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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:

Overturn airport jobs crisis with a Green New Deal for Gatwick

There is great concern around many airports, about the number of people who have lost their jobs, or will lose them in coming months. A new report by 3 organisations, the PCS trade union, Green New Deal UK, and the Green House Think Tank shows how new jobs could be created in the Gatwick area, for those now unemployed. Their analysis indicates that around 16,000 "green" jobs could be created around Gatwick if an ambitious job creation strategy was adopted. And they calculate that the cost would be comparable to the amount of APD that Gatwick air passengers might pay in 2021 - around £329 million (calculated as the proportion of all UK air passengers that go via Gatwick - about 15.6% in 2019). This number has been chosen, as the airlines (through Airlines UK) have been lobbying to have APD suspended for a year in 2021; if that happened, it might mean a loss to the Treasury of around £2.1 billion. The £329 million (approx) would be able to fund perhaps x13 as many "green" jobs (such as building retrofits, low-energy transport, restoring nature, and social care) as would be secured in the aviation sector. And these jobs would help avoid the excessive vulnerability of the Gatwick area of being too dependent on aviation.

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Boris Johnson’s hope for a zero carbon transatlantic flight dismissed as a gimmick – at best a one-off

Boris Johnson’s “jet zero” goal of a commercial transatlantic flight producing no carbon emissions by 2025 is a “gimmick”, according to experts, who say technology alone cannot solve the impact of global aviation on the climate crisis. Such a flight could only be a one-off and would encourage the view that other measures such as taxing jet fuel and frequent fliers were not needed to tackle aviation’s carbon problem.  The aviation industry says more fuel efficient planes and buying millions of tonnes of carbon offsets can compensate for big future increases in passenger numbers and carbon emissions. Instead independent experts say new taxes to deter flying are vital, to reduce demand. There may be a very small contribution from alternative fuels, made using surplus renewable energy (not competing with land needed for agriculture or causing deforestation) in future decades, but that is speculative. Long-haul electric or hydrogen planes are unlikely before the middle of the century, if ever, by which time emissions should already have been cut to zero. Tim Johnsons, from AEF, said as well as taxes, regulation was needed, and the inclusion of international aviation emissions in countries' national carbon plans submitted to the UN. Currently they are exempt.

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Chancellor’s business rates subsidy of £8 million covers just 7% of Heathrow’s £120m bill

Heathrow is angry that it is having to pay most of its business rates, while supermarkets and many other businesses are given a 100% waiver.  The government has given airports a subsidy of up to £8 million each this year, to pay their business rates. That is enough to cover the whole amount, for small airports. But Heathrow says it only covers 7% of their rates bill, of almost £120 million, part of which it pays to Hillingdon Borough Council. Heathrow is struggling with a drop of around 82% in its passenger number. It is having to furlough its entire senior management team except its chief executive, to cut costs. Gatwick is probably due to pay £29m in business rates this year, while Manchester and Stansted face bills of £14m and £12m respectively, so the £8 million will not cover their rates bills either. Supermarkets have been given around £1.9 billion in rates help, because initially it was feared there could be problems with food supply. In fact supermarkets have done very well out of Covid, with less food eaten out of the home. Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: "... we have supported them throughout this crisis through the job retention scheme, loans and tax deferrals."

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UK cross-party group to lobby for Covid funds in areas that depend on airports

Cllr Steve Curran, the Labour leader of Hounslow council and Henry Smith, the Conservative MP for Crawley, have written an Opinion piece in the Guardian about the sorry state of their areas - with Heathrow and Gatwick areas badly hit by the collapse in demand for air travel.  They say they "have the awful distinction of heading the national league tables for furloughed and unemployed workers. ...There’s little prospect of aviation returning to anything like its previous levels, not even with the advent of a vaccine, not in the short term. The damage may well prove to be permanent ... In Hounslow...and Crawley ... 40% of our workforces were being supported by the state at the end of the summer. This number is likely to worsen. It is similar for parts of Birmingham, Essex, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Teesside, Newcastle and Glasgow and the other districts where concentrations of airport workers live." They say it is not only the air crews and pilots but all the support workers. There will be an Aviation Communities Summit on Tuesday 24 November – to assess the economic and social harm, and to ask the government to establish an aviation communities fund to meet the immediate and longer-term needs.

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Even with so few flights, due to Covid, global aviation in 2020 still exceeding its CO2 target for 2050

In 2019, emissions from the global civil aviation sector were more than 900 million tonnes of CO2. In 2016 the figure was around 814 million tonnes, and around 650 million tonnes in 2005. IATA has a target that the sector's carbon emissions will be half their level in 2005, by 2050 ie 325 million tonnes.  And that is to happen, while the industry aims for compound annual growth of 3%.  This year, due to Covid, global demand for air travel has been down hugely, with airports like Heathrow having as much as 80% fewer flights than a year ago.  But IATA has admitted that even with that immense reduction in flights, the sector will still have emitted more than 325 million tonnes of CO2.  This highlights the scale of the challenge for the industry, to "square the circle" of trying to keep growing, but emitting less carbon.  This issue is to be discussed at IATA's virtual AGM on 24 November. The industry body ATAG is anticipating that demand for air travel, and hence carbon emissions, might be 16% lower than pre-Covid forecasts b y 2050, as there has been behaviour change and social change, caused by the pandemic. 

