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Summaries of, and links to, the latest aviation news stories appear below. News is archived into topics

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Latest news stories:

New NEF report shows the climate impact of regional airport plans has been considerably underestimated

A report by the New Economics Foundation (NEF) says the climate impact of expansion plans at regional airports in England has been dramatically underestimated and would threaten the UK’s legally binding climate commitments.  NEF calculated that proposals to expand 4 airports (Bristol, Leeds Bradford, Southampton and Stansted) will lead to an increase in CO2 emissions up to 8 times higher than the airports previously claimed. This means the alleged economic benefits claimed, from more aviation, were overestimated, as they ignore around £13.4bn worth of climate damage the extra flights could cause. Alex Chapman, the author of the report, said the findings raised concerns about the level of scrutiny the airport expansion proposals had received from government. Alex said: “The secretary of state should step in and conduct an independent review of all four of these proposals and their compatibility with the UK’s climate targets.”  The airports all use unproven and undeveloped technologies to achieve future fuel-efficiency savings. Most airports only took account of CO2 of outbound flights, not of inbound flights, and ignored the non-CO2 impacts of flights.

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Luton scaling back airport expansion plans, delaying 2nd terminal, to save £1 billion

Luton Airport, which is owned by Luton council, is planning to scale back its expansion plans in order to save perhaps £1 billion.  In 2019 the airport consulted on plans for a new terminal that would enable the annual number of passengers to be increased from 18 million to 32 million by 2039. There will now be a new consultation, later in 2021 or in 2022, for initially improvement of the existing terminal, and then eventually a second terminal, at some future date. The airport's finances have been seriously hit by Covid. The Council benefitted greatly from the airport (before Covid), in 2019 receiving a £19.1m, and £15.8m servicing debt. In 2020 the airport had huge public subsidy, and more will follow for 2021. Local campaigners will be looking very carefully at what might emerge from proposals for further passenger growth using the existing terminal. This might be by creative use of "permitted developments" which Luton Borough Council could approve on its own. If such growth could accommodate more than an additional 5 million passengers per year (taking Luton to 23Mppa) it would then become possible for the declared ambition to reach 32Mppa to be achievable without need for a DCO, as below the 10 Mppa threshold.

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Oxford airport doing building work, to get in more private jets

The airport is building a new 63,000 sq. ft. (6,000m2) 140m long hangar with two bays including rear offices, stores and workshops, capable of accommodating up to 6 Bombardier Global, Gulfstream or Dassault Falcon Jet models, simultaneously. The new hangar, the airport’s 15th, is the first facility in a new zone of the airport to the north of the original site. The hangar will be used predominantly by established tenants. The airport will progressively replace 80-year-old hangars with new, bespoke facilities, providing turnkey solutions for clients. "With demand for space [for private jets] consistently outpacing supply within the London region, the airport is committed to invest in infrastructure to accommodate more business and allow established companies, such as Airbus Helicopters, Volare Aviation and Jet Maintenance International (JMI) to expand."  ie more private jets, and very high carbon private jet flights. "A new fuel farm will enable a quadrupling of the capacity of the original facility, whilst also providing valuable space for additional future static tankage for Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF)."

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Stop Stansted Expansion chairman Peter Sanders reflects on two decades of campaigning against airport expansion

After 17 years of campaigning, 82-year-old Peter Sanders CBE is stepping down as Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) chairman as the organisation begins a new era with a fresh name – Stansted Airport Watch (SAW). SSE was founded in 2002 in response to Government proposals which shocked the local community by setting out options for expanding Stansted with up to 3 additional runway - at the time the low cost airlines were getting going. Stansted could have become twice as big as Heathrow.  In its White Paper of 2003 the Government declared its support for an extra runway at Stansted, to be open by 2012 at the latest. After years of campaigning, in 2010, one of the first acts of the newly-formed coalition Government was to withdraw its support for a 2nd Stansted runway. It was, of course, too good to last for very long. The Airports Commission was set up, but in the end it did not even short-list Stansted for a second runway. It did say that if, in the 2040s, another runway was needed, Stansted could be one of the options. The Government accepted these recommendations. Meanwhile, the work for SAW continues, to contain the negative impacts of Stansted Airport.

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Stop Stansted Expansion to be renamed Stansted Airport Watch

Stop Stansted Expansion has announced its intention to bring an end to almost 19 years of campaigning under the SSE banner, to be replaced by Stansted Airport Watch (SAW). The proposed rebranding of SSE forms part of a number of changes to be recommended for approval at the AGM. SSE Chairman, Peter Sanders, explained the rationale for the changes, as it being very unlikely Stansted will be expanding capacity for many years to come.  Due to Covid, the current planning cap of 35 million passengers per annum is not expected to be reached within the next decade and it is questionable whether permission to grow to 43mppa – i.e. the issue at stake at the Public Inquiry – will ever be needed.  And so it makes sense to change the name, as much of the group's work has been on issues of noise, flight paths, aviation policy, taxation, carbon emissions, compensation - generally trying to reduce the harm done by the airpot - not only expansion. Peter Sanders will himself be standing down as Chairman of SSE at this year's AGM, having been a founder member of SSE in 2002 and its Chairman since 2004. He will probably be replaced by Brian Ross, who has long been Deputy Chairman.

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In open letter to Ministers, campaigners say moratorium on UK airport expansion needed, due to policy vacuum on future aviation CO2 cap

In an open letter to ministers, Grant Shapps and Robert Jenrick, a large number of airport groups say the government's aviation strategy is needed, now that the sector is included in the UK's binding climate targets. Currently there are expansion plans at 7 airports in England: Leeds Bradford, Luton, Bristol, Southampton, Heathrow, Stansted and Manston. Gatwick is also expected to submit plans soon, to make more use of its emergency runway.  The letter says the UK government must suspend all airport expansion plans until it sets out how they fit with its legally binding climate targets and the advice of its own experts, the Climate Change Committee.  The CCC said, in December 2020, that there should be no net expansion of UK airport capacity “unless the sector is on track to sufficiently outperform its net emissions”.  Which it is unlikely to be, in the next 20 years.  The growth of the industry, that the expansions would permit, could not be accommodated with a stricter overall carbon cap. The campaigners say: “Until the government has consulted on its preferred strategy for net zero aviation, and published its policy, it is impossible to see how local authorities or the government could justify any given airport expansion as conforming to binding carbon budgets and targets.”

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Environment lawyer, Tim Crosland of Plan B Earth fined £5k for contempt of court in Heathrow case

Environmental lawyer Tim Crosland (of Plan B Earth) was fined £5,000 for criminal contempt of court after deliberately making public the Supreme Court ruling related to Heathrow airport before the result was officially announced, in December 2020. The judges could have jailed him for two years. The Supreme Court had ruled that a planned 3rd runway at Heathrow would be legal, as the Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS) was legal, and had dealt adequately with the issue of climate change. Tim and others had argued that the increased CO2 emissions it would cause are incompatible with the UK’s obligations to fight the climate crisis. The judges said there was “no such thing as a justifiable contempt of court” and the fine was needed to protect the integrity of the judiciary. In court on Monday, Tim said “The attorney general prosecutes me for highlighting the government’s dishonesty and climate hypocrisy in the year of [UN climate summit] Cop26. It’s the classic case of retribution against the whistleblower by those attempting to conceal their own guilt.” Acceptance that climate must be a key factor in government planning policies is important - not only for aviation, by other sectors such as road building and other large carbon infrastructure.

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Airlines put up cost of flights as soon as destinations are on the UK’s list of no-quarantine countries

Holiday bookings have risen suddenly, now government has said there will be some countries in which people can have quarantine-free holidays. The cost of some airline tickets has already surged, with travel to Portugal’s resorts on May 17, from when the restrictions ease, more than doubling in price in the last two days. Last night, Ryanair was charging £152 for a flight from Stansted to Lisbon, compared with £15 the day before restrictions lift.  The airlines say there is pent-up demand for holidays, which justifies the higher cost. Newspapers report that in the minutes after the announcement, the cost of flights from Heathrow to Lisbon rose by 25% - from £264 up to £332.  A flight from Stansted to Lisbon increased in price for May 19th from £128 to £262.  This is worth remembering next time the airlines complain of the iniquity of government charging £13 Air Passenger Duty (APD), for a return flight to Europe. Airlines often talk of how this puts tourists off, and is unfair etc etc.  Note how quick they are to charge even "hard working families" a great deal more, (far more than the tiny APD) even for one annual holiday, as soon as they get the chance. 

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Amsterdam banning advertising for fossil fuel products (eg. flights) from the subway stations

Adverts for ‘fossil fuel products’, such as air travel and cars that run on fossil fuels, will no longer be seen in the subway stations in Amsterdam.  Amsterdam is the first city in the world that wants to keep fossil fuel advertising out of the streets. Never before has a city taken the decision to ban advertising solely on the basis of climate change. The agreement about advertisements in the metro stations is the municipality’s first step towards making advertising in Amsterdam fossil-free. The Dutch campaign, Reclame Fossielvrij (Fossil Free Advertising), which strives for a nationwide ban in the Netherlands on advertising by the fossil fuel industry and advertising for polluting transport, congratulated Amsterdam and calls it an important step. Some other Dutch cities, The Hague, Utrecht and Nijmegen have said they were "open to a ban on fossil fuel advertising."  Motions have also been filed in Canada, England (we have the Badvertising campaign), Sweden and Finland.  Fossil Free Advertising strives for a nationwide ‘tobacco-style law’ for the fossil fuel industry, to change public attitudes - as happened with smoking.

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Airlines must reduce CO2 emissions – instead of using ineffective, unreliable offsets

Airlines are hoping they can look "green" and let customers believe the carbon created by their flights can be cancelled out, by the magic of carbon offsetting. But increasingly it is understood that carbon offsets, that just pay to try to avoid carbon being emitted elsewhere, do not work.  The carbon emitted by the flight is still in the atmosphere.  The aviation sector has been trying to use carbon offsets from the forestry sector, to claim their emissions are cancelled out, but new evidence shows just how unreliable these forest offsets are. The way they are calculated is very unclear and unreliable.  Instead of hoping to negate CO2 by offsets, "the first priority for any organisation has to be that they address their own carbon footprint directly. So for airlines, that means reducing emissions from their operations and fossil fuel use, and for passengers to think carefully about their flying habits .... Avoided emissions credits are not going to get us to net zero in the long run.” Cait Hewitt, deputy director of the AEF said we shouldn’t kid ourselves that avoided emission credits from forestry somehow delivers carbon neutral flying. They don't. It just risks creating the impression that airlines are taking real action on this issue, when they are not. It just stops people confronting difficult truths about the climate crisis.

