid April. Now the delays to the runway plans, if it ever happens, have increased by perhaps another year - due to the Coronavirus. The date when it might be ready has slipped from 2026, to 2029 (due to the CAA decision) to about 2030 (due to the Appeal Court) to about 2031 (due to Coronavirus).... so it is looking less and less likely. The airport will lose huge amounts of money, due to the virus, unless government bails it out - and that is widely NOT seen as a sensible use of government funds, when millions of people also need financial help, due to Covid-19.
Airlines write to ask for government help as passengers no longer travel by air, due to Covid-19
As with so many other sectors and businesses in the UK and elsewhere, the Covid-19 pandemic is causing great difficulties to airports and airlines. Having speeded the spread of the disease round the world, airlines are now seeing a massive reduction in the numbers of people who want to fly. Governments are telling people not to travel. Planes are empty. Airports are empty. Many airlines do not have more than 2 or 3 months of reserves and are asking for government money to bail them out. Airports want help too, as do most other sectors. Whether giving money to airports (eg. Heathrow and Gatwick, owned by rich foreign companies) is a sensible use of scarce public funds, is another matter. Now Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester airports have warned that they may have to close down operations unless there is government intervention to help them weather the virus crisis (that might last for many months more). The Airport Operators Association (AOA) said other airports are in the same position. IATA has said only about 30 of more than 700 airlines operating commercial flights around the world were likely to survive the next few months without help.
EU to suspend rules on slot “use it or lose it” avoiding ‘ghost flights’ rule for 4 months – airlines want longer
The European Commission has now said it will suspend for 4 months the rules on using airport slots, that have forced airlines to keep empty ‘ghost flights’ in the air, as a result of coronavirus cancellations. It is now up to the European Parliament and Council to sign off on the proposal before the rules can be fully suspended - they meet next week. The suspension will be considered to start on 1st March, lasting until 30 June. It can also be extended if necessary. But the airlines want this extended to the end of October. So now airlines do not need to fly an empty plane, just to use that slot, without fear of losing lucrative airport slots in 2021. The current law stipulates that carriers have to use at least 80% of their allotted slots, or they are returned to a common pot for the next calendar year. As well as saving the airlines effort and cost, it will avoid unnecessary carbon emissions. The proposal also back dates the rules to 23 January 2020 from China-bound flights, as that was the first date when Beijing started to close air routes. Airlines are losing money, as passengers stay away. BA said it is likely they will lose a number of jobs, "perhaps for a short period, perhaps longer term.”
Manston DCO decision postponed to May – but would be the first since the Appeal Court ruling on climate impact
Though it has not had much publicity outside east Kent, the application to turn Manston (which has been closed as an airport since May 2014) into a freight airport could be an important case. It was the first airport to have to take its plans through the DCO (Development Consent Order) process, dependant on the Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS). Manston is a crazy place to have a freight airport, being at the north eastern tip of Kent, miles from anywhere. It always failed as an airport in the past, largely due to its location. The Heathrow runway has been blocked by the Court of Appeal, which ruled (27th March) the ANPS is illegal, as it did not take carbon emissions into account properly. That has implications for Manston's plans. Already before the Court judgment, the Manston DCO had been delayed from 18th January, to 18th May. The initial DCO application had nothing on carbon emissions. Something was finally added, because of pressure from local campaigners. Now lawyers say the decision about Manston's DCO could have implications for other airport DCOs in future including Gatwick and Luton, as well as Heathrow.
New report – if the UK seriously wants to be net-zero carbon by 2050, flying will need to be seriously reduced
A new report has been produced by the government-funded research group, called Catapult Energy Systems, whose computer models are used by the Committee on Climate Change, which advises government. The report called "Innovating to Net Zero" looked at various scenarios for the UK to cut its carbon emissions by 2050. It considers that the UK cannot go climate neutral much before 2050 unless people stop flying and eating red meat almost completely. It also warns that the British public do not look ready to take such steps and substantially change their lifestyle. For the world to have a realistic chance of avoiding an average global temperature rise of over 2 degrees C, carbon cuts internationally will have to be made well before 2050. The report says it might be possible for the UK to get to net zero by 2050, but only if ministers act much more quickly. And as well as cutting flying, the UK will only manage to continue with our current lifestyles, if there is a lot of progress on carbon capture and storage with bioenergy crops; hydrogen for a wide variety of uses if there is spare renewably generated electricity; and advanced nuclear power. Even if flying was almost eliminated, the UK is unlikely to reach net zero before 2045.
Ban short-haul flights for climate? In EU poll by the European Investment Bank, 62% say yes
A majority of European citizens would support a ban on short-distance flights to fight climate change, according to a recent survey the European Investment Bank (EIB). Of 28,088 respondents to the survey, 62% favoured a ban. And 72% said they would support a carbon tax on flights. The poll, conducted in September-October 2019, covered the then-28 European Union member states, including Britain. It simply asked about support for a ban on short-distance flights and did not specify the length. Emissions from flights inside the European Economic Area are covered by the EU carbon market, the Emissions Trading System. These CO2 emissions increased in each of 5 years, 2014-2018, according to the latest available EU data. More people are aware of the climate impact of flying, and considering cutting down how much they fly. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has said all sectors must contribute to the EU’s target to reduce the bloc’s net emissions to zero by 2050. The EIB said its survey showed Europeans might support action to tackle climate change, even when it impacts their daily lives.
Biofuels (including for aviation) to drive massive increase in palm and soy demand by 2030
A new report by Rainforest Foundation Norway looks at the impact of global biofuel policies on tropical deforestation. Palm oil and soy, in particular, are biofuel feedstocks that are associated with high deforestation risk. The report analyses biofuel policies in all key markets and assesses. It found the impact on demand for palm oil and soy-based biofuels in the coming decade will be huge, and may rise by over 60 million more tonnes of palm oil by 2030. That is about 90% of current global palm oil production. The demand for soy oil might rise by over 40 million tonnes, about 75% of current production. This would cause an estimated 7 million hectares of deforestation, including up to 3.6 million hectares of peat drainage. There would be tragic loss of biodiversity, including charismatic species like orang utans. The deforestation would cause over 11 billion tonnes of extra CO2 entering the atmosphere, by 2030 (more than China's annual CO2 emissions). The aviation industry is potentially the largest consumer of high deforestation risk biofuels, followed by Indonesia and Brazil. The world is in a dual ecological crisis of climate change and biodiversity loss. This use of biofuels is NOT the answer, to either crisis.
UK due to leave the EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) by end of 2020, transferring all responsibilities to over-loaded CAA
At the end of 2020, when the Brexit transition period comes to an end, the UK will leave the EASA, the European Aviation Safety Agency. From 1st January 2021, responsibility for aircraft and aircraft technology certification, including on safety, across Great Britain will fall solely to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). Currently, the EASA, which is based in Cologne, handles all certification, standardisation, approvals and regulation of civil aircraft and aircraft technology for member countries. Grant Shapps hopes there is the expertise within the UK to carry out the necessary work. However, many British experts in this area and top staff now work in Europe, and may not want to return to the UK. To fill the UK roles, the CAA will have to offer significantly higher salaries. With budget cuts after Brexit, filling the jobs may be much harder than expected. The UK can opt to extend the transition period for membership, for 2 years, if it applies before 1 July. The CAA and DfT are already seriously under resourced, so with the added work load, there will be further significant strains put on them and their ability to respond to community concerns about aviation noise and flight paths.