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To save money, Heathrow to put all its staff onto furlough for a month each, between 1st December and 31st March 2021

Heathrow is now to furlough its entire senior management team apart from its chief executive, John Holland-Kaye. It will also pave the way for more permanent job losses, as it is very unlikely that the 2019 level of demand for air travel will return for years, if ever.  Sky News reports that it has seen emails sent by Heathrow executives which detail plans for a new voluntary redundancy scheme and a requirement for staff to be placed on furlough for at least four weeks between 1st December and 31st March. Sky says: "Sources said the furlough requirement would apply to every Heathrow employee other than John Holland-Kaye."  Not only senior management. The airport is estimated to have lost £1.5bn since the start of the Covid pandemic. It is losing about £5m every day while it remains open, with so few passengers or flights. The number of passengers was down 82% in October, compared to a year earlier. There have been talks with the trade unions, about job cuts, big pay cuts, worse pension terms and worse employment terms for many of the 5,700 people who work for the airport. There will be a 4 day strike in December, and unions say Heathrow "will grind to a halt".

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Airport groups write to the Prime Minister to say the taxpayer should not have to pay for the decarbonisation of aviation

A number of airport community groups have written to the Prime Minister, in response to a letter that he has been sent by the lobbying body, "Sustainable Aviation.  The UK aviation industry leaders are asking the Government to co-finance the sector’s decarbonisation. The community groups are pleased the industry is starting to realise that it must address its climate change effects and other adverse environmental impacts. Instead of yet more aspirational words, the industry should now start taking decisive and long-overdue action. Regrettably, however, its willingness to do so appears to be conditional on the taxpayer bearing the cost of the transition it needs to make. That should not happen: there is no economic or social case for public investment in aviation’s decarbonisation. Most flights are for leisure purposes; a high proportion are by frequent flyers; in any one year, about half the UK population does not get into a plane. The sector already receives an effective subsidy, by not paying VAT or fuel duty. Government’s role should be to regulate the industry’s emissions and other adverse environmental and health impacts properly, by setting and enforcing challenging targets and defined timescales. Aviation's decarbonisation should be paid for by the industry, not by the taxpayer.

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Aviation points, mainly on future “Sustainable Aviation Fuels” from Boris’ 10-point plan for a “Green Industrial Revolution”

The Government has produced a new 10-point plan, "for a Green Industrial Revolution - Building back better, supporting green jobs, and accelerating our path to net zero." Much is aimed at creating new jobs in new sectors.  There is little about aviation, and nothing of much substance, except hopes for "sustainable aviation fuels" (SAF) for future use.  It says government will put £15m into FlyZero – a 12-month study, delivered through the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), into the strategic, technical and commercial issues in designing and developing zero-emission aircraft that could enter service in 2030. Also a £15m competition to support Sustainable Aviation Fuels production. They will establish a Sustainable Aviation Fuels clearing house to enable the UK to certify new fuels, driving innovation in this space. There will be a consultation in 2021 on a Sustainable Aviation Fuel mandate to blend "greener" fuels into kerosene, which will create a market-led demand for these alternative fuels.  The mandate would start in 2025. Government will invest in R&D for the infrastructure upgrades required at UK airports to move to battery and hydrogen aircraft. And there will be a consultation on an Aviation Decarbonisation Strategy in 2021.

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Leeds Bradford Airport expansion could COST region £3.1bn over 26 years, claims think tank

The think-tank, the New Economics Foundation (NEF), has worked out that the proposed expansion of Leeds Bradford Airport could cost the region up to £3.1billion in lost economic activity by 2050. The plans would enable the airport to handle 7 million annual passengers, up from around 4 million in 2019. Most passengers will be on low cost leisure flights.  The claims by the airport ignore the huge loss to the UK because people who fly abroad on holiday do not spend that money in the UK.  The airport also claims (as all airports always do) that the expansion will create many new jobs. In fact, the aviation sector becomes increasingly automated, with fewer and fewer jobs per 1,000 passengers - and this has accelerated through the Covid-19 crisis.  NEF says: “The predicted business benefits are overstated, because businesses are making less and less use of air travel, especially in the fallout from coronavirus."  Also that: "With the leisure and hospitality industries on their knees, this expansion would damage the local recovery from the Covid pandemic.”

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New study shows that 1% of people cause half of global aviation emissions

A study by Linnaeus University in Sweden found that frequent-flyers who represent just 1% of the world’s population caused 50% of aviation’s carbon emissions in 2018. They also said that only 11% of the world’s population took a flight in 2018; of those only 4% flew abroad rather than within their own country. The carbon emissions of US air passengers are bigger than those of the next 10 countries combined, including the UK, Japan, Germany and Australia. The lead author of the study, Stefan Gössling, said: “If you want to resolve climate change and we need to redesign [aviation], then we should start at the top, where a few ‘super emitters’ contribute massively to global warming."  Aviation in 2019 emitted around 1 billion tonnes of CO2 and benefited from a $100bn (£75bn) subsidy by not paying for the climate damage they cause, with most not paying fuel duty, or VAT in Europe. In a typical year, like 2018, 48% of people in the UK did not fly at all; the figure was 53% in the US; and 65% in Germany. Other data shows in the UK that about 70% of flights are taken by 15% of the people. Also just 1% of English residents are responsible for nearly 20% of all flights abroad; and the 10% most frequent flyers in England took more than 50% of all international flights in 2018.