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Unconvincing airline hype about large future use of so called “sustainable aviation fuels”

Airlines are falling over each other, to say how much "Sustainable Aviation Fuel" (SAF) they plan to use in future, and how this will greatly increase their carbon emissions. Ryanair says it will use 12.5% SAF by 2030; IAG says it will use 10% by 2030; easyJet says they will use SAF in the short term, but "we must avoid all resources being drawn into SAFs, which don’t fully solve the problem."  According to the European Commission, SAF currently accounts for just 0.05% of jet fuel use in the EU, and without further regulation, the share is expected to reach just 2.8% by 2050. There is disagreement between low cost, short haul airlines and those flying longer routes, about whether SAF fuel quotas should apply to all flights, not only short haul. Long-haul air services departing European airports accounted for 48% of CO2 emissions from all operations in 2019, while making up just 6% of flights, according to Eurocontrol data.  It is unclear what all this SAF is going to be made from. One of the very few fuels thought to genuinely be low carbon, up to now, has been used cooking oil. But it has been revealed that there is considerable fraud, with virgin palm oil (causing deforestation) being passed off as used.

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There may be even fewer airport jobs in future – if robots take on much of the work

We are often given estimates of large numbers of new, good quality, jobs that will be produced if an airport expands. Those very rarely materialise, as the sector works hard to mechanise and automate as much as possible, to reduce numbers of staff. There are growing numbers of robots at airports, carrying out a range of jobs. A survey by Air Transport IT Insights recently found that almost half of global airlines and 32% of airports are currently looking for partners to further develop their robotic involvement in the next 3 years. The latest developments see robots staffing airport check-in desks, carrying out security protocols, cleaning and delivering food (ordered through a contactless system) to passengers while they wait in lounges for their flights.  There has been more cleaning needed, due to Covid - and people are increasingly happy to avoid physical contact or interaction with staff. However, the robot technologies are not yet properly developed and there will be a lot of issues on safety, reliability etc before they become very widespread.

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Study shows carbon offsets, by forest protection, used by major airlines are based on flawed system

An investigation by the Guardian and Greenpeace's Unearthed has found that the forest protection carbon offsetting market used by major airlines for claims of carbon-neutral flying faces a significant credibility problem, with experts warning the system is not fit for purpose.  Air passengers can buy offsets that, allegedly, help prevent the emission of a quantity of carbon, so they can claim their flight was "carbon neutral".  The theory is that money is needed for projects to keep intact areas of forest healthy, and prevent deforestation. That depends on knowing how much forest there was, how much would have been destroyed unless the offset money had been paid, and how much has been saved in good condition. In practice, that is not easy to calculate. The study found there is often considerable over-counting, with schemes saying there would have been far higher rates of deforestation than were likely. And some of the areas that remained forested did so for other reasons - like government policy - not the offset money. If forestry offsets are to be used, it is vital that the methodologies they use to calculate the reduction in emissions - and additionality - are rigorous and accurate.

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In 2019 the CO2 emissions of British Airways were almost as high (18.4 MtCO2) as ALL the vans on UK roads

British Airways flights emitted almost as much CO2 in 2019 as all the vans on UK roads, according to data obtained by non-profit group Transport & Environment (T&E). It emits just under a third of all of the cars in the UK.  It was the 2nd highest-emitting airline in Europe before Covid, with 18.4 million tonnes (Mt) CO2 released in 2019, just short of the 19.4 Mt CO2 equivalent emitted by the UK’s vans in 2018.  It ranks, by CO2 emissions, just behind Lufthansa, which emitted 19.1 MtCO2 in 2019, with Air France in third place at 14.4 MtCO2.  The overall climate impact of aviation CO2 is 2 to 3 times that of burning the same fuel at ground level - that is not included in the 18.4 MtCO2 figure. T&E and partners obtained the data using FoI requests to governments, which now haveto gather CO2 statistics from airlines as part of the UN’s international offsetting scheme for aviation, Corsia. The data has not been made public before. In the UK, about 15% of people take 70% of flights. Accordingly, a large part of the emissions by BA will be by people - those richer than average - who fly often. 

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Climate Change Committee professor says demand for flights will need to be cut, eg. by taxing frequent fliers more

Professor Piers Forster, a climate scientist and a member of the Climate Change Committee, who has taken a keen interest in the problem of aviation carbon emissions has said that the government is likely to have to bring in a tax on frequent fliers and a ban on airport expansion if it is to meet its new climate targets - a 78% cut of carbon emissions on the 1990 levels - for 2035. This new, stricter, target will “squeeze” the amount of emissions the rest of the economy can emit over the coming decades. Prof Forster said: “By including [international shipping and aviation] within the target it actually reduces the allowable emissions that are there for the rest of the economy. So all the rest of the economy gets squeezed quite significantly.”  It will be decades ahead, if ever, that flying could be low carbon. In the interim, Professor Forster said the government will need to bring in measures to reduce the amount of flights taken in and out of the UK. Frequent flyers should be deterred, while in the short term, there may be enough carbon budget for the occasional leisure flight.

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CAA rules that Heathrow can only raise £300m out of £2.6bn through higher charges, plus another £500 m

Heathrow’s bid to increase airport charges to recover £2.6 billion lost during the coronavirus pandemic has been rejected by the aviation regulator, the CAA - which said its expenditure had been “disproportionate and not in the interests of consumers”. The CAA is allowing Heathrow to initially raise only an additional £300 million through higher charges, out of the £2.6 billion it asked for. "The CAA has agreed to a limited, early adjustment to HAL's RAB of £300m and will consider this issue further as part of the next price control (H7)" which starts on 1st January 2022. The CAA has agreed to allow Heathrow to raise charges to recover the £500 million “it incurred efficiently” on its plans for a 3rd runway, between 2017 and 1st March 2020. Heathrow said it faces loses of around £3 billion due to the Covid pandemic.  IAG, which owns British Airways, the largest airline at Heathrow, said it is “extremely disappointed” with the CAA decision, which means more expensive tickets for its consumers from 2022. Heathrow wants concessions by the CAA, though its shareholders have earned nearly £4 billion in dividends in recent years. 

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Western Rail Link to Heathrow mothballed – won’t be revived until airport’s finances improve

Network Rail has now confirmed that staff working on the Western Rail Link to Heathrow  have been moved on to other projects, as there isn't enough money to keep building it. The proposed link goes from the Great Western Main Line at Langley to Terminal 5.  Plans to build a £900M western rail link have been brought to a “controlled pause”, or mothballed, by Network Rail due to the impact of Covid-19 on the aviation industry and Heathrow's finances. Heathrow is currently unable to commit any funding to the project due to its precarious financial position, with a £2 billion loss announced in February.  The indefinite delay to the rail link was disclosed in the minutes of the Network Rail board meeting on 20 and 21 January 2021, published in March. It is possible that the scheme could be resumed  at some future.  The DfT would periodically update its business case for the Western Rail Link to Heathrow, in the light of significant changes to both the aviation and rail sectors as a result of Covid. The delay will continue, if Heathrow does not get passengers - and earnings - back. The scheme will be pushed further down the priority list. 

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Good Law project, Dale Vince and George Monbiot start legal proceedings to force Government to suspend & review ANPS

In just months, a Government policy - the Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS) - that pre-dates the Net Zero commitments in the Climate Change Act. could form the basis for a decision to expand Manston Airport in Kent.  Government has refused to say whether a decision on Heathrow expansion will be made under the ANPS but, with an application for a development consent order (DCO) on Manston imminent, the Good Law project hopes it can force its hand – on Manston and on Heathrow. The ANPS is inconsistent with government commitment to tackle the climate crisis. Though the Supreme Court, in December 2020, ruled that the ANPS was legal, it is necessary for the government to suspend and review it. Now the Good Law project, with Dale Vince and George Monbiot, have issued a pre-action protocol letter to the government legal department, asking for the ANPS to be suspended and reviewed. Not only would proper updating of the ANPS prevent expansion of Manston and Heathrow, it would do the same for others in the pipeline - Southampton, Leeds Bradford, Bristol, Stansted and Gatwick. Now government has agreed to include international aviation in carbon budgets, and a 78% cut in UK CO2 emissions by 2035, there is even greater urgency for correct UK aviation policy.

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Heathrow’s 3rd runway plans are ‘dead’, say campaigners, as government tightens UK CO2 targets

Plans for a 3rd runway at Heathrow have been struck a massive blow by the government's new emission targets.  The government announced the new climate change target on April 20th, with an aim to cut carbon dioxide equivalent emissions by 78% by 2035 when compared to 1990 levels. For the first time, the Sixth Carbon Budget, covering the period 2033 to 2037, will include international aviation emissions (and also shipping emissions). Previously these had just been "taken account of" in setting the budget. The total emissions cap for the 2033-37 period is set at 965 MtCO2, which is far lower than the cap for the 5th carbon budget.  With Heathrow view with Drax power station to be the UK's largest source of CO2, emitting (in 2019) about 19 - 20 MtCO2 per year. That is around 52 - 55% of total UK aviation emissions (37Mt CO2 in 2019 link). A 3rd runway, adding another 7 MtCO2 or more per year, would mean that - in order to meet the new legally binding targets - most other UK airports would be required to close. Paul McGuinness, chair of the No 3rd Runway Coalition, said: “Heathrow expansion is dead. It is simply not compatible with the UK government’s commitment to do our part in protecting the climate."

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Government inclusion of aviation into carbon budgets heralds the beginning of the end for fossil-fuelled aviation

The UK is to become the first major economy to extend its legal ‘net zero’ emissions commitment to departing international flights, including international aviation and shipping in the Sixth Carbon Budget.  AEF Deputy Director Cait Hewitt said: "This should mark the beginning of the end for fossil-fuelled aviation. After many years of slipping the net when it comes to climate change, and expecting special privileges, airlines will now need to start planning for a very different future.  Including international aviation in UK climate law gives a strong message from ministers that all sectors of the UK economy need to be on the same path towards net zero emissions. Now the Government will need to make sure that’s delivered."  The Government is expected to consult next month on what measures it plans to introduce to put aviation onto a path of cutting CO2. Options it will need to consider include the setting of annual emissions targets for airlines; a review of policy on airport expansions; and new financial measures to limit flying demand such as an air miles tax. So far, the aviation industry has primarily focused on carbon offsetting as a way to attempt to negate carbon emissions - and aspirations for low carbon flight ... many years into the future.