London City Airport backs down on key expansion proposals – like removing the 24 hour weekend flight ban period
London City Airport has dropped its controversial plans to get rid of the 24 hour weekend break from the planes (Sat 12.30pm to Sun 12.30pm), and also to operate more early morning and late evening flights. It told its Consultative Committee on 6th March that it would not be proceeding with these two key proposals it had outlined in its draft Master Plan which it consulted in earlier this year. Campaigners have worked very hard for this, and are delighted. The airport may still want ultimately to seek to lift the current annual cap on flight numbers, the other main proposal outlined in the draft Master Plan, but did not expect to do so any time soon. London City intends to publish its final Master Plan before the end of the month but has no immediate plans to put in a planning application for more flights. London City’s expansion plans had generated record levels of opposition from local authorities and communities impacted by the airport. The Mayor of London also came out in opposition. London City also told the Consultative Committee that it is continuing the process of reviewing its controversial flight paths as part of the wider airspace changes across London and the SE over the coming years.
Southampton, Exeter, Newquay and Belfast City are the main regional airports likely to have their demand cut by loss of Flybe
The collapse of Flybe, which lost money year after year even when given repeated cash injections, puts the jobs of around 2,000 staff at risk. Almost 1,000 staff are based at Flybe’s Exeter headquarters. Other jobs in the supply chain, in several regions, will also be at risk. It will have considerable impacts on many regional airports, for which Flybe was one of the main airlines. About 95% of the flights using Southampton airport were Flybe. (Southampton is planning to get its runway, currently 1,723 metres in length, extended by 170 metres, to get in more larger planes and more traffic). The airline industry - and still the UK government - are keen to insist we need "regional connectivity" by air. In reality, in a carbon-constrained world, many journeys that do not involve crossing sea, can be done by rail, coach or even by road, with much lower carbon emissions. Other airports that will be seriously affected by the loss of Flybe are Exeter and Newquay, where Flybe operated the majority of flights. Belfast City Airport had about 80% of its flights by Flybe. Blue Islands, the Flybe franchise partner operates flights linking the Channel Islands with Bristol, London City and Southampton, said it was continuing its flights.
Flybe collapses, despite huge investment by its owners – it is not getting more UK government cash
UK airline Flybe has collapsed into bankruptcy after months of talks with the government failed to secure a £100m loan. All flights have been cancelled. It was financially very weak, and the outbreak of Coronavirus hit its demand hard, speeding its demise. About 2,000 staff jobs are at risk. The government had rejected the idea of a state loan to the airline. Flybe had been told there might be a cut in Air Passenger Duty on domestic flights, but that would not happen fast enough to save the failing airline. Flybe was taken over in 2019 by "Connect Airways"— a consortium of Virgin Atlantic, Stobart Air and hedge fund Cyrus Capital - to prevent it falling into administration. Connect agreed in January to invest £30m into Flybe to continue operations, as part of a government rescue package that included APD cuts. Virgin Atlantic had invested over £135 million in Flybe to try to keep it going; that includes about £25m of the £30m committed in January 2020, alongside a "time to pay" arrangement with the Treasury on air passenger duty of £3.8m. Flybe’s administration follows last year’s failure of Thomas Cook, which also went bankrupt. Unless other airlines take up the Flybe routes, demand at many UK regional airports (eg. Southampton, Exeter, Newquay) will be hugely reduced.
Leeds Bradford Airport expansion could now be in doubt – if the landmark Heathrow climate case can be used against it
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.
Heathrow investors may soon realise “the days of plenty are over”, with returns cut
Heathrow's planned 3rd runway plans took a very substantial knock on 27th March, when the 3 Appeal Court judges ruled that the Airports National Policy Statement was invalid. It had not properly taken carbon emissions, and the Paris Agreement, into account. The Government now has to decide what to do about the NPS. The scheme is looking less attractive for its investors. The Sunday Times has written that "Heathrow’s owners, which have siphoned off a stream of dividends over the past decade, are about to learn that the good times are coming to an end." ..."Heathrow was bought for £10.3bn as part of the airports monopoly BAA in 2006 by a consortium led by the Spanish infrastructure giant Ferrovial. After an initial period when lenders restricted dividends, payouts have flowed, while debt has soared. From 2012, the airport has paid out more than £4bn of dividends, including £500m announced last week." Currently Heathrow investors earn more, the more Heathrow spends and builds. "But that may be about to change..." The CAA may soon get much tighter on returns to investors, as they are being with NATS.
Airlines, suffering from fewer passengers due to Coronavirus, want relaxation of 80% slot “use it or lose it” rule
The airlines are feeling the effect of the Coronavirus. It is largely by air travel that the virus has spread so widely, and so fast, to dozens of countries. But the impact of the virus is to reduce air travel, either by people being prevented from flying, or others choosing not to put themselves at risk. So flights are being cancelled, and airlines are worrying about their profits. Currently in the UK, and Europe and internationally at large enough airports, the slots are allocated - and there is a "use it or lose it" rule. If an airline does not use 80% of its slots, it risks losing them. Slots can be hugely valuable, at an airport like Heathrow. In the UK the slots are administered by ACL (Airport Coordination Limited). Airlines are now asking that the slot use rules should be relaxed, even just temporarily while the world waits to see how widespread the Coronavirus becomes. IATA has said it was contacting aviation regulators worldwide and requesting the usual rules governing the use of takeoff and landing slots be put on hold. That has been allowed occasionally in the past. Airlines often "cheat" on the 80% rule, flying small planes, or "ghost planes" to keep up the figure.
Plans for new Lisbon airport opposed by local authorities, and the Dutch (for harm to national bird, the godwit)
There are plans to construct a new airport for Lisbon (Portugal) as the existing airport - Humberto Delgado Airport - is considered by the authorities to be full. Plans have been considered for many years, but a new airport at existing Montijo military air base, near Lisbon, got approval on 8th January 2019 when the government signed an agreement with ANA - Aeroportos de Portugal (the country's airports manager). The Montijos site is on the Tagus estuary, a nature reserve where the godwits, a threatened species, stop off on their way from Africa to the Netherlands. There is now considerable opposition from the Netherlands, where the godwit is seen as the national bird. The planned airport would devastate the areas where godwits feed, and many birds would be culled if the airport was built, for air passenger safety. There is now political controversy about the airport, as in Portuguese law, if local councils oppose a development, it is not permitted. The government wants to over-rule this ability, as various councils led by various political parties are blocking government plans. Due to costs, TAP Air Portugal, has firmly stated it would not move to the new airport.
Letter in Maidenhead Advertiser, and also in the Slough & South Bucks Express and the Windsor, Ascot & Eton Express, showing up the misleading inaccuracies in “Back Heathrow” leaflets
Back Heathrow have distributed a leaflet that says - entirely inaccurately - that “current thinking is that electric aircraft will touch down at major international airports by 2030”, i.e. only 10 years away. That is very misleading. A letter in the Maidenhead Advertiser, the "Slough & South Bucks Express" and "Windsor, Ascot and Eton Express", by a local resident says that rather than purporting to be a residents' campaign group, Back Heathrow is in fact Heathrow’s own campaigner with large funds coming from Heathrow itself. Some other misinformation Back Heathrow puts out includes claims about increased car sharing, improvements in public transport and cutting vehicle generated local air pollution. The reality is that Heathrow car sharing has been promoted for decades for thousands of employees without much success. Heathrow loves air passengers arriving by car, as it makes vast amounts of money from its car parks. Back Heathrow says a 3rd runway “will create economic growth for our nation”, the DfT's ANPS of 2018 shows economic benefit of approximately zero (‘Net Present Value’ after costs over 60 years in the range -£2.5bn to +£2.9bn), even if the airport opened in 2026. That benefit is wiped out by it now being delayed by perhaps 4 years (3 by the CAA limit, and at least one by the Appeal Court judgement).