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Local campaign groups oppose Luton Airport expansion plans and flight path changes, due to noise

Two campaign groups dedicated to reducing noise from Luton Airport have hit out at its latest plans for expansion. LADACAN (Luton And District Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise) and STAQS (St Albans Quieter Skies) have rejected the airport's plans as "both unjustified and unmerited" in a series of responses to the consultation (ends 5th Feb 2021). LADACAN said: “Airport growth going forward has to be more responsibly managed than in the past. The industry is innately carbon-inefficient at present due to outdated airspace design, which forces planes into holding stacks and causes Luton departures to be held low sometimes for 15-20 miles. This is very wasteful of fuel and causes far more widespread noise than necessary." They also say the latest aircraft introduced into the Luton fleet, the Airbus A321-neo was meant to be a bit less noisy than the A321, but it is not.  STAQS said claims of a 2dB noise benefit from the A321-neo in the Airport’s noise reduction strategy are ‘wishful thinking’.  "Luton Council needs to send Luton Airport a really clear signal that noise conditions are there for a purpose, which might focus some effort on growth balanced by mitigation, as the government requires.”

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Suspension of airport “80/20” slot usage rule to last till end of March 2021 – Gatwick not happy

Gatwick airport wants the UK and European regulators to reinstate rules that force airlines to use 80% of their lucrative take-off and landing rights, or lose them, before summer 2021. Wingate wants airlines to give back slots they cannot use, so other airlines such as Wizz Air can come to Gatwick, driving down air fares and getting more bums on airline seats (helping Gatwick survive). The European regulations insisting 80% of landing slots are used were suspended for 6 months, from March, due to the decimation in air travel demand caused by Covid. This was done so airlines would not fly empty planes, just to say the slot has been used. The restriction has been extended for another 6 months, to 27th March 2021, as air travel demand will remain very low. There is discussion within the industry if this should continue into next summer, and even industry lobby body, Airlines UK, is in favour of not wasting fuel and generating CO2, with flights by empty planes. Gatwick's Stewart Wingate wants the UK to do its own thing on the "80/20" slot rule, after it leaves the EU. Several airlines have said they will leave Gatwick, some going instead to Heathrow.

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Heathrow catering company plans to make 1,068 workers redundant – there’s not enough demand for airline meals

The Heathrow catering company DO & CO is planning to make 1,068 workers redundant, as there is not enough work for them - with so few flights.  The Austrian-owned company's biggest customer is British Airways, with a 10 year BA contract. The total in the company to have lost their jobs will be 1,377, including voluntary redundancies, since the coronavirus pandemic started in March.  Just 507 staff will be left. DO & CO has decided not to use the furlough scheme, which would have seen staff be paid 80% of their wages until at least March 2021. The Unite trade union said DO & CO was the only Heathrow catering company not to engage constructively with the union over furlough. It wants talks and the company not to agree to make the staff redundant before Christmas.  Unite says:  “We are naming and shaming DO &CO as an example of corporate callousness ... and pointing out the indirect reputational damage to British Airways..." If there is going to be a contraction of the aviation sector, with fewer people flying than in 2019 for several years to come, how are staff to continue to be employed, in a company that has no work for them? It is likely that air travel demand will never return to its 2019 level. It shows how vulnerable an area is if too dependent on an airport.

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Covid tests for returning air passengers will be needed for years, even with Covid vaccine

Airline passengers will need to take Covid-19 tests before flying long after a vaccine for the viral infection is introduced. This has been admitted by the CEO of Heathrow Airport, John Holland-Kaye. The time required for a global vaccine roll-out means testing must go hand-in-hand with inoculation if there is to be much international travel in the next few years. “Even with the UK getting early access to a vaccine it’ll take a year and a half to vaccinate the entire country,” Holland-Kaye told Bloomberg TV. “It’s going to take much longer before even the fastest vaccine can really have a massive impact around the world.”  Though there is now optimism that the first vaccine might come in to use in the next few months,  it’s not clear how air-transport regulators will respond and how quickly people will be allowed to fly (or want to). People would still need to be tested before their arrival, on arrival, and perhaps 5 and 7 days after arrival - with quarantine before given a final clear test.  It will depend how other countries are dealing with immunisation and infection reduction. And young people are not going to get the vaccine quickly.

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European Investment Bank (EIB) may ban cash for airport expansion or conventionally‐fuelled aircraft

The European Investment Bank (EIB) could withdraw support for new airports, according to a draft climate roadmap seen by EURACTIV.  However, the bank is set to keep funding motorways, as well as approving investments under the old rules until 2022. According to the EIB’s leadership and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, the bank should become “the EU’s climate bank” and a new strategy seeks to align the lender’s investment planning with the Paris Agreement by the end of 2020. It aims to stop lending to fossil fuel companies, and instead lend to renewable energy and other low-carbon projects. Half of the bank’s lending will be for climate projects by 2025 but the other 50% will need to be “Paris-proofed”.  On 11 November, its directors will consider adopting the new climate plan.  An EIB draft says "support will be withdrawn from airport capacity expansion and conventionally‐fuelled aircraft”; this is something that has been requested by civil society groups. They might instead invest in improving the efficiency and environmental footprints of existing airports. Over the last 3 years, €4 billion was invested in airports.