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UK to include international aviation and shipping in carbon budgets, and aim for overall UK 78% CO2 cut by 2050

In December 2020 the Climate Change Committee (CCC) published its guidance for the UK government on its Sixth Carbon Budget, for the period 2033 - 37, and how to reach net-zero by 2050.  That included the recommendation on aviation that there should be no net airport expansion, and that international aviation and shipping (IAS) should be fully included in the carbon budgets.  Now the government has accepted many of their recommendations, including that the UK should cut carbon emissions by 78% (compared to 1990) by 2035.  This is 15 years earlier than had been the original goal.  The CCC recommended  that IAS should be properly within carbon budgets; also that the target for aviation, instead of being allowed to emit 37.5MtCO2 per year by 2050, should be reduced to 23MtCO2 by 2050, following the BNZ (balanced net zero) pathway. There is no commitment yet by government to insist on that reduction.  It would mean a large amount of UK engineered greenhouse gas removals by 2050 having to be assigned to making the aviation sector net-zero.  People would have to pay for the carbon they emit being removed, rather than just "fly-tipped into the atmosphere", which would make flying more expensive. Ways (taxation?) will be needed to make that fair.

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France’s ban on short flights should be a wake-up call for action on air travel by Britain

The French national assembly has voted to ban domestic flights on routes that could be travelled via train in under two and a half hours. This is the first time any major economy has prohibited domestic air travel for environmental reasons. It’s also far more drastic than anything the UK has done to curb flight emissions. We shouldn’t overstate the impact of the French domestic flight ban – or the extent to which its politicians are listening to its citizens’ concerns about the climate crisis. Nevertheless, the ban recognises that we can’t tackle climate change without some actual curbs on air travel. Up until now, the idea that there might be hard limits to consumption in a carbon-constrained world has been anathema to politicians everywhere. This ban is an important step towards accepting that curbing consumption is essential for driving down emissions. Finding fair ways to impose these limits in practice will be difficult. But banning unnecessary domestic flights should be the easiest place to start. Even if we can develop some technological solutions to aviation emissions, the Committee on Climate Change still finds that deliberate policies to limit the demand for flights will be needed to reach climate targets. Leo Murray sets out how far we need to go on this.

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In coming years, it might be possible to get the sleeper train from London to Europe …?

A new night rail service in 2022 was announced last week between Brussels and Prague, stopping at Amsterdam, Berlin and Dresden, with tickets expected to cost from €60 one way. It is possible there might again be sleeper trains available between Britain and Europe, via the Channel Tunnel, though it cannot happen soon. As the UK is a bit outside Europe, further away, the sleeper makes sense. In the 1990s, a fleet of trains was built for night trains between the UK and Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Cologne. But rising construction costs and the rise in the popularity of budget airlines made the project redundant. The plan was formally dumped in 1999. Some of the difficulties are that trains would need to be bespoke rather than sourced from existing rolling stock, driveable from each end, with sufficient fire safety precautions. It would not be possible to keep fares as low as the cheap airlines, but the “Greta Thunberg effect” on public attitudes to flight and climate change would probably mean people want to travel by rail. The night train between Brussels and Prague is due to start in spring 2022. "You wake up the next morning, you open your curtain and you’re in different worlds. I mean, how great is that?

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Campaigners call for temporarily moratorium on airport expansion until there is new UK policy on aviation carbon

There is currently no UK government policy on aviation carbon emissions, or airport expansion policy across the country. While the Committee on Climate Change says there should be no NET increase in airport capacity, it is unclear how this is to work. Meanwhile many airports are trying to push through expansion plans, to get them approved by local authorities as soon as possible. In the absence of proper UK policy, local decision are just being made by local councils, with no over-arching big picture logic.  The Aviation Environment Federation (AEF) is asking for a temporary moratorium on airport expansion plan decisions. Cait Hewitt of AEF said local airport applications show "the climate impact of airport expansion is not something that can be easily determined at a local level. The government really needs to get its act together in terms of setting out how the aviation sector in the UK is going to play its part in delivering net zero ... We would support a moratorium on airport expansions until the government has figured out what its policy is on aviation and net zero.”  AEF research showed that if all expansion plans put forward by UK airports were to proceed, it would cause an additional 9 MtCO2 to be emitted each year by 2050.

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Heathrow owners divided about plan to raise £2.8bn by higher charges (due to Covid losses)

Heathrow is facing the spectre of a divided boardroom over its plan to raise billions of pounds from airlines and customers by increasing airport prices. State-backed Qatar Airways, whose owner is Heathrow’s 2nd-biggest shareholder, said Heathrow’s plans to recoup £2.8bn is “unreasonable, not in the consumer interest and should be rejected”. Qatar Airways' boss, Akbar Al Baker, is a representative for the state of Qatar on Heathrow’s board of directors. Despite huge cuts in traffic, Heathrow claims it has enough cash reserves to cope with this year, even if there are low passenger numbers. There was recently a consultation about how much the CAA will let Heathrow charge airlines, in order to recoup cash lost due to the pandemic.  Heathrow has threatened legal action if the CAA does not allow this. 

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French lawmakers in the National Assembly approve a ban on domestic flights, where train takes under 2hrs 30mins

In a recent vote, the French National Assembly voted to abolish domestic flights by any airline on routes than can be covered by train in under two-and-a-half hours, as the government seeks to lower carbon emissions - even while the airline industry has been hit by the pandemic. A citizens’ climate forum established by Macron to help form climate policy had called for the scrapping of flights on routes where the train journey is below 4 hours, or 6 hours. The bill goes to the Senate before a third and final vote in the lower house, where Macron’s ruling party and allies dominate. The measure is part of a broader climate bill that aims to cut French carbon emissions by 40% in 2030 from 1990 levels, though activists accuse President Emmanuel Macron of watering down earlier promises in the draft legislation.  However, the French government will contribute to a €4 billion ($4.76 billion) recapitalisation of Air France, more than doubling its stake in the airline, to keep it going during the Covid crisis. The Industry Minister said there was no contradiction between the bailout and the climate bill (sic) and despite carbon targets, companies had to be supported.  McKinsey analysts forecast that air traffic may not return to 2019 levels before 2024. 

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YouGov poll shows 45% of business travellers (in 7 European countries) planning to cut future flights

A YouGov poll surveyed business travellers in 7 European countries including the UK, in December 2020 and January 2021.  It found overall 45% said they would be flying less often in future - when Covid restrictions end - and 38% said their air travel would be about the same as before. The reduction would be because of videoconferencing. The reduction in the need to take business flights and travel abroad had been seen as positive by 20% of business flyers, and it had not negatively affected their work life or productivity. Business fliers tend to fly far more often than most holidaymakers, with 10% of those in the poll taking more than 10 flights in the year up to the first lockdown in March 2020.  Business passengers provide a huge part of legacy airline income, so without them, the price of air tickets would have to rise. Carbon emissions from aviation were growing at 5.7% a year before the pandemic, despite many countries committing to cut all emissions to net zero by 2050 to tackle the climate crisis. Green campaigners argue that the aviation shutdown provides an opportunity to put the sector on a sustainable trajectory.  The poll was commissioned by the European Climate Foundation.

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Southampton Airport runway extension plans approved by Eastleigh Council

Eastleigh Borough Council has voted (finally at 2.15am!) to agree to allow Southampton Airport to extend its runway by 164 metres. This will lead to larger planes using the airport, and thus flights to more distant destinations, more passengers and higher carbon emissions. 22 councillors voted in favour of the proposals; 13 councillors voted against the plans and 1 abstained.This followed 19 hours of debate. Opponents have fought against the plans not only due to the carbon emissions, but also the extra noise for surrounding areas, and air pollution.  The standard justification for these expansions are local economic benefit, and more jobs - even though the net impact is to encourage more local people to fly abroad on holiday, spending their holiday money there.  It is likely that the number of people affected by noise would go from 11,450 in 2020 to 46,050 in 2033, if the expansion happens.  Officers hoped that increased home noise insulation would help, but that has no impact if windows are open, or when outdoors. There are claims of "1,000 new jobs" - based on experience at other airports, that is very unlikely indeed. The CCC advice is that there should be no net airport expansion; so if one expands, another should contract.  Likely?

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Climate campaigners call for halt to regional UK airports expansion, to avoid aviation CO2 growth

The Aviation Environment Federation says the UK government must intervene to stop the planned expansion of a number of small airports around the country if it is to meet legally binding environmental targets and avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis. Seven regional airports have devised plans to expand their operations, despite fierce opposition from climate scientists and local people, who argue the proposals are incompatible with UK efforts to address the climate and ecological crisis.  The decision on whether to allow a new terminal at Leeds Bradford has been delayed. The AEF says the government must go further and intervene to halt the other schemes which, taken together, would release huge amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The expansions are against the recommendations fo the government's climate advisors, the Committee on Climate Change, who say there should be no net airport expansion.  ie. if one expands, another has to contract (there are no volunteers).  The time is well overdue for government take a proper strategic overview of the climate impact of airport expansion proposals rather than leave it up to individual local authorities. There needs to be proper policy for aviation carbon, which is sadly lacking.

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UK government criticised by prominent scientists and lawyers, for ignoring Paris climate goals in infrastructure decisions

Prominent scientists and lawyers (including Jim Hansen, Sir David King and Prof Jeffrey Sachs) have written to ministers and the Supreme Court, to say the UK government’s decision to ignore the Paris climate agreement when deciding on major infrastructure projects undermines its presidency of UN climate talks this year.  The Heathrow case is a key example, when a 3rd runway was approved in principle by government (2019) and the Supreme Court finally ruled in December 2020 that the government had not needed to take the Paris climate goals into account. The UK is due to host the Cop26 summit in Glasgow in November, regarded as one of the last chances to put the world on track to meet the Paris goals.  It is dangerous for the highest court in the land to set a bad precedent. The letter, signed by over 130 scientists, legal and environmental experts, says that the Supreme Court "set a precedent that major national projects can proceed even where they are inconsistent with maintaining the temperature limit on which our collective survival depends.” And “Indeed, the precedent goes further still. It says that the government is not bound even to consider the goals of an agreement that is near universally agreed."

