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Latest news stories:
Heathrow with £17bn debts wants to raise £1.7bn from higher airport charges
Heathrow’s attempt to increase airport charges by £1.7bn sparked anger recently, and were rejected by its regulator, the CAA. British Airways’ owner IAG said it was “staggered” by the demand, as Heathrow has very rich wealth fund owners, who could help the airport with funding. Heathrow is claiming they are within their rights to ask for the price rise. They say their regulatory framework allows it to pass on “exceptional costs” to airlines, and ultimately customers. Many in the airline industry, which does not want higher costs for its passengers, were surprised and impressed by the CAA decision, against Heathrow. One said: “In the past, the CAA has rolled over. For once they have shown their teeth.” Heathrow is immensely in debt, owing banks and bondholder £17 billion. In September, its passenger number was under 20% of its 2019 level. The cost of its 3rd runway plans (now postponed indefinitely?) could be over £30 billion. It is estimated that Heathrow needs 43 million annual passengers, just to cover its interest bill of around £500m. Heathrow at risk of breaching its banking covenants, which when tested in December, will require it to keep debt below 95% of the regulated value of its assets.
CAA tells Heathrow’s owners to invest more in the company, or risk state takeover
The CAA has warned the foreign funds behind Heathrow that the airport is threatened with nationalisation if they do not inject new money to help it cope with the pandemic. They said that without emergency funding from shareholders including several sovereign wealth funds, Heathrow faces a similar fate to Railtrack, the former FTSE 100 company that collapsed in 2001 with debts of £3.5billion; then taxpayers took back control of the rail network. The CAA has rejected Heathrow's demand for permission to increase its airline and passenger charges, and the airport has paid out £4 billion in dividends since 2012. It has paid £2.1bn in dividends over just the past 4 years. Heathrow has threatened court action if the CAA does not allow it to set higher charges, which it claims it is entitled to. Heathrow has massive debts, owing over £17 billion to banks and bondholders, but it claims it has enough cash to see it through till 2023. However, it has been handling at best 30% as many passengers in recent months, compared to the same time in 2019. Shareholders “need to be fully aware of the projected liabilities of the companies in which they invest and the performance risks they face”. The CAA is now consulting the industry on its proposed rejection of Heathrow’s call for higher charges.
AEF’s excellent “Airports Expansions Guide” updated – useful summaries of all UK airport expansion plans
The Aviation Environment Federation (AEF) has produced a very useful webpage of information, to show - at a glance - which English airports are planning to expand, which have already submitted applications, and what stage they have reached so far. Surprisingly, with the dramatic fall in the demand for flights due to Covid, airports still seem to be hoping to - not only get back to 2019 levels of flying - but expand further. AEF lists those with formal applications to expand: Bristol, Heathrow, Leeds Bradford, Manston, Southampton and Stansted. The airports also planning for significant growth in future: Gatwick, London City and Luton airports. All these expansion plans would cause increased noise problems for people living under or near flight paths in future, and other negative local impacts. But all would add significantly to the UK's aviation carbon emissions. The judgement by the Supreme Court on the Airports NPS (especially affecting Heathrow) is expected, perhaps by January 2021, which will give clarity on whether UK aviation could expand, if the country is to meet obligations to cut carbon emissions.
New arrival routes for Luton Airport could see noisy flights over other parts of Beds, Bucks and Cambs
A consultation by Luton airport and NATS was launched on 19th October, to change the arrival routes for the airport, which could see aircraft flying closer to some towns in Beds, Bucks and Cambs. Luton Airport currently shares arrival routes and 2 holds with Stansted, a situation which has been described as "unsustainable" due to both airports' size (pre-Covid). A delay at one airport can impact the other. It is now proposed that a new aircraft hold for Luton is formed above the St Neots and Huntingdon area, along with separate routes "further out and higher up". This is to ensure its operations don’t clash with Stansted. There are two options. Local campaign LADACAN says: "As far as people on the ground are concerned, this consultation and its hundreds of pages of technical documentation boils down to a simple question: are concentrated tracks or randomly dispersed flights the best solution when aircraft are passing closely spaced communities at low altitudes?" Luton's aim, of course, is to fit in more flights so airport traffic can grow ... The consultation runs until February 5th 2021. There are maps at https://consultations.airspacechange.co.uk/london-luton-airport/ad6_luton_arrivals/ which show the location of two new proposed PBN arrival routes, and more detail from LADACAN at https://ladacan.org/consultation-on-arrivals-flight-paths/
Tory councillors want an end to Southend night flights, largely bringing in Amazon packages
Conservative councillors have criticised Southend Airport’s night flights, pledging to “explore every avenue possible” to have them removed. They have made it clear they back “further controlled expansion” but want night flights removed. Some residents say they are being forced to take sleeping tablets because of the sleep disruption caused by night flights. The Conservative councillors said: “We will continue to explore every avenue possible to have the night flight quota removed from the Airport’s Section 106 Licence Agreement.” Other councillors worry there will be a loss of jobs, and they dare not risk losing them, with so many jobs being lost due to Covid. There are residential roads very close to the airport boundary, with houses must too near the runway. The airport is permitted on average 4 flights per night, but sometimes has fewer. The airport has cargo flights, bringing in Amazon goods. There are generally 3 per night between 1am and 5.30am, though there had been an earlier agreement not to have flights between midnight and 6am. This agreement has been abandoned.
Manston airport judicial review: permission granted for legal challenge
A judge has granted permission for a legal challenge against the government's decision to reopen Manston airport. The crowdfunder set up to help pay for a judicial review has now reached more than £80,000. Now the application for the review has been granted, the Secretary of State's decision in July to approve a development consent order to open Manston as a freight cargo air hub will be challenged in court. The legal battle was launched by Jenny Dawes, the chair of Ramsgate Coastal Community Team. Solicitors Kate Harrison and Susan Ring of Harrison Grant are acting for her, and instructing barristers Richard Wald QC and Gethin Thomas. The reasons for opposing the reopening of the airport for freight are partly due to the noise, as the arrival flight path is directly over Ramsgate, near the airport. There are also strong arguments on air pollution and the UK's climate targets. The advice of the Planning Inspectorate was to refuse permission for DCO. Jenny said: "According to the government’s own experts, re-opening the airport will damage the local economy and impact negatively on the UK’s carbon budget and our commitments to the Paris climate agreement."
Local campaign GACC sets out the actions needed for Gatwick to “build back better”
The local campaign group, GACC (Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign) has set out the steps that need to be taken to ensure Gatwick does "build back better." Gatwick’s operations and the flights it facilitates need to become compatible with climate change imperatives and the airport must reduce its noise and other environmental impacts, in contrast to what has been happening at the airport during the past decade. At a meeting of the airport’s statutory consultative committee, GATCOM, on 15th October, GACC laid out a series of national and local measures needed to build Gatwick back better. GACC’s full statement The measures include setting legally enforceable zero carbon targets for aviation; ensuring aviation pays a higher, fairer, contribution towards public finances through more equitable taxes, focused particularly on frequent flyers; phasing out of public subsidies that distort the industry’s economics; putting in place effective noise regulation; and ending night flights, that negatively impact people's health and welfare. There also needs to be diversification around Gatwick, so the area is no longer so economically dependent on one sector. Gatwick should not be allowed to even to return to its 2019 size, let alone expand.
Pressure in Norway and Netherlands for a minimum air ticket price – Austria may get a €40 minimum
The Norwegian Pilots’ Association believes it may be sensible to set a minimum price for airline tickets in Norway. This has been prompted by the low-cost airline Wizz Air setting up of new domestic routes within Norway. In Austria, a minimum price of EUR €40 has been set for a plane ticket, as ultra-cheap tickets undermine both climate policy and liveable wage standards. When airlines lower the price of a flight to about the price of a cup of coffee and a bun, "something is not as it should be.” The very cheap flight prices by Wizz Air are to beat competition from SAS and Norwegian, with tickets as cheap as Norwegian Kroner NOK 199 [about £16.40] per ticket from November 5. Currently within Europe airlines can determine their ticket prices. In June in the Netherlands, it was proposed that there should be a minimum air ticket price of €34 for plane tickets. The concern in the Dutch House of Representatives was that there would be a major competitive battle at Schiphol due to Covid, for the preservation of air rights. So airlines would try to fill their planes, to keep their routes, by lowering the prices hugely. A minimum ticket price may get support in Holland from parties on the left.
UK Government undecided on how to price carbon after leaving the EU ETS
Until the end of December 2020, the carbon emissions from key sectors of the UK economy come under the European Emissions Trading System (ETS). From January 2021, a new system has to be put in place. The options are either for the UK to have its own ETS, or alternatively to tax carbon. The Treasury is keen on the economy-wide carbon tax. The BEIS is keen on a new ETS. There might also be a hybrid scheme. A decision is expected by early December, but this lack of charity is very late for business etc that need to plan now for what they will be doing in 2021. Some companies would end up paying less with an ETS than with a carbon tax, if the price of carbon allowances is too low. The current EU ETS carbon price is about £24 per tonne, but the UK ETS price could be around £15. Within the EU ETS, only flights within the EU are included - not flights outside Europe, so the scope is very limited. It is important that aviation pays tax on its carbon, and it is also important that the system is in place from January 2021, not a year or two later. The Aviation Environment Federation says: "In the event that the UK does not develop its own emissions trading system, there is a risk that UK aviation will not be subject to any carbon pricing from 1 January 2020. This would be a backward step, and send the wrong message..."
Green Party calls for end of adverts for “high carbon” goods & services – eg. SUVs and long-haul flights
At their party conference, members of the Green Party of England & Wales backed an ambitious climate motion to ban advertising for high carbon goods and services, eg. SUVs and long haul flights. This brings it into official Party policy. They want advertising rules to be brought into the 21st century. “This will spark a long overdue conversation about the role of advertising in our lives” says Green Party peer Natalie Bennett. There are already many restrictions on advertising on products which are socially and physically harmful, such as tobacco which was banned from being advertised and promoted in the UK since 2003. There is good evidence that this tobacco advert ban was effective, awareness about smoking rose, and levels of smoking fell. In August 2020, the ‘Badvertising’ campaign called for adverts for SUVs to be banned, noting that such vehicles make up more than 40% of new cars now sold in the UK, while fully electric vehicles count for less than 2%. We need to stop adverts for products that trash the planet, needlessly encouraging the sale of more of them.