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Norwegian Air faces ‘very uncertain future’ after further state aid from Norway denied

The Norwegian government has refused to grant further financial assistance to Norwegian Air. It was bailed out in the spring, through state aid from Norway of 3bn krone (£255m), with stringent conditions attached, after the first wave of the grounding of airlines due to Covid.  Now with the return of Covid across Europe, air travel demand is not returning for this winter, so Norwegian's finances are in a grim state.  But the Oslo government is not giving more money. The airline has, in the past, annoyed trade unions in Norway for using cheaper, foreign labour. It said it would now be forced to furlough another 1,600 staff, leaving only 600 employed out of more than 10,000 people at the start of the pandemic. It said it would park all but 6 aircraft (out of its fleet of 100 planes) and operate only domestic routes through the winter.  It was flying from 6 UK airports, with its base at Gatwick. As well as cheap European leisure flights, it offered cheap trans-Atlantic routes. Before Covid it was one of the biggest airlines at Gatwick. Norwegian is fragile, as it has expanded too fast in recent years, and has a lot fo debt.  The airline is expected to have losses of 5.3bn krone (about £450m) for the first half of 2020.

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Groups write to Aviation Minister, asking for new limits on night flights – including need for an 8-hour night period

A long list of organisations and groups have signed a letter to the Transport Minister, Robert Courts, asking for action to limit night flights.  It is understood that the government intends to publish a consultation and call for evidence on night flights later this year.  The groups hope the DfT will take their views into consideration, and not (as in 2017) decide policy on night flights BEFORE consulting.  They say that all night flights, other than for emergency and humanitarian purposes, should be banned at all UK airports. The period defined as night should be an eight hour period. If any night flights are to be permitted, their number and impacts should be regulated far more robustly than they are now, at all airports. In the past, the government has argued that the economic benefits of allowing planes to fly at night outweigh the health and quality of life costs of those negatively affected. This can no longer withstand scrutiny, as many flights are just to perpetuate a low-cost carrier business model that generates unsustainable levels of leisure flights. The demand for business flights is increasingly replaced by internet communications, and most air freight does not need to arrive the next day.

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Southampton Airport extended runway plans to be debated on 17th December

Plans to expand Southampton Airport runway will be considered by Eastleigh Council on 17th December. The airport wants to extend its runway by 164m (538ft) and extend the existing long stay car park to provide an additional 600 spaces. The proposals will be scrutinised at a special meeting of the Eastleigh Local Area Committee. The airport has recently submitted more details of the plans to the council. These include the possibility for the authority to propose a maximum noise cap on the airport. Local opposition group Airport Expansion Opposition (AXO) continue to campaign against the plans. As well as the carbon emissions, they fear that new government policy could mean that there would be no noise cap in the future. The airport claims the longer runway is necessary, to keep airport staff employed, as the longer runway would allow larger Airbus 320 and Boeing 737 planes, for holiday destinations in southern Europe. The airport hopes the extended runway could be ready by 2022.  The public consultation will close on November 15. Nearby Winchester Council has said it is still likely to object to the plans, and the recently updated information do not overcome their concerns about the noise impact.

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Leeds Bradford Airport expansion plans – legal arguments from GALBA about GHG emissions

Leeds Bradford Airport (LBA) wants to expand from 4 million passengers per year to 7 million by 2030. LBA has submitted a planning application to Leeds City Council (LCC) seeking permission to extend daytime flying hours, allow more flights at night, and build a new passenger terminal. The local campaign, Group for Action on LBA (GALBA) is fighting this application, with a particular focus on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Now LCC has been given legal advice on how councillors should consider the CO2 and GHG emissions from the expansion. This says LCC does not need to take these into account, only the emissions from the airport itself. The advice states that emissions from UK domestic flights are covered by the UK carbon budgets, and those from international flights are (theoretically) covered by the UN’s CORSIA offsetting scheme. GALBA does not accept that the GHG from expansion should be ignored in the local planning decision on the airport. GALBA's barrister Estelle Dehon, of Cornerstone Barristers, has sent advice to all councillors, that permission cannot be granted unless the likely significant impact of the proposal on climate change is understood. See details of the arguments.