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Plans for expansion of Leeds Bradford airport put on hold – after government direction – giving time for a decision to “call in”

The government has issued a direction to Leeds City Council, preventing councillors from granting planning permission for Leeds Bradford Airport (LBA) expansion, without special authorisation. This means the expansion of LBA is now on hold.  The direction – set out in section 31 of the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2015 – will give further time to Robert Jenrick, the Communities Secretary, (MHCLG) to consider whether to formally “call in” the planning application for a public inquiry. The plans to build a new terminal building on the green belt had been given conditional approval by Leeds City Council in February, despite widespread opposition from local MPs, residents and environmental groups. Campaigners argued the expansion would make a mockery of efforts to tackle the climate crisis and undermine the government’s credibility ahead of a key climate conference later this year. The issue is of more than local importance, and a full public inquiry - chaired by a planning inspector, or lawyer - would mean all the evidence being properly considered. The inquiry would then make its recommendation to Robert Jenrick, to make the final decision.

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Sir David Amess (Southend West MP) in plea to Southend Council to get night flights scrapped

Sir David Amess, MP for Southend West, has said that night flights at Southend Airport must be scrapped, as residents continue to battle sleepless nights. He has written to Southend Council leader Ian Gilbert pleading for his support in getting them banned, for the sake of residents. The Amazon cargo night flights have been the topic of heated debate since they launched in October 2019. The airport has permission for 120 night flights per month, but insists the number of flights is regularly much lower.  Council bosses have admitted it would be “very difficult” to get the flights scrapped, as the airport is acting inside their targets, and and are not breaking the law. The only way to get the night flights stopped is to have the quota removed from the Airport’s Section 106 Licence Agreement, from the council. The airport is desperate to make some money, due to the pandemic, and would not willingly give up night flights, which provide some income.  This is especially frustrating, when there are very few daytime flights, and many of the cargo planes are old and noisier than more modern planes.  There were actually 127 night flights departing the airport in March 2020, compared to just 78 last month.

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French “eco-mayors” trying to reduce environmental impact – one suggests children don’t “dream of flying”

The Mayor of Poitiers has suggested that, due to the climate crisis, children growing up today should not aspire to many overseas flights.  She has been attacked by the aviation industry, for not helping them, and for other politicians etc for a "depressing" ideology and restricting people's freedoms. The Mayor, Léonore Moncond’huy, is one of several "eco-mayors" to deter people from traditional pursuits. She has cut subsidies to the town’s two flying clubs, on the grounds that “public money must no longer finance sports based on the consumption of non-renewable resources”.  She said: “We must protect children from some dreams. Sadly, aviation must no longer be part of the dreams of the children of today.”  The mayor of Tours has also tried to ban traffic and is halting Ryanair’s use of the city airport. Many green Mayors have tried to introduce various measures, some less sensible than others ... several are trying to reduce car use. The mayor of part of Lyon has opposed hosting part of the Tour de France because of its huge environmental footprint ...

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Treasury consulting on a Frequent Flyer Levy to tax aviation (Treasury not keen on it)

The Treasury has a  consultation (ending 15th June) on several aspects of the taxation of aviation. The first section was on domestic APD (Air Passenger Duty); the second part is on changes to the international APD bands  and also on a Frequent Flyer Levy (FFL). The Treasury document says:  "The Committee on Climate Change and several environmental stakeholders have suggested that the government should introduce a frequent flyer levy, in order to tackle the environmental impacts of flying in an equitable way. ... A frequent flyer levy would seek to constrain overall demand for flights, by increasing the amount of tax liability due, according to the number of flights a passenger had previously taken. Unlike APD, the tax would be levied on the individual, rather than the airline."  It stresses the various difficulties in administering the tax (a great deal of data to be collected, people with multiple passports, people who need to fly often...) It makes out that people who fly a lot already pay more APD, ignoring the key point of the FFL that the tax ramps up for each flight, so the 5th or 10th flight in one year costs a great deal more, than the standard APD rate on each. It concludes: "The government is therefore minded to retain APD as the principal tax on the aviation sector and not introduce a frequent flyer levy as a replacement, and welcomes views on this position."

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Southend Airport to pay out £86k due to runway extension noise, under the Land Compensation Act

A court has ordered that Southend Airport should pay a total of £86,500 in compensation to owners of 9 neighbouring homes who say their values were diminished by noise, following the extension of the runway. in 2012  In its ruling, the Upper Tribunal’s Lands Chamber ordered that payments ranging from £4,000 to £17,000 be made in respect of the 9 homes, while a claim for a 10th property was dismissed. The claims for compensation are under the Land Compensation Act 1973. There is more noise, as larger planes land and take off from the airport.  The longer runway enabling the airport to “attract low-cost commercial airlines operating much larger aircraft than had previously flown from it”. The Tribunal agreed that the extra noise had meant depreciation in the value of most of the lead properties.  In 2013, the value of the lead properties ranged from £150,000 to £280,000, and the claimants sought compensation of between £32,200 and £60,100.  The Land Compensation Act says it applies to cases where there have been alterations to runways or aprons.  ie. something physical has been built (not buildings).

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Gatwick Airport: Can Crawley turn away from aviation and go “green”?

Crawley relies on nearby Gatwick Airport for thousands of jobs, but it is now hoping to become less reliant on aviation and instead encourage sustainable business. With future demand for air travel, especially in the next year or two, uncertain, people who lost their jobs want local "quality" jobs soon. Gatwick had employed about 6,000 people from Crawley, and supported many more jobs in industries like hospitality and catering.   With uncertainties about what British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Norwegian will do about keeping flights at Gatwick, it is unlikely numbers of passengers will return to 2019 levels perhaps for another four years. It is unlikely as many people would be employed in aviation then as in 2019, as airlines and airports increase automation of jobs as fast as possible.  In early March the government gave Crawley £21.1m to help achieve what it called "plans to become a modern, vibrant and healthy digital town with a thriving green economy". The council aims to offer training in areas like insulation and solar power installation, while driving demand by "retrofitting" council homes and ensuring new developments are sustainable.

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A few frequent flyers ‘dominate air travel’ (so dominating aviation CO2 emissions) – in all richer countries

Research for the climate campaign group, Possible, shows that a small minority of frequent flyers dominate air travel in almost all countries with high aviation CO2 emissions.  In the UK, 70% of flights are made by a wealthier 15% of the population, with 57% not flying abroad at all, in any one year. The Possible research suggests the frequent flyer trend is mirrored in other wealthy countries.   USA: 12% of people take 66% of flights.  France: 2% of people take 50% of flights. Canada: 22% of the population takes 73% of flights.  The Netherlands: 8% of people takes 42% of flights.  China: 5% of households takes 40% of flights.  India: 1% of households takes 45% of flights.  Indonesia: 3% of households takes 56% of flights. There are calls for a frequent flyer levy - a tax that increases the more you fly each year.  John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace: "Taxing frequent fliers is a good idea - but we also have to do something about air miles, which reward frequent fliers for flying more frequently. This is obscene during a climate crisis - and it should be stopped." The Treasury take the line that "Frequent flyers already pay more under the current APD (Air Passenger Duty) system" but that misses the point. They pay the same rate of APD on each flight, the first, the fifth or the tenth that year. A tax that ramped up on each successive flight would be a greater deterrent to frequent flying.

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Letter from nearly 80 organisations and groups urges Leeds Bradford Airport decision be ‘called in’

Nearly 80 West Yorkshire community groups, environmental organisations and councillors from all parties have urged the decision on Leeds Bradford Airport (LBA) to be ‘called in’. Signatories of the letter to Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, include Bradford councillors, Shipley Constituency Labour Party, Thornton, Allerton and Sandy Lane Branch Labour Party, Keighley and Ilkley Green Party, Bradford Green Party, Clean Air Bradford, Bradford Green New Deal, Baildon and Shipley Friends of the Earth, Extinction Rebellion Bradford, Shipley Town Council and more. The Group for Action on Leeds Bradford Airport (GALBA) has asked the Secretary of State to hold a public inquiry because they say “there are significant effects beyond LBA’s immediate locality and there is substantial cross-boundary and national controversy; these issues have not been adequately addressed by Leeds City Council; and airport expansion conflicts with national policies on important matters”. The UK needs a proper national policy on airports, airport expansion, and carbon emissions. The CCC has said there must be no net airport growth, but many airports plan to expand - none plan to contract. 

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New airline CO2 data: Lufthansa, BA, Air France were Europe’s most polluting airlines pre-Covid

Official data, obtained by Transport & Environment, and Carbon Market Watch, shows 3 of the biggest recipients of airline bailouts - Lufthansa, British Airways and Air France - were the 3 biggest European airline carbon emitters before Covid grounded flights. Those 3 airlines got a third or airline bailout money.  It is the first time ever that the total emissions of European airlines have been disclosed, including flights entering and leaving the EU - not only within it. This has exposed airlines which previously emitted most of their CO2 by long-haul flights.  Currently only the carbon emitted on intra-EU flights is included in the ETS (Emissions Trading System for the EU). The non-EU flights made up 77% of the emissions by Lufthansa; 86% for British Airways; and 83% for Air France.  In 2019 Lufthansa emitted 19.11 MtCO2 (bailout about €6,840 million); BA emitted 18.38 MtCO2 (€2,553 million); Air France emitted 14.39 MtCO2 (€7000 + ? €300 bailout); Ryanair 12.28 MtCO2 (€670 million bailout); EasyJet 4.84 MtCO2 (€2,240 bailout).  And many more airlines ... Ryanair remains the No 1 emitter on flights within Europe.  There is no data for Alitalia, as the government would not send data. The UN's ineffective and deeply flawed CORSIA scheme is meant to be a disincentive to airlines increasing their carbon emissions, but it will not have any significant impact. 

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Government First-Tier Tribunal to hear Heathrow appeal against having to disclose environmental information

Heathrow is trying to overturn a ruling in February 2020 that it must disclose environmental information. The Information Commissioner’s decision that Heathrow counts as a public authority and must disclose the information will be subject to an appeal next week. The ruling last year followed a similar one concerning energy producers and suppliers, extending a duty that the water industry has been subject to since 2015. They all resulted from the ambiguity of the Environmental Information Regulations 2004, which states that any organisation that “that carries out functions of public administration”, or has public responsibilities, functions or provides services related to the environment, is subject to the law. Heathrow does not want to have to answer demands for information about planning applications, aircraft noise or environmental impacts of the airport. The appeal comes as the Good Law Project, which is pursuing a legal challenge against government policy approving the third runway, said that it was making “a focussed request for documents and communications between Heathrow Airport and the DfT, for a Development Consent Order, for a 3rd runway.