Jet Zero Council had its first meeting on 22nd July – to bring aviation emissions in line with UK 2050 net-zero target
The Jet Zero Council held its first meeting, online, on 22nd July. Tim Johnson, Director of the Aviation Environment Federation (AEF) is the only representative on the council, representing environmental issues. Government press release on the first meeting said: "Chaired by the Transport and Business Secretaries, today’s first ever Jet Zero council meeting will discuss how to decarbonise the aviation sector while supporting its growth and strengthening the UK’s position as a world leader in the sector." And Grant Shapps said: "The Jet Zero Council is a huge step forward in making change – as we push forward with innovative technologies such as sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) and eventually fully electric planes, we will achieve guilt-free flying and boost sustainability for years to come." ... Producers of novel fuels are excited. ... They all want lots of government money. Tim Johnson said: “It was a positive start, with an appropriate degree of ambition and urgency, a technology-neutral stance that will treat all options equally, and recognition that getting new technology and SAF into the fleet requires a regulatory framework that includes carbon pricing. That’s a good platform to work from.”
‘SNP must review policy and reject Heathrow expansion’, former minister says – need SNP conference debate on it
The SNP has been asked to change its policy, to now oppose the expansion of Heathrow Airport, due to carbon emissions. Marco Biagi was communities minister until he stood down from the Scottish Parliament in 2016. He wants the SNP to adopt “a presumption against any major airport expansion” at next month’s SNP Conference, which is to be held virtually on 28th to 30th November. After intense lobbying from Heathrow, and suggestions of more routes and more jobs for Scotland if there was a 3rd runway, since 2016 the Scottish Government has officially backed the runway plans. But the SNP finally abstained in the Commons from voting for the Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS) in June 2018. Mr Biagi said the SNP's support for the 3rd runway had never been debated at a SNP conference. Aviation CO2 emissions are rising, this is against Scottish policies on climate. He said: “Across Europe there is a growing realisation of the need for alternatives to ever-expanding air travel, especially on short-haul routes like those between Scotland and London. On this issue, do we want to follow the climate-wrecking Conservatives or be part of the European mainstream?”
British Airways boss Alex Cruz replaced by Sean Doyle, in Covid management reshuffle
British Airways (BA) chief executive Alex Cruz has stepped down (was removed) from the job, immediately. He has led BA since 2016, through what IAG says is "a particularly demanding period" as Covid prompted major restructuring. IAG boss Luis Gallego said the shake-up came as the company navigated "the worst crisis faced in our industry" - which has seen demand crushed and thousands of jobs axed. The new BA CEO will be Sean Doyle, who is now at Aer Lingus - also part of IAG. Mr Doyle previously worked at BA for 20 years before moving to head Aer Lingus two years ago. This is one of a series of management changes announced by Mr Gallego, who took over as IAG chief executive a month ago after the retirement of Willie Walsh. Mr Cruz will remain non-executive chairman of BA for a "transition period" before also handing over that role to Mr Doyle. BA has been sharply criticised by the way it has treated staff, for whom there is no longer much work. A total of up to 13,000 BA staff were expected to lose their jobs, and over 8,000 have already gone. Last week, MAG - owner of Manchester, Stansted and East Midlands airports - announced plans to cut nearly 900 jobs as the Treasury's furlough scheme comes to an end.
CAA likely to prevent Heathrow increasing its airport charges to cover Covid losses of £1.7bn
Heathrow wanted to increase charges to compensate for the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. But its regulators, the CAA, have rejected its request to increase airport charges by £1.7bn to Covid losses. The CAA said Heathrow's demands were not “proportionate”. Heathrow operates under a regulatory mechanism that allows it to increase airport charges based on the costs it incurs, but this has to be agreed by the CAA. Separately, Heathrow is waiting on a final decision from the CAA on whether it can recharge airlines £500m for costs it has built up, prematurely, in (unwise)preparation for the building of a 3rd runway - even before all legal and planning hurdles were overcome. Heathrow said revenue losses in 2020 and 2021 would be more than £2.2bn - ie. the £1.7billion + the £500 million. The CAA now has a consultation (ends 5th Nov) on Heathrow's request for RAB adjustment. IAG, said “Heathrow is a wealthy, privately owned company which should seek funds from its shareholders as many other businesses in our industry have done to weather this pandemic. We look forward to participating in the CAA's consultation process."
Heathrow Airport expansion: Supreme Court Appeal hearing on the ANPS. Briefing by Friends of the Earth
The hearing at the Supreme Court of the appeal by Heathrow against the judgement of the Appeal Court, in February took place on 7th and 8th October. The case is whether the Airports NPS (ANPS) is illegal, because it did not properly consider carbon emissions and the UK's commitments under the Paris Agreement. Friends of the Earth have explained their arguments, against those of Heathrow. (It is complicated legal stuff ...) There is no onward appeal from the Supreme Court. If any one of the grounds that won in the Court of Appeal remains, and the Supreme Court agrees that the Order made by the Appeal Court should still stand, then the ANPS will remain of no legal effect [ie. not valid or legal] until reviewed. [So the runway cannot go ahead]. The Secretary of State (SoS) for Transport must then consider if the government wish to leave it at that, or review the ANPS policy framework, to amend it. If the SoS does that, s/he will probably need to make changes that materially alter what the ANPS says. Such changes will need to be approved by Parliament following consultation, before the new ANPS can come into force. And if the FoE Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) challenge wins, there would need to be a new SEA and a new public consultation.
France proposes much higher air ticket taxes, of €30 for <2,000km and €60 for longer (€180 and €400 for business class)
The French government is considering introducing much more tax on flying. Air travel pays no fuel duty and also pays no VAT in the EU. Currently the UK has some of the highest flight taxes, of just £13 for a short haul flight, and £80 on long haul (rising to £82 from April 2021). This tax is to compensate for the lack of income to the Treasury for the absence of fuel duty or VAT. Now France is considering (it is not agreed) taxing economy flights of under 2,000km, €30 and €180 for business class. The tax is only for a departure, not for an arrival. For flights of over 2,000 km the tax would be €60 for economy class, and €400 for business class. And €2,400 for private jet flights. Earlier this year, France introduced a tiny “air passenger solidarity tax,” which starts at €1.50 for a short haul economy ticket, and at the most is €18 for a long haul business class ticket. That level of tax is not enough to have any effect on achieving any environmental offset, or deterring flying. The higher levels of tax just might ... France’s Ministry of Ecological Transition is having a final meeting about the suggested changes on Saturday, and a bill is expected to be introduced in parliament by the end of October.
Heathrow’s Supreme Court case: can it avoid paying for the failed 3rd Runway?
The Supreme Court will, on 7th and 8th October, hear the appeal by Heathrow airport, against the ruling by the Appeal Court, that the Airports NPS is illegal. Rival scheme to build a Heathrow runway (keen to expand the airport), "Heathrow Hub" explains why Heathrow is going ahead with this further expense of the Supreme Court hearing, when it is struggling with huge financial problems and the reduction in demand for flights, due to Covid. The way Heathrow's finances work is that, the more it spends - therefore increasing the size of its Regulated Asset Base (RAB) - the higher the return it can earn, and the more it can charge airlines. So it has a vested interest in keeping its spending high, to the fury of the airlines. Heathrow Hub say: “It is not commonly understood that if Heathrow abandoned its Supreme Court case then the CAA would be unlikely to approve its attempt to recover the £550m it has spent on the failed 3rd Runway, including a provision for its legal costs." If Heathrow did not struggle to the end, to try to get the runway approved, it would have to finance those huge costs itself. Hence the reason for going ahead with the legal process, even though Heathrow admits no new runway is needed for at least 10+ years.
Unite threatens strikes at Heathrow this autumn over huge pay cuts and “fire & rehire”
Unite, the Union, has been a keen backer of expansion at Heathrow for years. Members have for a long time been told that their jobs are at risk, without a 3rd runway. But their loyal support has been somewhat abused by Heathrow, which has tried to reduce the pay and conditions of workers at the airport, for years. How Unite is angry at the treatment its members are getting, while Heathrow struggles with the dramatic fall in the number of passengers. Unite says its members will strike this autumn, over the company’s attempts to cut the pay of 4,000 workers by up to £8,000 per year, which is around 25% of their pay. They will start balloting for industrial action on Thursday 8 October with the ballot closing on Thursday 5 November with strikes following soon after. Unite has dismisses HAL’s cries of poverty pointing to the vast salaries paid to senior executives - its chief executive was paid £3 million in pay and pensions last year - and asking why the salary sacrifice does not start at the top of the organisation. There were 49 directors at Heathrow who earned over £21 million between them last year (that averages £428,500 per year each).
IATA now expects full-year 2020 traffic to be down 66% compared to 2019; previous estimate was for a 63% fall
IATA downgraded its traffic forecast for 2020 to reflect a weaker-than-expected recovery, with little demand for air travel. They now expect full-year 2020 traffic to be down 66% compared to 2019. The previous estimate was for a 63% decline. In August demand, expressed as revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs) down 75.3% compared to August 2019. It had been down 79.5% in July. The falls were less for domestic air passengers than international August capacity overall (available seat kilometres or ASKs) was down 63.8% compared to a year ago, and load factor was down -27.2% to an all-time low for August of 58.5%. (ie. planes are much less full). The fall in international passengers in August was down -88.3% compared to August 2019, and it had been - 91.8% in July. The load factor fell 37.0% to 48.7%. In June, IATA was relatively confident of a recovery in air passenger demand by late summer. Due to Covid restrictions by most countries, it did not happen. In June IATA expected airlines to lose $84.3 billion in 2020 for a net profit margin of -20.1%. They expected revenues to fall 50% to $419 billion from $838 billion in 2019. And for 2021, losses were expected to be cut to $15.8 billion with revenues rising to $598 billion. Now it is worse than that.
