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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:

Airport growth plans are for way more passengers than carbon targets could permit

Despite the dire financial state of airports and airlines due to Covid, airports are pressing ahead with huge expansion plans - in the hope these could be approved before the government produces proper policies on UK carbon emissions. Leeds City Council (11th Feb) approved plans for a new airport terminal, to increase the number of passengers. Heathrow, Stansted, Luton, Gatwick, Bristol and Southampton airports all want to expand - increasing the number of passengers. But the advice to the UK government by its official advisers, the CCC (the Committee on Climate Change), is that there should be no more than 365 million passengers per year (mppa) by 2050, up from about 297 mppa in 2019 - a 23% rise - about 68 million. But if all the airport expansion plans went ahead, that might mean 532 mppa by 2050, (235 mppa more) which is over x3 the cap needed to meet UK climate pledges. This means if some airports expand, others cannot - or would have to contract. The government must decide by June whether to incorporate this into law, or to explain why it is rejecting the CCC's advice. Heathrow's 3rd runway alone could add 55 mppa.  The UK has to create a more effective way to allocate the remaining capacity for growth, rather than allow an “expansion frenzy” with decisions made by different bodies. 

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Leeds City Council approves Leeds Bradford airport plans for new terminal (ie. more passengers, more carbon, more noise)

Leeds City Council has approved (subject to additional conditions still to be negotiated) Leeds Bradford Airport’s plans for a larger terminal to accommodate more passengers. This decision will entrench in the Leeds economy the growth of a carbon intensive industry. There is no certainty that the promised jobs will actually materialise, as the sector increasingly automates work. Objectors including climate scientists, transport experts and residents’ groups, warned such an expansion would help facilitate catastrophic climate change, as well as unbearable levels of noise pollution for those living close by. The application sought to demolish the existing passenger pier to accommodate a new terminal building and forecourt area. This would also include the construction of supporting infrastructure, goods yard and mechanical electrical plant. There are also plans to modify flight time controls, and to reduce the night-time flight period, with a likely increase from 5 to 17 flights between 6am and 7am.  A professor of transport planning said there are inadequate contributions to road and rail infrastructure. Local group GALBA says there could still be a legal decision against the  proposals.

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Birmingham Airport to get £18.5m emergency loan from some of the councils that half own it

Birmingham Airport is to get an £18.5m emergency loan from Birmingham City Council, approved by the cabinet, to help avoid the threat of insolvency.  Since the start of the Covid pandemic, the airport has seen passenger numbers fall by 91%. However, some councillors questioned whether the airport would want more money in future, as the pandemic restriction on flying continues.  The fear is that if the airport becomes bankrupt, without a loan, even more money would be lost, and the councils could lose their control over it. The 7 councils of the West Midlands county - including Birmingham City Council - own a 49% stake in the airport's holding company, BAHL; a further 48.25% is owned by the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan and the remaining 2.75% belongs to an employee trust.  Four of the local authorities will contribute to the loan, with the other shareholder, Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan.  The airport is getting public money already, through the government's Job Retention Scheme.

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France drops plans to build 4th terminal at Paris Roissy (Charles de Gaulle) airport on climate concerns

In order to avoid increasing carbon emissions, the French government has decided not to allow plans for a 4th terminal at Charles de Gaulle (Roissy) airport in Paris.  It says the project is obsolete.  The Minister of Ecological Transition, Barbara Pompili, said:  "The government has asked the ADP group [Aéroports de Paris] to abandon its project and to present a new one, more consistent with its objectives of fighting against climate change and environmental protection."  The plan had been for construction to start in 2021. The board of directors of ADP Group should ratify this decision next week. ADP's chairman and chief executive Augustin de Romanet said ADP had taken note of the government decision and would consider its future plans on how to develop the Charles de Gaulle airport to make it less environmentally damaging. It will consider reducing energy use, more surface access, and perhaps different jet fuels.  The French government has a stake of just over 50% in ADP's share capital. In 2019 Heathrow had 80.8 million passengers, and Roissy had 76.1million. The 4th terminal was intended to cope with 35-40 million passengers. Covid has caused uncertainty about future air travel demand for Paris - so the reason for the rejection may not all be due to climate concerns ...

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Heathrow, Gatwick and East Midlands apply for UK Freeport status

Heathrow, Gatwick, East Midlands and Bournemouth airports have applied to the government for Freeport status. The period for applications closed on 5th February.  There are 33 applicants, and the government is expected to announce 10 - for all the UK - by "the spring" (ie. probably by June). The scheme comes following Brexit and as the government looks to create new trade links.  Freeports are sites where normal tax and customs rules do not apply.  They can be airports or maritime ports, and can be made up of a consortium of both as long as all sites are within a similar geographic location. Companies using Freeports will be able to import goods without paying tariffs, process them into a final good and then either pay a tariff on goods sold into the domestic market, or export the final goods without paying UK tariffs.  Areas given Freeport status will also benefit from a wide package of tax reliefs, including on purchasing land, constructing or renovating buildings, investing in new plant and machinery assets and on Employer National Insurance Contributions.  There were 7 freeports between 1984 and 2012 (eg. Liverpool and Southampton ports), after which UK legislation changed and their use was not renewed.

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Feb 18th – deadline for comments on application by Luton airport to increase passenger cap from 18m to 19mppa

Luton Airport has submitted a planning application (21/00031/VARCON) to Luton Borough Council to increase the annual cap on passenger throughput by 5.5% from 18m to 19mppa. Also to expand the day and night noise contours by 11.3% and 15.3% respectively until 2028, when they would be reduced somewhat, but still a net growth from today's levels. Annual plane movements are forecast to grow by no more than 0.8%. The deadline for responses is February 18th. The airport is arguing that more larger planes means that the extra passengers can be accommodated without a huge increase in plane numbers. They also claim the anticipated new planes will be less noisy and emit less carbon ... ('twas ever thus...) These wonderful planes or technologies don't yet exist. The motivation for the increase in the passenger number cap has been rising demand, before the Covid pandemic struck. Future air traffic demand is uncertain.  The "elephant in the room" is  the conflict of interest of Luton Borough Council being both the planning authority and the owner of the airport.  But Hertfordshire County Council is set to formally object to the plans, largely on grounds of noise nuisance.

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Open Letter – MPs, Councillors, Scientists and Community Groups Oppose LBA Expansion

An open letter has been sent to Leeds City Council (LCC) councillors, written by local opposition group GALBA & supported by 114 various groups, councils, organisations, residents' associations and climate scientists. They ask the council to decide (on 11th February) against allowing expansion of Leeds Bradford airport, by not allowing the building of a new terminal. The work is designed to increase passengers from 4 million a year to 7 million by 2030. The letter says:  "Expansion would mean health damaging increases in noise, traffic and air pollution for thousands of people in our local communities. Above all, it would mean a huge increase in greenhouse gas emissions exactly when we need to cut them to prevent the worst effects of the climate crisis. Expansion would be fundamentally wrong. Leeds City Council has declared a Climate Emergency and aims to reach net zero carbon by 2030. Yet from 2030 onwards, aircraft from an expanded airport would pump out more greenhouse gases than the whole of the rest of the city. Allowing LBA to expand would immediately make the Council’s own net zero target impossible."

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Campaigners challenge the DfT on inflated figures for economic benefit, and number of jobs, created by the aviation sector

There are frequently statements by UK government ministers, by the DfT and by the aviation industry, about the level of economic benefit the sector creates for the UK economy - and the number of jobs it produces. Some figures mention direct jobs or benefits, and some more indirect.  The figure of "£22 billion benefit to the economy" is often heard, and numbers of jobs that vary from around 130,000 to half a million. Campaigners wrote to the DfT in November, and have written again now,  to ask for clarity on the figures, and consistency in what numbers are used. Figures of air transport, and work associated with it, are very different from those of the aerospace sector, making or maintaining aircraft and spacecraft.  The economic benefit of air transport itself is far nearer £10 billion per year, than £22 billion. The number of direct jobs is nearer 137,000 that many hundred thousand.  By repeating unsubstantiated numbers, the DfT creates an inaccurate picture of the value of air travel to the UK and its importance. The numbers often quoted by the DfT and the aviation sector also omit mention of the tourism deficit, and was (ONS figures) £33.9 billion in 2919. The DfT is also challenged for its continuous support for the sector, overlooking its negative impacts. 

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Hopes of “sustainable jet fuel” from waste are always just around the corner, for British Airways

British Airways (not much to do at present ...) says it "will operate transatlantic flights partially powered by sustainable fuels as early as 2022".  BA says it will invest in a new US plant to be built in Georgia by LanzaJet producing commercial-scale volumes of "sustainable" aviation fuel (SAF), made from ethanol derived from agricultural and other waste.  It claims this would  "create 70% less carbon emissions than conventional jet fuel."  It will actually produce tiny amounts of fuel.  IAG says it will invest almost £300m in SAF as part of its pledge to decarbonise by 2050 (while increasing numbers of passengers and flights!), and would investigate building a refinery with LanzaTech in the UK. BA is also involved in a domestic- waste-to-fuel plant in partnership with Velocys, in Immingham, Humberside, that Shell pulled out of in January. Sean Doyle, of BA, said (they always want public funds to help produce alternative fuels for planes) “We need government support" for this. BA and LanzaTech are part of the Jet Zero Council, launched to some fanfare by Boris Johnson in July 2020; it has not met since then.

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Prof Julian Allwood: The only way to hit net zero by 2050 is to stop flying

The UK aviation industry this week pledged to bring its net carbon emissions down to zero by 2050 while growing by 70%, which is probably a lot of hype - to which they cannot yet be held accountable.  But Professor Julian Allwood, an engineer from Cambridge University, argues that not only is it impossible and unrealistic for aviation to have zero carbon emissions, the only solution is to have a period with almost no flying at all.  He says: "Let’s stop placing impossible hopes on breakthrough technologies, and try to hit emissions targets with today’s technologies." And "There are 3 ways to deliver net-zero aviation: invent new electric aircraft, change the fuels of existing aircraft or take the emissions out of the atmosphere." None of which can be done, at the scale necessary, any time before 2050, if at all. Long haul large electric planes will not be feasible for decades, if ever. There will not be enough spare renewably generated electricity to produce "green" hydrogen for planes. And  "there are currently no meaningful negative emissions technologies. It requires more energy to recapture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than was generated when it was released."  "Rather than hope new technology will magically rescue us" we need to "commit to halving flights within 10 years, hoping to phase them out entirely by 2050."