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Southampton Airport runway decision put back to 8th April after rejection by Eastleigh’s Local Area Committee

Plans to extend Southampton Airport's runway have been rejected by Eastleigh's Local Area Committee, which voted 5 to 3 against the 164m (538ft) extension - which would allow longer-haul flights (and so increase carbon emissions). The matter will now go to a full council meeting on 8 April where the proposals will finally be decided. Eastleigh planning officers recommended to approve the expansion, despite finding the number of people affected by airport noise would go up from 11,450 in 2020 to 46,050 in 2033.  One councillor said: "It's a matter of balance, it's balancing the economy, jobs, the future of our planet."  Another said: "By refusing this application we will not be closing the airport. By voting for refusal we are simply stopping the dramatic impact on carbon emissions." Campaigners - including naturalist Chris Packham - had objected to the expansion since it was officially proposed in 2019 and there have since been four public consultations.  Local authorities, including Southampton and Winchester city councils, Test Valley Borough Council, four parish councils, as well as Bournemouth Airport, Southern Gas Networks and Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership, all objected to the plans on the grounds of noise and climate change.

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Treasury consulting on APD distance bands change; perhaps to 3 or 4 (just 2 now)

The Treasury has a current consultation on "Aviation Tax Reform."  Part of it is whether the level of Air Passenger Duty (APD) on domestic flights should be changed. Currently a passenger on a return domestic flight pays £13 x2 = £26, as they leave a UK airport twice. The cost is only £13 for a return flight to a European (under 2,000 miles) destination. They are also consulting about whether there should be more bands for APD for longer journeys. The government is aware that air travellers should pay more, if they fly further and thus cause the emission of more carbon.  In 2008 it was decided there would be 4 distance bands with increasing APD costs; under 2,000 miles; 2,000 - 4,000; 4,000 to 6,000; and over 6,000. But in 2014 this was changed to just two bands, under and over 2,000 miles. The consultation asks if the bands should be changed; if they should revert to the 4 levels there were between 2008 and 2014; or if there should be a new system, with three bands. These would be under 2,000 miles; between 2,000 and 5,500 miles; and over 5,500 miles. There were some potential technical difficulties with very large countries - eg. the US or Russia - so only considering the capital city, to categorise the country, can be unfair. Consultation closes 15th June 2021.

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Virtual tourism – the expanding new (zero carbon) way to see the world

Pre-pandemic there wasn't a lot of virtual travel. The technique was often used to market holidays, to show the customer what they would see and do on their trip. But with Covid, there is renewed interest in virtual tourism and virtual travel. Not only can we look at Google maps street-view, and see for ourselves what a place looks like. There are increasing numbers of companies providing, and selling, virtual travel. Due to Covid, people cannot travel physically. Many are frustrated at being so confined and long to see other places. Some have lost jobs and no longer have the money to travel physically.  So being able to see cities, amazing scenery, the seaside, cultural sites and so on is really welcome.  Virtual tourism has been found to be beneficial for people who, for health reasons, cannot travel; it is a very positive experience in care homes.  There are virtual tours, getting ever better and more sophisticated, of museums. There are online painting trips, showing the scenery that can be painted. There are virtual safaris.  If people are prepared to pay a little for the virtual experience, it helps the destination.  And there are almost no carbon emissions from travel, or negative tourism impacts on the destination.  Virtual tourism should have a great future.

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Campaign groups call for ban on Gatwick Airport night flights

Both community groups at Gatwick, GACC and CAGNE, are calling for a ban on night flights from Gatwick. “If night flights continue to be allowed, GACC argues they should be limited to those that are genuinely essential for economic reasons, not leisure flights, and that they should be far more strictly regulated.”  Successive governments have acknowledged that noise from aircraft at night has significant health, economic and other impacts on communities near airports and under flight paths, and have asserted that they take this very seriously. But there has been no bottom-up review of the UK's night flight regime since 2006. Instead, the government has repeatedly rolled forward night flight limits set many years ago, without any re-examination of what we believe are the very limited economic benefits, whilst failing to take account of the increasingly strong evidence of the adverse physical and mental health impacts night flights have on communities. There is no reason to continue to operate services at night when there is ample capacity at times of day that have less serious health and community impacts. The first part of the DfT consultation on night flights ended on 3rd March; the second part ends on 31st May.

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Sweden to increase airport fees for less fuel efficient planes; danger of promoting bio jet fuels

The Swedish government plans to charge airlines more at takeoff and landing if their aircraft are less fuel efficient.  It must be approved by parliament. The plan might take effect in July and means that newer and less inefficient aircraft will benefit from the scheme, while older planes, more fuel-hungry planes will be hit with higher fees.  Sweden may be the first to do this.  It will affect Arlanda airport in Stockholm and Landvetter in Gothenburg, and the plan is still under discussion and being fine-tuned. However, it will consider aircraft using biofuels as low carbon. There are only very tiny amounts of biofuel available, that do not cause considerable environmental harm. Some can be produced from woody waste, from the wood industry. Some from domestic waste. It is expensive to produce. The cheapest source of these fuels would be palm oil, which would have very negative impacts on biodiversity, competing with land for human food, and also in reality produce as much CO2 over the full life-cycle as fossil kerosene.

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How airlines make huge profits by monetising frequent flyer programmes

Frequent Flyer programmes are a really pernicious way for airlines to get people, who already fly a great deal, to fly even more. They are also a nice money-earner for the airlines.  Some US airlines are probably dependent on them. Their mileage programmes are often worth many billions of dollars. Airline mileage programmes have 2 main sources of revenue: the airline itself and third parties. One of the key ways the schemes work in by partnerships with banks. However, airlines are generally tight-lipped about just how valuable these partnerships are. There is partly the cost of future travel, and airlines do not want customers  to fly with another airline. They also do not really want customers to redeem their points, unless they then earn some more.  The airlines make a lot of money selling point to other organisations and companies, including American Express. Airlines love it when you earn a credit card welcome bonus or otherwise earn miles through credit cards. In order to give you those miles, the bank needs to buy more miles from the airline. When it does, the airline receives an influx of cash—which is especially needed right now. Also, the airline is able to record at least some of that mileage sale as an immediate profit.  And there is more ...

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DfT spending £5.5 million on airspace change, to “drive improvements to UK’s ‘motorways in the sky’”

There is much talk, in the DfT and the CAA about "modernising airspace". The main aim is to make it easier for more aircraft to use UK airspace safely. It means more planes flying along exactly the same route - which the DfT refers to as "motorways in the sky."  The industry would also like to get the amount of noise nuisance from aviation to be as low as is possible with ever more planes. There has never been any satisfactory solution to whether to fly most planes over fewer routes (concentrated routes) or to fly planes on more routes. So the choice is affecting a smaller number of people very severely, or a larger number less badly.  There has never been decision on the alternatives. The concept of "respite" is popular with some - so more planes fly a certain route part of the time, giving those under another route some rest from the noise - then switching the two. Now the DfT has announced it is spending £5.5 million will (in the greenwash) "support airports to develop and evaluate design options aimed at making journeys quicker, quieter and cleaner."  It will "deliver for all the UK."  And help the sector to "build back better." ... The main aim is to fit in more flights, and ensure planes do not stack on their arrival at an airport.

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Report for the European Commission shows the CORSIA carbon scheme inadequate – EU ETS more effective in cutting CO2

The aviation industry’s carbon offsetting system (Corsia) risks being ineffective and poorly enforced.  A report commissioned by the European Commission (EC) is highly critical of Corsia, which it says may do almost nothing to reduce international aviation emissions. The EC is expected to propose in June how aviation industry emissions should be mitigated, including whether to include international flights in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) - currently only those within the European Economic Area are included. The ETS has its faults, but would be hugely more effective in cutting European aviation carbon.  A key problem with Corsia, apart from it being voluntary, is the use of cheap, ineffective carbon credits. Currently the price of Corsia-eligible offsets is under $2.50 per tonne. The ETS price is up to $43. Many of the credits are dubious, with inadequate certification or quality control of offsets. The rationale of just allowing airlines to compensate for their emissions, rather than encourage reductions, is misguided. The report concludes that the most effective way to cut EU aviation carbon would be to use the ETS, not Corsia, and include all international flights. The UK is considering how to do its own ETS, including aviation.

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AEF: Claim that new jet fuel from waste will massively cut aviation CO2 is dangerously misleading

UK Government has launched new funding to spur the development of "sustainable aviation fuel" (SAF) from waste. There have been claims that US scientists have found a way to ‘massively reduce carbon emissions from flying’. The benefits of the novel way to make jet fuel are exaggerated. The Aviation Environment Federation (AEF) says that the claims require some very dodgy carbon accounting. They are adding the methane that might be generated by decomposing rubbish, and assumptions about carbon emissions - but ignoring the CO2 emissions produced when the fuel is burnt. In fact these emissions would be slightly higher, from waste-derived fuel, than conventional fuel, as it has a slightly higher carbon content.  A better way to prevent methane from rotting landfill waste would be to cut food waste, divert biodegradable rubbish away from landfill sites and use methane capture technologies there. Cait Hewitt of AEF said "any government incentives for use of alternative fuels for aviation will need very clear and transparent guidelines to ensure that they actually cut aviation emissions, to avoid this kind of accounting smokescreen in future." Government is  In the meantime, cutting back on flying is easily the best way of reducing aviation emissions."

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Concerns that in the US airlines got too much Covid taxpayer support, which greatly benefited shareholders

In the US, there were taxpayer-funded bailouts to many airlines, with a total of around $50 billion.  It is unlikely that so much money was necessary and taxpayers over-paid.  Probably the money helped save some 75,000 jobs, but with the cost of each about $300,000. The money kept the airlines from filing for bankruptcy, and ready to re-start flying.  The money was not only, as claimed, to save jobs.  In practice airline shareholders have been the biggest beneficiaries. That includes airline executives, many of whom have been paid in stock for years and stood to lose millions of dollars if their holdings were wiped out. Some had, in the past, boosted their companies’ share prices by regularly buying back tens of billions in shares. That meant setting aside less money for a rainy day  (eg. a pandemic). Now, the shared of United airlines, traded below $20 in May, are now above $60. The patterns are similar for the other major carriers. "It is fair to say that we socialized the airline industry’s losses and largely privatized the gains." The airlines managed to persuade government (unjustifiably) that they were more indispensable that other struggling sectors, and they were vital once Covid was under control.