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ICCT data show CO2 emissions from all commercial flights (passenger and freight) rose by 29% between 2013 and 2019 – to 918 million metric tons in 2019

The transport NGO, ICCT (the International Council on Clean Transportation) in the US has updated a study of commercial aviation carbon emissions. Their data, looking at the years 2013, 2018 and 2019, shows that global passenger operations are becoming slightly more fuel-efficient, in terms of carbon intensity per passenger, this is not happening fast enough to offset air traffic growth. Commercial traffic has increased nearly four times faster than fuel efficiency improvement. Overall the CO2 emissions from all commercial flights (passenger and freight) rose by 29% between 2013 and 2019 (to 918 million metric tons in 2019). Passenger aircraft CO2 emissions rose 33% between 2013 and 2019. The ICCT looked at the emissions in premium (First and Business class) seating, and found it produced 19% of CO2 from commercial aviation in 2019.  A passenger in premium class emitted 2.6 to 4.3 times more CO2 per kilometre than a passenger in economy class, depending on aircraft class. The CO2 per passenger is even higher in private jets.   85% of emissions derive from passenger transport, and 15% is from freight.  The aviation of the US, the EU and China make up 55% of the global aviation CO2 emissions. 

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Stansted airport inquiry to start in the midst of the Covid pandemic

Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) has described the decision to schedule a January start for the Public Inquiry into further expansion at Stansted Airport as “dangerous, unwise and unnecessary” in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, warning that it could jeopardise community involvement in the hearings.  The public inquiry is being held following an appeal by Stansted’s owners, Manchester Airports Group (MAG) against the refusal by Uttlesford District Council (UDC) to allow expansion of the airport to an annual throughput of 43 million passengers, compared to 28 million last year. The refusal, by the UDC Planning Committee, was by a resounding margin of 10 votes to nil.  SSE believes that a three-month deferral would be a safer and more sensible way forward, not least given the major impacts which the pandemic is having on the aviation industry. Stansted will handle fewer than 9 million passengers this year, one third of last year’s total. Experts say it will take five years before passenger numbers return to 2019 levels - if it ever does. Despite strong objections from SSE, the start date has been set for 12 January 2021. It is planned to be an in-person event, with attendant Covid infection risks, and SSE says it should be done by using video technology, but this has limitations on effective public participation and access.

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IATA says airlines unable to cut costs enough to save jobs – even if pay is reduced

IATA says the airline industry cannot cut costs sufficiently to prevent severe "cash burn" to avoid bankruptcies and preserve jobs in 2021. IATA wants governments to provide money for airlines, to keep them going and avoid redundancies.  At a time of increasing Covid in many countries, including Europe, IATA is (rather bizarrely, but for self interest of the airlines) asking for relaxed measures on Covid. They want more people flying, with less comprehensive quarantine for passengers, which risks increasing infections. IATA says the airline industry's revenues will be down about 66% this year, compared to 2019, and down perhaps 46% in 2021, compared to 2019.  IATA says without additional government financial relief, the median airline has 8.5 months of cash remaining at current burn rates. The airlines are not able to cut fixed costs in line with reduced income. Around 50% of airlines’ costs are fixed or semi-fixed, at least in the short-term. The cost per passenger flown, or per available plane seat, have risen - as planes are not full."  It considers cutting labour costs by about 50%, and even then airlines would be making a loss.

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Nine years late and x3 over budget due to problems, Berlin’s Brandenburg Airport finally opens (during a pandemic)

Berlin’s ‘laughing stock’ airport to finally opens, nine years late and three times over budget (nearly €6 billion) - after years of problems. Its timing, during the Covid pandemic, is bad. The opening of Berlin-Brandenburg Willy Brandt Airport (BER) as it is known, was meant to be a moment of triumph for Berlin, as a gleaming new interconnected hub that suited its status as the capital of Europe’s biggest economy.  Critics say it now has the look and feel of a costly white elephant, a throwback to a bygone era of mass tourism and global mobility that Covid-19 has ended.  With all its design and structural problems, BER had become a “laughing stock”, of which many German engineers were ashamed. There will be no opening party, as the airport will have few passengers.  BER has four times more space than the tiny Tegel city airport it replaces. BER was meant to start making a profit from 2025 and pay off its outstanding €3.5bn in loans over 10 years.  But now it needs additional financing of over €300m this year, with some €50m-€60m raised from internal cost-cutting measures and €260m from the airport’s shareholders — the German federal government and the authorities in Berlin and Brandenburg.

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ACI estimates that 193 out of Europe’s 740 commercial airports in UK and Europe could go bust due to Covid collapse in air travel

Airports Council International Europe (ACI Europe) has said that due to the decline in demand for air travel caused by Covid, some 193 airports across Europe and the UK face insolvency in the coming months if air passenger traffic does not increase by the year end. The most vulnerable are small regional airports.  There are claims for the number of jobs that could be lost, and the amount of GDP (for many European countries, aviation brings in money and tourists - while for the UK it takes both out). The airports and airlines want more government finance, to keep them going. ACI estimates that there were around 1.29 billion fewer air passengers, using European airports in the first 9 months of this year.  It does not appear likely that winter tourism will provide much airline demand, with Covid restrictions in so many countries. Many airlines have slashed their capacity plans for the reminder of the year and into 2021. The larger airports have been cutting costs to the bone and resorted to the financial markets to shore up balance sheets. Airports are burning through cash to remain open.  The increase in debt - an additional €16 billion for the top 20 European airports - is equivalent to nearly 60% of their revenues in a normal year. 