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Heathrow may be able to persuade the CAA to let it get back some money, in higher charges, due to huge Covid losses

The Civil Aviation Authority has been considering whether to allow Heathrow to increase its airport charges, in order to recoup the £2.8 billion that it says it had lost due to Covid (a few months ago). The CAA had rejected Heathrow’s revised request to hike charges by £2.8bn, labelling it “disproportionate”. But it now concedes that there has been “a further material deterioration in the outlook for the aviation industry” - due to further Covid travel restrictions - since it launched a consultation on the rises in October 2020. CAA director Paul Smith said: “In these exceptional circumstances we are persuaded that there are real issues we need to address to protect Heathrow's consumers. However, in our view Heathrow's proposals are not in the best interests of consumers.”  Heathrow has been threatening legal action against the CAA.  The airport already has over £15bn of debts.  The CAA has added two new options, for the H7 period, which starts on 1 January 2022, and will consult on them until 5th March. They are: Package 1 No intervention before H7, but consider interventions at H7  and Package 2 Targeted intervention now and consider further intervention at H7. The largest airline at Heathrow, IAG, has always opposed the CAA allowing higher charges.

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DfT night flights consultation – deadline for first section is 3rd March (second section 31st May)

The DfT has a consultation currently, on night flights.  The consultation has two parts. First, by 3 March the DfT seeking views on its proposals to extend the current night flight restrictions, set in 2017, for an additional two years from October 2022, and to ban the noisiest category of aircraft from operating in the night from October 2022 (this is only relevant for the few airports at which these planes are permitted). Then second, by 31st May it is seeking wider views on its national night flight policy and the structure of night flight restrictions beyond 2024.  Groups concerned about aircraft noise are very much opposed to the DfT's proposal to extend current night flight restrictions for an additional 2 years, as it is widely acknowledged that plane noise at night disturbs sleep thousands, and negatively affects their mental and physical health.  The government has repeatedly rolled forward night flight limits set many years ago, without any proper re-examination of the issues. There are claims of the economic benefits of night flights, and these need to be re-assessed. With falling business flights, one frequent justification is to increase the number of daily "rotations" by low-cost airlines, keeping their fare prices low.

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Leeds Bradford Airport expansion decision soon – there have been almost 2,000 objections

A final decision is set to be made on the future of the Leeds Bradford airport at a meeting on 11th February, on the proposals for a new £150m terminal.The new terminal that would allow more annual flights and passengers, and thus higher carbon emissions. Over 1,950 objections to the plans have been submitted, and around 1,200 in favour of it, including (predictably) the West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce.  Environmental campaigners and climate academics had warned flights in and out of Leeds needed to dramatically reduce in order to help humanity have a fighting chance of averting climate catastrophe in the coming years. Council planning officers have now set out their recommendation in a report to the authority’s City Plans Panel that suggests they approve the blueprints, albeit with 50 conditions on the developers.  Several councils have opposed the plans, and Bradford West MP Naz Shah, Bradford East MP Imran Hussain and all 5 Leeds Labour MPs have also raised concerns.  Local campaign group The Group for Action on Leeds Bradford Airport (GALBA) has been fighting the plans for several years.  Airports like to confuse the issue, with how low-energy their airport buildings will be, trying to pretend the flights are nothing to do with them. 

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CAA may very soon announce its decision on whether Heathrow can charge £1.7 bn more

The Telegraph believes the CAA may announce this week that it will reject Heathrow's demand to be allowed to raise £1.7bn in increased future passenger and airline levies. The airport wants to be get back some of its losses caused by the pandemic. But the CAA is expected to confirm the rejection that it consulted on in October - the consultation ended on 5th November.  The CAA said in October that Heathrow had not “demonstrated its request is a proportionate measure” and was seeking further evidence. Heathrow finance chief Javier Echave threatened legal action unless the CAA backed down and accused the regulator of sending a “terrible” message to foreign investors (who have made immense profits out of Heathrow in recent years).  Industry insiders cautioned that the CAA is “playing its cards very close to its chest” over its decision and "could offer concessions to break the deadlock." Heathrow claims it will have to raise consumer prices, after the immense losses caused by having very few passengers over the past year.

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UK airlines can keep airport slots this summer without having to use them

UK airlines including British Airways, easyJet and Virgin Atlantic will hang on to lucrative take-off and landing slots without having to use them this summer after the DfT extended waivers to airport slot rules. Airlines have parked their fleets during the pandemic, prompting the suspension of rules forcing airlines to “use or lose” their slots 80% of the time. The suspension of the requirement has been opposed by rival airlines Ryanair and Wizz Air, as they hope to profit from the disruption in the industry. Gatwick is also unhappy, as it hoped to trap airlines there, while they would prefer to go to Heathrow.  The body, ACI, controls the slot market and slot allocation. The decision indicates that the DfT and Grant Shapps are expecting another difficult summer for the European airline industry as travel curbs widen.  The suspension will be a relief for BA, EasyJet and Virgin as they have been able to trim back their schedules while hanging on to spots at capacity-constrained airports. Airlines may decide there are better opportunities for growth [they always want to grow, regardless of the climate crisis] through gaining slot rights elsewhere in Europe.

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Airports can get up to £8 million in business rates relief – Heathrow wants a lot more

The government’s financial Airport Support Scheme has now opened to applications but was swiftly criticised by Heathrow and other airport operators. Under the scheme, airports and baggage handlers can apply for up to £8m in business rates relief. But Heathrow has a business rates bill of around £120m per year, so the £8 million will cover little of it. Indeed it is less than the money it is burning through in two days - which is around £5 million per day.  Holland-Kaye said "the Treasury has yet to explain why it has handed out £3 billion of rates relief to retail businesses that didn’t need it while ignoring the worsening crisis facing our industry.” The government announced the scheme back in November when international travel was banned under the second national lockdown, and we now have the 3r lockdown.  Most airports are grateful for the help, but want more - as the £8 million was arranged before the current tight Covid travel restrictions. Thousands of retailers have received government help with business rates, including many that have done very well during the pandemic. Some are returning the money; many are not.

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Carney’s carbon offset taskforce unclear about environmental integrity and effectiveness of private sector market

As Mark Carney, the UN special envoy for climate action and finance, unveiled plans for a new "taskforce" to scale up the private sector voluntary carbon market, campaigners warn key criteria for carbon offsets, that could be effective and might improve environmental integrity, are missing.  The taskforce includes some of the world’s largest carbon emitting companies, including EasyJet, Boeing, BP, Shell, Total, and Tata Steel. There are no green groups among its members.  Businesses increasingly realise they are expected to take carbon seriously, and set net-zero targets, as far ahead as possible. And they want the cheapest way possible to do this. Hence the drive for cheap carbon credits, which are often from developing countries, such as tree-planting, ecosystem restoration, energy efficiency or waste management. Demand for carbon credits is anticipated to rise, as companies continue to grow and emit more carbon (instead of genuinely reducing their emissions, themselves).  Climate campaigners warn these ineffective carbon credits could give polluters a free pass. They also help to delay real cuts in companies' carbon emissions, or investment in the necessary technologies. What is needed is real carbon removal.

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Atkins to assess plans for electric air taxis in South West England, with Bristol airport involved

Atkins will work with Vertical Aerospace and the West of England Combined Authority to assess the feasibility of introducing electric air taxis in the area.  The project was awarded partial funding of £2.5 million through the government’s Future of Flight Challenge, "which was created to find innovative methods of achieving greener air transport, finding new ways to travel, increasing mobility, improving connectivity and reducing congestion."  The feasibility study is expected to take 18 months, and will involve an assessment of the demand for air taxi services in the South West; development of use cases for the technology; and evaluate the integration and impact on the wider transportation network, including the region’s airports, as well as the benefits to cities and residents.  It will establish viable markets and businesses cases for these services and seek to understand public perceptions and attitudes to electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft." One of the British Government’s innovation agencies, Connected Places Catapult, will lead the research into public perception of air taxis, demand etc. Bristol Airport will be acting as the principal support airport. 

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CORSIA: World’s biggest plan to make flying green ‘too broken to fix’

So far the only scheme that might be used globally, to try to reduce the CO2 emissions of aviation, is the UN's CORSIA. But it is wholly inadequate for the task. Now an assessment by the German DW shows that the scheme would not even require airlines to offset their CO2 emissions for another 6 years, and the cost will be much to small to have any deterrent effect.  The CORSIA scheme finally launched this month, with the aim of stopping the total emissions of aviation from rising about their level in 2019. Critics say the scheme is unambitious and ineffective. The baseline above which offsets must be paid is so high that it will take until 2026 before any airline has to purchase any.  Magdalena Heuwieser, co-founder of the Stay Grounded activist group: "CORSIA is a wreck that is too broken to fix.  It is even worse than doing nothing because it distracts from real solutions." That is because it could delay investments in the technologies needed to decarbonise flights.  A lot of smaller countries, with new aviation sectors, and not required to be part of CORSIA.  Many large countries might join, on a voluntary basis, before 2027.  Others will only join then.

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East Midlands Airport shifted record volumes of freight for online shopping in the Christmas period

Although passenger flights are down 90%, East Midland airport has had more in cargo-only planes in the run-up to Christmas. In December, it handling 46,320 tonnes of goods, up on the previous record set in November.  A rise in online shoppers helped drive unprecedented air and rail shipments through and around the airport, which is a hub for dedicated express freight operators such as DHL, UPS, FedEx and the Royal Mail. Expansion within the airport has been coupled with the growth of SEGRO’s vast East Midlands Gateway distribution park to the north and the new Maritime Rail Freight Interchange linking the park to the rail network. The SEGRO site close to Junction 24 of the M1, is already home to Amazon, XPO logistics (working for Nestlé), Shop Direct, Kuehne & Nagel and Games Workshop. Mars UK recently announced an agreement with DHL for a big new warehouse at the huge site. An airport manager said  they had been processing up to 400 vehicles every 24 hours, "keeping customer goods flowing around the UK and rest of the world."  