Gatwick expansion – up to 15 mppa more – using main runway should be subject to planning controls
Gatwick airport intends to expand its number of flights and air passengers, both by increasing numbers on its current runway, and then also by moving its emergency runway slightly north by a few metres, so it can take more flights. The change of the emergency runway would require a Development Consent Order (DCO) as there would be more than 10 million annual passengers, and building work is needed. The increased use of the main runway could add another 15 million annual passengers, which should necessitate going through the DCO process, but as almost no building work is needed, Gatwick is aiming to by-pass this, and make the increases just through permitted development rights. The joint campaign coalition, "Gatwick's Big Enough" (GBE) wrote to the councils in areas affected by Gatwick on this matter. They have received a reply, that the councils believe there is little they can do about the expansion on the main runway, as there are no mechanisms under current planning law to require the airport to submit a planning application. GBE is taking legal advice on the matter. The Appeal Court ruling on the Heathrow runway and ANPS, about the need to take carbon emissions into account, may be helpful here.
GACC welcomes the judgement by the Court of Appeal that ANPS was unlawful – that would also apply at Gatwick
GACC (Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign) welcomes the judgement by the Court of Appeal that the Government’s Airports National Policy (ANPS) was unlawful, as it failed to take into account the Government’s commitment to the provisions of the Paris Agreement on climate change. The ANPS was an important and relevant consideration in respect of applications for new runway capacity and other airport infrastructure elsewhere in London and the South East. GACC believes the Court’s decision therefore raises the bar for all airport expansion decisions. It is good news for communities impacted by any UK airport that wants to expand, and for our environment more widely. For Gatwick the Court’s decision, if confirmed by the Supreme Court, has important implications, as the climate impacts of a new Gatwick runway would be similar to those of Heathrow. Also if Gatwick tries to make greater use of its existing runway, adding another 50,000 annual flights, and another 12 million annual passengers, would be a huge increase in carbon emissions. This would be clearly contrary to the Government’s commitment to achieve net zero carbon by 2050.
The implications of the Appeal Court decision will go far beyond just Heathrow, perhaps to all high carbon developments
The Appeal Court ruled the Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS) illegal, because it had not properly taken into account the obligation by the UK to consider its impact on obligations to the Paris Agreement. The ANPS should have - through the Planning Bill 2008 that set out what an NPS should include - contained an "explanation of how the policy takes account of government policy relating to the mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change." It did not. The implications is the precedent set by the judgement on any large infrastructure project that requires an NPS. But it also goes wider. Many commentators have said this will require the UK government, and other governments, to take seriously their obligations to cut carbon emissions, through their Paris commitments. The court has shown that the Paris agreement has real teeth, and suggests that these targets must now be taken into account in all future big infrastructure projects, including plans for new roads (see below), airport expansion and the building of gas-fired power stations. The extent to which this applies to all planning applications, not just the largest (through the NPS/DCO process) will probably be determined in coming months, by the Courts.
Heathrow expansion blocked by Court of Appeal ruling NPS illegal, for ignoring impact of carbon on Paris Agreement obligations
The Court of Appeal has ruled that the government’s decision to expand Heathrow was “unlawful”, on climate change grounds. This is one of the most important environmental law cases in this country for over a generation, and ground-breaking for ensuring carbon emissions are properly taken into account. The judgement, which sets a key legal precedent, said the government (Grayling as Sec of State for Transport) had wrongly ignored its international climate change commitments under the Paris Agreement. Such an omission was a fatal flaw to the lawfulness of the National Policy Statement, approving a 3rd Heathrow runway. Grayling had accepted flawed legal advice, implying that there was no need to consider obligations to cut carbon, through the Paris Agreement. This judgment has vital wider implications for keeping climate change at the heart of all planning decisions. From now on, every infrastructure spending decision in the UK could face legal challenge if it doesn't comply with the Climate Change Act, which mandates virtually zero emissions by 2050. The government has said it will not appeal to the Supreme Court.
Heathrow expansion abandoned by government – which will not appeal court ruling that NPS was illegal
Heathrow expansion is now very unlikely, after the ruling by the Appeal Court that the government's approval of the Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS) was unlawful. Pushed through by Chris Grayling, as Secretary of State for Transport, it failed to take into account the UK’s climate change commitments. Lords Justice Lindblom, Singh and Haddon-Cave ruled the government did not take enough account of its commitment to the Paris Agreement on climate change when setting out its support for the proposals in its ANPS. The government should have given an explanation about how it was taken into account, but it did not. The UN’s Paris Agreement, which came into force in November 2016, commits signatories to take measures to limit global warming to well below 2C. The government saw the ruling last week, and could have appealed to the Supreme Court, but has decided not to do so. This instruction will have come from Boris Johnson, not only Grant Shapps. Shapps said: "We will set out our next steps in due course." It has become increasingly clear that the Heathrow runway could not pass necessary standards on noise, carbon, cost or air pollution. The legal judgement should be the final nail in its coffin.
Appeal Court ruling on Heathrow expansion will be on Thurs 27th February – Theresa Villiers says the runway should be cancelled
Theresa Villiers – Secretary of State for Environment until a fortnight ago, when Boris had her moved - has spoken out against the Heathrow runway plan. She said the government should cancel it, as it risks worsening air quality and increasing noise pollution for thousands. Heathrow and its backers had failed to present a “convincing” enough case for the runway to go ahead. The judgement at the Court of Appeal will be handed down on 27th February, on the legal challenges against the government for its incorrect backing of the Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS). The DfT had failed to properly consider the impact of Heathrow expansion on the the UK's ambition to be carbon neutral by 2050, and its Paris Agreement obligations. One of the legal challenges is by Friends of the Earth, who have suggested this legal ruling could be the most important environmental law case in the UK for over a generation. Boris Johnson is aware that Heathrow cannot meet a range of conditions, on noise, air pollution, cost or carbon. Adam Afriyie, the Conservative MP for Windsor, said the runway scheme should be scrapped as it was “completely incompatible” with the UK's legally-binding climate target.
New All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) formed, opposing Heathrow expansion
A cross-party group of MPs are joining forces to oppose Heathrow expansion, partly due to the impact it will have on other regions of the country. The group is the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Heathrow Expansion and Regional Connectivity. Members include David Simmonds, the newly-elected MP for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner. The APPG is reformed, due to being dissolved at the election. At its meeting on 25th February, a new report produced by the New Economics Foundation was publicised. This examines the impact of a 3rd runway on the rest of the country, revealing how the DfT has known for some time how Heathrow expansion would damage the regions economically and reduce jobs. It is likely that as many as 27,000 jobs would be lost to the regions as people move to London and the South East. Mr Simmonds said: “Heathrow expansion is being marketed as a benefit to UK PLC, but this report shows it just moves more pollution and economic activity into London, a dis-benefit to our capital and a loss to the regions we are determined to ‘level up’."
Stansted passenger numbers continue to fall – indication that airport growth is not needed
Stansted Airport handled 1.9 million passengers in January, 30,000 fewer than the same month last year, making this its 7th consecutive month of decline. A number of reasons have been suggested for Stansted’s decline, including the non delivery of Boeing 737 Max aircraft to Ryanair, the collapse of Thomas Cook and now also the Coronavirus. However it is noteworthy that Stansted’s main competitor, London Luton Airport, achieved 6.8% growth in passenger numbers during the second half of 2019 whereas Stansted passenger numbers fell by 2.5%. Stop Stansted Expansion say these figures are all the more surprising in view of the many new routes which Stansted has announced in recent months, suggesting that many of its well-established routes have declined quite sharply. Stansted's cargo business also continues to be in decline with the tonnage carried in January down by 20.2% compared to the same month last year. This follows a 9.6% decline in cargo tonnage in 2019. Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) Chairman Peter Sanders commented: “These latest Stansted Airport traffic figures provide further confirmation that there is no need to approve further expansion at Stansted for the foreseeable future."