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After decades, Heathrow no longer Europe’s busiest airport; now it’s Paris Charles de Gaulle

Heathrow has lost its place as Europe’s busiest airport for the first time after being overtaken by Paris’s Charles de Gaulle. In the 9 months to September, Heathrow had about 18.976 million passengers; Charles de Gaulle had 19.27m; Amsterdam’s Schiphol had 17.6m and Frankfurt had 16.16m, according to Heathrow.  Heathrow said it lost £1.5 billion in the first 9 months of 2020.  While Heathrow has for decades boasted about being the busiest airport in Europe, it is now trying to put pressure on the government, to relax Covid testing and quarantine restrictions, to allow Heathrow to make money again.  Heathrow wants people to be able to avoid 14 days quarantine, on arrival in the UK - at a time when Covid is rising again, rapidly, across Europe and elsewhere.  Heathrow makes out that increasing its number of air passengers is for the good of the UK; it often conflates what is good for Heathrow (and some jobs locally) with what is good for the UK. Heathrow’s revenue in the third quarter of the year fell 72% compared with 2019, to £239m. Now, with Covid returning for a second wave, Heathrow anticipates 22.6m passengers in 2020 and 37.1m in 2021, compared to 81m  in 2019. 

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Heathrow with £17bn debts wants to raise £1.7bn from higher airport charges

Heathrow’s attempt to increase airport charges by £1.7bn sparked anger recently, and were rejected by its regulator, the CAA.  British Airways’ owner IAG said it was “staggered” by the demand, as Heathrow has very rich wealth fund owners, who could help the airport with funding.  Heathrow is claiming they are within their rights to ask for the price rise.  They say their regulatory framework allows it to pass on “exceptional costs” to airlines, and ultimately customers.  Many in the airline industry, which does not want higher costs for its passengers, were surprised and impressed by the CAA decision, against Heathrow.  One said: “In the past, the CAA has rolled over. For once they have shown their teeth.”  Heathrow is immensely in debt, owing banks and bondholder £17 billion. In September, its passenger number was under 20% of its 2019 level.  The cost of its 3rd runway plans (now postponed indefinitely?) could be over £30 billion.  It is estimated that Heathrow needs 43 million annual passengers, just to cover its interest bill of around £500m.  Heathrow at risk of breaching its banking covenants, which when tested in December, will require it to keep debt below 95% of the regulated value of its assets.

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CAA tells Heathrow’s owners to invest more in the company, or risk state takeover

The CAA has warned the foreign funds behind Heathrow that the airport is threatened with nationalisation if they do not inject new money to help it cope with the pandemic.  They said that without emergency funding from shareholders including several sovereign wealth funds, Heathrow faces a similar fate to Railtrack, the former FTSE 100 company that collapsed in 2001 with debts of £3.5billion; then taxpayers took back control of the rail network. The CAA has rejected Heathrow's demand for permission to increase its airline and passenger charges, and the airport has paid out £4 billion in dividends since 2012.  It has paid £2.1bn in dividends over just the past 4 years.  Heathrow has threatened court action if the CAA does not allow it to set higher charges, which it claims it is entitled to. Heathrow has massive debts, owing over £17 billion to banks and bondholders, but it claims it has enough cash to see it through till 2023. However, it has been handling at best 30% as many passengers in recent months, compared to the same time in 2019.  Shareholders  “need to be fully aware of the projected liabilities of the companies in which they invest and the performance risks they face”. The CAA is now consulting the industry on its proposed rejection of Heathrow’s call for higher charges.

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AEF’s excellent “Airports Expansions Guide” updated – useful summaries of all UK airport expansion plans

The Aviation Environment Federation (AEF) has produced a very useful webpage of information, to show - at a glance - which English airports are planning to expand, which have already submitted applications, and what stage they have reached so far.  Surprisingly, with the dramatic fall in the demand for flights due to Covid, airports still seem to be hoping to - not only get back to 2019 levels of flying - but expand further.  AEF lists those with formal applications to expand: Bristol, Heathrow, Leeds Bradford, Manston, Southampton and Stansted.   The airports also planning for significant growth in future: Gatwick, London City and Luton airports. All these expansion plans would cause increased noise problems for people living under or near flight paths in future, and other negative local impacts. But all would add significantly to the UK's aviation carbon emissions.  The judgement by the Supreme Court on the Airports NPS (especially affecting Heathrow) is expected, perhaps by January 2021, which will give clarity on whether UK aviation could expand, if the country is to meet obligations to cut carbon emissions.

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New arrival routes for Luton Airport could see noisy flights over other parts of Beds, Bucks and Cambs

A consultation by Luton airport and NATS was launched on 19th October, to change the arrival routes for the airport, which could see aircraft flying closer to some towns in Beds, Bucks and Cambs. Luton Airport currently shares arrival routes and 2 holds with Stansted, a situation which has been described as "unsustainable" due to both airports' size (pre-Covid). A delay at one airport can impact the other.  It is now proposed that a new aircraft hold for Luton is formed above the St Neots and Huntingdon area, along with separate routes "further out and higher up". This is to ensure its operations don’t clash with Stansted. There are two options.  Local campaign LADACAN says: "As far as people on the ground are concerned, this consultation and its hundreds of pages of technical documentation boils down to a simple question: are concentrated tracks or randomly dispersed flights the best solution when aircraft are passing closely spaced communities at low altitudes?" Luton's aim, of course, is to fit in more flights so airport traffic can grow ...  The consultation runs until February 5th 2021.  There are maps at https://consultations.airspacechange.co.uk/london-luton-airport/ad6_luton_arrivals/ which show the location of two new proposed PBN arrival routes, and more detail from LADACAN at https://ladacan.org/consultation-on-arrivals-flight-paths/