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Gatwick increased its Government borrowing by £75m to shore up its finances during the Covid period

Gatwick has increased its Government borrowing by £75 million, trying to shore up its finances during the extended Covid travel reduction.  It is thought that Gatwick has also borrowed £250 million under the Bank of England's Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF) scheme. Gatwick applied to access the CCFF in August, saying at the time it was a contingency measure and hoped not to touch the money, but now it needs the £250 million. It has 12 months to repay it. Gatwick still has the option of accessing a further £50 million under its £300million CCFF facility. The airport had a £344 million pre-tax loss for the six months to June 2020.  During 2020 its number of passenger numbers fell by about 80%. It is owned by France's VINCI Airports and $71billion fund GIP, which should be able to provide money Gatwick needs. Local community group GACC says, despite the airport's dire financial state, it is still finding money to spend on expansion plans which will have major adverse consequences for local residents & would also fly in the face of climate change concerns.

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Crowding, no social distancing, potential “superspreader” events at Heathrow terminal

Passengers at Heathrow have been publicising just how much risk there is of spreading Covid at the airport. There are huge queues, with hundreds of people waiting for considerable times, close together in areas with inadequate ventilation.  Heathrow says the additional Covid checks for arriving passengers have resulted in the long queues.  It is possible these crowded times in Heathrow terminals are “superspreading” events.  An image of a packed queue at Terminal 2 shared on social media went viral, with many questioning where the passengers have been travelling from (far too many on inessential leisure trips) and why they did not appear to be following social distancing rules. A spokesperson for Heathrow said the airport has always maintained that social distancing is not possible at the airport and face coverings were mandated for all passengers aged 11 and above. One passenger said: “Isn’t the UK in lockdown? Seeing this I would say not, as it looks like everybody is off on their essential travel!”  All international arrivals, including UK nationals, have to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken within 72 hours before departure (ie. wholly inadequate protection for the UK).

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Dublin Airport wants permission to amend planning conditions for more night period flights

Dublin airport is constructing a new runway, which is expected to open in 2022. It had been intended to open in 2020. The current conditions would limit the use of the new northern runway between 11pm and 7am, and also place an overall limit of 65 aircraft movements across the entire airport during those hours. Now the Dublin Airport operator, DAA, has submitted an application to Fingal County Council for permission to amend two planning conditions that are due to apply to the operation of the new north runway and the overall runway system at Dublin Airport when the new north runway begins operations.  It says the conditions are too "onerous" now wants to be able to operate a noise quota system between 11.30pm and 6am, ie. half an hour later into the night, and an hour earlier in the morning. Flights would operate for longer times than the quota period.  The DAA says the new north runway would only be used between 6am and midnight, (ie. 2 hours longer than the 7am to 11pm originally) and it says the overall effects of nighttime aircraft noise are "less than envisaged under the planning permission granted in 2007, and do not exceed those in 2018."  The DAA is very keen to have flights between 6am and 7am, which is their "busiest time of the day."

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Hillingdon Council’s new leader, Ian Edwards, pledges to continue fight against Heathrow 3rd runway and HS2

Hillingdon Council (15th January) has appointed Councillor Ian Edwards as new leader of the local authority.  He replaces London and Hillingdon’s longest serving council leader, Cllr Ray Puddifoot, who announced he was stepping down in October last year after 20 years of service.  Sir Ray said:  “As I step down tonight I do so in the knowledge that that Hillingdon Council has the administration, resources and first class staff which will see this council and our residents through the current pandemic and beyond.”  Cllr Edwards, who also replaced Cllr Puddifoot as Conservative group leader, pledged to continue defending the borough’s environment and residents against a 3rd runway at Heathrow, and mitigate the impact of HS2.

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Shell pulls out of UK joint venture with BA and Velocys to produce “low carbon” jetfuel

Shell has pulled out of the joint Altalto venture with British Airways and Velocys to build a plant in Immingham, Humberside to make "sustainable jet fuels from non-recyclable household waste.  There has been a lot of hype about novel fuels for aviation, and how they will help reduce the CO2 emissions from flights slightly - even while the sector stays the same size or grows.  Shell will instead join a more lucrative fuels project in Canada, which plans to produce fuel more efficiently (using a better source of waste - as they include wood "waste").  The Altalto projects hopes to be producing jet fuel within 5 years. The existence of the Humberside plant enabled Boris to claim Britain would be in the forefront of low carbon fuels etc (Britain always has to be on top ...) Producing standard, high quality jet fuel from highly variable domestic waste is difficult. Other projects have not been a success. In 2017 the fuel project in Essex by Solena, to produce fuel for British Airways, was scrapped as Solena went bankrupt (presumably before producing any fuel). While the Canadian scheme plans to use over 200,000 tonnes of non-recyclable and wood waste annually to produce nearly 125m litres of fuel, the UK Altalto project would use 500,000 tonnes of waste to make 60m litres.

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Domestic flights and flights to European countries now covered by UK ETS (replacing EU ETS)

Having left the EU, there is now a UK Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) and aviation will be covered in that, in the same way as it was in the EU ETS.  So only applies to flights within the UK, or any flight within Europe (the countries that are the EEA). In response to a question in Parliament by Ben Bradshaw (Labour), Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Minister of State (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Energy and Clean Growth) said: "The UK ETS initially covers around one third of UK greenhouse gas emissions, and applies to the power sector, heavy industry, domestic aviation, and flights from the UK to the European Economic Area. We recognise that meeting Net Zero will require us to build on this ambition. That is why in the next 9 months we will consult on how to align the UK ETS cap with an appropriate net zero trajectory. The cap will provide certainty about the UK’s decarbonisation trajectory over the long-term ... We are also committed to explore expanding the UK ETS and will set out our aspirations to continue to lead the world on carbon pricing in the run up to COP26."

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UK airports to receive financial aid from government before April

The UK Government has said it will financially support airports before the end of March, following the aviation industry’s fervent plea for support due to the new Covid travel restrictions.  Aviation minister Robert Courts said: “The Airport and Ground Operations Support Scheme will help airports reduce their costs and we will be aiming to provide grants before the end of this financial year.” (ie. April).  Without any initial date, the scheme was announced in November 2020 for the first time. Under the scheme, grants of up to £8m per airport applying will be given to cover fixed costs such as business rates. More details are expected in the coming days. The lobby body, the Airport Operators's Association, wants help including a temporary exemption from local property taxes, and help with "regulatory, policing and air traffic control expenses."  Robert Courts did not mention any support for airlines, which have benefited from general government furlough programmes; BA and EasyJet have had loans backed by the government's UK Export Finance. The sector wants restrictions ended by Easter, which is when they usually make money, and for the summer holiday season. Most airlines do not traditionally make much of their money in winter.

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Estimates of some of the Covid job losses in the aerospace and airline sector

Some numbers of the job losses by airports, airlines and plane manufacturers, caused by the Covid pandemic.  These numbers are often estimates and will need to be updated, depending on how long Covid travel restrictions continue, and how much financial help the sector gets from government, or what loans it can obtain. 

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PwC report says airlines need to shrink their fleets and restructure their businesses, post-Covid

PWC report says drastic cuts are needed to airline fleets, and also business restructuring.  PWC's 2021 Aviation Industry Outlook says the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has permanently realigned the finances of airlines and many will go under.  It also says investors are ready to pick up bargains in distressed aviation deals.  “In order to survive and thrive in the post-Covid world, airlines will have to fundamentally re-think their fleets, their business models and their finances. For most, a return to business as usual is not going to be a viable option.” Airlines will not just be able to pick up where they left off last March, as many markets may have become uneconomic to serve. There are too many aircraft for the likely demand, which will not return for ages to the 2019 level of around 4.5 billion passenger trips.  About 30% of the global passenger airliner fleet – over 8,500 aircraft – are inactive. The massive debt of airlines will need "root and branch restructuring" in order to return to profitability.  IATA predicts the global airline industry will lose €98bn in 2020 and a further €32bn in 2021. Airlines have had at least €149bn to date in government support.

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Eastleigh Council may make decision on Southampton runway extension in March

A final decision by Eastleigh Council, on plans to lengthen the runway by 164 metres (538ft)  at Southampton Airport, could be made by March. The aim is to be able to accommodate larger planes, such as A320s and Boeing 737s for yet more holiday flights, to yet more destinations.  The airport said it expects "to submit additional information regarding its runway extension application to Eastleigh Borough Council later this month. A new public consultation will then follow."  A council decision, after the consultation, could be by mid-March. Opponents are very aware that the extension will negatively impact the area due to increased noise, and there will be increased carbon emissions. At the start of December 2020 Southampton City Council objected to the proposals on the grounds of noise and climate change.  The airport had around 1.78 million passengers in 2019 (barely higher than in 2009, though the peak was around 2 million in 2017. It hopes to get 3 million annual passengers by 2033. 

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Airlines and others depend on the “giant loophole” of future (unproven) carbon removal technologies

Governments and businesses worldwide are hoping they will be able to avoid making drastic carbon cuts, and instead somehow remove carbon from the air - avoiding climate breakdown. The UK's Committee on Climate Change has advised the UK government that carbon dioxide removal (CDR) at scale, will be needed. All climate goals for "net-zero" depend to some extent on this rather dubious future "get out of jail free" technology. Now a paper by Greenpeace shows the extent to which these aspirations to remove CO2 from the atmosphere have become (as was predicted) a huge loophole.  Aviation is one of the sectors that most needs to depend on carbon removal, as its plans for continuing growth mean more fuel burned - and more carbon. The IPCC reports that the maximum sustainable CO2 removal in 2050 by new forests is between 500 - 3,600 Mt per year. The maximum for BECCS is 500 - 5,000 MtCO2.  Greenpeace says IAG alone anticipates using forests to offset 30 MtCO2/ year by 2050: thus exhausting up to 6% of the available total (if that was 500Mt). For American Airlines, CDR will be used to offset emissions equivalent to about 50% of the present total; for IAG it is over 95%.