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Hydrogen very unlikely to be used in long-haul planes; huge problems even for short-haul

There is a lot of hype around about planes eventually being fuelled by hydrogen. This is dangerous, because it gives the false impression that a solution to aviation CO2 is just around the corner, and no measures need to be taken to reduce demand. There are immense problems of using hydrogen in aircraft. Liquid hydrogen, which is easier to store onboard than gas, has to be kept at -253C or it boils off. The tanks to contain it are not only heavier but x4 the size of conventional fuel storage. This imposes constraints on range and capacity for airlines.  It might be necessary to remove 25% of the passengers from a conventional single-aisle aircraft to fit in fuel tanks.  If it proves possible, in a decade or more, to use hydrogen, its use would be confined to short-haul, and could not be used on long-haul, which produce the most CO2 (+ non-CO2 impact). Flights of over 1,500km account for roughly 80% of the sector’s carbon emissions, according to the industry’s ATAG.  Even for the shorter-range aircraft, hydrogen’s deployment would require huge costs for new infrastructure, transport and storage. Airlines could face increased operational complexities and higher costs from mixed fleets. And burning hydrogen generates water vapour, which adds to aviation's non-CO2 climate impact.

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Stansted Public Inquiry – MAG challenging Uttlesford’s refusal – has ended. Inspectors’ decision by June?

The Stansted Airport Public Inquiry to consider plans for further airport expansion (from 35 to 43 mpps) came to a close on Friday 12 March after 8 weeks of evidence hearings and cross-examinations.  QCs for the 3 main parties - Manchester Airports Group (MAG), Uttlesford District Council (UDC) and Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) - presented their closing submissions at the end of last week.  It will now be for the Panel of 3 Inspectors to decide whether to approve the airport expansion proposals.  A decision is expected in around 3 months (June?).  UDC's Planning Committee had voted 10-0 to refuse permission, though officers had recommended acceptance. SSE says the Inquiry might not have been necessary if UDC had supported SSE's call, 3 years ago, for the Secretary of State for Transport to deal with the Stansted Airport Planning Application nationally.  Instead, UDC insisted on dealing with the application itself, despite its limited resources and expertise in this area.  During the inquiry, most of the legal attack by MAG was against the detailed evidence produced by SSE, as UDC did not present much.

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People overflown by Heathrow dreading the resumption of increased plane noise, when flight restrictions are eased

While for many people lockdown has been a really difficult and isolating time, for those living under the Heathrow flight paths it’s given them the respite from noise that they have really wanted and needed. One resident in Windsor said: “The worst thing for me is the night flights. I worked in a pressurised full time job and we had done as much insulation as possible. But when you wake up at 4.30am  - when the first arrivals start - you start thinking about work and you can't get back to sleep and it almost drove me round the bend. For your mental health the night flights are an absolute nightmare.” The problem can be worse in summer, in warm weather, when people want the window open - the noise is then far worse, and people get woken up. One resident said, about the prospect of high numbers of planes returning, when restrictions on air travel are lifted: "I am absolutely dreading it, in fact I am thinking about moving away which is a shame because I love this area and I love where I live." The campaign group No 3rd Runway Coalition ran a noise survey during lockdown which received 3,419 responses. It showed a high number noticed a beneficial impact on their sleep, from fewer planes.

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Alex Sobel MP tells government to stop Leeds Bradford Airport’s new £150m terminal

The MP for Leeds North West, Alex Sobel, has told the government it needs to dramatically intervene to stop the building of a new terminal at Leeds Bradford Airport.  The airport is in his constituency. He has asked the Secretary of State, Robert Jenrick, to call in the decision made by Leeds City Councillors to approve plans for a new terminal.  The expansion plans are intended to increase the number of flights and passengers, and therefore the amount of noise and carbon emissions.  Mr Sobel has been a long-time critic of the airport’s plans.  He has pointed out that the expansion plans are not in keeping with the advice of the Committee on Climate Change, to limit aviation expansion, in order to reach UK carbon targets.  He said:  "I do not believe that a local plans panel of 14 councillors is in any way a competent body to be making a decision of this significance. Applications which significantly affect the carbon budget must be made nationally. We need a national aviation plan and significant measures to reduce net emissions from UK flights. I look forward to seeing these in the Government’s response to the Committee on Climate Change’s Sixth Carbon Budget Report.”

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Government advised to halve domestic APD and review distance bands for the tax

Boris Johnson is set to authorise a 50% cut in APD for domestic flights. Senior Whitehall sources say he will announce a review of the tax, which is the only tax on air tickets (on which no tax or VAT is paid). Currently APD is charged at £13 for any adult leaving a UK airport, so that is the cost for any return flight to anywhere in Europe.  For domestic flights (for which there is usually a rail alternative) the tax is £26, so it is charged on leaving both airports. The review will also look at the case for increasing the number of international distance bands. Since 2015, there have only been two bands, one covering flights of up to 2,000 miles and the other those in excess of that. The plans to change APD will be put to a consultation, so it is unlikely to be introduced until 2022. The recommendations are part of a wider Union Connectivity Review by Sir Peter Hendy, the chairman of Network Rail, to be published on 10th March, proposing a new “UK Strategic Transport Network” to oversee British transport priorities. Critics say the 50% domestic APD cut — coming just days after fuel duty was frozen for the 10th consecutive year —  and rail fare rises, further undermine ministers’ commitment to cutting carbon a target of net-zero carbon by 2050. Doug Parr, chief scientist for Greenpeace UK, said this would “continue our nonsensical trend of the higher the carbon, the lower the tax.”

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Changed future for air travel with likely 20 -30% (or more) fall in business passengers

For airlines other than low-cost, business passengers - paying hugely more than those in economy class - have been vital for revenues. Business travel may have generated over 75% of airlines’ revenue on some international flights. Due to the huge rise in Zoom and other internet calls, due to the pandemic, there is very likely to be a fall in business air travel. Nobody knows how large this fall could be - perhaps 30% or more. Without the large income from premium business travellers, ticket prices would rise overall.  Economy passengers would have to pay more. That could mean a reduction in the size of airlines.  The growth in business travel had been slowing globally, according to the Global Business Travel Association.  In the UK, the fourth-biggest economy in terms of business travel expenditure, for example, data from the Office for National Statistics shows that while international air travel for leisure increased 3.4% per year between 2000 and 2019, international business travel grew just 0.2% annually.  Companies have been hit by Covid.  One survey indicated m any will reduce discretionary spending such as travel even further in 2021. 

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20 years after Manchester’s 2nd runway, the forecast jobs did not materialise – about 1/3 less than forecast

In 1997 there were lengthy, determined protests - for around 6 months - involving tunnels and tree houses, to stop the building of a 2nd runway at Manchester airport.  In the end the bailiffs the protesters (including Swampy) were removed and the runway finally opened on February 5, 2001. This is an account of the protests.  The runway was meant to increase the number of passengers at the airport from just below 15 million per year to 30m by 2005. In reality, by 2019 there were 29.4m.  In 2010 there were 17.7m. That was WAY below the forecasts. The runway was meant to create 50,000 jobs in the longer term, to add to around 45,000 - 55,000 jobs associated with the airport in 1997.  The government inspector then ruled that even if the passenger and job forecasts were wrong, the impact on the region's economy 'would be huge'. In 2019 (just before the pandemic) the airport employed 3,500 workers directly and a further 19,300 indirectly  - while the total number of jobs said to be supported by the airport was 45,000. All that comes to about 68,000 jobs, some 30,000 fewer than had been envisaged prior to Runway 2. This is just another airport in which the predictions of thousands of jobs did not materialise. 

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Leeds Bradford Airport terminal recommended for final approval – but old building could remain standing

A new document has shown Leeds Bradford Airport may not be able to demolish its old terminal building if/when a replacement is built, as it contains much of the site’s crucial infrastructure.  As part of a Leeds City Council's recent in-principle acceptance of the rebuild last month, members wanted the ageing terminal building to be demolished as soon as possible once the new one was built.  But a document set to go before the panel next week claims the airport cannot do this, as it currently contains the airport’s air traffic control tower, fire station, IT, communications, security, safety and mechanical infrastructure These are needed for the airport to maintain its aerodrome licence, but the airport says it has committed to creating a “masterplan” to get rid of the site in the longer term. The report, set to go before the Council's plans panel on 11th March. It said: "The existing terminal will not be used by passengers which is restricted in the proposed (planning) agreement....[it] houses some of the Airports critical operations..."  The airport’s management offices are also included in the terminal building, as well as Jet2’s staff offices.

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Greenpeace France “greenwash” an AirFrance plane at Charles de Gaulle airport

Greenpeace France activists got onto the tarmac at Paris Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport to denounce the government's greenwashing of aviation. They painted the side of an AirFrance plane green - greenwashing it. They say we need to reduce air travel, in order to be compatible the Paris Agreement targets.  This comes a few days before the start of parliamentary debates on the “Climate and Resilience” bill. Greenpeace says airport expansion must be stopped - several French airports have such plans at present. They say now only should flights be replaced by rail journeys if the train time is under 2hours 30 minutes, but when the trip is under 6 hours.  Greenpeace is not against novel technologies, but they say these will not be enough to make a sufficient difference, in the necessary timescale. The proposed technical solutions are a risk, as they delay real action. They explain why biofuels, hydrogen planes, or electric planes are not going to cut aviation emissions any time soon, if ever.  Synthetic fuels made from surplus renewably generated electricity offer a small potential, but they will be expensive and only produced in small amounts. So air travel needs to be regulated and reduced.

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“The climate crisis can’t be solved by ‘net-zero’ carbon accounting tricks” like offsets

We are all being encouraged to put our faith in pledges to become "net zero" by 2050, or some other date. Or "carbon neutral."  But that does not mean zero carbon. It just means every sector of every country in the world needs to be, on average, zero emissions. For some sectors, including air travel and some agricultural emissions, there is no prospect of getting to zero emissions in the near future.  Prof Simon Lewis explains why the current "net zero" claims often involve very dubious claims and practices: "the new politics swirling around net zero targets is rapidly becoming a confusing and dangerous mix of pragmatism, self-delusion and weapons-grade greenwash." What is needed is actual removal of carbon from the air. Not just hoping to stop some future emission.  But there is far too little land to plant enough trees to counter today’s emissions, and large-scale hi-tech methods do not yet exist. He says: "Emitting carbon at the same time as building solar capability does not equal zero emissions overall. Offsetting needs to be used to remove CO2 from the atmosphere to counter difficult-to-remove emissions, and not just be an enabler of business-as-nearly-usual." Read the full, very important, article.