New Report shows Heathrow expansion to cost the regions £43bn and thousands of jobs over decades
An important new report, Baggage Claim, has been published, by the No 3rd Runway Coalition, on the impact of the runway on the regions. It shows the Government's own figures indicate that by 2050 the runway would divert 27,000 jobs - as well as GDP - from regions, into London and South East. This is the opposite of what the Government claims to be aiming for, to "level up" areas of the UK. The report finds that movement of jobs will impact on the national distribution of GDP; around £43 billion (net present value) would move out of the regions and into London and the South East, by 2050. The data is based on Government data secured by a number of FOI requests. Every region of the UK would lose out, with the greatest impact in the North West and West Midlands if expansion goes ahead. By 2050, the North West would lose up to £14bn in GDP growth and 15,000 jobs. Figures are available for each region. The impact would be to blight parts of the regions. The Coalition finds it incredible that the DfT has known about this, and the economic damage to the regions, but said nothing about it; details had to be extracted by FoI.
Every UK airport has plans to expand – totals WAY above even the CCC advice of only 25% above current level
Every major commercial UK airport has plans to expand, with many hoping to double passenger numbers by 2030. This is in spite of the fact that the UK has the third-highest CO2-emitting aviation sector in the world, after China and the United States. But Brits love to fly and air travel is predicted to keep on increasing, rapidly - despite the UK in theory aiming for net zero carbon emissions in 30 years. Though the CCC advice is that UK aviation should not increase by more than 25% above current levels by 2050. Climate experts know the sector's planned growth should not be allowed. Some examples of the anticipated growth, from airport master plans are: Heathrow - growth from 80 million passengers per year (mppa) in 2018 to 110 mppa in 2030. Gatwick - growth from 46.1 mppa in 2018 to 70 mppa in 2030. Birmingham - growth from 12.4 mppa in 2018 to 18 mppa in 2030. Manchester - growth from 28.2 mppa in 2018 to 38 mppa in 2030. Leeds Bradford - growth from 4 mppa in 2018 to 7.1 mppa in 2030. Bristol - growth from 8.7 mppa in 2018 to 12.5 mppa in 2030. Doncaster Sheffield - growth from 1.2 mppa in 2018 to 3.5 mppa in 2030. Southampton - growth from 1.9 mppa in 2018 to 4.5 mppa in 2030. And so on ....
In 2019 almost 50% of flights by men, and 33% by women, aged 20-45, were for stag and hen dos abroad
An environmental campaigning organisation, called Hubbub - who say they are helping people with "inspiration and practical actions that are good for you and the environment" has done some research on the flying behaviour associated with hen and stag parties. They found that about half of all flights taken by men aged 20-45 in 2019 were for stag dos, while just over a third of flights taken by women in the same age group were for hen dos. These hen and stag dos have become a booming industry, with people no longer content to remain in the UK, as flights are so cheap. But the Hubbub research showed about 60% of those asked felt that the jaunts were too long, expensive and involved excessive travel. About 30% felt resentful about the cost, and the time that sometimes had to be taken off annual holiday. About 60% of those surveyed preferred a UK-based hen or stag, because it was cheaper, easier to get to and a more flexible option. The expense of the foreign hen and stag dos were often considerable, and often higher than a comparable event in the UK. And do places like Prague and Gdansk really want hoards of drunken Brits? Another reason why millennials often have higher environmental footprints than the baby boomer generation.
Heathrow expansion removed from DfT list of ministerial responsibilities for Aviation Minister, Kelly Tolhurst
Kelly Tolhurst has been appointed Aviation Minister (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State) at the DfT. She is the 6th Aviation minister in 3 years - they do not last long. In the DfT reshuffle, the specific mention of Heathrow has now been removed from the list of ministerial responsibilities. When the last Aviation Minister, Paul Maynard, had the job, his list of responsibilities included "Aviation (including Heathrow expansion). Now the equivalent list for Kelly Tolhurst just says "Aviation." This might imply the DfT now sees Heathrow as less important. The DfT were swift to say it was just a matter of wording, and a "stylistic difference"....
Heathrow Hub asks Boris Johnson and Grant Shapps to order a Section 6 Review of the Heathrow 3rd runway NPS
Heathrow Hub, the rival Heathrow runway scheme that wants to effectively build a third runway, onto the western end of the northern runway, has now called on Boris Johnson and Grant Shapps to implement a "Section 6 review" of Heathrow 3rd runway. They say this is due to spiralling costs and also, bizarrely (as their plan also greatly increases CO2) "the incompatibility of the 3rd runway with the Government’s net zero carbon emissions by 2050." Heathrow Hub are very critical of many aspects of Heathrow's planning for its runway, including failure to provide information. They are particularly critical of the lack of details about Heathrow's surface access plans. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has now deemed Heathrow to be a Public Authority and has ordered it to comply with its obligations under the EIR - so it has to respond to FoI requests, such as on surface access plans. Heathrow Hub says Heathrow's latest consultation reveals a scheme that continues to change from the designated ANPS. The Government decision to approve the NPS and "designate" it is being challenged legally, with a judgement by the Court of Appeal expected on 28th February.
Major airlines say they’re acting on climate change – research reveals how little they’ve achieved
Research by Griffith University, New Zealand, has shown that the climate claims of most airlines are pretty thin. Several airlines have announced plans to become “carbon neutral”, or trial new aviation fuels. But looking at the world's 58 largest airlines, when what is being done is compared to the continued growth in emissions, it is nowhere near enough. There have been improvements in the amount of carbon per seat kilometre - the "carbon efficiency." But that is eclipsed by growth in number of flights and passengers. The study found the improved efficiency (fleet renewal, engine efficiency, weight reductions and flight path optimisation) amounted to a 1% cut in emissions, while the industry aims to cut by 1.5%. That was totally outweighed by annual growth of 5.2% in the carbon emitted by the industry globally. Industry figures show global airlines produced 733 million tonnes of CO₂ emissions in 2014. Falling fares and more people wanting to fly saw airline emissions rise 23% in just five years, 2014 -19. Higher-income travellers from around the world have had disproportionately large aviation CO2 emissions; they form a total of 16% of global population, but 62% of global aviation CO2. People need to cut the amount they fly ...
Non-CO2 climate impact of flying could be cut significantly with small altitude changes to avoid contrail formation
Some research by Imperial College, London, indicates that climate impact of aviation could be significantly reduced by making small changes to the altitudes at which planes fly. And more complete fuel burn. Contrails increase warming, due to a blanket effect, especially at night, preventing heat escaping out into space. This causes "radiative forcing." Contrails form as water condenses around the tiny black carbon particles in the jet exhaust. They form more, and last for longer, in some weather conditions than others. While most contrails disappear within minutes, some spread and mix with other contrails and clouds, forming ‘contrail cirrus’ which can linger for as long as 18 hours. The study by Imperial indicated that flying around 2,000 feet lower or higher - avoiding the more humid air - can reduce contrail formation. Reducing the contrails of the planes having the most climate warming impact would help slightly. Unlike contrails, the impact of the CO2 produced lasts for hundreds of years. Flying higher or lower than normal cruise height could increase jet fuel burn and CO2 emissions. Aviation expects to grow fast between now and 2050, with contrail warming a big problem. However, CORSIA ignores this additional non-CO2 warming impact of aviation.