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Norwegian is ending its low-cost long-haul flights, to focus on European routes only

Norwegian Air says it is ending its long-haul operation, and end its plans for low-cost long distance flying. It had to ground most of its fleet throughout 2020 – its long-haul Boeing 787 Dreamliner jets have not been used since March.  Even before Covid, it long-haul flights (to the US, Argentina and Brazil) at stupidly low prices were not making money, and Norwegian had financial troubles.  In 2013, after 20 years as a standard short-haul carrier, it had its first  budget transatlantic flights – firstly from Oslo, and in 2014 from Gatwick. One-way economy fares between the UK and US cost from just £125. For that price there was no free check-in baggage, or food or drink.  The first flight between Gatwick and Seattle cost £150. Gatwick was its long-haul base in the UK. In 2019, it flew more passengers between the US and UK than any other airline, to 12 US destinations. Margins were very tight, and the airline had rising debt in 2019. By April 2020, 80% of its staff were on furlough. So there will be no long-haul flights by Norwegian at Gatwick, but their flights to European destinations will continue.

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Heathrow passengers down 72.7% in 2020 (cf. 2019). ATMs down 57.8%. Cargo down 28.2%

Heathrow has published its figures for 2020, which was a year made completely abnormal, by the Covid pandemic.  Heathrow's number of passengers was 72.7% lower than in 2019, with 22.1 million passengers, compared to 80.9 million in 2019 (ie. 58.8 million fewer).  As planes were less full than usual, with lower load factor, the number of flights (ATMs) was down by 57.8% for the year, compared to 2019 .The amount of cargo carried was down by 28.2%, which Heathrow blames partly on the limited number of passenger planes, the holds of which normally contain cargo.  The largest reduction in air passengers was to North America (79.5% down).  Until Covid, the number of Heathrow passengers rose relentlessly, even though the airport claims it is "full" (it always had extra terminal capacity).  In 2009 it had 65.9 million passengers;  in 2016 it had 75.7 million; in 2017 it had 78.0 million; in 2018 it had 80.0 million; and in 2019 it had 80.9 million.  The number of flights  (ATMs) in 2020 was 200,905; in 2018 was 480,339 and the number in 2019 was 479,811 (the figure is capped at 480,000 per year). 

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Most Europeans may curb flying, eat less meat for climate, EIB EU poll says

The poll in October of more than 30,000 people published by the European Investment Bank shows 72% of Europeans and Americans and 84% of Chinese people think their own behaviour can make a difference in tackling climate change, up by between 7-12% since last year.  They think almost a third of the global population would be willing to fly less, due to climate fears. People now think giving up flying would be one of the easiest things they could do to cut their carbon footprint and respondents were far more reluctant to stop driving a car, video streaming, buying new clothes or eating meat.  When Covid-19-related restrictions are lifted, 43% of Europeans, 40% of Americans and 65% of Chinese people said they will try to avoid air travel, according to the survey.  Many of those cited climate change as the main reason.  The EIB Vice-President Ambroise Fayolle said: “The post-Covid-19 period will provide an opportunity to take a quantum leap in the transition to a low-carbon and climate-resilient economy." People age d 15-30 were more likely to believe their behaviour can make a difference, than those older. On just CO2 emissions (ignoring the impact of non-CO2) aviation is around 2.5- 3% globally, and road transport 15%.

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Stansted Airport Public Inquiry into expansion plans – started 12th January

After over 3 years of fierce resistance by the local community, the proposed expansion of Stansted Airport will be decided by a Public Inquiry which opens on Tuesday 12th January.   The outcome will determine whether Uttlesford, East Herts, and other surrounding districts will continue to consist of largely rural communities or will, in time, become further blighted and urbanised in the same way as large areas around Gatwick and Heathrow airports.  Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) considers it entirely irrational, and potentially dangerous, for the Government’s Planning Inspectorate to insist that the Public Inquiry must start at the height of the Covid pandemic.  Stansted already has permission for 35 million passengers and its passenger throughput peaked at 28 million in 2018, with passenger numbers in decline since mid-2019, long before the pandemic.  In 2020, Stansted handled just 7 million passengers and has forecast that it will take years to return to pre-pandemic levels. Plainly, there is no urgency to increase the current planning cap.

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Bristol Airport expansion: comments can be submitted on the appeal – 11th Jan to 22nd Feb

Members of the public are being urged to submit their views on the expansion of Bristol airport, to the Planning Inspectorate, ahead of public inquiry this summer.  The consultation started on 11th January, and end on 22nd February.  The airport appealed against a decision by North Somerset Council to reject its expansion plans which would see passenger numbers grow from 10 million to 12 million per year. The public inquiry heard by an independent planning inspector, would probably last 3-4 weeks, and is likely to start in July. Local campaigners are now getting ready to fight the appeal.  They say any expansion of the airport would lead to congested roads, increased noise, loss of green belt, negative impact on the local environment from the proposed growth in flights - as well as the impact on climate change.  Campaign group Bristol Airport Action Network (BAAN) is angry that the airport’s management has been instructed by wealthy owners, the Ontario Teacher’s Pension Plan, to appeal the original decision made in March 2020. Bristol City Council also opposed the expansion with North Somerset Council saying it will ‘robustly defend’ the appeal.

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Letting Gatwick convert its emergency runway for full use would require capacity restrictions at other airports

Plans to bring Gatwick's emergency runway into regular use would only be possible with a government intervention to prevent other airport expansions. This is what the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) advice indicates. The deputy director of the Aviation Environment Federation, Cait Hewitt, said: “Allowing Gatwick's emergency runway to be used routinely as a second runway would only be possible if the government was to intervene to restrict capacity elsewhere in the UK, presumably by removing existing planning permissions - not an easy step to take”  - and that the CCC advice makes it clear that “aviation can no longer be let off the hook when it comes to UK climate policy ... The CCC's advice should represent a line in the sand when it comes to airport expansion. ... Airport expansion runs directly counter to the net zero agenda. It has to stop.”  The Gatwick plans mean the emergency runway could be operating short-haul flights, by the end of the decade.  The CCC's advice to government on the Sixth Carbon Budget, published on 9th December 2020, advises the government that any increase in UK airport capacity would need to be matched by restrictions at other airports to ensure no ‘net increase’.

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EasyJet secures £1.4bn state-backed bailout to help survive the coronavirus pandemic

EasyJet has got a £1.4 billion 5-year state-backed loan to help it survive Covid. The loan has been underwritten by a group of banks; it is part-guaranteed by UK Export Finance, a government agency.  Easyjet will not be able to pay dividends for the term of the loan under conditions it has agreed. The loan has been secured against aircraft, and it means the airline can reduce its £369m overdraft and deal with its other loan of £400m. This is the second British airline to get a loan part guaranteed by the UK government, as British Airways got theirs a few days earlier.  Easyjet's boss said the airline has "now secured more than £4.5billion in liquidity since the beginning of the pandemic."  The airlines are all hoping by the second half of 2021, enough people will be vaccinated that they will start flying - in their droves - once again. If there is not such a recovery, some airlines may not survive. 

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UK to need any arrivals to have negative Covid test under 72 hours earlier, but 10 day proper quarantine mandatory after arrival

The UK government is saying that, from Thursday 14th January, all international travellers, including Britons abroad, will have to produce evidence of a negative coronavirus test result (test under 72 hours from leaving the country) to enter England and Scotland, under new restrictions. This applies to those arriving by air, or by ferry or the Channel Tunnel. Those who arrive in England and Scotland without a negative test will face £500 on-the-spot fines. The period of 72 hours was chosen rather than the (better) 48 hours, as people abroad may find it difficult to get the test results that fast. The measure does not, of course, prevent people arriving in the UK carrying Covid virus, that either was not detected in the test (some are only 50-60% accurate), but also virus infection that they were incubating at the time of the test.  People will be required to isolate themselves for 10 days - "mandatory self isolation" - though there is no means to enforce it, or prevent people going to shops, on public transport etc, on their way home. Children aged under 11 and hauliers will not have to be tested.  Some have called for a test on arrival in the UK too, as well as as enhanced monitoring and enforcement of the quarantine. There are fears the South African strain of Covid may not be prevented by some vaccines, and it can enter the UK (some already has) and vaccines are the only way to stop the pandemic.

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Letter to DfT: The Airports National Policy Statement should now be withdrawn, as it is out of date

The Supreme Court ruled, on December 16th, that the Airports National Policy Statement (NPS) was legal. The ANPS is the policy document necessary to Heathrow to proceed with plans for a 3rd runway. But the Court ruling does NOT give the runway consent. The government did not challenge the earlier ruling, in February, by the Appeal Court. The ANPS was written around 2017-18 and approved in Parliament in June 2018. Since then, life has moved on, and it is very out of date. The economics of the situation have changed; awareness of the climate implications of a runway is hugely greater; the Committee on Climate Change has given its advice on the Sixth Carbon Budget, and that aviation growth has to be constrained; knowledge has increased about the health impacts of air pollution from aircraft; and now Covid has reduced demand for air travel, which may never recover to its 2019 level.  Neil Spurrier, from the Teddington Action Group (TAG) has written to the DfT to ask that the ANPS is now withdrawn. He says the ANPS "is now completely out of date and should be withdrawn. I request that this is done pursuant to a review under section 6 of the Planning Act 2008 ..."   See Neil's full letter.

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Government legal restrictions on flying abroad in Covid lockdown – holidays, leisure trips are NOT allowed

The government guidance on travel abroad, under Covid lockdown in England, from 4th January 2021. "You can only travel internationally – or within the UK – where you first have a legally permitted reason to leave home. In addition, you should consider the public health advice in the country you are visiting. If you do need to travel overseas (and are legally permitted to do so, for example, because it is for work), even if you are returning to a place you’ve visited before, you should look at the rules in place at your destination and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) travel advice. UK residents currently abroad do not need to return home immediately. However, you should check with your airline or travel operator on arrangements for returning.  Foreign nationals are subject to the ‘Stay at Home’ regulations. You should not travel abroad unless it is permitted. This means you must not go on holiday.  If foreign nationals are visiting the UK, you may return home. You should check whether there are any restrictions in place at your destination. You cannot leave your home or the place where you are living for holidays or overnight stays unless you have a reasonable excuse for doing so. This means that holidays in the UK and abroad are not allowed."