Exeter Airport receives huge funding boost from Council to avoid it having to close
A package of funding worth nearly £1million designed to ensure Exeter Airport can avoid the "worst case scenario" of closure has been unanimously backed by East Devon District Council's cabinet. The combination of the collapse of Flybe, as well as the coronavirus pandemic, has led to the airport facing ruin. Passenger numbers in May 2019 were 97,000 and in May 2020 the equivalent figure was just 9. From the beginning of the financial year to the end of the July passenger numbers dropped by 99.5% compared to the same period last year. The Council approved a package of measures including a further deferral of £180,000 of business rate relief, forward-funding the airport’s share of the Long Lane enhancement scheme - nearly £750,000 - and to endorse the concept of a "sustainable aviation cluster" centred on Exeter Airport. It is not clear that the money is enough to keep the airport going, and save the jobs of 96 employees. It might eventually still need to close. East Devon District Council is expected to approve the measures.
Much acclaimed first hydrogen flight (6 seater plane) used hydrogen generated by high carbon grid electricity
The alleged first test flight of a tiny plane fuelled by hydrogen took place recently. The plane was a little 6 seater, and it flew on a small circuit from Cranfield airport. There was much hype about this supposedly huge technical leap, to a zero carbon fuel. In reality, the New Scientist ascertained that the hydrogen was produced using grid electricity, which therefore caused the emission of carbon dioxide, as most grid electricity is produced from fossil fuels. UK and US-based ZeroAvia flew the plane saying it was the first hydrogen fuel cell flight of a commercial-size aircraft. The company hailed the test as “the first step to realising the transformational possibilities of moving from fossil fuels to zero-emission hydrogen”. UK aviation minister Robert Courts said the flight was a sign of the “commitment of government of ensuring we get to net-zero” emissions and a “historic” moment for aviation. The hydrogen was produced using an electrolyser, which splits water into hydrogen and oxygen. However, ZeroAvia admitted that this was not using low carbon energy (in September around 40% of UK grid electricity was produced from oil or gas). Genuinely low carbon hydrogen on any scale is years away.
APD to rise on long-haul only (>2,000 miles) from £80 to £82 from April 2021 – no change in short haul £13 APD
Air Passenger Duty (APD) - the UK duty on flights - is set to increase for flights of over 2,000 miles, in April 2021. The APD will rise from £80 now to £82, for a return flight - APD is only charged on departures. For premium class air tickets of over 2,000 miles, the APD will rise by £4 from £176 to £180. There will be no increase in APD for flights under 2,000 miles, which means any flight in Europe, which will continue to pay just £13 for a return trip (£26 premium class). The rate for long-haul private jet etc rises from £528 to £541. (The distance is measured from London to the capital city of the destination country.) This tiny APD rise is not doing to deter anyone flying. The increase come despite calls from the aviation industry to freeze or even scrap APD due to the problems the sector has because of the Covid pandemic. There have been many calls for APD on domestic return flights to be scrapped, (as the APD is £26, not the £13 for a European flight) but there is no mention of those in the government announcement. Perhaps the government appreciates that airlines take money out of the UK, and passengers to foreign leisure trips, o a far greater extent than they bring money in.
Air France’s bailout ‘climate conditions’ and possible future aviation taxes
The state bail out of Air France by the French government earlier in the year got a lot of publicity. Some of the conditions looked as if they could be effective in cutting emissions. Now the restrictions on air travel look set to continue for many more months, airline finances and state help need to be reassessed. The pandemic has been a unique opportunity to shrink the sector, and insist that it takes effective action in future to significantly cut its carbon emissions. The NGO Transport & Environment (T&E) have assessed the potential effectiveness of the conditions, and are not impressed. They say the Air France conditions included improving fuel efficiency (which it will do anyway, to save money); also removing the shortest flights (which will have minimal impact on the airline's overall emissions). And use of low carbon novel fuels, but if first generation biofuels were used, this would increase - not cut - CO2 emissions. Last T&E says the climate conditions attached to the bailout are not legally binding, leaving it to the good will of Air France. Each condition should be made mandatory, with clear financial penalties for failure to comply. The French government has now proposed reasonably high taxes on flights, of €30 for economy short haul, and €60 economy long haul (>2,000km) but this has to be approved by the political process.
Reading to Heathrow train line delayed by two years – at least
The Great Western rail link between Reading to Heathrow will be delayed by up to two years. A DCO application to construct the new line was expected this year but has now been delayed until winter 2021/2022 - at the earliest. A spokesman for Network Rail said the Reading to Heathrow line has been delayed due to the court of appeal’s ruling against plans to expand Heathrow and the impact of Covid-19 on the aviation industry. The Supreme Court will hear Heathrow's appeal against the Appeal Court decision, on 7th and 8th October. If Heathrow was to win the case (a massive IF) then the rail link - to speed passengers getting to the airport - a new tunnel would be created connecting Reading to Heathrow in around 20-30 minutes, with passengers from Reading currently having to use the 50-minute Rail Air bus or go into London to get to the airport. Reading Station and Heathrow Airport both already have terminus platforms built for the line in anticipation of the scheme. The Department for Transport (DfT) is looking to fund the project with help from Heathrow Airport on the basis of expansion, apparently. (Though Heathrow is struggling financially to survive now ...)
Airbus – in dire financial problems – talks of plans for hydrogen fuelled future planes
Airbus has been publicising its hopes to have hydrogen-fuelled passenger planes in service within 20 years. Apart from the technical problems of how to store liquid or compressed hydrogen on a plane, and how to transport it etc, there is the massive problem of the energy it would take to generate the vast amount of hydrogen that would be needed. Currently there is "blue" hydrogen, which is generated from fossil fuels, and the production of which emits carbon (unless and until there is CCS to store that CO2 underground) or "green" hydrogen, which would be produced using low carbon electricity, from wind farms etc. Currently there is almost no "green" hydrogen. There are claims that burning hydrogen at high altitude would not cause the emission of soot particles, so contrails might form less than conventional jet kerosene. It would certainly produce water vapour. The necessary atmospheric research studies probably have not been done, at scale. Hydrogen, like electric planes and wonderful zero carbon fuels, are the hopes of the sector - that their climate problem can be (improbably) solved. Meanwhile Airbus' CEO announced it is in danger of collapse, due to Covid, and it needs to cut 15,000 jobs, or more than 11% of the group’s workforce.
CAA review finds Heathrow ‘wasted’ money and was “inefficient” as costs of 2 tunnel refurb projects costs spiral
The CAA's economic performance review concludes that Heathrow has “wasted” money on two ongoing tunnel refurbishment schemes and acted inefficiently. The cost overrun of both schemes combined is estimated at £212.4M, although the CAA suggests that those costs could be inflated further by the time work is completed. Costs on the cargo tunnel job between Terminal 4 and the Central Terminal Area have soared by £152M, from its approved £44.9M budget to the current final cost of £197M, the report reveals. The cost of upgrading the main vehicular tunnel to Terminals 1, 2 & 3 has risen by £60.3M from an approved budget of £86M to £146.3M. On the cargo tunnel, the CAA states that “there is clear evidence that the actions of HAL may have directly contributed to wasted spending or lost benefits”. The delays have lead to a loss of benefits to consumers. Heathrow could have been more efficient in managing its work contractors. The CAA will now assess whether to remove costs associated with the tunnel refurbishments from HAL’s Regulated Asset Base (RAB) – which effectively means HAL would have to pay for cost overruns, rather than charging airlines.
Dodgy economics behind plans to expand our airports – they won’t tackle unemployment, or bring more money to the UK
A useful article from the New Economics Foundation looks at the reality of claims about the economic benefits of expanding airports. Traditionally airports have said they are vital for business travel; the reality is that a small proportion of air passengers are on any sort of business trip, and that is especially the case at regional airports. Most air passengers are British people flying on leisure trips abroad (to spend their money there). Regional airports claim that they merely take passengers who would otherwise have flown from the larger airports, such as Heathrow and Gatwick. The reality is more people take cheap leisure flights from a convenient local airport. There is always a lot of hype about the number of jobs that airport expansion will create, but in fact the sector has been automating as much as it can, and the number of jobs - the "job intensity" - is lower than it was in 2007, while the number of passengers has risen significantly. Airports have also reduced squeezed the working conditions of some airport workers, to gain "efficiencies." NEF says: "Despite what airport executives say, expanding our airports won’t tackle unemployment or bring more money to the UK."
European Commission under fire for including ‘carbon sinks’ (eg. forest) into EU climate goal of 55% cut on 1990 level by 2030
The EU has a current target of cutting carbon emissions by 40% on the 1990 level by 2030. But with the European Green Deal, it has been proposed that target should be increased to 55%. Some European countries do not want this - while climate experts say even greater carbon cuts are needed. The European 55% target would include use of "carbon sinks" in the figures, so there is an assumed amount of carbon being absorbed by forests etc, meaning net carbon emissions would appear to be lower than they really are. This might be a difference of 2% or else perhaps 5%. Some environmental campaign groups said this use of carbon sinks was “an accounting trick” and “Relying on forests to reach climate targets sends the wrong signal that it’s OK to keep polluting because the land will absorb it.” In Europe, forests are currently a net carbon sink because they take in more carbon dioxide than they emit. But their capacity to absorb CO2 “has been shrinking” over the years, and if left unchecked, could further decline - due to cutting down trees and forest, and damage to them from fires, pests, more demand for biomass, and impacts of climate change. Mature forests have to be kept healthy, and just planting new saplings is not enough.
Trainee air-traffic controllers told by NATS their training course is over and they have lost their jobs
Some trainee air-traffic controllers with only weeks before graduation have been told their training course is over and they will not get jobs. NATS, the UK air-traffic control provider, is the latest aviation employer to cut jobs. The trade union for controllers’, Prospect, said the move was “a disastrously short-sighted and cruel decision”. Now there is little air traffic due to the pandemic, with about 11-12% as many air passengers in July 2020 as there were in July 2019. NATS said the trainees would be able to re-start training when air traffic increases, to 2019 levels, though many in the sector say this may not be for perhaps 3 years. A spokesperson for NATS said: “We currently have 275 trainees who have passed through the college and are waiting to re-start their on-the-job training at units across the country once traffic increases. ... we have [decided] to pause training at our college, which means the 122 trainees have until the end of September to decide if they prefer to leave or wait to see if any redeployment opportunities emerge over the course of October.” As air traffic control becomes more automated, there may be fewer controllers needed in future.