Teesside Airport flight subsidy – an unknown amount of public money – divides mayoral contenders
New flights from Teeside airport (used to be called Durham Tees Valley airport) are being subsidised by taxpayers. Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA) has contributed funds to support six routes from the airport. The amount has not been released due to "commercial sensitivity" but it was believed in 2018 that there would be subsidies of £1 million over 3 years. Now Tees Valley mayoral candidate Jessie Joe Jacobs said the figure should be made public. She said: "If subsidies are going to flights, are we going to see subsidies for buses for places like Port Clarence, where people cannot get to their local hospital without getting a taxi?" With more awareness of climate breakdown, flying shame and increased rail usage, is helping people to take domestic flights sensible use of scarce public funds? The airport was brought back into public hands at the start of last year for £40m as part of a £588.2m investment plan agreed by Labour council leaders and Tees Valley Mayor Houchen. It is owned in a 75/25 split between the TVCA and Stobart Aviation. Its business plan forecasts losses until 2025 after which it just might make a small profit. But who knows, so far ahead. Voting in the mayoral elections will take place in May.
Heathrow ruled to be a “public authority” for information-access, so FoI requests can be made on environmental issues
The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has issued a decision, holding that Heathrow is a "public authority" for the purposes of the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR). This opens up the potential for anyone to ask HAL for information it holds relating to the environment, through a Freedom of Information (FoI) question. This could be on development applications, emissions, buildings, energy consumption, waste and noise. The EIR operate alongside the Freedom of Information Act (FOI Act), and oblige public authorities to disclose environmental information upon request (unless an exemption to disclosure applies). This has arisen because rival builder of Heathrow's runway etc, Arora, asked Heathrow for information. It was withheld. Arora then appealed to the Information Commissioner. They decided that as Heathrow "carries out functions of public administration" it is indeed a public authority, not just a company. This is justified "given the importance of the efficient provision of services at Heathrow Airport to the economy and citizens of the UK". Heathrow may appeal. Other airports might also be considered as public authorities in future...?
Campaigners criticise CAA’s PIR report on Luton flight path changes and noise increase
The CAA have published the results of a post-implementation review (PIR), which analysed the impact of RNAV between its introduction in 2015 and 2017. RNAV means concentration of planes down a narrow flight path, intensifying noise for those over-flown. The CAA concluded that the airspace change "achieved the objectives set out in the original proposal".The introduction of RNAV has meant the majority of departures have moved closer to Harpenden, south Harpenden and the less densely-populated areas of Redbourn, while still not to flying directly over those areas. The number of flights increased by 30% between 2015 and 2017, but the PIR says the flight paths was not an "enabler" for an increase in airport capacity, or for an increase in flights during the early morning and late evenings. The CAA says the increase in noise complaints 2015 - 2017 was due to there being more plane - not the narrowing of the flight paths. Local campaigners are angry and disagree with the CAA, saying much of the noise nuisance is due to RNAV, not just more flights. Andrew Lambourne (LADACAN) commented: "The whole thing feels like a rubber-stamping exercise, and was not worth waiting three years for."
Has Boris Johnson used approval for HS2 to kill Heathrow Expansion?
In announcing that the government is approving HS2, the Prime Minister spoke of the importance of delivering prosperity to every part of the country. Boris said: “Passengers arriving at Birmingham Airport will be able to get to central London by train in 38 minutes, which compares favourably with the time it takes to get from Heathrow by taxi .... [and is] considerably faster than the Piccadilly line”. Was this a subtle alert to the negative economic impacts on every part of the country (save the South East) of expanding Heathrow? The DfT has known for a long time that a 3rd Heathrow runway would mean most regional airports would lose significant volumes of flights. Asked about Heathrow, Boris said he sees no "immediate prospect" of bulldozers, or any start to work to expand Heathrow. If £106 billion of public money will be spent on HS2, (much of that on the London to Birmingham section) this will increase anger about the disparity of spending on the regions and the south-east. With more fast rail travel between London and Birmingham, air passenger demand from the south-east could move to Birmingham, reducing any logic there was for a larger Heathrow.
Bristol Airport expansion plans rejected by North Somerset council by 18-7
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 huge 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.
Kirklees council urged not to back Leeds Bradford expansion plans – due to climate impact
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."
High Court won’t intervene on Stansted planning application being regarded as an NSIP
Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) has expressed disappointment at the High Court decision, announced that the Secretary of State for Transport does not have a statutory duty to treat the current Stansted's planning application as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP). SSE challenged the decision that the plans were not considered to be an NSIP in mid November. Though Uttlesford District Council originally approved the expansion plan in November 2018, the council then rejected the plans (new councillors after council elections) on 24th January 2020. It is likely that Manchester Airports Group, the owners of Stansted airport, will appeal against the Uttlesford decision, so the issues would be examined at a Public Inquiry, with the Secretary of State making the final decision. That means that whether the airport's expansion plans are regarded as an NSIP, or if the airport appeals, the final decision would be by the Secretary of State. And SSE says the NSIP route would be cheaper for all concerned.
“Absolute Zero” report by UK academics: the only way to hit net zero by 2050 is to stop flying
In probably the best, more sensible (and most radical) comments on the future of aviation to date, Professor Julian Allwood (Cambridge University) and a group of academics from 6 UK universities, say there is no alternative but to cut aviation drastically. It is futile for the industry to hope for electric planes (which just might be a possibility by 2050, but only IF there is spare low-carbon electricity available). It is futile for airlines to pretend they can use low-carbon fuels, (these could only be made IF there is spare low-carbon electricity available). And it is unacceptable to pretend CO2 emitted is going to be captured, removed from the atmosphere, and stored. Not without vast use of energy. Tree planting only goes so far: we must increase the total area of forest in perpetuity to produce a one-off reduction in atmospheric CO2. The academics suggest closing most UK airports by around 2030, and closing just about all by 2050, to genuinely have no carbon emissions (offsets do not count). Only if there is spare low-carbon electricity available after 2050, could flying re-commence using electric planes or genuinely low carbon fuels. They say: "Bold announcements of “net-zero” targets by sunset industries such as fossil-fuel aviation cause confusion and delay the policies required to phase them out."
ASA rule against Ryanair ad (greenwash) claim to have the lowest airline CO2 emissions
Ryanair has been accused of greenwashing after the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) banned an ad campaign, that tried to make out the airline has the lowest CO2 emissions of any major airline in Europe. It has been ordered to withdraw the misleading claims about its “green” credentials. Ryanair is in fact one of the top 10 carbon emitters in the EU, due to the number of flights. Ryanair probably has lower CO2 per passenger kilometre than many other airlines, as it has newer planes, and crams its planes full. But its rapid growth has meant its CO2 increased by 50% between 2013 and 2019. The ASA pointed out failings in the way Ryanair compared itself to other airlines, to make its carbon claims; it did not include all airlines or seating density; it did not substantiate its claims. The growth of Ryanair, and of air travel in general, in Europe has been due to the sector paying no jet fuel tax, making flying artificially cheap. The CO2 emissions of all flights departing from EU airports have grown from being 1.4% of total EU emissions in 1990 to 3.7% today.