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British Airways to get a £2 billion loan, backed by UK Export Finance. It had a £300 million loan earlier

British Airways has been asking for financial help, to get it through the Covid pandemic. Now it has had a new £2 billion funding boost, through a state-backed loan. Its parent company, IAG, has secured commitments for a 5-year loan, underwritten by a syndicate of banks. It is being partially guaranteed by state-backed credit agency UK Export Finance (UKEF) and details are being finalised. The loan has covenants, including perhaps restrictions on dividend payments by the airline to IAG. The money will keep BA going until, it hopes, effective Covid vaccines during 2021 will enable air travel to resume, in high numbers. IAG said it "continues to have strong liquidity with cash and undrawn facilities of €8 billion as at November 30, excluding the UKEF facility.” But it is also looking at other sources of money.  BA had previously received £300 million over a year from a Bank of England loan programme for the UK’s biggest companies. It also claimed support from the taxpayer-funded furlough scheme.  IAG made a pre-tax loss of £6.2 billion pre-tax loss for the first 9 months of 2020, on revenues down 66% to £6.5 billion. BA is also cutting a quarter of its workforce - so losing 12,000 staff. 

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Legal fight to stop Bristol airport expansion – public inquiry in July into airport’s appeal against Council refusal

In February 2020 North Somerset Council rejected (by 18 to 7 votes) the application by Bristol airport to expand its annual number of passengers from 10 million to 12 million. In August, despite the fall in passengers due to Covid, the airport decided to appeal. North Somerset Council says it will make a “robust defence” […]

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Gatwick investors say they will put in the money to develop its emergency runway for routine use

VINCI Airports and infrastructure fund GIP say they have committed to funding the next stage of a scheme to upgrade Gatwick’s ‘standby’ northern runway, for routine use. That would add around 90 extra flights per day. The northern runway is currently short, and is used as an emergency runway.  It is too close to the main runway to be used independently, for safety reasons.  But it could take short-haul planes in gaps between use of the main runway.  Gatwick - struggling with the impact of the Covid pandemic - says it will now develop the development consent order (DCO) application for the project, including environmental surveys. The airport intends to launch a public consultation this summer.  Gatwick's biggest airline customers – BA, easyJet, Norwegian and Virgin Atlantic – have suspended or scaled back flights, or moved some to Heathrow.  Gatwick hopes passenger traffic will recover fast, once vaccination against Covid makes it safer to travel, with traffic back to the level in 2019 by 2023.  Gatwick claims the runway will not add to carbon emissions (as it does not include the emissions from flights). The CCC has said there should be no net airport expansion in the UK. If an airport expands, another should therefore contract.

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Effects on cardiovascular and respiratory systems of short-term exposures to ultrafine particles in air, near an airport, in healthy subjects

There is a growing body of research into the negative health impacts of very tiny particulate air pollution. The nanoparticles of ≤20 nm are produced by vehicle engines, but seem to be produced in considerable amounts by jet engine. A new study in the Netherlands looked at impacts on the respiratory and cardiovascular systems of 21 healthy young (18 - 35), non-smoking volunteers. They were exposed between 2 and 5 times to 5 hour periods of the ambient air near Schiphol airport, while doing intermittent moderate exercise like cycling. Various aspects of their circulation and respiration were measured. The study found the exposures  were associated with decreased FVC (forced vital capacity - a measure of lung function) and prolonged QTc intervals (the time it takes the heart to re-polarise for the next beat).The effects were relatively small, but they appeared after single exposures of 5 h in young healthy adults. "As this study cannot make any inferences about long-term health impacts, appropriate studies investigating potential health effects of long-term exposure to airport-related UFP, are urgently needed."

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Airlines want lower airport landing fees – airports not keen (all suffering Covid impacts)

Ryanair, Wizz Air and easyJet are among the airlines increasing pressure on airports to reduce landing charges. The airlines have suffered financially due to the pandemic, but so have the airports. The low cost airlines are pushing for cuts in charges, and threats they will only fly to airports which charge less.  This is seen as a race to the bottom. Airports will have to compete, to get airlines to fly to them, when they recover from the pandemic.  O’Leary said Ryanair planned expansion at Venice airport, where a new base and 18 new routes were announced in December following what Ryanair called “competitive” pricing.  Airports make money from landing fees, and also revenues from their own facilities including retail space, catering and car parking.  A spokesperson from ACI Europe (an airports group) said the financial situation of airports was bad, and agreeing to discount their charges was unsustainable.  Airports have fixed costs such as air traffic control, fire services, airport buildings and much else that cannot be cut. ACI Europe has estimated that 6,000 flight routes across Europe have been lost during the crisis, leaving airports competing for flights. Heathrow wants to increase its landing charge by 5% due to its pandemic losses.

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Letter in Maidenhead Advertiser: Heathrow leaders are pursuing a dead horse

In a letter, published in the Maidenhead Advertiser, a local resident explains the actual effect of the Supreme Court Judgement in December.  The Court ruled that the Airports NPS was legal. But rather than this being a dreadful result for those opposed to a 3rd Heathrow runway, or badly affected by the airport's noise, it is in fact quite a positive result. The judgement does NOT give the runway permission to go ahead. There is ever more awareness of the need for urgent action on climate change, including by the aviation industry. The government also needs to do more on "levelling up" the country, avoiding putting ever more investment and infrastructure into the south-east. Heathrow expansion would not help with that, and would require constraints on regional airports, or even the closure of some.  The Court also confirmed that any Heathrow planning application (a Development Consent Order, DCO) would need to meet current policies, on issues such as carbon emissions. Financially Heathrow has serious problems with building a 3rd runway.  It has worked over recent years to provide immense dividends to its shareholders - about £4 billion over 8 years. Future air travel demand is uncertain, especially demand for business travel. It should use the post-Covid period to "build back better" and scrap expansion plans.

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Another study, this one from Switzerland, shows exposure to aircraft noise during sleep can trigger heart attacks

A study carried out by Swiss researchers looked at 24,886 deaths from cardiovascular disease from 2000–2015, in people living near Zurich Airport. They looked at the deaths in relation to night-time aircraft noise exposure. They found that those exposed to 40–50 decibels noise had a significantly higher risk (about 33%) of heart attacks in the few hours after the noise.  The risk was higher for noise above 55 decibels - about 44%.  For those susceptible, the effect of planes passing overhead can lead to death within 2 hours of the noise.  The Zurich study found aircraft noise contributed to about 800 out of 25,000 cardiovascular deaths that occurred between 2000 and 2015 in the vicinity of Zurich airport, which was 3%.  The study used a so-called 'case-crossover' model to determine whether the subject's noise exposure around their time of death was unusually high in comparison to sounds levels they experienced at other, randomly-selected times. Previous research for the European Environment Agency estimated that noise exposure road, rail, aircraft, industry) causes 12,000 premature deaths and contributes to 48,000 new cases of ischemic heart disease per year across Europe. 

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The problem of a Heathrow 3rd runway for regional airports – it means they cannot expand. Letter from No 3rd Runway Coalition Chair, Paul McGuinness

Since the UK Parliament gave the go-ahead for Heathrow expansion in 2018 (by endorsing the Airports National Policy Statement), quite a lot has changed. The UK’s Net Zero Carbon target has famously been incorporated into law. And – just this month – the Westminster Government has announced we shall increase the speed of progress towards that target (by achieving 68% of the reductions in emissions by 2030). Moreover, the Climate Change Committee (the UK Government’s statutory adviser on the implementation of carbon commitments) has stated there is no room in the next “carbon budget” for any expansion in the UK’s net aviation capacity. This consolidated advice from 2019 that, were Heathrow to expand, restrictions would need to be applied to aviation activity across the UK. This could include the reduction of flights and, potentially, closures of regional airports across the UK, with reduced aviation connectivity for people the UK regions.  We should be interested to know if any readers would like to see aviation activity reduced at their local airport (or possibly see it forcibly closed) in order to afford Heathrow the opportunity of expanding, in the already prosperous south east of England.

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Global air passenger traffic drop by 60% to 1.8 billion in 2020, compared to 4.5 billion in 2019

Global air passenger traffic is expected to be down by 60% in 2020, compared to 2019, at 1.8bn passengers - about the level in 2004.  Before the coronavirus outbreak hit the globe, the airline industry grew at a steady pace across all countries. IATA global data showed the number of scheduled airline passengers increasing for the last 15 years, from 1.9bn in 2004 to 4.5bn in 2019. The increase was both due to low cost airlines, and more affluent middle class people in the Asia Pacific region. It is possible, though nobody can predict what will happen with the Covid pandemic, that the number of air passengers might rise to around 2.8bn in 2021, which is still 40% less than pre-COVID 19 estimates for the year.  While the number of passengers was down around 60%, the number of  flights was down about 43.5% - because planes were emptier. The number of air travellers in the UK was down around 73% this year, and Germany about 76% down.  Before Covid, the COVID-19, worldwide commercial airlines’ passenger revenues grew each year and jumped from $323 bn in 2005 to $612 bn in 2019.  But IATA expect their revenues to be down for 2020 by 67% to $191 billion. The figure in 2021 might, if Covid is controlled, be half the number in 2019.

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Legal challenges against government – new one by the Good Law Project on aviation and Heathrow

Environmentalists are using the law to force the government to bring infrastructure plans into line with its climate change commitments. There are already legal challenges, on energy and roads. The challenge on road building is by the Transport Action Network, and the energy one is by the Good Law Project.  Now the Good Law Project have started new legal action against the government, to the Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS). They insist that the ANPS must now be aligned with the Climate Change Act (2008), which is now in force and which demands almost zero emissions by 2050. The ANPS was first written when some believed (wrongly) that airport capacity in south-east England was becoming over-loaded.  Good Law says the strategy should be reviewed due to the likely long-term reduction in business travel due to Covid.  In addition there can be no justification for expanding Heathrow, with the UK's climate commitments. Boris has been a long term opponent of a Heathrow 3rd runway, so would perhaps welcome a simple - and wise in terms of carbon - way to prevent it, once and for all.  In another legal challenge, Plan B Earth intends to take the Heathrow case to the European Court of Human Rights. 