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Tory councillors want an end to Southend night flights, largely bringing in Amazon packages

Conservative councillors have criticised Southend Airport’s night flights, pledging to “explore every avenue possible” to have them removed. They have made it clear they back “further controlled expansion” but want night flights removed. Some residents say they are being forced to take sleeping tablets because of the sleep disruption caused by night flights. The Conservative councillors said: “We will continue to explore every avenue possible to have the night flight quota removed from the Airport’s Section 106 Licence Agreement.”  Other councillors worry there will be a loss of jobs, and they dare not risk losing them, with so many jobs being lost due to Covid. There are residential roads very close to the airport boundary, with houses must too near the runway. The airport is permitted on average 4 flights per night, but sometimes has fewer.  The airport has cargo flights, bringing in Amazon goods. There are generally 3 per night between 1am and 5.30am, though there had been an earlier agreement not to have flights between midnight and 6am. This agreement has been abandoned.

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Manston airport judicial review: permission granted for legal challenge

A judge has granted permission for a legal challenge against the government's decision to reopen Manston airport. The crowdfunder set up to help pay for a judicial review has now reached more than £80,000. Now the application for the review has been granted, the Secretary of State's decision in July to approve a development consent order to open Manston as a freight cargo air hub will be challenged in court. The legal battle was launched by Jenny Dawes, the chair of Ramsgate Coastal Community Team. Solicitors Kate Harrison and Susan Ring of Harrison Grant are acting for her, and instructing barristers Richard Wald QC and Gethin Thomas. The reasons for opposing the reopening of the airport for freight are partly due to the noise, as the arrival flight path is directly over Ramsgate, near the airport. There are also strong arguments on air pollution and the UK's climate targets. The advice of the Planning Inspectorate was to refuse permission for DCO. Jenny said:  "According to the government’s own experts, re-opening the airport will damage the local economy and impact negatively on the UK’s carbon budget and our commitments to the Paris climate agreement."

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Local campaign GACC sets out the actions needed for Gatwick to “build back better”

The local campaign group, GACC (Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign) has set out the steps that need to be taken to ensure Gatwick does "build back better."  Gatwick’s operations and the flights it facilitates need to become compatible with climate change imperatives and  the airport must reduce its noise and other environmental impacts, in contrast to what has been happening at the airport during the past decade. At a meeting of the airport’s statutory consultative committee, GATCOM, on 15th October, GACC laid out a series of national and local measures needed to build Gatwick back better. GACC’s full statement  The measures include setting legally enforceable zero carbon targets for aviation; ensuring aviation pays a higher, fairer, contribution towards public finances through more equitable taxes, focused particularly on frequent flyers; phasing out of public subsidies that distort the industry’s economics; putting in place effective noise regulation; and ending night flights, that negatively impact people's health and welfare. There also needs to be diversification around Gatwick, so the area is no longer so economically dependent on one sector. Gatwick should not be allowed to even to return to its 2019 size, let alone expand.

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Pressure in Norway and Netherlands for a minimum air ticket price – Austria may get a €40 minimum

The Norwegian Pilots’ Association believes it may be sensible to set a minimum price for airline tickets in Norway.  This has been prompted by the low-cost airline Wizz Air setting up of new domestic routes within Norway.  In Austria, a minimum price of EUR €40 has been set for a plane ticket, as ultra-cheap tickets undermine both climate policy and liveable wage standards.  When airlines lower the price of a flight to about the price of a cup of coffee and a bun, "something is not as it should be.”  The very cheap flight prices by Wizz Air are  to beat competition from SAS and Norwegian, with tickets as cheap as  Norwegian Kroner NOK 199 [about £16.40] per ticket from November 5. Currently within Europe airlines can determine their ticket prices.  In June in the Netherlands, it was proposed that there should be a minimum air ticket price of €34 for plane tickets. The concern in the Dutch House of Representatives was that there would be a major competitive battle at Schiphol due to Covid, for the preservation of air rights. So airlines would try to fill their planes, to keep their routes, by lowering the prices hugely.  A minimum ticket price may get support in Holland from parties on the left. 

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UK Government undecided on how to price carbon after leaving the EU ETS

Until the end of December 2020, the carbon emissions from key sectors of the UK economy come under the European Emissions Trading System (ETS).  From January 2021, a new system has to be put in place. The options are either for the UK to have its own ETS, or alternatively to tax carbon. The Treasury is keen on the economy-wide carbon tax. The BEIS is keen on a new ETS. There might also be a hybrid scheme. A decision is expected by early December, but this lack of charity is very late for business etc that need to plan now for what they will be doing in 2021. Some companies would end up paying less with an ETS than with a carbon tax, if the price of carbon allowances is too low.  The current EU ETS carbon price is about £24 per tonne, but the UK ETS price could be around £15.  Within the EU ETS, only flights within the EU are included - not flights outside Europe, so the scope is very limited. It is important that aviation pays tax on its carbon, and it is also important that the system is in place from January 2021, not a year or two later. The Aviation Environment Federation says: "In the event that the UK does not develop its own emissions trading system, there is a risk that UK aviation will not be subject to any carbon pricing from 1 January 2020. This would be a backward step, and send the wrong message..."  