Plan B Earth case for Supreme Court appeal by Heathrow, against Appeal Court ruling that ANPS was illegal, due to Paris Agreement
On 7th and 8th October, there will be a Supreme Court hearing of the appeal, by Heathrow airport, against the ruling by the Appeal Court in February 2020 that the Government's Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS) was illegal. Heathrow cannot proceed with plans for a 3rd runway, without a legal ANPS. The government itself decided not to challenge the Appeal Court decision - it is only Heathrow. Friends of the Earth and Plan B Earth are defending the case. The decision of the Appeal Court was due to the failure of the ANPS to properly take into account the UK's commitment to the Paris Agreement (aiming to keep global climate warming to 1.5C) and thus its duty to keep carbon emissions from rising. Plan B Earth has published its response, challenging the Heathrow claim that the Paris Agreement is "not" government policy. It is a 29 page document, but the conclusion is copied here. It states that: "At the time of the designation of the ANPS in June 2018, the Secretary of State (SST) [Chris Grayling] knew, or ought to have known, that the Government had: a) rejected the 2˚C temperature limit as creating intolerable risks, in the UK and beyond b) committed instead to the Paris Agreement and the Paris Temperature Limit, and that it had c) committed to introducing a new net zero target in accordance with the Paris Agreement. These matters were fundamental to Government policy relating to climate change and it was irrational for the SST to treat them as irrelevant.
Academic study suggests post-Covid re-think of size of airline sector, its costs and impacts
In a new paper, published in Science Direct, Professor Stefan Gossling looks at the future of the airline industry, especially after the set-back it has had from Covid. He says it is important to “think the unthinkable”, and not only what is possible for aviation, but what is desirable for society ... most stakeholders in industry and policymakers would agree that it is desirable for aviation to become more resilient financially and more sustainable climatically ... COVID-19 has forced many airlines to reduce their fleets, retire old aircraft, or stop serving long-haul destinations ... As a result, air transport capacity is diminished. Further reductions in capacity may be achieved by reducing subsidies ... A scenario for a resilient aviation system should have a starting point in the question of how much air transport is needed ...where risks are accounted for, and where their cost is part of the price paid for air travel. In a situation of reduced supply, there should be an opportunity for airlines to increase profitability ... Many questions need to be asked, such as those addressing volume growth, the sector's reliance on State aid, its unresolved environmental impacts, and hence the basic assumptions on which aviation operates.
Heathrow urged by 5 councils to end 3rd runway ‘fantasy’ – instead focus on cutting CO2 and noise
Councils have called on Heathrow to abandon once and for all its bid for a third runway and concentrate instead on working with the aviation industry to achieve zero carbon emissions and reduce noise impacts for overflown communities. Heathrow is due to challenge February’s Court of Appeal ruling against the expansion plan in October (7th and 8th) at the Supreme Court. The 5 councils, (Hillingdon, Wandsworth, Richmond upon Thames, Hammersmith and Fulham, and Windsor and Maidenhead) say there is no logic in the airport persisting with its runway fantasy. Cllr Gareth Roberts, Leader of Richmond Council, said: "COVID-19 has changed everything. This is a unique period when we are all rethinking traditional assumptions about how we work, travel and grow our economies. As local councils we want the industry to get back on its feet. But this won't work without a fundamental rethink about the place of aviation in our society – and indeed where future capacity is most needed. Even Heathrow's chief executive has admitted that a new runway would not be needed for years due to the pandemic. Yet still the airport and its shareholders press on with the process and the prize of a planning permission for a runway that will never be built."
Tax-free sales by airports, ports etc for overseas visitors to end by 1st Jan 2021, with lower duty-free import allowances
The UK government is set to end tax-free sales at airports, ports and Eurostar stations from 1 January 2021. As the Brexit transition period comes to an end, the UK government cited “concerns over how the benefit is passed on to passengers and in some instances, the relief is not consistent with international tax principles.” The VAT retail export scheme, which currently enables EU visitors to claim refunds on goods purchased in the UK, will also be withdrawn from the same date. The airports are unhappy about this, as it will cut their income, and some jobs would be lost. The Treasury said: "Overseas visitors - including in the EU - will still be able to buy items VAT-free in store and have them sent direct to their overseas addresses, while the costly system of claiming VAT refunds on items they take home in their luggage will be ended.” It described the scheme as “a costly relief, which does not benefit the whole of Britain equally”, adding that the current use is mostly centred in London. Visitors arriving from EU and non-EU countries will be allowed 42 litres of beer, 18 litres of still wine and 9 litres of sparkling wine duty free from 1.1.2021 (much lower than currently).
Greenpeace Netherlands is going to court to force the Dutch government to discontinue their bailout for KLM
Greenpeace Netherlands is going to court to force the Dutch government to discontinue their bailout for airline KLM, because climate conditions are lacking. As a first step, Greenpeace formally informed the government. This lawsuit could potentially have important consequences for other airline bailouts. Just in Europe alone, governments have supported the airlines with €32.5 billion so far. A spokesperson said the Dutch bailout "fuels the climate crisis, breaking the duty of the Dutch government to protect its citizens.” KLM does not have a solid climate action plan and the environmental policy for aviation from the Dutch government is inadequate. The bailout is not even definitely saving many jobs in the airline. Vague hopes that in future electrical planes or planes that fly with sustainably sourced fuel, will not be available before too long are unrealistic. Therefore the number of flights needs to reduce substantially, and Greenpeace says this should start with revoking short-distance flights under a thousand kilometres. KLM was responsible for 8.6 MtCO2 emissions in 2018.
Heathrow area risks fate of 1980s mining towns, says airport boss – area too dependent on the airport
Perhaps even more than other airports like Gatwick and Luton, a large part of the economy around Heathrow has become over-dependent on the airport. Now the CEO of Heathrow, John Holland-Kaye has said boroughs like Hounslow risk becoming like “a mining town in the 1980s” with the collapse in air traffic putting tens of thousands of jobs at risk. Many more people work in businesses associated with Heathrow, than directly for the airport itself. In August, Heathrow had around 1.4 million passengers, which is less than 20% of its "normal" amount. People are not flying for leisure, due to the risk of Covid itself, or the need to quarantine. There are few business trips, as they are being replaced by Zoom etc. Many in the aviation sector do not think levels of flying will return to their 2019 levels for 2-3 years, or more - if ever. Heathrow had losses of £1.1bn in the first half of 2020. Recently Heathrow issued formal section 188 notices, allowing it to potentially fire and rehire some 4,700 employees, after months of negotiations with unions representing its directly employed ground staff failed to produce an agreement. Section 188 means the airport can bypass negotiations after a 45-day period has elapsed. There might overall be 25,000 Heathrow-related job losses.
Climate Assembly report: members aware future aviation CO2 has to be limited
The Climate Assembly was set up by the UK government in 2019. It consisted of 108 citizens, selected to be representative of the population and its views. They met over 6 weekends, with expert guidance and information, to discuss how the UK could get to net zero carbon by 2050. One of the many issues discussed was air travel. Overall there was wide support among the Assembly for limiting the growth of the sector, to some extent. The anticipated growth of about 65% (from 2018 to 2050) was seen as too much. Many believed there would be advances in technology that would allow for increased numbers of passengers, but keeping to 30 MtCO2 aviation emissions by 2050 (the CCC's scenario). There was support for increasing the price of flying for frequent fliers, and those who flew long distances. Assembly members wanted to see the airline industry invest in greenhouse gas removals, and in lower carbon technologies (which would make flying more expensive). Members wanted more engagement with the UK population, to understand the necessary changes. They wanted more parity between the cost of rail and flying, where flying is now often hugely cheaper. The committees behind the report have asked Prime Minister Boris Johnson to respond before the end of the year.
Heathrow saddled with £504 million bill from thwarted expansion
Heathrow has been left with a £500M bill from its thwarted 3rd runway expansion. The airport chose to spend a lot up-front, in its plans to get a new runway, even before waiting for the legal challenges and approval of its DCO (Development Consent Order). Heathrow hoped it could charge airlines using the airport for these costs. It was always a risk that the runway would not happen, and the money spent in promoting it and planning for it would be sunk. The Court of Appeal ruled against the Airports NPS in February, on grounds of the carbon emissions the 3rd runway would generate. The appeal by Heathrow will be heard on 7th and 8th October. Meanwhile the CAA has restricted the amount Heathrow can charge airlines - and now there has been a massive reduction in Heathrow air traffic, and income, due to Covid. The New Civil Engineer gives a breakdown of what Heathrow (unwisely) spent, in the expectation the runway would definitely go ahead. According to the CAA’s Economic regulation of Heathrow: policy update and consultation, the costs are broken down into £394M of planning (category B) and £110M of early construction (category C) costs. These include ground investigations, all sorts of advisors, and designers.
BA hits out over £500m bill (Category B costs) for Heathrow failed 3rd runway plans that it wants to pass on to airlines
A row has erupted between Heathrow and British Airways, its largest airline, over the plans to get airlines to pay the £500m bill relating to the airport’s third runway expenses so far. A regulatory consultation by the CAA recommends allowing Heathrow to charge carriers for expansion costs incurred until February this year. These are called "Category B" (£500m) and early "Category C" costs, associated with getting planning consent. CAA regulations allow Heathrow to increase charges in line with costs incurred. Willie Walsh, the outgoing boss of IAG, that owns BA, has repeatedly clashed with Heathrow over the framework, which he has said encourages the airport to “spend recklessly." IAG has never wanted to pay for Heathrow's costs in developing the runway (partly as the extra capacity at Heathrow would increase competition with BA by other airlines). CAA director Richard Stephenson said it was reviewing responses to the consultation (held in summer 2019) and had yet to make a decision. Heathrow has pressed ahead, spending a great deal on its runway plans, even before legal obstacles had been cleared. The restriction of early spending by the CAA meant a delay in the runway timetable of 2-3 years.
Luton Council’s £60m loan to Luton Airport company set for approval ‘in private’
A £60m loan by Luton Borough Council to its airport company is set for approval, in private, by the executive later this month. The first of two emergency loans - together totalling £83m - has gained the support of Luton Council’s scrutiny finance review group, at the second attempt. The second loan worth £23m to London Luton Airport Limited (LLAL) is scheduled for the 2021/22 financial year, after the council’s emergency budget in July. The Labour controlled council were forced by the Liberal Democrats to discuss the loan report in public. But officers asked for the council to take legal advice and defer the issue. It seems that 5 five Labour councillors recommended the council's executive approve the £60m loan deal, with the 3 Liberal Democrats in opposition. The executive will formally decide upon the loan at its meeting on Monday, September 14th. The Liberal Democrats said the almost £400m in loans are secured against the assets of the company. "But, the council already owns all of LLAL’s assets by virtue of its 100% ownership of the company. It follows that for all practical and accounting purposes the £400m loans are unsecured.”