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Stansted passengers down to around the level in 2000; huge reduction in the UK tourism deficit, due to Covid

Stop Stansted Expansion's end-of-year message to its supporters provides some useful numbers.  As well as the huge financial and job losses to the aviation sector due to Covid, the impact has been that Stansted has around 8 million passengers (about the level 20 years ago).  The Government's independent advisers, the Committee on Climate Change, published a major report on December 9th  recommending no further net airport expansion, if the UK is to meet its 'net zero' target for greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. But Covid has meant that the trade deficit caused by UK outbound tourism, that was £34 billion in 2019, is much smaller - as far fewer Brits could travel abroad and spend their holiday money there.  SSE say it is estimated that the Spanish tourism industry lost £20 billion this year from UK tourists, with huge losses for the tourism industry in France, Greece and Portugal.  Whilst the UK also has lost income from foreign tourists, it is benefitting in net terms to the tune of about £2-3 billion every month. Much of that money has been spent in the UK, on home improvements, new furniture and appliances, savings and some "staycations."

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Heathrow expansion decision highlights jobs paradox – PCS union comment

The PCS union, which has workers at Heathrow, has commented on the Supreme Court decision, and on the future of airport workers. They say that contrary to the assumption from some quarters that this means a jobs bonanza for workers, PCS remains sceptical about the real benefit for our members.  As a union committed to protecting and supporting their workers, they have had to fight against jobs being reduced - even before Covid - by automation of roles, and new grading structures. Now this has been happening even faster, as cost cutting steps are taken in response to the pandemic. PCS is trying to save as many jobs as possible. But with the need for the UK, and the aviation sector, to decarbonise, some job losses are inevitable. There need to be plans to retrain workers, and find alternative employment, in order to protect the continued livelihoods of workers.  It is now generally accepted that combatting climate change is the richest source of future employment, and plans to do so need to be implemented urgently.  While air travel demand may return in several years time, jobs need to be found now. While it is a remote possibility Heathrow would build a 3rd runway many years ahead, that does not provide employment for its workers now. Alternatives need to sought for them - now. 

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Heathrow expansion would be a direct assault on this government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda

Paul McGuinness, Chair of the No 3rd Runway Coalition, writing in the Independent, says the judgement by the Supreme Court, that the Airports NPS is legal, will have disappointed many, in particular the local communities who have now lived beneath the black cloud of uncertainty about a 3rd runway for far too long. Many aspects of the ANPS are now seriously out of date - in particular the economic benefits, claimed for the expansion. The ANPS had assumed the runway would be operating by 2028 with a buoyant, growing aviation sector. But Heathrow abandoned plans to open by 2028 and has instead said - for many months - that the runway might not be needed till 2032 or 3035. They consider construction, phased over time, might take 30 years, not the 5 originally intended, and justified it economically on that basis. The economic case needs to be re-assessed. The problem of UK targets on carbon emissions mean the runway is impossible. There is also the “levelling up” agenda, which only came into play after parliament had approved the ANPS. The CCC has just advised for its sixth carbon budget, that there should be no net expansion of airports. A Heathrow 3rd runway would mean yet more aviation activity focused on the south-east, to the detriment of the regions. That is a direct assault on the “levelling up” agenda to which the government says it is committed. The UK needs a proper aviation policy for the whole country, not the ANPS that focused only on Heathrow.

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What does the Supreme Court judgement on Heathrow’s runway plans mean for the campaign to stop the 3rd runway?

A briefing note from the No 3rd Runway Coalition on what comes next, after the Supreme Court judgement (16th December) sets out some key issues. The Coalition says the judgement does NOT give Heathrow the green light; it us simply one hurdle cleared. Expansion faces:  1. Legal challenges. Plan B Earth intends to take proceedings to the European Court of Human Rights, on the danger to future generations from climate change.   2. Government can commit to reviewing the ANPS under Section 6 of the Planning Act 2008. This can refer to all or part of the statement.  The Act enables the Secretary of State to consider any significant change in any circumstances on the basis of which any policy in the statement was decided.  It can be argued that the Net Zero commitments, noise, air pollution, assessment of health impacts, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economics provide legitimate reasons for review.  The ANPS could be withdrawn.  3. Though Heathrow can now proceed to submit an application for a Development Consent Order (DCO) to the Planning Inspectorate, this has to consider current climate obligations, including the UK's net zero by 2050 target. And Heathrow has been seriously damaged financially by Covid. See the full briefing note.

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Boris on Heathrow after Supreme Court judgement: any expansion must meet strict air quality and climate criteria

Boris Johnson, with a constituency near Heathrow, was always a vociferous critic of the plans for a 3rd runway. When Heathrow took their appeal, against the ruling of the Appeal  Court against the ANPS in February, the government did not join them. Now the Supreme Court has ruled that the ANPS is legal, Boris has not said anything in favour of it. Allegra Stratton, his press secretary, said Heathrow still needed to convince the Planning Inspectorate that it met rigorous environmental benchmarks before being allowed to proceed through the DCO process. She said the “point the PM would make now” was that “any expansion must meet strict criteria on air quality noise and climate change and the government will come forward with a response shortly”. Heathrow may not be able to raise the necessary funds for the runway. Boris and Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, will be under pressure to redraft the ANPS, as it was written in 2018 and is woefully out of date on carbon. Life has moved on since then; the UK now has to cut CO2 emissions by 100% by 2050 (from 1990 level), not the 80% target of 2018. There are now new UK targets - advised by the Committee on Climate Change - for a 68% cut in CO2 by 2030, and a 78% cut by 2035.  Expanding Heathrow cannot be squared with that.

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Councils that legally challenged Heathrow expansion say Supreme Court Heathrow ruling ‘changes nothing’

The group of Councils deeply opposed to Heathrow expansion said the Supreme Court ruling, that the ANPS is legal, changes nothing and called on the airport to abandon once and for all its bid for a 3rd runway. Residents in all these boroughs are badly affected by noise of Heathrow planes.  Wandsworth Council urged Heathrow to concentrate on working with the aviation industry to achieve zero carbon emissions and an end to night flights. The Leader of Wandsworth Council, Cllr Ravi Govindia, said: “The ruling does not give Heathrow a green light for a third runway. It says nothing about how expansion could be delivered in the face of legally binding emissions targets.  The world has changed since Chris Grayling’s decision in 2018. Heathrow will never be able to build a third runway. It’s time for the airport to admit defeat and put all its energy into working with the aviation industry to achieve the net zero goal.  The Government must now as a matter of urgency produce a new aviation strategy for the UK which properly takes account of its legal commitment on emissions reductions.  And Heathrow could put an end to the early morning arrivals, the noise of which causes so much upset, disturbing the sleep of thousands, putting their health at risk.

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Heathrow appeal upheld … but reprieve disguises impossibility of 3rd runway plan

Commenting on the judgement by the Supreme Court today, upholding Heathrow’s appeal that the Airports NPS is legal, the Richmond Heathrow Campaign said the world has changed a lot since 2018. This is not least because of Covid-19. Climate change is the greatest risk to demand and last week the Climate Change Committee’s advice on the 6th Carbon Budget emphasised no net increase in UK airport capacity and that an increase at one airport means a reduction elsewhere - in other words levelling down (not up) the regions.  If Heathrow Airport Limited still wants a 3rd runway it will have to restart the already delayed planning process with diminishing chance of success. The pandemic has highlighted Heathrow’s lack of financial resilience and the improbability of raising finance for very expensive expansion in the face of demand constrained by climate risk. Heathrow should not waste billions of pounds on ill-judged expansion. Surely shareholders don’t want to replace a steady cash flow with the enormous project and financial risk from expansion under the evolving circumstances? 

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“Heathrow expansion remains very far from certain”: Friends of the Earth reacts as Supreme Court rules on policy allowing third runway

Friends of the Earth UK (FoE) was one of the organisations that took their challenge of the High Court decision on Heathrow expansion, and the Airports NPS (ANPS), to the Court of Appeal.  Heathrow took that judgement, that the ANPS was illegal (of no legal effect) to the Supreme Court, which has now ruled that the ANPS is valid and legal.  Friends of the Earth say the judgement is "not a ‘green light’ for a 3rd Heathrow runway. It makes clear that full climate considerations remain to be addressed and resolved at the planning stage, where Friends of the Earth will continue the challenge against a 3rd runway.  In addition, the Government has been recently warned by its own advisers (the CCC) against net airport expansion." FoE also say green jobs, low-carbon travel and the health and wellbeing of everyone must be government priority for 2021 and beyond.  A 3rd runway is far from certain, with many chances to block it in the planning stages. The UK's obligations and targets have become much more challenging since the ANPS was designated and are only expected to get tougher, especially in light of the advice last week by the Committee on Climate Change that, in order to meet Net Zero Target, there should be no net increase in airport capacity.

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Supreme Court rules that the Airports NPS is legal; climate issues of a Heathrow runway would have to be decided at the DCO stage

The Supreme Court has ruled that the Airports NPS is lawful. In February 2020 the Appeal Court had ruled that it was not, on climate grounds. The ANPS is the national policy framework which governs the construction of a Heathrow 3rd runway.  Any future application for development consent to build this runway will be considered against the policy framework in the ANPS. The ANPS does not grant development consent in its own right. The Supreme Court rejected the legal challenges by Friends of the Earth, and Plan B Earth, that the then Secretary of State, Chris Grayling, had not taken climate properly into account, nor the UK's commitments under the Paris Agreement. These are tricky points of law, and definition of the term "government policy" rather than the reality of climate policy.  Heathrow is now able to continue with plans to apply for a Development Consent Order (DCO) which is the planning stage of the runway scheme.The Supreme Court said at the DCO stage, Heathrow would have to show "that the development would be compatible with the up-to-date requirements under the Paris Agreement and the CCA 2008 measures as revised to take account of those requirements" and "The Court further holds that future applications [for the runway] will be assessed against the emissions targets and environmental policies in force at that later date rather than those set out in the ANPS."

