General News

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

 

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."

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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.

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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. 

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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..."  

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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. 

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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.”

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‘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?”

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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.

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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."

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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.

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