New study indicates non-CO2 impacts of aviation are twice as large as the CO2 alone
A new study trying to elucidate the various non-CO2 impacts of aviation has been published. There is very complicated science about the positive radiative forcing (ie. extra impact on increasing global temperature) of the water vapour, NOx and other gases, and particles emitted from jet engines at altitude. This study concludes that the non-CO2 impacts of "aviation emissions are currently warming the climate at approximately three times the rate of that associated with aviation CO2 emissions alone." They have looked in detail at the various effects and interactions. There are numerous non-CO2 impacts, some of which cause more radiation to be reflected back out to space, and some cause heat to be trapped, warming the earth. These effects include the contrails, ice cloud changes, sulphate and soot particles from jet engines, water vapour from jet engines, NOx emissions and production of ozone. The effects of contrails and extra cloud formation are perhaps easier to study, and more research is needed on the impacts of soot and sulphate particles. The confirmation of the large contribution to warming, from the non-CO2 impacts of aviation is important. The climate impact of aviation, including non-CO2 effects, has to be fully taken into account in how the sector fits into the UK's climate targets, and reaching "net zero". Currently the DfT ignores non-CO2 impacts, though the CCC has recommended that they should be included.
Heathrow has lost £1 billion since start of March, is cutting staff pay, and could cut 1,200 jobs
Heathrow says that it has lost £1 billion since the start of March, due to the Covid pandemic. There could be 1,200 Heathrow jobs lost. The airport served a formal notice to staff yesterday, triggering a 45-day consultation period over compulsory job losses. The airport and unions have failed to agree to a deal over the future of its frontline workforce after months of talks. Heathrow is proposing salary cuts of between 15-20% for some affected staff, with a phased reduction in salaries over 2 years. A voluntary redundancy scheme has been offered. The airport claims there might be few compulsorily redundancies, but only if the unions agree a deal. About 4,700 frontline staff are affected, including engineers, security and airside operations. Heathrow has already lost 450 out of 1,000 head-office managerial staff. The airport had indicated previously that as many as a quarter of staff could be made redundant, so up to 1,200 jobs may go. Heathrow said its proposals "guarantee a job" for anyone who wants to remain with the business. The Unite union is not happy with the airport's offers. Gatwick is losing about 600 jobs, a quarter of its workforce.
Draft Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill calls for international aviation to be fully included in the UK’s Net Zero target
The proposed Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill (CEE bill) which is to be tabled as a private member's bill by Caroline Lucas MP on 2nd September, would see international aviation, shipping, and consumption included properly within the UK's 2050 net zero target. These are necessary in closing the gaps in the UK's Climate Change Act (CCA), where they have been excluded in the past. The CEE bill has support from the minority parties and Labour, as well as scientists, business figures and Extinction Rebellion. Currently when the UK claims its carbon emissions have fallen, the drop is largely from switching electricity generation from coal to gas, and the arrival of more renewables. Over recent decades, carbon emissions embodied in imports have grown, as have carbon emissions from international aviation and shipping. But those are not considered under the CCA. The CEE Bill proposes legislation to address the biodiversity crisis, by placing a stronger legal requirement for the government to protect and restore forests, soils, and ecosystems so then can provider a natural means of absorbing CO2. Despite Covid, bold government action is needed in the UK, now, especially before the postponed COP26 meeting in November 2021 in Glasgow.
Protest by opponents of Southampton airport, against the “madness” of its expansion plans
Opponents of expansion of Southampton airport took part in a protest on Saturday 29th, as did many other groups at airports across the UK. The group say the airport should not be expanding, at a time of climate crisis, and the impact would be a needless increase in carbon emissions, from the extra flights using the airport. They said 1. The economic case does not stack up, in jobs, house prices or health impacts. 2. The noise impacts of expansion, with many more local people negatively affected. 3. More air pollution will affect local health and mortality rates, from an increase (the airport's own figures) of 272% in NOx emissions. 4. No figures have been provided for ultrafine particles, which could be even worse than NOx for human health. 5. The expansion will contribute to climate change and a ‘carbon-neutral’ airport is a myth; the expansion would roughly double current carbon emissions, and the airport is only looking to offset the relatively small ground emissions, not those from flights.
Bristol Airport Action Network crowdfunding to challenge airport’s appeal against North Somerset Council rejection
BAAN (Bristol Airport Action Network) Committee Coordinators are crowdfunding, to raise £6,000 for their attempt to challenge the airport's appeal against the refusal, by North Somerset Council, of its expansion plans. BAAN says: the airport's plans "would mean an extra 23,600 flights and two million passengers a year (as well as an extra 10,000 car movements a day). They would also mean a further million tonnes of carbon to be emitted a year at this time of climate and ecological emergency. Our position is that this airport expansion (and others that are planned) is not legally compliant with the Climate Change Act, The Paris Agreement and the Government's commitment to be carbon neutral by 2050 and MUST BE STOPPED." They are doing all they can to stop the expansion. BAAN say: "We have been given a very favourable fee quote from a specialist planning barrister and are talking to a number of top experts who are likely to give their time pro-bono or at much reduced rates to represent us at the appeal. We are also being helped by Greenpeace and other environmental organisations." Donations would be greatly appreciated.
Bristol protests against the airport appealing against North Somerset Council rejection of expansion plans
Extinction Rebellion and local groups held a number of protest on Saturday 29th August, at UK airports. A large event was held at Bristol Airport, in protest against the decision by the airport to appeal against the rejection of their expansion plans, by North Somerset Council. Extinction Rebellion held a "mourning procession" and hundreds of people marched to the airport, observing Covid social distancing, and in silence, to follow a death theme. One of the protest organisers commented: “When the refusal of Bristol International Airport (BIA) expansion plans became international news in February this year, everyone thought we’d seen the death of the terrifying fantasy of an expanded airport in this time of ecological and climate emergency. We were wrong." Another said the "democratic process, underpinned by massive public objection, is being threatened, whilst lies about economic benefits and carbon-neutrality are spread with flagrant disregard to the truth." And it is crazy that precious council funds have to be wasted on this unnecessary appeal, when the money is need to deal with Covid-related issues, among many others.
Letter to Kelly Tolhurst (Aviation Minister) from airport groups, about the need for aviation noise policies
Many airport campaigns have written to Aviation Minister, Kelly Tolhurst, asking her to provide details of the government's intentions about policies on aircraft noise. The organisations remind her of some of their key points. They want government to "put in place policies, processes and institutions which can together achieve outcomes that all parties accept are fair and balanced, a goal that the policies of the past two decades have failed to achieve". The aviation industry needs to be sufficiently incentivised to reduce noise, and it is not good enough to merely "limit, and where possible, reduce total adverse effects on health and quality of life from aviation noise”. Those are just meaningless in terms of cutting the plane noise experienced by people overflown. The groups fear that proposals for the Aviation 2050 document are in fact even weaker than the extant 2013 Aviation Policy Framework which says “the industry must continue to reduce and mitigate noise as airport capacity grows” . The campaigners want noise impacts to be "as low as reasonably practical", and any increase in noise in future, from more flights, to be balanced by reductions in noise and other environmental impacts - with compensation for those negatively affected. See the full letter.
Gatwick could lose 600 jobs, and it could take 4-5 years for passengers to return to 2019 levels
Gawick plans to cut a quarter of its workforce due to the impact of coronavirus. So about 600 jobs could be lost following an 80% reduction in the 2019 number of passengers in August. It only has the North Terminal working. CEO Stewart Wingate said the cuts were a result of the "devastating impacts" coronavirus had on the airline and travel industries. In March, Gatwick announced 200 jobs would be lost, and it later took out a £300m bank loan. With the collapse in passenger numbers, the company said it was looking to further reduce costs. About 75% of staff are currently on the government's furlough scheme, which is due to end in October. The DfT says: "If people need financial support quickly they may be able to claim Universal Credit and new style Jobseekers Allowance." Many staff belong to the union, Unite, which will fight to minimise redundancies. The airport has said it will take "four to five years" for passenger numbers to return to pre-pandemic levels. Its revenue fell by 61% in the half year, January to June, compared to 2019. While Covid remains a very real issue, and levels are slowly rising in many countries, air passengers have no certainty about from which countries they would need to quarantine themselves for 14 days, on their return.
Extinction Rebellion to protest in Leeds against Leeds Bradford Airport expansion plans
Socially-distant protesters plan to gather in Millennium Square on August 29 in support of the Group for Action on Leeds Bradford Airport (GALBA). GALBA will be cycling a route around Leeds, Bradford and Wakefield to highlight areas which may be affected by aircraft noise pollution if the airport's expansion plans are approved. Leeds Bradford Airport (LBA) submitted plans to build a new "state of the art" £150million terminal in early 2020. It would be closer to a proposed parkway rail station, announced by Leeds City Council last year. The terminal would accommodate seven million passengers per year by 2030. Extinction Rebellion (XR) has held several protests this year against the expansion plans, both outside Leeds City Council’s Civic Hall headquarters and outside a public consultation meeting held at the Mercure Parkway Hotel. XR says the proposed expansion, yet to be approved by the council, will increase carbon emissions - fuelling climate change. One activist said: "I will be able to look my daughter in her eyes and tell her I tried to put an end to this madness, that we knew there was a better way to live and I fought for it with everything I had."
Extinction Rebellion mobilises in Bishop’s Stortford against Stansted Airport expansion
Extinction Rebellion (XR) East Herts is campaigning against Stansted Airport expansion with a protest march in Bishop's Stortford. MAG, the owner of Stansted airport, wants the Planning Inspectorate to decide at a planning inquiry on its planning application to be allowed to handle up to 43 million passengers a year, up from the current 35m cap, after Uttlesford District Council did a U-turn on their previous consent decision, and refused permission. The airport claims there will be no more flights, even with 8 million more passengers per year ... Uttlesford Planning committee members concluded MAG had failed to demonstrate that the inevitable extra flights would not result in an increased detrimental effect from noise, pollution and other environmental impacts. Councillors also regarded infrastructure proposals as inadequate. XR East Herts is calling on MAG to withdraw its appeal on the grounds that expansion would generate 74,000 more flights each year. There would be a considerable increase in the carbon emissions. XR Herts is not affiliated in any way with local group, Stop Stansted Expansion, that also wants MAG not to proceed on its attempts to expand.