Letter countering the deliberately misleading BackHeathrow leaflet on Heathrow and carbon emissions
Back Heathrow has again put out one of its deliberately misleading leaflets, "How Heathrow can expand and tackle climate change," aimed at getting local people to support its expansion plans for a 3rd runway. This time it is claiming to be low carbon, and reassure people that the carbon emissions from its flights will not be an issue. It goes on about electric planes (not remotely feasible for large scale transport for decades, if ever). A local resident has written to counter the greenwash nonsense. He says: "The Government's own Committee for Climate Change has said “there are likely to be no commercially available zero-carbon planes by 2050, particularly for long-haul flights”, and this “will require breakthroughs in battery energy density to become a commercially viable proposition.” " ... and Heathrow "say that despite 700 more flights per day, they will reduce the number of cars to and from the airport but they have not made any progress doing so, because they can charge high amounts for parking, and their plans include 2 new 25,000 space car parks." And many other great points, to demolish the self-serving nonsense in the Back Heathrow leaflet.
Aviation industry body (oxymoron) “Sustainable Aviation” hoping its new greenwash will persuade folk aviation growth is fine ….
The aviation industry is nervous of the growing awareness of the looming climate crisis and the need for personal responsibility for air travel CO2. So they are working to try to persuade the public that aviation is fine, and the the carbon emitted is really not a problem. They have it sorted. This is, of course, just greenwash. They are assuming the public is very stupid, or wilfully wanting to be deluded, to believe there will be no extra CO2 in the atmosphere, with 70% more flights. The aviation industry body calling itself (oxymoron!) "Sustainable Aviation" is trying to say UK aviation will be, quotes, "net carbon zero by 2050". The industry can certainly make some little changes in engines, flight paths, operations etc, to cut a bit of carbon. That is far outweighed by the growth in passengers and flights. They have crazy hopes for low carbon fuels, which themselves would cause huge environmental problems. The rest is offsets. All that means is carbon reductions being made elsewhere are bought by the aviation sector, and are effectively cancelled out by the growth in air travel. It is not a solution. Aviation knows it. Greenpeace said: “This whole strategy is a flight of fancy. Carbon offsetting is simply an excuse to carry on with business as usual while shifting the responsibility to cut emissions to someone else, somewhere else, and some other time. It’s greenwash pure and simple and ministers should be wary of lending it any credibility.”
Ferrovial threatens to pull out of Heathrow if CAA does not let it make large enough returns
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.
Heathrow runway would increase Scotland’s aviation CO2 by more flights Heathrow to Scotland
If Heathrow got a 3rd runway, it is very likely to increase the amount of carbon produced by more flights from Edinburgh and Glasgow, to Heathrow. The extra flights and destinations at Heathrow would entice more Scottish people to fly south, to make the connections. It is estimated this might be an extra 5,000 flights per year (ie. about 14 more per day), with several hundred thousand extra tonnes of CO2. If travellers from Scotland, wanting to fly from Heathrow, took the train, there would be less carbon emitted. Increasing flying, whether from Scottish airports, or from Heathrow, is entirely at odds with Scotland's aim of cutting carbon emissions and becoming a net-zero country by 2045, which is 5 years earlier than the current (inadequate) UK target of 2050. Colin Howden, director of the sustainable transport alliance, Transform Scotland, said the Scottish government's plans to cut a tiny bit of aviation carbon by looking at electric planes for some short trips in the Highlands and islands, would be entirely eclipsed by the increase in flights to Heathrow.
‘Lives will be blighted’ by £150M Leeds Bradford Airport plans say protesters after ‘die-in’ at meeting
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.
Client Earth taking the UK government to court over Europe’s largest gas plant at Drax, despite advice against it
ClientEarth have launched a High Court challenge against the UK government for its decision to approve plans for Europe’s largest gas plant, 4 new gas turbines, at Drax. The Secretary of State, Andrea Leadsom, approved the application despite the Planning Inspectorate recommending the plans be rejected on climate grounds, as the project’s climate impacts outweighed any benefits. Leadsom's decision undermines the UK’s path to cutting CO2 and building a more sustainable energy sector. With our global climate emergency, we can’t afford the UK to be locked into heavily polluting gas power for decades to come. The Government’s own climate body, the Committee on Climate Change, has warned there should be no more gas on the UK grid by the mid-2030s without carbon capture and storage. ClientEarth argues that the UK will need just 6GW of new gas generation to 2035 and they have already approved 15GW worth of large-scale gas plants. This does not fit in the UK's carbon targets. (Neither does allowing extra runways and aviation expansion).
Government’s independent noise advisors ICCAN confirm that the impact of aircraft noise has been underestimated
It is highly significant that the government's independent body looking into the problem of aircraft noise has said the previous study, SoNA, was inadequate. ICCAN declared the DfT’s evidential basis for assessing the noise impact of Heathrow expansion to have been “inappropriate” and did not properly reflect the numbers affected by plane noise, or the impacts. The Chair of the No 3rd Runway Coalition said: "And were expansion to proceed at Heathrow ... a scandal would be in the making. When the DfT claimed that merely 97,300 more residents would be exposed to adverse aircraft noise, the Transport Select Committee concluded that the DfT’s methodology was “not of the real world”. Indeed, under a freedom of information request, we then learned that an internal DfT study had implied 2.2 million people would be affected – if the department had only applied the more realistic noise thresholds used elsewhere."..."We remain startled that a government department, purportedly responsible for protecting communities from aviation noise, should plough on in this reckless – and perhaps deceitful – manner."
Leeds Bradford Airport wants to cut night-time period by 90 minutes to just 11.30pm to 6am
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 the airlines. The plans will be discussed by Leeds City Council's on January 30; the airport may submit a planning application in the coming months.
Stop Stansted Expansion calls upon Manchester Airports Group to respect Uttlesford DC decision
Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) has called upon the Manchester Airports Group (MAG) - owners of Stansted airport - to respect the Uttlesford District Council (UDC)’s decision to refuse the airport's latest expansion proposals - and has urged MAG not to appeal against the decision. Welcoming the Council’s decision to refuse permission, SSE Chairman Peter Sanders said: "I would firstly like to express appreciation and gratitude to the Uttlesford councillors on the Planning Committee not only for reaching this decision today but also for the very thorough and professional manner in which they have dealt with this Planning Application. I believe that I speak not only for Stop Stansted Expansion in this regard but for almost the entire local community." If MAG lodges an appeal against UDC’s refusal to the Secretary of State, the consequence could be a lengthy public inquiry and continued uncertainty for the local community for another year or more. If there is an appeal, SSE has pledged itself to support UDC in presenting the case at public inquiry. This should assist in minimising costs whilst also sharing technical expertise.
CPRE report shows UK monitoring of aircraft noise ‘seriously underestimates’ disturbance to people’s quality of life and health
CPRE is calling on the Government to improve the way it monitors aircraft noise after new research shows current maps seriously underestimate the problem. This comes at a time when there are proposals for airport expansion across the country, and as the Government prepares a new aviation strategy. The research, commissioned by CPRE, was carried out by Aviation Consultants, To70. It looked at the impact of noise pollution at lower levels than those usually mapped in the UK now. These lower levels, already used for monitoring noise pollution in other European countries, are believed to be a better indicator of the true impact of noise pollution below and near flight paths. The report uses Gatwick airport as an example, but the findings would apply at any airport. Currently the standard measure above which plane noise is regarded to "annoy" people if 55dBALden (a noise average),but this is far too high. A noise contour is produced for this noise level. But the WHO recommends reducing aircraft noise levels to 45 decibels in the day. The noise contour for 45dB is hugely larger than that for 55dB. CPRE says the government should commission independent research into the impact of aviation noise on health. Also that the ICCAN should be given statutory powers on noise.