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Tim Crosland (Plan B Earth) broke Supreme Court judgement embargo as “an act of civil disobedience” that will be treated as a “contempt of court”

The Appeal Court ruled in February that the ANPS was illegal, as it had not taken proper account of the Paris Agreement and the climate targets for the UK.  The case was partly on complicated legal points about to what extent Paris-related obligations were part of UK law.  The two parties taking the challenge to the Supreme Court are Friends of the Earth UK and Plan B Earth.  A day before the court date, Tim Crosland - representing Plan B Earth - decided (on being given a pre-copy of the judgement) in ‘an act of civil disobedience,' to publicise the decision, though not the details of the judgement. This will be held as contempt of court. Several papers published news of this, but then withdrew comments, for fear of also being held in contempt of court. Tim Crosland believes that the Secretary of State for Transport (Chris Grayling at the time in 2018) should have acted in line with trying to avoid a 1.5C rise in global temperature, not just a 2C rise, and this decision by the Supreme Court puts the well-being and lives of millions of people - especially young people - at risk, from climate related impacts.

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Heathrow claims huge financial losses due to government stoping tax-free shopping to international passengers (and those in transit)

The UK government’s decision not to offer tax-free shopping to international visitors is upsetting the airports, like Heathrow, that have benefited financially from it. In September the government announced the ability of overseas customers getting VAT-free shopping would end at the start of January 2021, as it has been a practice that is expensive to administer, and is “a costly relief, which does not benefit the whole of Britain equally”, and the current use is mostly centred in London.  Also that that retailers who offer the service are putting other high street retailers at a competitive disadvantage. Heathrow's PR machine is trying to call this a "tourist tax" and is whingeing about it.  Normally a tourist tax means a small amount that visitors pay to stay overnight in accommodation abroad - that sort of thing.  The removal of the VAT perk for airport shops, and thus indirectly for Heathrow (paid by the shops) is not a tourist tax.  But it is likely to reduce the amount of sales in airport shops.  Heathrow claims 2,000 jobs could be lost? Various retailers affected (including Marks & Spencer, Mulberry, Paul Smith, Ted Baker) have written to the chancellor to express their opposition to the new tax rules.

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Between about 20 and 35% of future business travel may never return, post Covid

A study by some travel experts looked into the various sorts of business travel, how much of the total they make up, and how likely they are to decline, with the change in behaviour after Covid. They see various categories:  1. Internal corporate purposes, the most likely to decline. They make up around 20% of business air travel, and might fall by 40 - 60%.  2.  Commuting by air, about 5% of business travel; might fall by 40 - 60%.   3. Travel for external purposes will fall a bit.  4. Travel aimed at sales and securing clients, makes up 25% of total business travel is probably the most resilient, but might fall by 20%.  5. Travel to conventions and trade shows, comprise around 20% of all corporate travel, and could decline by 10 - 20%.  The finding that as much as perhaps 35% of future business travel demand may disappear holds huge implications for legacy airlines, which depend on the segment for a large chunk of their revenues.  Low cost airlines will be less affected. The longer the pandemic stretches on, the more firmly ingrained new work habits and technologies will become.

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‘Net zero’ climate targets sound great. But there are pitfalls – read the fine print

Countries are increasingly saying they will attempt to be carbon-neutral (net zero) by around 2050.  But caution needs to be exercised in understanding the net zero claims. There are some key problems:  1. Do the plans apply to all greenhouse gases, or just CO2? That would mean including agriculture emissions, eg. methane.  2. There is a lack of intermediate hard targets before 2050, and it is useless to have higher emissions between now and then. It is the cumulative CO2 that matters.  3. How much of a net zero commitment will be fulfilled with short-term emissions cuts, like planting trees. And how much will come from “negative emissions technologies” which permanently remove CO2 from the atmosphere. Some of the tree planting schemes have been shown to be impractical and unworkable.  4. The fine print of the pledges has to be checked, as there are no established principles or guidelines, so they can differ between countries and be "full of loopholes."  5. The plans generally leave out the international aviation and shipping sectors, and probably also the embodied carbon in imports. All those can make up a huge % of a country's total emissions.  6.   Plans for future emissions cuts are less useful than employing technologies and policies that start cutting emissions now.

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Dutch court ruled that the Dutch government is not required to attach climate conditions to its bailout for KLM

Earlier in the year, Air France-KLM received around €10 billion in various loans, to get it through the Covid pandemic. It then asked for another €6 billion in November.  In June there was the suggestion that this government money was only given with various conditions, such as that the number of night flights from Schiphol will be cut, and KLM will have to halve CO2 per passenger-kilometre by 2030. In September, Greenpeace Netherlands took legal action against the Dutch government, for not imposing climate conditions to bailout funding. Now the Dutch court has ruled that the Dutch government is not required to attach climate conditions to its bailout package for KLM.  Greenpeace had argued that the bailout conflicted with the duty of care of the Dutch state towards the population. Greenpeace said the verdict is "a missed opportunity for our present and our future. It’s incredibly disappointing to have a government that actually uses state aid to enable KLM and other major polluters to continue wrecking our planet." Campaigners are not deterred. Changes could be required, such as scrapping all short-haul flights of under a thousand kilometres, like the many each day to Brussels or Paris. 

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Climate Change Committee – recommendations to government – lots on aviation carbon changes and policies needed

The Committee on Climate Change has 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.  There is a great deal of detail, many documents, many recommendations - with plenty on aviation. The intention is for UK aviation to be net-zero by 2050, though the CCC note there are not yet proper aviation policies by the UK government to achieve this. International aviation must be included in the Sixth Carbon budget. If the overall aviation CO2 emissions can be reduced enough, it might be possible to have 25% more air passengers in 2050 than in 2018. The amount of low-carbon fuels has been increased from the CCC's earlier maximum realistic estimates of 5-10%, up to perhaps 25% by 2050, with "just over two-thirds of this coming from biofuels and the remainder from carbon-neutral synthetic jet fuel ..." Residual CO2 emissions will need to be removed from the air, and international carbon offsets are not permitted. There is an assumption of 1.4% efficiency improvement per year, or at the most 2.1%. There "should be no net expansion of UK airport capacity unless the sector is on track to sufficiently outperform its net emissions trajectory."  The role of non-CO2 is recognised, but not included in carbon budgets; its heating effect must not increase after 2050.  And lots more ...

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Heathrow hopes to charge cars £5 and increase passenger charge by £1.20 (then pay dividend again in 2022)

It seems Heathrow will lose around £1.5 billion this year, due to Covid and a drop of around 80% in passenger numbers.  The airport is hoping to impose a £5 “drop off” charge on any car coming into the airport to deposit or collect passengers, from the end of 2021 (blue badges and emergency vehicles excluded). There is a consultation about this.  Heathrow says it will “save jobs in the short term” while allowing the airport to hit its “long-term goals of providing safe, sustainable and affordable transport options”. (!) A much more effective way to boost its income is to increase its passenger charge, which is currently £21 per person. The intention is to increase it by £1.20, which could add £2.7bn to the airport’s regulated asset base (RAB), allowing it to increase charges (already, at £21 per head, among the highest in Europe). The airlines are vociferously opposed to this, understandably.  Heathrow is leveraged, with its consolidated net debt at £15.2bn in September 2020. But a key reason for all the borrowing is it has paid out £4 billion of dividends to its investors since 2012. There was a £500 payment announced in February 2020, and a £100m payment in April. Heathrow has now said it will not pay dividends for the rest of 2020, or 2021 but hopes to pay out £400 million in 2022.

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Covid impact on airport-related jobs shown in new jobless figures – bad in areas too dependent on aviation

The devastating toll the coronavirus pandemic in causing unemployment in areas heavily dependent on airports is growing ever more clear.  The number who have lost jobs around Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester, Luton and Stansted has risen by around 35% since March compared with surrounding areas. The pandemic was rapidly spread around the world by airlines, and they have been heavily impacted by necessary travel bans, in attempt to control the spread of Covid.  MPs in affected constituencies want the Government to help aviation businesses and their supply chains. According to the Commons Library figures, the unemployment claimant toll in Hayes and Harlington, next door to Heathrow, climbed from 2,725 in March to 7,750 in October – a 184% surge. In London as a whole, the rise was 156%.  In Crawley, West Sussex, next to Gatwick, it went from 2,030 to 5,655 – a 179% increase.  It rose by 140% in the wider South East region. And there are similar figures for areas near Manchester, Stansted and Luton airports. The industry says it will have difficulty recruiting staff again, if and when demand returns. Only time will tell if the industry will be considerably smaller in the years to come, and many staff will transfer into "greener" jobs that cause lower carbon emissions.

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Proposed planning policy changes could impact high carbon developments like Heathrow expansion (and Cumbria coal mine)

Several members of the House of Lords have said that National Planning Policy Statements (NPS) across industries should be updated to consider the UK’s commitments under the 2016 Paris Climate Agreement. Labour peer Lord Whitty said that “the whole of the NPS needs to be revised in light of the commitment to net zero” and added that this should apply to “all sectors”.  If the NPSs are revised, that could have major implications for construction projects going forward, such as airport expansion (Heathrow and Gatwick want new runways).  The legal case that went to the Supreme Court on 7th October was about the Airports NPS and whether it adequately took into account the Paris Agreement. The decision by the court might be given by January 2021. The legal challenges by Plan B and Friends of the Earth said that carbon reduction targets in the agreement "needed to be taken into account". Another project which could be affected is the Woodhouse coal mine in Cumbria, for which Cumbria County Council approved the planning application in October, despite objections of its likelihood of making the UK's climate goals less achievable. The final decision still rests with communities secretary Robert Jenrick. The issue of climate needs to be addressed in an adequate  and consistent way in every NPS.

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London City Airport shelves plans to extend operating hours – has to focus on post-Covid recovery

London City Airport has published its long-term vision for the future today, after a consultation with residents, passengers and stakeholders. Local community campaign group HACAN East had been concerned by suggestions the airport might seek to increase flights at the weekend, as well as earlier and later each day.  But due to a huge fall in passenger numbers, the airport's CEO Robert Sinclair says the focus “has to be on recovering” for the foreseeable future.  But it still has the longer term ambition of 151,000 flights per year, up from around 82,000 before Covid, which campaigners fear will have a serious impact on residents and the environment - due to noise and air pollution (as well as carbon). Mr Sinclair said the airport will keep the expansion plans "under review" as the airport recovers from the impact the pandemic.  Changes in future would need to go through the necessary consultation and planning processes.  HACAN East chairman John Stewart said the news was a welcome development and the result of a “huge campaign” by both residents and local councils - and  “Our concern remains that they would like to lift the annual cap on the number of flights to 151,000." 