How airships could provide low carbon transport, especially freight (going with the wind)
Zeppelins and dirigible airships might provide a low carbon transport alternative. There is speculation that they could be used to transport air cargo, instead of high carbon aircraft. It is possible they will also be transporting passengers, on short or medium length journeys. British and French companies are working on designs for airships. Hybrid Air Vehicles in Bedford has already completed seven flights of its Airlander 10 prototype, after some mishaps along the way. It is filled with helium. It can theoretically carry ten tonnes of freight or up to 90 passengers. It can take off and land almost anywhere flat-ish with a 600 meter expanse, or indeed on water, without the need for airports or buildings, in convenient locations near towns or cities. It cruises at 130 km/h using the vectored thrust of helicopter technology – hence the “hybrid” - and is an order of magnitude lower carbon. CO2 is even lower, if its engines are electric. "High-carbon air travel risks losing its social licence to operate. A carbon tax is coming ... The air-freight industry may not survive en masse unless it cuts emissions drastically." But is there enough helium available? It would have to fly with the wind, ie. from west to east, using winds like the jetstream.
Challenge to Manston airport DCO – barristers from 39 Essex Chambers, and Harrison Grant solicitors
Paul Stinchcombe QC, Richard Wald QC and Gethin Thomas are instructed by Kate Harrison and Susan Ring of Harrison Grant LLP in a judicial review of the Secretary of State for Transport’s decision to approve the re-opening of Manston Airport, as a dedicated freight airport. In so deciding, the Secretary of State overturned the recommendation of the Examining Authority [the Planning Inspectorate] to refuse development consent. They act on behalf of Jenny Dawes, a local resident who participated in the examination. Manston Airport has been disused since it was formally closed in 2014. The claim, issued on 19th August, contends that the Secretary of State’s analysis of the need for the development was flawed, and that moreover, the Secretary of State failed to discharge his duty to ensure that the net UK carbon account for the year 2050 is at least 100% lower than the 1990 baseline (“Net Zero”), under section 1 of the Climate Change Act 2008.
Air pollution is likely to increase the chance of developing Type 2 diabetes
Research in 2015 showed that there is a link between air pollution and the development of Type 2 diabetes. [That is the diabetes people generally acquire later in life, that is treated with medication, rather than insulin injection]. The study looked at 102 published studies from various countries. The results stated: "Air pollution is a leading cause of insulin resistance and incidence of type 2 diabetes mellitus. The association between air pollution and diabetes is stronger for traffic associated pollutants, gaseous, nitrogen dioxide, tobacco smoke and particulate matter." And the conclusions: "Exposure to air pollutants is significantly associated with increased risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus. It is suggested that, environmental protection officials must take high priority steps to minimize the air pollution, hence to decrease the incidence of type 2 diabetes mellitus." There is probably more research needed, to establish details, but it appears that there is definite positive link between the two. So areas with high levels of particulate and NOX air pollution, such as around Heathrow, are likely to see more ill health, including more diabetes.
Manchester set to close Terminal 2 again from 2nd September – not enough air travel demand
Manchester Airport will close its Terminal 2 from 2nd September, as there is so little air traffic. It had previously reopened in July, along with Terminal 3, after closing in March due to a 'significant fall' in passenger numbers caused by the the coronavirus pandemic. All flights will now operate from Terminal 1 and 3 'until further notice', officials said. More countries are now included in the list, from which returning travellers have to self-isolate for 14 days - which is cutting demand for air travel.
Wizz Air wants to expand UK operations with plan for creating a Gatwick base
Low-cost Wizz Air (Hungarian) is to open a new base at Gatwick. It wants the CAA to allow it to obtain more slots from its rival airlines that are not able to use them, due to the Covid pandemic. Wizz plans to launch four new routes from Gatwick by late October as it hopes to get people flying again. It is using the crisis in air travel as an opportunity to grab market share from less agile competitors with higher costs, that are looking to conserve cash until passenger demand recovers. Air travel within Europe remains very unclear, with the numbers of Covid cases changing rapidly in some countries, and fast changing regulations and restrictions. Wizz previously operated a limited schedule of flights using Gatwick, but the creation of a base will allow it to operate aircraft and crew from south London permanently for the first time as it shifts resources there. It hopes to get more Gatwick slots, as they become available. Airlines like easyJet and BA are likely to be unable to use many of their slots. Wizz announced in April its plans to cut close to 20% of its workforce and cut the wages of top management, pilots and crew.
Heathrow “to slash staff pay by up to a third” becoming a “low cost employer”after collapse in air travel
Heathrow staff are being asked to accept pay cuts of up to 37% and will lose their final salary pension scheme. It will also end paid breaks and allowances, worsen redundancy terms, and refuse to honour a pay rise. The airport wants to slash pay and conditions for its 7,000 workers in a bid to become a low-cost employer, according to union chiefs – an allegation denied by management. Air travel demand is currently low, (88% lower in July 2020 than in July 2019) and not expected to rise much in the short term. The aviation sector cannot afford to pay so many staff, when it has little income. Heathrow said it has been forced to take action now to protect jobs. But the union Unite (which has always been an enthusiastic backer of Heathrow and its expansion plans) has told its members that the airport is acting out of “greed, not need” and said it was using the pandemic as a smokescreen to cut pay and conditions. It added that Heathrow paid £100m in dividends in April. Unite says John Holland-Kaye told unions that he wanted to make the business a “low-cost employer” during a meeting on July 30th. Many staff working around Heathrow are not directly employed by the airport, but associated businesses. There could be over 20,000 job losses in these companies.
London City Airport to put terminal expansion plan on ice, due to Covid recession
London City Airport has put its plan to quadruple the size of its terminal on ice, as the Covid pandemic has decimated demand for air travel. City Airport is shelving £170 million of expansion work, which will mean loss of jobs. But it plans to continue with around £330 million of improvements this year, including eight new aircraft stands and a new parallel taxiway that will allow more arrivals and departures. The airport had been intending to finish the work on the terminal by 2023, and it could then cater for 6.5 million annual passengers. By contrast, in 2019 it had 5.1 million passengers. The airport said the recovery in air travel demand had been slower than expected, and its recovery (if it ever returns to 2019 levels) will take more years than thought earlier. The airport is owned by a consortium of investors including AIMCo, OMERS, Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and Wren House Infrastructure Management.
Dismay that Bristol Airport will appeal against Council refusal of its plans to expand for more passengers
Members of XR Bristol Airport Action Network (BAAN) are very disappointed that Bristol Airport is seeking to appeal against the decision ratified in March which rejected their application to increase passenger numbers per annum to 12 million by 2026. The decision made by the North Somerset Council's Planning and Strategic Committee amplified the views of the local community who clearly did not want this expansion. Some 8,931 written objections were submitted to the Council's planning website as opposed to 2,431 statements supporting the development. The Planning Committee rejected the original plan for expansion on the grounds that key environmental issues had not been properly resolved while insisting the economic benefits would not outweigh the environmental harm. Tarisha-Finnegan-Clarke, Coordinator of XR BAAN: "At a time when the Coronavirus has forced airports to drastically reduce the number of flights the aviation industry should be focusing on survival. Instead, the unfailing arrogance of Bristol Airport's management sees them pursuing their fantasy aspiration to expand passenger numbers. An appeal at this time is simply unappealing to so many people."
Concerns about proposed flight paths in and out of Manston when (if) it reopens for air freight
Development consent was finally granted in July, by the government, for a freight air cargo hub at Manston. The Thanet site is owned by RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP) which now has to complete the various stages of the Civil Aviation Authority CAP 1616 process for airspace change. RiverOak is currently on 'stage 2', known as the develop and access gateway. But CARMA, the Campaign Against the Reopening of Manston Airport, has questioned the lack of transparency of the process so far. They have drawn particular focus on the planned flight paths, claiming 30 towns and villages will be impacted. There are illustrations of some proposed flight paths, arrivals and departures, in the RSP documents. These show many areas of east Kent being overflown, for the first time. CARMA is very concerned that these routes have been drawn up, without information for, or consultation with, the public. Relevant community representatives have not been being properly informed. At the best of times, the CAA flight path alteration process is difficult for laypeople to understand, with "CAP1616 process" and "design options" and "airspace design principles" and "technical and operational interdependencies" among other bits of jargon, which are not written in "plain English."
T&E: Why Europe should focus on its own airline carbon market and forget the UN scheme
Transport & Environment argues why Europe should not depend on the inadequate, ineffective CORSIA scheme, for its aviation CO2 emissions. CORSIA does not include an actual emissions reduction target. It is at odds with the Paris agreement’s goals. The quality of the offsets is not good enough; there are so many of them that the price is far too low to make airlines reduce emissions. An EU system could do better. T&E says: "The aviation geeks of this world will know the argument [that international aviation can only be controlled by ICAO] by heart now: “aviation is an international mode of transport, so it requires international solutions”. But does it, really? A majority of the aviation industry is eager to privilege international solutions when they want to escape their environmental responsibilities, but are very happy to promote national solutions when it comes to getting [Covid] bailout money. This needs to stop. Aviation can’t have it both ways: it’s unfair for the sector to get support in bad times and refuse to contribute to European and national environmental efforts in good times. Especially when the industry isn’t effectively dealing with aviation’s climate problem by itself".
Liverpool Airport receives £34m loan from combined authority due to Covid-19 impact
Liverpool John Lennon Airport (JLA) is to get a loan of £34m from the city region combined authority to help give it stability during the Covid crisis. The funding was approved at a meeting of the combined authority on Friday, with the airport described as a "vital strategic infrastructure asset for the city region". The Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram said: “International connectivity is essential for the local economy and the roles of international gateways such as ports, airports and cruise terminals as economic hubs and drivers for local economies and tourism need to be maximised." ie. good to have people flying abroad for their holidays... The airport it indirectly supports around 6,000 local jobs, providing £250m per annum in economic impact, (not counting the contribution to the UK's tourism deficit...) The 10 Greater Manchester local authorities are also lending £250 million to the Manchester Airports Group (MAG) to help then with the Covid pandemic. This is from money borrowed at a low interest rate from government.