Stansted Airport expansion definitively rejected by Uttlesford council
Stansted expansion plans have been rejected by Uttlesford District councillors at a special planning committee meeting. The decision was made with 10 councillors voting to overturn the previous approval, and two councillors, who were also members of SSE, abstaining. Officers had recommended approval of proposals to increase the airport's passenger cap from 35 million to 43 million per year. The expansion had included 2 new taxiways and 9 new hangars, expanding the number of flights it can handle from 227,000 up to 274,000. There are about 28 million passengers now per year. Originally the council approved the plan, giving it conditional permission, but after the Residents for Uttlesford group took control from the Conservatives in May, the decision was referred back to the committee. The councillors who voted for expansion in 2018 lost their seats last year. Council officers said there were no new material considerations to justify a different decision from the one made in November 2018 when the plans were approved. It was a 7 hour meeting, "in which the chairman had to tell members of the public to stop applauding those opposing the plans." It is possible MAG, which owns Stansted, may appeal.
Major Italian oil company fined €5 million for adverts greenwashing diesel made from palm oil
Italian oil giant Eni has been fined €5 million over its greenwashing of palm-oil based diesel as ‘green’. It ran a major marketing campaign to con consumers into mistakenly believing its ‘Eni Diesel+’ had a positive impact on the environment. T&E and an Italian environmental organisation had complained about the adverts. The ruling and fine deliver a blow to attempts by fossil fuel companies to portray biofuels to politicians as a way to decarbonise transport. In practice, diesel made from any sort of food crop causes deforestation due to indirect land use change (ILUC) impacts. Use of palm oil drives destruction of rainforests and wildlife, and EC data shows biodiesel from palm oil is 3 times worse for the climate than regular diesel when ILUC is accounted for. In March 2019 the EU ruled that the use of palm oil in diesel will be gradually reduced from 2023 and should reach zero in 2030, with some exemptions. But palm oil producing countries like Malaysia and Indonesia are pushing hard for palm oil to be used to produce jet fuel, with the pretence that it is lower carbon than conventional fuel.
Alistair Osborne in the Times, on how Virgin/ Branson have made fools of the government over Flybe bailout
Alistair Osborne, in the Times, writes about Flybe and the con that has been perpetrated, to get it given government finance. Flybe is 30% owned by Delta and Virgin Atlantic, with 30% owned by Stobart and 40% by New York hedge fund Cyrus Capital. Last February, the trio bought Flybe’s assets for just £2.8 million. Flybe has the contract to operate 4 daily flights from London to Newquay, partly paid for by Public Service Obligation (PSO) by government and Cornwall Council. This is paid in the belief that the flights are "essential" for "connectivity" but are not commercially viable. (Most passengers in fact are on leisure trips). Those Heathrow slots are very valuable to an airline, and could be used for flights that bring in more profit for the owners. A slot pair at Heathrow can fetch $75 million. Flybe has got the flights moved from Heathrow to Gatwick. Newquay-Gatwick offers far fewer international connections than Heathrow. The Heathrow slots will be used for other more profitable Flybe flights, feeding Virgin services. "And now Flybe’s owners have made fools of the rest of the nation by convincing ministers they need some sort of taxpayer bailout."
Scientists appalled at government’s support for high-carbon airline industry, and Matt Hancock ill-informed comments
A letter from a group of leading scientists, in the Independent, criticises the support of this government for the high-carbon emissions airline industry, and the grossly misleading statements made by Matt Hancock (Sec of State for Health) to justify this bailout. On 15 January, he gave his unqualified support for the airline industry on BBC Radio 5 live. He claimed that dealing with the climate emergency does not require any change in our demand for flying, and (mistakenly) thinks electric planes will be a future solution. He said aviation has been decarbonised, which is categorically wrong. Small improvements in aircraft fuel efficiency are far outstripped by the industry's rate of growth. These positions are at odds with the scientific evidence and the need for deep and immediate reductions in the UK’s emissions. Matt Hancock clearly has no grasp of the huge technical challenges in decarbonising aviation. It is of concern that a Secretary of State can be so misinformed. Flying already constitutes 10% of the UK’s carbon emissions and is predicted to rise by 300% by 2050 unless urgent action is taken.
Sadiq Khan announces green new deal for London if re-elected in May, and says Heathrow 3rd runway would be “catastrophic”
Sadiq Khan has announced that he would introduce a green new deal for London and make the city carbon-neutral by 2030 if re-elected in May this year. He also outlined the steps that he would take in the future to combat the climate crisis, and air pollution. He said his plans "will help to address the inequality that exists in our city and create the green jobs and industry that can sustain our communities in the future.” Asked about Heathrow expansion, Sadiq Khan said: “A new runway at Heathrow would be catastrophic… I think that a new runway at Heathrow won’t happen for the foreseeable future because of the legal challenges going ahead.” The election for Mayor will be on 7th May, and is a two-horse race between Sadiq and the Tory candidate, Shaun Bailey. Other cities such as Copenhagen and Oslo have made similar commitments to become carbon-neutral.
Delay till May for Shapps to decide whether to allow Manston Development Consent Order (“DCO”)
The decision by the DfT on whether to re-open Manston as an airport again for air cargo has been delayed for four months. It had been expected on 18th January. The airport has been closed since 2014. RiverOak Strategic Partners, the consortium behind the scheme, had applied for the airport to be considered as a nationally significant infrastructure project. Having had 3 months to digest the Planning Inspectorates' report, the DfT now want more information from RiverOak by 31 January. The Secretary of State (SoS) Grant Shapps has set a new deadline of 18 May 2020 for the decision to be made. The Aviation Strategy is expected before summer recess, with the DfT consultation on climate imminent, so the DfT are giving themselves until May to avoid shooting themselves in the foot on carbon, as they did with Flybe. RiverOak are trying to argue that Manston could be successful on cargo, as "the air freight market is ripe for an alternative to the overcrowded London airports system". Some people in the area are hoping Manston could provide jobs; others are deeply concerned about the noise from old freighter aircraft during the night, flying over residential areas (the approach path is right over Ramsgate).
Why the government’s plan to use public money to bail out Flybe is wrong, and the airline is doomed to fail
There are many reasons (ignoring CO2) why spending public money to bail out Flybe is wrong. In the Times, Alistair Osborne criticises the plan to effectively pay Virgin Atlantic and Delta, that now own Flybe. They are rich companies, well able to fund Flybe, which they only bought a year ago. It is a blatant misuse of taxpayer money to pay companies like Virgin, and billionaire Branson. Flybe has a lot of its own problems, which is why it is in debt and cannot make money. These include that Flybe has too many planes, 68 aircraft still flying. An airline analyst said Flybe struggles to compete with low fare carriers, like Ryanair and EasyJet, as their cost per seat is higher. They have been a victim of circumstance: rising fuel prices, an economic slowdown brought on by Brexit and a depreciation of the pound against the dollar. Maybe also the increase in "flight shame" and more carbon awareness. Flybe does not have a hub airport base, which increases costs, and its network is fragmented low frequency routes. The focus on APD is misleading as the reason for its decline.
Airline offsetting is a distraction from policies that can actually reduce aviation CO2 emissions
Andrew Murphy, aviation expert at T&E, explains why offsetting does not work to remove the carbon flights emit. He gets asked about this a lot. He says: "It's a reality that people fly more and more regularly ...for some it is unavoidable ...What’s equally unavoidable is the climate impact of those flights ... There is no “green option” for flying ... Offsetting is just paying someone else to reduce your emissions, rather than reduce your own. For example, investing in renewable energy or tree-planting in some other part of the globe. ... Do carbon offsets work? ... Many have called them modern day papal indulgences ... offsetting most certainly will not wipe your carbon slate clean ... they won't work in practice, and they won't work in theory ... [trees planted may not survive, a solar farm might have been built anyway] ... there is the problem of "additionality" ... some offsets are when parties set weak targets for themselves, and sell you any overachievement as an offset. No extra emissions are reduced ... While offsetting by individuals is, at worst, ineffective, Governments implementing offsetting schemes worse (eg. Corsia) - a distraction from effective policies that can actually reduce aviation emissions." Read the whole blog.