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Committee on Climate Change advises UK government to commit to reducing emissions by 68% cf. 1990 by 2030 (64% including IAS)

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC), the UK government's official advisers on climate matters, will give its formal advice on the the UK’s Sixth Carbon Budget on 9th December 2020. Meanwhile the CCC's Chairman, Lord Deben, has written to the Sec of State at BEIS, Alok Sharma, in response to his request for advice on the UK’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), under the Paris Agreement.  The CCC is advising that the UK should commit to reducing territorial emissions by at least 68% from 1990 to 2030.  It is equivalent to a 64% reduction including international aviation and shipping (IAS) emissions, the basis of the CCC recommended Sixth Carbon Budget.  This would place the UK among the leading countries in climate ambition. This is necessary, to give world leadership, as the UK hosts the COP26 talks in November 2021. However, the CCC say the 68% cut excludes emissions from IAS. There should be "additional actions to reduce the UK’s contribution to IAS emissions." The CCC says of IAS: "these emissions ...must be addressed if the temperature goal of the Paris Agreement is to be met. The UK’s NDC should include clear commitments to act on emissions from international aviation and shipping, including both long-term and interim targets."

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Open letter to key European politicians, from environmental groups, asking for urgent action to cut aviation’s climate impact

More than 30 NGOs sent a letter to Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Parliament President David Sassoli and European Council President Charles Michel, urging them to take action now to prevent climate-damaging emissions from aviation in the wake of recent analysis for the European Commission, which concludes that air traffic has three times the climate impact in relation to its CO2 emissions alone. The letter was co-ordinated by Stay Grounded and Greenpeace EU.  It asks that:  Measures must be implemented to reduce intra-EU and international flights. Short haul flights must be banned where there is a cleaner alternative and construction and expansion of airports must cease. All subsidies to airlines and airports must stop, including the tax exemptions on tickets and fuel.  Non-CO2 impacts have to be fully accounted for by the EU and member states. Under the precautionary principle, the amount of CO2 emitted by aircraft must be tripled in GHG reporting systems, including in national emissions inventories. And solutions to mitigate non-CO2 impacts such as contrail avoidance must be pursued without delay. See the full letter.

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Southampton City Council objects to latest plans by Southampton airport – Eastleigh BC to consider on 17th December

Southampton City Council has objected to revised plans to expand the runway at Southampton airport by 164 metres (538 ft), in order to increase the number of flights and size of planes.  The council voted to oppose the scheme on the grounds of climate change and noise levels.  The city council had previously voted to oppose the airport's original plans in January. The airport was asked to amend the proposals and Southampton council was asked to confirm its position before a final decision is taken by councillors in Eastleigh - where the airport is located. The latest plans have a few small noise modifications.  Lyn Bryshaw, from the Airport Expansion Opposition group told the online council meeting the development would "cause huge harm to the environment and local people  ...The economic benefits for Southampton and the region have been overstated and no evidence at all has been presented to suggest that the airport would go out of business without the extension." A decision on planning permission is due to be made on 17 December, by Eastleigh Borough Council.

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DfT publishes night flights consultation – no concessions to airport groups for another 4 years…?

Historically, the DfT has set the night flight regime - for the "designated" airports, Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted - for periods of 5 years. The last regime was in 2017, for the period from October 2017 to October 2022. The DfT says: "The aim of the regime was to maintain the status quo and ensure that communities do not experience any overall increase in the noise created by night flights." It has allowed a high level of night flights, with no reductions on earlier numbers, despite significant community opposition.  Seventeen airport groups wrote to the Aviation Minister on 10th November, asking that night flights should be limited in future, with a proper night period in which no flights are permitted (other than genuine emergencies). The aim was to make their point before the DfT consultation (by which time the DfT has decided what it intends to do ...). The government has now published its new night flights consultation, for the period 2022 to 2024. The DfT intends there to be no change to the current regime (no concessions to suffering from being overflown at night) other than phasing out the noisiest planes, which airlines are getting rid of anyway, due to Covid. DfT says: "... we are also seeking early views and evidence on policy options for the government’s future night flight policy at the designated airports beyond 2024, and nationally."

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Manston airport development DCO approval ‘to be quashed’ by government – with decision for refusal, by Planning Inspectorate, to be re-examined later

A hearing in February set for the legal challenge over the government’s decision to give permission for the development of Manston airport into an air freight hub will now not take place. The Secretary of State for Transport has said they will not contest the case.  The substantive hearing – which involves the lodging of  evidence from the defendant, and interested party (RiverOak Strategic Partners Ltd) - was to assess whether the Government followed correct procedure in reaching the decision to approve the DCO for the landowners, even though this overturned the recommendation of the Planning Inspectorate (PI). Now the DfT has acknowledged that the decision approval letter issued from the Minister of State did not contain enough detail about why approval was given against the advice of the PI.  This means the DCO approval for Manston airport will be quashed. It the development of Manston airport is to happen, it will require a new decision to be issued, after a re-examination of the Planning Inspectorate evidence. RiverOak Strategic Partners Ltd, will not be defending their claim. The Treasury Solicitor will now draft an order disposing of the case.  The order will have to be approved by all parties and submitted to the Court to be sealed – this final step may take several weeks.

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“Heathrow Grinch stealing workers’ wages” – Unite airport staff striking over pay cuts

Heathrow Airport workers are striking today in a dispute over wage cuts.  Workers who are members of Unite voted for industrial action, with 84% in favour of the strike, according to the union.  Those involved are firefighters, engineers, campus security, baggage operations, central terminal operations, land-side and air-side operations.  However, the airport maintains that nine of 16 cohorts actually voted against strike action.  There were picket lines, and a van that toured Heathrow and the surrounding area  with the messages: “Heathrow’s super-rich shareholders are jetting off with workers’ wages”, “Heathrow Grinch CEO is stealing workers’ wages”, and “Stop Heathrow’s billionaire-backed wage cuts”.  The dispute is about Heathrow’s “fire and rehire” policies, which Unite say will result in workers suffering permanent pay cuts of up to £8,000 per annum – as much as 25% of the take home pay of some.  A further strike is planned for 14 December, followed by a two-day stoppage on 17-18 December, set to be one of the busiest pre-Christmas travel dates. Unite fear Heathrow are using the Covid pandemic as cover for forcing through long held plans to cut pay. John Holland-Kaye himself probably receives a basic annual salary of around £750,000 - with bonuses on top.

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New €7.45 tax per passenger departing from a Dutch airport in 2021

From 1st January 2021, every passenger departing from an airport in the Netherlands will pay an additional tax of €7.45. It was first proposed in May 2019. The Dutch government decided to introduce this tax on commercial aviation in line with global climate goals given that international flights contribute to carbon emissions but, unlike cars, buses or trains, are currently not taxed (it pays no fuel duty and no VAT).  The Dutch government expects to collect an estimated €200 million from this tax, in a normal flying year. In May of 2019, former Finance Minister Menno Snel said that the revenues would “help close the price gap between plane tickets and, for example, train tickets.”  A previously proposed taxation bill for air freight was cancelled as a study revealed that freighters would divert to surrounding countries, which would have major consequences for both Schiphol and Maastricht Airport. Eight other European countries want the European Commission to come up with a proposal for a European taxation on commercial aviation, and it needs cooperation. A report in 2019 showed that a tax on jet fuel in the EU would cut carbon emissions while having limited impact on employment.

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National Infrastructure Strategy – nothing about airports, or expanding the sector; mainly support for SAF and airspace change

The Government has produced its National Infrastructure Strategy, and aim of which is to upgrade infrastructure (transport, roads, railways, internet and more) to better link the country and level-up the regions. There is very little about aviation, and nothing at all about expanding airports or growing the sector.  Some of the comments are: "£21 million will also be provided for the decarbonisation of aviation, through supporting sustainable aviation fuels and zero emission flight infrastructure. This work will be overseen by the recently established Jet Zero Council, a partnership between government and industry to drive the delivery of new technologies and innovative ways to cut aviation emissions." Then there is more about development of Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF). "The government will also consult on introducing a SAF mandate."  Also the government is "committed to modernising UK airspace, which will deliver quicker, quieter and cleaner journeys and more capacity for the benefit of those who use and are affected by UK airspace." And a Global Travel Taskforce to consider how the international travel sector could be supported through the specific challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic."

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EASA report: aviation’s climate impact about x3 greater than previously thought

Aviation's climate footprint could be 3 times bigger than its current estimate, according to a new study by the EU's aviation regulator EASA, which has been sent to the European Commission. It examined the climate impact of aviation emissions other than CO2, which include nitrogen oxides, soot particles, oxidized sulphur and water vapour. The report found that after including the non-CO2 impacts "are currently warming the climate at approximately three times the rate of that associated with aviation CO2 emissions alone.”  This is likely to put airlines under more pressure to clean up the industry. Aviation is responsible for about 2.5% of global CO2 emissions, but that does not reflect aviation's true climate impact. The non-CO2 impacts have been ignored for far too long, and must be properly assessed and included in plans to limit global heating and climate breakdown. Jo Dardenne, aviation manager at green group Transport & Environment, said measures like putting a tax on jet fuel could be introduced rapidly.  “The European Commission was first tasked with addressing the non-CO2 emissions of flying in 2008. It shouldn’t waste any more time in implementing the solutions that are available today.” 

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English airports to benefit from new £100m covid support package

Commercial airports across England and ground handlers serving them will benefit from up to £8 million each under a new government finance package. Chancellor Rishi Sunak has said the £100 million package will from next year provide support for 24 airports which have been hit by travel restrictions placed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.  It will be used to address fixed costs and be the equivalent to the business rates liabilities of each airport in 2020/21, capped at £8 million per site and subject to certain conditions.  Mr Sunak said: "This new package of support for airports, alongside a new testing regime for international arrivals, will help the sector take off once again as we build back better from the pandemic."   The airports to benefit from the package are: Birmingham, Bournemouth, Bristol, Carlisle, Doncaster Sheffield, East Midlands, Exeter, Gatwick, Heathrow, Humberside, Isles Of Scilly, Lands End, Leeds Bradford, Liverpool John Lennon, London City, Luton, Manchester, Newcastle, Newquay, Norwich, Southampton, Southend, Stansted, Teesside International Airport.

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