Covid: Dutch airline KLM to shed up to 5,000 jobs – AND other airline job loss numbers
KLM is cutting up to 5,000 jobs, despite a €3.4 billion bailout from the Dutch government, due to the Covid pandemic. KLM is part of the Air France KLM group. The job cuts over coming months would involve around 1,500 compulsory layoffs from KLM’s current workforce of 33,000. The jobs lost would be up to 300 flight crew, 300 cabin crew, 500 ground staff and around 400 jobs at KLM subsidiaries and in the Air France-KLM group positions. Then there would also be 2,000 voluntary redundancies announced earlier this year, and further cuts would be made through non-renewal of 1,500 temporary contracts. Some 4,500 to 5,000 positions in the KLM Group will cease to exist. Many other airlines are laying off staff. The numbers are approximately: Swissport (4,556 jobs). British Airways (up to 12,000 jobs). Job losses could also occur at IAG’s other airlines, Iberia, Vueling and Aer Lingus. EasyJet (around 4,500 jobs). Virgin Atlantic (3,000 jobs). Ryanair (about 3,000 jobs). Air France (maybe up to 7,500 jobs). Tui (8,000 jobs). Lufthansa (22,000 jobs). Scandinavia Airlines (5,000 jobs). Boeing (? 16,000 jobs). Airbus (15,000 jobs).
Letter to Chancellor saying there is no economic or social case for government funding of aviation decarbonisation projects
A group of aviation campaigns have sent a joint letter to the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak. This comes in response to a letter sent by Sir Graham Brady and other MP signatories, asking the Treasury to invest in aviation decarbonisation. The campaigners' letter says: "... there is no economic or social case for the government to invest taxpayers’ money in projects that might reduce aviation’s emissions. Doing so would perpetuate the current moral hazard in which the industry pollutes with impunity but expects others to bear the consequences and clean up after it." Data from the ONS shows air transport, and services incidental to it, account for less than 0.7% of GDP and only 0.4% of jobs. "The industry’s increasingly meaningless assertions, such as the one in Sir Graham’s letter that aviation “supports” 4.5% of GDP, should be treated with the scepticism they deserve". The industry overwhelmingly provides leisure, not trade, services. Over 80% of UK passengers travel for leisure purposes. "Using taxpayers’ funds to further support [aviation]... should be inconceivable in the current economic context." What is needed is "effective regulation that obliges the industry to decarbonise" and urgent government reform of regulation of the industry’s environmental impacts. See the full letter.
Plan for cargo hub at Manston Airport seriously flawed, says consultant
An aviation consultant, Peter Forbes (from Alan Strafford & Associates) has joined a group which believes the attempt to turn Manston airport into a cargo hub is seriously flawed. Mr Forbes believes RSP sees the only real value in the land as housing or industrial development. Its plans, even if they ever worked out, would be in addition to cargo flights at East Midlands, which handles the second largest tonnage in the UK after Heathrow. Mr Forbes also questioned the jobs figures that the airport is claiming, and its location, “The key disadvantage of Manston is its location at the extreme south-east corner of the UK and its poor surface access. Historic traffic levels at the airport have generally been modest." “The increased onward distribution times at Manston are particularly relevant for perishable goods, which comprise a significant proportion of all dedicated freighter cargo. In addition, the inability to offer night flights at the airport, which is a condition …, will be a significant constraint for the development of a freight hub, particularly for main international freight package couriers such as Fedex, UPS and DHL.” Two other aviation consultants, York Aviation and AviaSolutions, have also apparently said the airport is not viable.
AEF argues why government should NOT cut APD; it is needed as part of a greener recovery for the sector
The airlines take every opportunity to lobby to have APD (Air Passenger Duty) reduced, in an attempt to get more people to fly. "Airlines UK" representing BA, easyJet and Ryanair etc have again called on the UK government to suspend the tax. In fact, APD is only £13 for a return flight anywhere in Europe, so not enough to deter passengers. The AEF (Aviation Environment Federation) argues the case against any cuts in APD. They say there is no need to cut the tax, as air fares are likely to be low anyway, while airlines struggle to recover from the Covid hit; oil prices are also low. Air travel is substantially under-taxed, and there can be no justification for reducing its cost further, increasing demand and thus CO2 emissions. Air travel demand should not be encouraged, while there are no meaningful policies to tackle the sector's environmental impacts - noise and air pollution, as well as CO2. Airlines have benefited substantially from public funds, through furloughing staff; they should not be allowed to pay even less tax, while all sectors must make a fair contribution towards rebuilding public finances. And foreign holidays should not be incentivised at a time when the UK’s domestic tourism and hospitality sectors need to rebuild. Read the whole briefing.
British Airways have the PSO contract (since Flybe’s demise) for taxpayer subsidised flights between Heathrow and Newquay
The government agreed in 2018 to subsidise flights from Newquay to Heathrow. These were initially to be by Flybe. Flybe then collapsed in March 2020. The subsidy is through a Public Service Obligation (PSO) intended to give financial assistance to unprofitable routes, which are deemed "vital" for an area. The cost to the taxpayer was expected to be £3,4 million, over the 4 years of the PSO, till 2022. That would be £1.7 million from the DfT and £1.7 million from Cornwall Council. It appears that since Flybe collapsed, the PSO was put out to tender again. British Airways is now being paid £125,000 per month to operate these flights. The website Simple Flying says "under the emergency order, the [Cornwall] council will be paying British Airways £877,596 excluding VAT, to operate services to Newquay for 7 months .... According to details on the European Union’s Tenders Electronic Daily, the 7-month contract was issued as a result of the collapse of Flybe. Only one compliant bid, that of British Airways, was received in the 48 hours that the proposal was open." No passengers used Newquay airport in May 2020. The first flight date shown is 3rd September 2020.
Carbon Action Tracker assessment of international aviation sector – Critically Insufficient
The organisation, Climate Action Tracker (CAT) has assessed the international aviation sector, to see what commitments it has made to cutting carbon.The aim is to establish whether a sector is on target to agreed Paris Agreement commitments, hoping to keep global temperature increase to below 2C (or 1.5C ideally). They conclude that international aviation is in the lowest of their 5 categories, of "Critically Insufficient". If all countries and sectors did as little to cut emissions, and took the same approach, we would be on track for warming of over 4C. CAT explain the many reasons why the ICAO's CORSIA scheme, with its low ambition and only partial coverage of the sector, is insufficient. It is now impossible to predict future air travel demand, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, even if demand returns in the next three years, airlines will be under no obligation to offset their carbon, as emissions will probably be lower than in the year decided as the baseline, 2019. "Pre-COVID projections suggested that international aviation emissions would amount to 750 Mt in 2030 under an optimistic technology improvements scenario, or to 880 Mt under a low technology improvement scenario."
Night train routes are emerging, or re-emerging, across Europe – as people want to avoid flying
For a lower-carbon way to travel further afield in Europe, the night trains were a wonderful alternative. Travelling relatively slowly, they cause the emission of far less carbon than flights. But the advent of budget airlines and dirt cheap fares meant that over the past 20 years, most night train services were closed down. Now there seems to be a resurgence of interest, with new routes being announced. The Swedish government said it would provide funds for two new routes to connect the cities of Stockholm and Malmö with Hamburg and Brussels. France has announced an overnight service between Paris and Nice. Austrian train operator ÖBB bought 42 sleeper cars from Deutsche Bahn in 2016 and has resumed half of the night-time routes connecting Hamburg, Berlin, Munich and Düsseldorf to Austria, Switzerland and Italy. There is a route between Sylt in northern Germany and Salzburg in Austria. There is renewed enthusiasm among some of the public, as people reflect more deeply on how they travel - partly due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but also increased concern about climate breakdown. The recovery of the night train may not be all smooth running, however, as the economics of night services remain difficult.
APPG on Heathrow Expansion and Regional Connectivity launches inquiry into Building Aviation Back Better
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Heathrow Expansion and Regional Connectivity has launched an inquiry into how the aviation industry can build back in a post Covid-19 world. The APPG is keen to receive evidence from a range of organisations on how to build a more sustainable aviation policy that supports both workers and the environment. People have till 14th September to respond. The sector is unlikely to recover to levels of flying in 2019 till perhaps 2023. This presents an opportunity to reset the UK’s aviation strategy and initiate a green recovery. This should set aviation on a fairer and more sustainable course, while providing any support necessary for workers to shift to green jobs. Aviation policy which must strike an equitable balance between the benefits aviation brings and its adverse environmental, economic and health costs. The issues on which the APPG is seeking comment include the Aviation White Paper, taxation, regional balance, bailouts, the UK policy framework for decarbonisation, and community impacts, such as noise, night flights and air pollution.
Net Zero APPG says there needs to be a Carbon Takeback Obligation on sectors like airlines, to permanently remove CO2
A Net Zero All Party Parliamentary Group (NZ APPG) has been set up, to assess the progress being made by the UK towards its climate target. The group has set out a 10 point action plan, to get the government to scale up its efforts to "drive the UK towards net zero and ensure a green Covid recovery." There is an immense need for a "green recovery package to accelerate economic growth, create jobs and reduce emissions.” This has to focus on green-job creation, prioritise energy efficiency, decarbonise heat, and energy storage. The right investment, and the right regulatory conditions are needed. The NZ APPG want the Chancellor to develop a clear and systematic Net Zero Roadmap, complete with interim targets and robust implementation, review and governance arrangements. On aviation, they say UK should "Establish a ‘Carbon Takeback Obligation’ for fossil fuel extractors and importers, and airlines, requiring them to permanently store an increasing percentage of the CO2 generated by the products they sell, rising to 100% (net zero emissions) by 2050."
Young climate activists urge council to reject Leeds Bradford Airport development – “Don’t let us down”
‘DON’T let us down’ was the plea being made by young climate activists who are calling on Leeds City Council to reject plans for a new airport terminal. Leeds Bradford Airport is seeking permission to create a new, £150 million building to replace its current terminal which dates back to the 1960s. Environmental campaigners say the terminal flies in the face of attempts to tackle global heating. Leeds YouthStrike4Climate (Leeds YS4C) have sent an open letter to the city council’s leaders which reminds them that they declared a Climate Emergency in March, 2019. The expansion plans would make it ‘impossible’ for Leeds City Council to keep its promise to make the city carbon neutral by 2030. There will also be a lot more plane noise pollution. Leeds climate striker Annwen Thurlow said: “Our house is already on fire - we cannot let this expansion add more fuel. The council has a responsibility to protect our health and wellbeing, of people and planet. Young people in Leeds and across the world are relying on them. "So we say to them - please don’t let us down.”