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Birmingham airport getting £32.5 million in loans from 4 of the 7 councils that half own it

Seven councils of the West Midlands own a 49% stake in Birmingham airport, a further 48.25% is owned by the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan and the remaining 2.75% belongs to an employee trust.  The councils are putting in a lot of money, as loans, to the airport to keep it going. The total so far is about £32.8 million. The airport is getting £18.5 million from Birmingham City Council, plus  £4.9 million from Walsall Council, plus £3.7 million from Solihull Council, plus probably a £5.7 million emergency loan from Coventry City Council.  Coventry’s cabinet will discuss a loan up to £5.7m on March 9th before approval at full council on March 16th. Earlier Sandwell and Wolverhampton councils confirmed they will not be offering loans to the airport but Dudley declined comment. Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan will also provide a loan.  The Coventry loan "would be made available as and when needed by the airport to ensure it can have the maximum impact on Covid recovery."  A Coventry cabinet member said the airport had "given us a return on income of over £1.6m in the last two years.”

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Open letter from 246 University of Leeds academics, to Robert Jenrick, asking him to “call in” the Leeds Bradford decision

246 University of Leeds staff (including 46 professors and associate professors) ,and postgraduate researchers have signed an open letter, asking Robert Jenrick (Sec of State) to ‘call in’ the decision on Leeds Bradford Airport. The government should take responsibility for the decision, which is of national importance because of the increased carbon emissions and their impact on UK carbon commitments. The academics say expanding LBA’s passenger numbers by 75% exceeds the maximum rate of growth that the Climate Change Committee considers compatible with the UK’s legally adopted net-zero target. It would make it much more difficult - and more costly - for the UK to achieve its climate targets and would require reductions in passenger numbers elsewhere in the UK. “In the year that the UK is hosting the COP26 conference, it is vital that we show leadership on climate change and take the necessary actions to secure a safe, zero-carbon future. We therefore urge you [Robert Jenrick] to call in this application so that the issues highlighted are considered in light of national and international climate targets and associated guidance.” The alleged economic benefits of the expansion, or jobs created, would be unlikely to materialise.

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East Midlands Airport is one of the 8 Freeport locations announced in the Budget

The Government has named the first eight Freeport locations around the UK – areas where it will be possible to carry out trade under different customs rules.  East Midlands is the only airport chosen so far. There will be 10 Freeports in total, with the last 2 announced later.  Several other airports also applied for Freeport status (including Heathrow and Gatwick). Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the 8 locations in his Budget (3rd March). The East Midlands facility will be based around the airport and Gateway Industrial Cluster (EMAGIC) in North West Leicestershire, Uniper’s Ratcliffe-on-Soar Power Station site in Rushcliffe in Nottinghamshire and the East Midlands Intermodal Park (EMIP) in South Derbyshire. Sunak will be hoping the Freeports create jobs and aid the "recovery". The areas will get a numb er of special allowances, including full relief from Stamp Duty Land Tax on the purchase of land or property within Freeport tax sites, and full Business Rates relief once designated.  However, it is likely that jobs will merely transfer into the Freeport areas from elsewhere, rather than be a total addition. There are also concerns about Freeports being used for various criminal and fraudulent activities - as has happened in the past.

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Portuguese aviation regulator ‘completely rejects’ plan for a 2nd Lisbon airport (Montijo)

The Portuguese aviation regulator ANAC (the National Civil Aviation Authority) has announced its ‘complete rejection’ of the request by airport operator, ANA, for a preliminary feasibility assessment to build ‘the future Montijo airport’, as a second Lisbon airport, south of the city. This has been a project vociferously opposed by environmentalists, engineers, civic groups and town councils for being ‘the worst possible plan’ for many reasons. The opposition of Moita and Seixal town councils swung the day.  ANA had failed due to lack of ‘fundamental elements, namely the support of all municipal councils potentially affected by the airport’.  For such a project, municipalities have to be in favour of it.  As such, under the terms of the law there is no legal foundation for the plan to be granted. Opponents say "the fact that projects that have the direct consequence of an increase in GHG emissions continue to be drawn up shows that the Portuguese Government's commitments to combat the climate crisis are, at the very least, insufficient. This is, therefore, a victory in a greater fight to reduce aviation and emissions in this sector."

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MSP Gil Paterson writes to Scottish Government, to get noise help for those overflown by Glasgow planes

Aircraft at Glasgow airport fly over some districts at little more than 400ft and yet Glasgow Airport, whose attitude towards its disadvantaged communities has been notoriously bad, refuses to provide them with proper sound insulation - which is all they have been asking for.  Now an MSP, Gil Patterson, has done a survey of the noise nuisance suffered. This shows a considerable % of those polled were "moderately, badly or severely" affected by the noise, both daytime and night. There are well established negative impacts of noise on health.  Gil has written to the Scottish Government, asking for help for those suffering so much aircraft noise. He says: "Before the pandemic I was engaged with Glasgow Airport, West Dunbartonshire Council and the Scottish Government putting together a noise insulation package for residents in the 63 dB area, but things have been very slow to materialise and to be honest the 63 dB contour area is much too narrow to resolve the impact of noise on human health." ..."Whilst I accept that air transport powers are limited to the Scottish Parliament as part of our Government’s commitment to eradicating inequalities and our anti-poverty policies, we must use all the levers available to resolve this appalling situation being experienced by my constituents who live under the flight path."

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Bristol Airport withdraws application to be allowed many more night flights

Bristol Airport is pushing on with its expansion plans, despite withdrawing the application to the DfT to join the UK's list of "coordinated airports". The application, which would allow Bristol Airport to operate night flights all year round, has been withdrawn due to the pandemic-driven drop in passenger numbers.  It would have given the airport complete freedom to schedule night flights across the year, with the declared intention to increase summer (summer is 7 months) night flights.  Flights are currently allowed to operate between 11pm to 7am in the summer season. Allowing more flights at night would improve airline profits and "efficiency" (allegedly).  And airport spokesperson said the application for coordinated status is separate from the airport's expansion plans, and the airport will resubmit the coordinated status application when/if passenger numbers return to high levels - such as numbers in 2019. There is currently an appeal by the airport, against their rejection by North Somerset council last year.  There are now 7 airports that have coordinated status, (Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, London City, Luton, Birmingham and Manchester) and this is normally for congested airports. The airport currently has a cap of 10 million annual passengers. 

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Campaigners tell Heathrow to accept reality, and give up on plans for a 3rd runway

No 3rd Runway Coalition campaigners say Heathrow should accept what is now financial reality and give up on its plans for a 3rd runway. Heathrow made a £2bn loss in 2020, and is asking for more government finance in the form of extending the furlough scheme - and also full relief from business rates. Heathrow’s financial frailty is obvious; it has net debt of £15.2bn as of September 2020. It is now so highly geared with debt, that it has reached a leverage ratio of 97% — higher than any comparable UK infrastructure or utility operation.  In June last year the ratings agency, Standards & Poor’s, put Heathrow on “credit watch with negative implications” — a 2nd credit downgrade in just 2 months. Then Heathrow sought waivers on covenants from holders of £1.1 billion of bonds. Any further downgrade would render these bonds junk, making the airport an extremely unattractive asset for investment. Its shareholders have not contributed more cash. John Holland-Kaye has told staff that the publicised “£3.2bn war chest” is merely the liquidity that can be mustered when "we have drawn down all the cash and credit facilities at our disposal”.  ie. more future borrowing. With its precarious finances, it is no longer appropriate for Heathrow to be pursuing a 3rd runway.

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Heathrow adding a new £8.90 per passenger pandemic tax from April

Heathrow has added a new charge on all outbound flights from April.  It will charge £8.90 extra in what the airport is calling a United Kingdom Exceptional Regulatory Charge. It may only last for a year, and Heathrow says the CAA has approved it.  Other major UK airports have said they will not be implementing a similar fee. Paul McGuinness, chair of the No Third Runway Coalition, criticised the airport for adding on the extra charge. “Yes, aviation has dipped during the pandemic, but it’s the shambolic financial management of Heathrow – the massive borrowing, the large dividends payments to its foreign owners and the total lack of reserves – that is forcing the airport’s management into trying, by stealth, to raise these passenger tariffs.”  A Heathrow spokesperson said: “Heathrow makes absolutely zero profit from these services [sic]. The price is calculated purely to cover the cost of operating and maintaining the infrastructure that supports them.” Airlines say the reason for the increase is the amount it charges them for baggage handling, water, electricity and other services. It is possible the tiny extra charge will make some people choose another airport to fly from (but it is probably too low to do that). 

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Fuels made from renewably sourced electricity the ONLY way to keep flying in future

Two experts from New Zealand have written about the future of low carbon air travel. Aviation is a problem for NZ due to its geographic position. But the experts say "the global 1.5C target allows no room for fossil fuelled commercial aviation by 2050. So the public, the aviation and tourism industries, and the government must turn their attention to first capping and then reducing emissions." They consider the only viable option for air travel is fuels made from surplus electricity. NZ has plentiful wind and sun (most countries do not have as much) to make this potentially possible - though huge amounts of electricity would be needed, competing with other increasing uses. The other key tool is to greatly increase the cost of carbon.  This is currently around $ NZ 39 per tonne CO2, and the Air New Zealand offset price is just $23. The price needs to rise to at least $ NZ 140/tCO2 by 2030. Even that would have little impact on air travel demand. The NZ Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment (PCE) recommends a distance-based departure charge like the UK's APD. They say hopes of electric planes, or hydrogen, "will not arrive fast enough nor scale up quickly enough, and mainly serve to delay action now."

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Government should call in Leeds Bradford airport expansion plans, due to climate impact

The government is under growing pressure to halt a proposed expansion of Leeds Bradford airport, which critics say would wreck efforts to tackle the climate and ecological crisis and undermine the government’s credibility ahead of the COP in Glasgow in November.  The expansion would allow an increase in passengers from 4 to 7 million per year by 2030. It was recently given conditional approval by Leeds city council  despite widespread opposition from local MPs, councils, residents and environmental groups. Lawyers have written to Sec of State Robert Jenrick asking for the decision to be "called in." A Leeds University climate scientist, Jefim Vogel, says the airport expansion would only benefit “relatively few people”, and would contribute towards a global climate catastrophe.  The Leeds Council  decision illustrated how many councillors don’t fully comprehend the severity and urgency of the global climate situation. Jefim told councillors: “If we allow the climate crisis to escalate, it will make the COVID crisis look like a bed of roses. The climate crisis stands above short-term economics. Millions of lives and livelihoods and the safety of human civilisation are at risk." The emissions from flights using the expanded airport would dwarf those of the rest of the city.