Flybe saved after ministers agree a government loan + deferral of APD, and review of APD on domestic flights
The immediate future of Flybe was secured on 14th January evening, after ministers agreed a rescue deal with shareholders to keep the loss making regional airline flying. The package of measures includes a potential loan in the region of £100m and/or a possible short-term deferral of a £106m air passenger duty (APD) bill to the Treasury, to help it sort out its debts. Also a pledge to review APD on domestic flights before the March budget. Flybe’s owners Connect Airways – a consortium led by Virgin Atlantic – were persuaded to commit millions more to cover ongoing losses. The government is still in negotiations to finalise any loan to Flybe. The deal was condemned by IAG as “a blatant misuse of public funds” and Virgin “wanting the taxpayer to pick up the tab for their mismanagement of the airline”. Moves to cut APD on domestic flights are totally at odds with any serious attempt to cut CO2 emissions from aviation, as most UK domestic trips can be made on (lower CO2) rail routes. Air travel is already subsidised, by paying no VAT or fuel duty. Some routes deemed socially necessary could be subsidised under EU rules – Flybe’s Newquay to London route is already funded from taxpayers.
Any plans by UK government to remove APD on domestic flights would be unhelpful on CO2 emissions
Responding to the news that Boris Johnson's Tory government is considering dropping all APD on domestic flights (just cutting it for Flybe would not be legal, for competition reasons) groups that understand about the need for cuts in carbon emissions reacted with dismay (to put it politely). Doug Parr, chief scientist at Greenpeace, commented: "This is a poorly thought out policy that should be immediately grounded. The Government cannot claim to be a global leader on tackling the climate emergency one day, then making the most carbon-intensive kind of travel – flying – cheaper the next. Cutting the cost of domestic flights while allowing train fares to rise is the exact opposite of what we need if we’re to cut climate-wrecking emissions from transport. The aviation sector has got away for years with increasing its carbon footprint. The last thing we need is another incentive for them to pollute more.” Caroline Lucas commented on Twitter: "Addressing #Flybe problems by reducing #APD on all domestic flights is utterly inconsistent with any serious commitment to tackle #ClimateCrisis. Aviation already subsidised - no tax on fuel. Domestic flights need to be reduced, not made cheaper." Jenny Bates at Friends of the Earth said on Twitter: "APD cut on domestic flights would be "unacceptable & reckless” we at @friends_earth say-we must cut aviation emissions not encourage them."
Government considering UK APD cut to save loss-making airline Flybe
Flybe is one of the main airlines that fly domestic routes in the UK - 38% of them. Currently air passengers pay £26 APD on a return domestic flight (and £13 on a return flight to a European airport). Flybe has been struggling for years, as many of its routes are not profitable. It said in October that it recognised, with growing awareness of the higher CO2 emissions from a flight that using the train or coach, (and "flight shame") that some of the domestic routes should be scrapped. Now Flybe cannot pay its APD bill to the government - about £100 million over three years. So the government, which talked up the importance of regional connectivity before the election, is considering removing APD from all domestic flights. That would be entirely the opposite of what is needed, to tackle UK carbon emissions, and those from UK aviation in particular. Aviation is already subsidised by not paying VAT. The loss to the Treasury from cutting domestic APD would have to be made up by taxation from other sources. It is not as if all domestic flights are vital to the economy. Most are leisure passengers, making trips to visit places or people, friends or family.
Heathrow timetable – it will not submit its DCO till end of 2020 at earliest; final decision might be early 2022
The earliest the Transport Secretary (currently Grant Shapps) could make a decision on the 3rd runway would be the end of 2021, or perhaps early 2022. The Standard said it might be the end of 2020. That is not possible. Heathrow hopes to submit its DCO (Development Consent Order) to the Planning Inspectorate at the end of 2020, or it could be delayed into 2021 if they run into problems meeting the requirements of the Airports National Policy Statement. The Planning Inspectorate will launch an inquiry which takes 9 months and then the Inspector will take 3 months to make a recommendation to the Secretary of State - who then gets to make a decision. There is no mechanism for the Secretary of State to make a decision before the conclusion of the planning inquiry unless the government enacts a review under section 6 of the Planning Act 2008 if it feels "there has been a significant change in any circumstances on the basis of which any of the policies set out in the statement was decided."
Nicola Sturgeon defends just “reviewing” support for Heathrow 3rd runway, not yet opposing it
The Scottish Government signed a memorandum of understanding with London Heathrow Airport in 2016, backing a 3rd runway in exchange for commitments to Scotland, including creating up to 16,000 new jobs in England. [That figure was always absolute nonsense, based on incorrect extrapolations from incorrect data showing inflated alleged financial benefits of the runway]. Now Nicola Sturgeon has defended the Scottish Government's stance on the runway, to just review its decision to support it - hoping Scotland would get some economic benefits, eventually. But in view of climate concerns, and the huge increase in aviation CO2 the 3rd runway would generate, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie raised the matter, and asked why Nicola Sturgeon is continuing to review the issue, instead of ending the SNP's support. He said: "Climate change has brought Zambia to the brink of famine, Australia has been burning since September, the ice caps continue to melt. Yet the First Minister continues to support Heathrow expansion." The Scottish Government will bring forward an updated draft climate change plan by the end of April.
Heathrow application to Planning Inspectorate for DCO now delayed from summer 2020 to “towards the end of the year”
Heathrow had originally intended to start its DCO (Development Consent Order) application by the middle of 2020. Now that the CAA has restricted the amount Heathrow can spend on early development costs, the timetable has slipped. Instead of hoping a 3rd runway might be read for use by 2026, that date is now more like 2029. Heathrow says it plans to hold another consultation from April to June, and then feed responses from that into its DCO, which might be submitted to the Planning Inspectorate towards the end of 2020. That is perhaps a 6 month delay. Some time after the middle of January, the Appeal Court ruling on the legal challenges, against the government's approval of the Airports NPS, are expected. The DfT was intending to publish its Aviation Strategy in the first half of 2019. This is now delayed due to changes on carbon emissions, with the UK changing from an 80% cut on 1990 levels by 2050, to a 100% cut (ie. "net zero") and advice on aviation carbon from the Committee on Climate Change.
New calls by CAGNE on Grant Shapps and MPs to curb Gatwick expansion plans
Campaign group, CAGNE, against the expansion of Gatwick, are appealing to newly-elected MPs to help curb the airport’s growth plans. They are also urging local residents, along with the MPs, to protest to the Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps. CAGNE says Gatwick’s expansion proposals will lead to an extra 55,000 flights per year by 2033 - and that there is insufficient infrastructure to cope with the growth. It will also lead to large increases in noise levels and CO2 emissions, which are environmentally unsustainable. Air quality will also deteriorate. CAGNE is calling on transport secretary Grant Shapps to subject Gatwick's expansion proposals to more scrutiny by declaring the proposals a ‘National Significant Infrastructure Project’ (NSIP), which requires it to be subject to a different process than a smaller expansion, of under 10 million more annual passengers. A project that qualifies as an NSIP has to go through the Development Consent Order process. CAGNE said in their letter to Shapps that Gatwick's growth plans "are neither compatible with the current climate emergency, nor with achieving the Government‘s net zero carbon target."