Leeds Bradford Airport: Scientists object to expansion plans which will increase CO2 emissions
A group of five climate scientists have objected to Leeds Bradford airport's expansion plans as they make it "impossible" for Leeds to meet its greenhouse gas emissions target. The airport wants to build a new terminal, but this would mean more flights and more passengers, and so more carbon emissions. The scientists said the expanded airport's greenhouse gas emissions would be higher than the emissions allowed for the whole of Leeds in 10 years' time. The airport could cause the emission of 1,227 kilotonnes of greenhouse gas emissions in 2030, compared to 1,020 kilotonnes allowed for the whole of Leeds in 2030. One of those objecting is Prof Julia Steinberger, a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which advises the United Nations. The IPCC has warned that restricting global warming to 1.5˚C above pre-industrial levels will require “rapid and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”. The scientists say expansion would just represent "business as usual" and lock in higher CO2 emissions. If similar developments were replicated around the world, it would lock us into catastrophic climate change, which highlights that the proposed development is not only highly harmful but also unfair."
Southampton airport runway extension plans would lead to higher CO2 emissions
Plans to lengthen Southampton Airport’s runway (by 164 metres) have come under fire amid concerns over their impact on climate change. The airport's 2nd public consultation on revised plans has now been launched. Local campaigners Airport Expansion Opposition (AXO) said: “A ‘carbon-neutral’ airport’ is like ‘fat-free lard’. It’s just not possible. We need to act now on climate change. Lower carbon fuels and electric planes capable of carrying significant numbers of passengers are decades away. The airport says extending the runway isn’t about ‘bigger planes’. But its own figures show that it is about flying many more of the bigger, noisier A320 jets than previously. The result of this is, as the new documents show, over 40,000 extra local people being exposed to aircraft noise.” And "Regional connectivity can be maintained with the airport as it currently is, and since most travellers are UK residents heading out on holiday most of the benefit of their travel will be abroad.” The airport claims its future is in doubt (usual stuff about jobs...) unless it lengthens the runway.
Business air travel likely to remain at lower levels, for years – big impact on airline finances
The airline industry has largely been funded by business air travel, and those paying for premium seats, or very high air fares, bought at the last minute. Cheaper air tickets to get "bums on seats" would not themselves enable airlines to make profits; the expensive seats are what enable those cheap tickets to be offered. Now the demand for flights has collapsed due to Covid, and the decline in business flying is intense. Many companies do not see their level of business flying returning. Some think there may be a return in perhaps two years, though it may never happen. Will visiting clients/customers be as vital in future, to make deals or impress? Business travel in the US makes up 60% to 70% of industry sales, according to estimates by the trade group Airlines for America. The standard and acceptability of internet communications, video-conferencing, and Zoom have shown many organisations that they do not need much air travel. Companies do not want to risk staff getting abroad and being stranded. Business passengers travelling to big cities like London have created hotel, catering, conference, taxi etc demand, but that is all likely to reduce in future. Even if/when Covid is beaten, the impacts on business flying are likely to be long-term.
£200 million from government for research into lower carbon planes
The UK government has unveiled £400m in private and public sector funding for technologies and research aimed at cutting aviation CO2 emissions. BEIS has announced that projects aiming to develop high performance engines, new wing designs and ultra-lightweight cabin seats - all intended to cut fuel consumption - will be getting funding from the Government's Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) programme of £200 million. Business Secretary Alok Sharma said the £200 million would be matched by £200m from industry. There may also be money from universities, including Nottingham and Birmingham, for this research. The ambition is "zero carbon aviation" as part of the Government's FlyZero initiative. Britain would like to become a world leader etc in lower carbon aviation technologies. There is a The Net Zero All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) of MPs that is working on the necessary transition to "net zero" by 2050. The UK needs to be seen to be leading on this, before hosting COP26 in November 2021 (postponed from Nov 2020). The APPG has a 10 point action plan that says fossil fuel extractors and importers, as well as airlines, should be required to permanently store an increasing percentage of CO2 generated by the products they sell, rising to 100% by 2050, via a proposed "carbon takeback obligation."
ICCAN produces review and 6 recommendations about aviation noise metrics and their measurement
The issue of plane noise has been of great concern to hundreds of thousands of people, for ages. ICCAN was set up in 2019 to look into the problem, seeing if there might be ways to manage it better, and for people to be considered more - and their noise concerns taken seriously. One key problem is how noise is measured, and therefore how overflown communities can get factual data on the noise they are experiencing. This is complicated. Acoustics is not a simple science, and especially difficult to explain in plain English to laypeople. The noise an area suffers depends on the number of planes overhead, their height, their type, what they are doing at the time, the frequency of the flights overhead, the time of day (or night) and the background level of noise an area already experiences. Traditionally aircraft noise is averaged over a period of time. That provides numbers that can be compared to other places and other times. But it makes no sense to those being affected. But nobody hears an average of plane noise. They hear a number of separate noisy events. Now ICCAN has produced a review of aircraft noise metric and their measurement, and their recommendations, for how improvements should be made.
BA is retiring its whole fleet of 747s (lots used to use Heathrow) due to the Covid fall in air travel
British Airways has said it will retire, with immediate effect, all of its Boeing 747s as air travel demand has fallen so much due to Covid - and it may never recover to be how it was before. BA has 31 jumbo jets, which make up about 10% of the BA fleet. It had planned on retiring the planes in 2024 but has brought forward the date. There are about 500 747s still in service, of which 30 are still flying passengers. More than 300 fly cargo. The rest are in storage. The four-engined 747s are not fuel efficient, so cost a lot to run - and emit a lot of carbon. They are very noisy, causing noise nuisance to millions living under fight paths near airports. Even before Covid, Air France, Delta and United had already retired their 747 fleets. With expected lower air travel for years, even if a vaccine is found fairly soon, airlines need to save money, and 747s are more expensive to run than 2-engined planes. It will also be difficult to fill them up. They depend on the hub model of airports, and are less suited to the more popular point to point sort of air travel. With the end of 747s and A380s, much of the rationale for Heathrow expansion ends. Unfortunately, it is due to the 747s in the 1970s making air travel cheaper, that brought in the era of cheap, readily available air travel - with its environmental costs.
ICCAN progress report, after a year’s work looking at aviation noise – it should be a priority post-Covid
What seems a long time ago, in 2015, the Airports Commission recommended that an independent body should be set up to deal with aircraft noise problems. So in 2019 ICCAN (the Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise) was finally set up. It was hoped that this body would be able to help people who are subjected to aircraft noise, and who have no sensible means to get the level of noise nuisance reduced. In reality, ICCAN says its aim is "to improve trust and public confidence in the management of noise in the UK through the delivery of a comprehensive work programme." And: "It is not, and never has been, our role to have a view on the future expansion of the aviation industry, but as part of making the UK a world leader in managing aviation noise ...." It has no powers. It has now produced its Progress Report, one year from starting work. Its main aim has been contacting many "stakeholders", finding information, getting well informed. Now its lead commissioner, Rob Light, says the Covid pandemic "should be seen as a chance to rebuild and regrow aviation in a more sustainable way" and noise should be a key priority.
Around 250 job losses likely at Bristol airport, due to collapse in its air travel demand
Nearly 250 jobs could be lost at Bristol Airport because demand for air travel has plummeted. The unions are saying these redundancies would leave a ‘huge economic hole’ in the region. Bristol Airport has begun consultation with Unite over making 76 directly employed staff redundant. Swissport has also announced 167 job losses. A smaller number of redundancies at other firms are also expected to be announced soon. There are the usual claims about the alleged economic benefit the airport brings, and the number of jobs it supports. These conveniently ignore the fact that most flights are taken by local people flying abroad for their leisure, spending their money abroad - not in local businesses or local leisure/ holiday destinations. To try to save jobs, the unions want delay, in the hope that air travel demand picks up. The AOA - lobby groups for the industry - said this week up to 20,000 jobs at Britain’s airports are at risk as a result of the collapse of air travel due to the Covid pandemic. Bristol is yet another area has has become too dependent on the airport for jobs, and this vulnerability has now been shown up. Aviation is no longer a sector with guaranteed security and growth for a local economy.
Heathrow to close southern runway for several weeks, then use it for daytime only, till October
Heathrow has announced, with no warning, that it will be only using the northern runway from 13th July to 2nd August. It is doing extensive repairs (probably in fact resurfacing) on the southern runway, that means it cannot be opened even part of the day. So people living under the approach path to the northern runway, or under the departure flight paths, will not get the respite period they are used to. Normally flights are switched at 3pm each day. The disruption is planned to last until early October. After 2nd August, there will be flights on both runways, but the southern runway will be closed from 7pm to 7am. Therefore those under flight paths for the northern runway will get all the noise. Campaigners fear that the use of "mixed mode" (ie. landings and take-offs using the same runway) could become the “new norm” if Heathrow seek to use this method of operating permanently, post-pandemic, as a way of increasing the current flight cap of 480,000, to an estimated 565,000 flights per year. Mixed mode would allow that increase in flights without building a 3rd runway, which Heathrow probably can no longer afford.
Natural England says Leeds Bradford Airport expansion should not be approved – necessary details have not been provided
The government's environment adviser, Natural England, says Leeds City Council should not approve controversial plans for the Leeds Bradford Airport expansion, unless further evidence on the potential impacts is provided. Natural England states the airport's planning application lacks detail and "there is currently not enough information to rule out the likelihood of significant effects" on the environment. It has asked the airport to provide additional information, so the council can asses the impact the new £150 million terminal would have on air quality, local wildlife and protected landscapes. Natural England therefore advises Leeds City Council that it should not grant planning permission at this stage. The airport wants to increase passengers numbers from 4 million to 7 million a year. Climate scientists, environmentalists, The Group for Action on Leeds Bradford Airport (GALBA) and four Leeds MPs are also calling on the council to reject the new plans. GALBA, said the airport has not bothered to assess the damage that their expansion plans would do to wildlife and nature.