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Gatwick made a £465.5m loss in 2020 as passenger numbers collapsed due to Covid

Gatwick Airport made a £465.5m loss in 2020 due to Covid.  While the airport remained open all of 2020, passenger numbers fell by 78% as lockdowns and travel restrictions took their toll.  All its revenue streams were affected and its loss before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) was £25.1m.  The airport cut over 40% of its workforce as a result of the travel slump.  The airport's CEO Stewart Wingate wants the government to provide further financial support by extending the furlough scheme and providing full business rates relief for airports for the current financial year, not just the £8 million on offer.  Gatwick said it reduced operating costs by £140m last year and deferred more than £380m from the investment originally planned for 2020 and 2021.  In April 2020 it got a £300m loan from a consortium of banks, and it has had £250m under the Bank of England’s Covid Corporate Financing Facility.  It has been granted a waiver to address breaches in Financial Covenants at 31 December, 2020. In December it had liquidity of £573m to meet cashflow, investment levels and interest payments for this year.

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British Airways owner IAG hit made a record loss of – €7.4bn in 2020 (cf. +€2.6bn profit in 2019) 

International Airlines Group, owner of BA, has reported a record annual operating loss of €7.4bn  (£6.4 billion) for 2020.  Its passenger capacity last year was only a third of 2019 and in the first quarter of this year is running at only a fifth of pre-Covid levels.  The loss included exceptional items relating to fuel and currency hedges, early fleet retirement and restructuring costs. The loss compares with a €2.6bn profit in 2019.  IAG is trying to cut its cost base and increase the proportion of variable costs to better match market demand.  IAG’s passenger revenues fell 75% from €22.4bn to €5.5bn last year but its cargo business had “helped to make long-haul passenger flights viable” during the pandemic. Cargo revenues increased by almost €200m to €1.3bn and IAG also operated more than 4,000 cargo-only flights in 2020. It is not providing guidance on its finances for 2021. Airlines do seem to understand, at last, that for acceptable Covid safety of air travel, people need to be vaccinated or have proper proof they are not able to spread the virus.  IAG spent  €4.1bn in cash last year – almost €80m a week (£11.4 million per day). IAG’s market value has halved to £9.6bn since the start of the pandemic.  When Covid is less of a threat,  low-cost carriers may emerge in stronger shape than airlines like BA.

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Open letter from NGOs to government: aviation and shipping must be fully included in net zero legislation

A group of leading environmental NGOs has written an open letter to the government in support of the Climate Change Committee’s recommendation that international aviation and shipping emissions (IAS) should at last be formally included within the UK carbon budgets. IAS are now the only emissions category not so included, resulting in a situation where aviation emissions are insufficiently controlled by policy and the industry is in a privileged position compared to all other businesses. In its 6th Carbon Budget Report published in December, the CCC identified reasons why IAS exclusion from the UK carbon budget can no longer be justified. These include their inclusion opening up the possibility of the two sectors achieving lower emissions; the UK’s overall emissions reduction strategy should be integrated across the whole economy; doing this would set a good example to other countries; and there is no longer any justification, in terms of difficulty of calculation, for omitting them from carbon budgets. The CCC said inclusion of IAS  will "ensure that the UK takes full responsibility for these emissions and that, where necessary, effort in other sectors can be altered to ensure overall UK emissions are within the necessary limits". 

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Heathrow makes £2bn loss in 2020 due to the pandemic – warning on continuing to be a “going concern”

Heathrow lost £2 billion in 2020 because of the fall in passenger numbers because of the Covid pandemic. The numbers are lower than for perhaps 50 years, and the airport is issuing a warning about its future.  Its pre-tax loss was £2.01bn for its full-year compared to a £546m profit in 2019.  Revenues fell 62% £1.18bn, with passenger were at 22.1 million, 73% less than in 2019.  This led the airport to issue a warning, that the "existence of a material uncertainty... could cast significant doubt upon the group and the company's ability to continue as a going concern". Nobody knows how much air travel will happen this year.  Heathrow desperately wants relief on all its business rates, an extended furlough scheme for its staff, and a revival of VAT-free airport shopping for tourists to the UK. John Holland-Kaye makes his usual statements about how vital Heathrow is to Britain ... Since the start of the pandemic, the airport has cut operating costs by nearly £400m, reduced capital expenditure by £700m and raised £2.5bn in funding. And it says it ended 2020 with £3.9bn of liquidity, which it says is enough to last until April 2033 even if there is no recovery in passenger numbers. Which begs the question of why it needs more government support now.

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European Union’s EASA considering carbon ranking data on flights

The European Union may be planning to create a new system to rank flights and aircraft according to their carbon emissions.  The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), the continent’s safety regulator, has put out a tender to develop a classification system to do that.  The aim is “providing reliable, comparable and verifiable information” to clients to help them make sustainable decisions. This might be done by the end of 2022.  Air travel has started to come under pressure as individuals, and even companies, became more alert to environmental and sustainability issues - and the climate impact of flights. There is no further information about  this at present.

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Canadian teachers don’t want their pensions invested in expanding Bristol airport

Since 2014 the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan (which has some 329,000 members) has owned Bristol airport. Now some of the Canadian teachers in the pension plan say they stand in solidarity with the thousands of residents who oppose its expansion. In an open letter, six current and former teachers in the plan said they do not want their money used in such a “financially risky and unethical way”, and they would not want a foreign investor paving over their green spaces.  They ask the pension plan to instruct the airport to withdraw its appeal, and stop trying to overthrow the democratic will of the local communities. The OTPP has rejected the teachers’ claims that the airport’s expansion - refused last year by North Somerset Council - was incompatible with the council's climate change commitments. The teachers said the pension plan had pledged to invest in “climate-friendly opportunities” and must invest with conviction and integrity.  An OTPP spokesperson gave a waffly response about how the airport was intending to eventually become carbon neutral ... and "net zero by 2050."  The airport's appeal will be heard at a public inquiry in July. The deadline for comments is February 22. OTPP also owns part of London City Airport.  The USS owns 10% of Heathrow.

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Tourism desperately wants a return to the ‘old normal’ but that would be a disaster

An Australian professor of sustainable tourism has said that it’s time the global industry seriously reconsiders its business model, and overall purpose, in a post-pandemic world. Before COVID-19, international aviation emissions were forecast to potentially triple between 2015 and 2050. Likewise, emissions from the cruise ship industry were also growing.  The "mass global tourism is emblematic of this voracious, growth-at-all-costs mentality."  The UN now says it is the time to “rethink how the sector impacts our natural resources and ecosystems”. But the sector is not looking to transform, and its plans to get people travelling again make little mention of environmental impact, in the short or long term.  The "aspirational" goal of IATA to improve global fuel efficiency by 2% each year until 2050 is, by its own admission “unlikely to deliver the level of reduction necessary to stabilize and then reduce aviation’s absolute emissions contribution to climate change”. Much could be done to reduce the impact of global tourism, including - as suggested by the UN Sustainable Development Group:  a frequent flyer levy; incentives for domestic tourism; restrictions on flight advertising; no more airport expansions in high-income countries; better transport alternatives to aviation.

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GALBA has written to Sec of State, Robert Jenrick, asking that the Leeds Bradford airport application is “called in” – it could be the next “Cumbria Coal Mine” Case

On 11 February, Leeds City Council (LCC) provisionally approved a planning application to expand Leeds Bradford Airport (LBA), despite the Council having declared a climate emergency in March 2019. Now anti-airport expansion campaign, the Group for Action on Leeds Bradford Airport (GALBA), has written - through their Barrister, Estelle Dehon - to Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State at DCLG, asking him to ‘call in’ the decision on LBA.  If he agrees, the airport’s planning application will be dealt with at a public inquiry. GALBA believes that LBA expansion is the aviation equivalent of the Cumbria coal mine case. There are striking similarities: a local authority decision which would result in significantly increased greenhouse gas emissions and which flatly contradicts the latest advice to government from the Committee on Climate Change in the 6th Carbon Budget. One of the key reasons that Leeds councillors felt able to support airport expansion is because their planning officers told them that international aviation emissions are not a matter for local authorities to consider in the planning process. GALBA believes that is legally incorrect and reserves the option of challenging LCC in the courts. The planned expansion raises the type of issues where consideration at national level, by the Secretary of State, is required.”

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Airport expansion plans show that local planning decisions on airports must be aligned with national carbon targets

Aviation CO2 accounted for 7% of UK greenhouse gas emissions in 2018, but this figure will inevitably grow if demand for air travel is allowed to increase. Allowing more demand means it would be even harder to meet UK carbon targets, as there are no realistic ways to reduce aviation emissions, other than by tiny amounts several decades ahead. Better infrastructure planning is needed in the UK, with local decisions aligned towards meeting national climate targets; currently they are not.  France has blocked the building of a 4th terminal at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, on grounds of carbon emissions. But UK airport expansion plans contradict its climate commitments, with expansion plans pushing ahead fast - while there is still no coherent UK policy on aviation carbon.  Plans for new building at Leeds Bradford, Southampton, Bristol, Luton, Stansted, Gatwick and Heathrow would mean far, far more carbon being emitted by the extra flights and passengers generated than the UK aviation passenger limit - advised by the Committee on Climate Change.  Demand needs to be reduced.  The government should align its national policy statements, used to guide planning, with its net zero target, to compel local authorities to factor climate change into their infrastructure decisions.

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Manston DCO officially quashed – fresh decision from Sec of State only way the freight hub could proceed

Manston airport becoming a freight airport is the first Development Consent Order (DCO) for an airport. The Planning Inspectorate (PI)advised the DfT that plans should be rejected in October 2019. The DfT then wanted more information about the plans, from the airport developers, RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP).  In July 2020, Sec of State Grant Shapps, for the DfT decided to ignore the PI's advice, and allow the DCO. This was then legally challenged by local campaigner, Jenny Dawes, and the challenge was allowed to go ahead, in October 2020. By December the Grant Shapps had agreed that his decision approval letter did not contain enough detail about why approval was given against the advice of the PI - so the DCO was quashed. Now on 15th February a High Court judge has ruled that the DCO is quashed.  The Defendant (Secretary of State for Transport) and RSP will pay Jenny Dawes' "reasonable costs" up to £70,000. Grant Shapps, will now need to issue a renewed decision on the DCO.  If there is another DCO similar to the original, the same arguments against it still stand, based on need, breach of procedural requirements, and the Net Zero carbon duty.  If he decides against another DCO, then RSP may bring another legal challenge, or give up.

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