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Green Party calls for end of adverts for “high carbon” goods & services – eg. SUVs and long-haul flights

At their party conference, members of the Green Party of England & Wales backed an ambitious climate motion to ban advertising for high carbon goods and services,  eg. SUVs and long haul flights. This brings it into official Party policy.  They want advertising rules to be brought into the 21st century.  “This will spark a long overdue conversation about the role of advertising in our lives” says Green Party peer Natalie Bennett.  There are already many restrictions on advertising on products which are socially and physically harmful, such as tobacco which was banned from being advertised and promoted in the UK since 2003. There is good evidence that this tobacco advert ban was effective, awareness about smoking rose, and levels of smoking fell. In August 2020, the ‘Badvertising’ campaign called for adverts for SUVs to be banned, noting that such vehicles make up more than 40% of new cars now sold in the UK, while fully electric vehicles count for less than 2%. We need to stop adverts for products that trash the planet, needlessly encouraging the sale of more of them. 

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Jet Zero Council had its first meeting on 22nd July – to bring aviation emissions in line with UK 2050 net-zero target

The Jet Zero Council held its first meeting, online, on 22nd July. Tim Johnson, Director of the Aviation Environment Federation (AEF) is the only representative on the council, representing environmental issues. Government press release on the first meeting said: "Chaired by the Transport and Business Secretaries, today’s first ever Jet Zero council meeting will discuss how to decarbonise the aviation sector while supporting its growth and strengthening the UK’s position as a world leader in the sector."  And Grant Shapps said: "The Jet Zero Council is a huge step forward in making change – as we push forward with innovative technologies such as sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) and eventually fully electric planes, we will achieve guilt-free flying and boost sustainability for years to come." ... Producers of novel fuels are excited. ... They all want lots of government money.  Tim Johnson said: “It was a positive start, with an appropriate degree of ambition and urgency, a technology-neutral stance that will treat all options equally, and recognition that getting new technology and SAF into the fleet requires a regulatory framework that includes carbon pricing. That’s a good platform to work from.”

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‘SNP must review policy and reject Heathrow expansion’, former minister says – need SNP conference debate on it

The SNP has been asked to change its policy, to now oppose the expansion of Heathrow Airport, due to carbon emissions.  Marco Biagi was communities minister until he stood down from the Scottish Parliament in 2016. He wants the SNP to adopt “a presumption against any major airport expansion” at next month’s SNP Conference, which is to be held virtually on 28th to 30th November.  After intense lobbying from Heathrow, and suggestions of more routes and more jobs for Scotland if there was a 3rd runway, since 2016 the Scottish Government has officially backed the runway plans. But the SNP finally abstained in the Commons from voting for the Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS) in June 2018. Mr Biagi said the SNP's support for the 3rd runway had never been debated at a SNP conference.  Aviation CO2 emissions are rising, this is against Scottish policies on climate. He said: “Across Europe there is a growing realisation of the need for alternatives to ever-expanding air travel, especially on short-haul routes like those between Scotland and London. On this issue, do we want to follow the climate-wrecking Conservatives or be part of the European mainstream?”

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British Airways boss Alex Cruz replaced by Sean Doyle, in Covid management reshuffle

British Airways (BA) chief executive Alex Cruz has stepped down (was removed) from the job, immediately.  He has led BA since 2016, through what IAG says is "a particularly demanding period" as Covid prompted major restructuring. IAG boss Luis Gallego said the shake-up came as the company navigated "the worst crisis faced in our industry" - which has seen demand crushed and thousands of jobs axed. The new BA CEO will be Sean Doyle, who is now at Aer Lingus - also part of IAG.  Mr Doyle previously worked at BA for 20 years before moving to head Aer Lingus two years ago. This is one of a series of management changes announced by Mr Gallego, who took over as IAG chief executive a month ago after the retirement of Willie Walsh. Mr Cruz will remain non-executive chairman of BA for a "transition period" before also handing over that role to Mr Doyle. BA has been sharply criticised by the way it has treated staff, for whom there is no longer much work. A total of up to 13,000 BA staff were expected to lose their jobs, and over 8,000 have already gone. Last week, MAG - owner of Manchester, Stansted and East Midlands airports - announced plans to cut nearly 900 jobs as the Treasury's furlough scheme comes to an end.

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CAA likely to prevent Heathrow increasing its airport charges to cover Covid losses of £1.7bn

Heathrow wanted to increase charges to compensate for the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. But its regulators, the CAA, have rejected its request to increase airport charges by £1.7bn to Covid losses. The CAA said Heathrow's demands were not “proportionate”. Heathrow operates under a regulatory mechanism that allows it to increase airport charges based on the costs it incurs, but this has to be agreed by the CAA.  Separately, Heathrow is waiting on a final decision from the CAA on whether it can recharge airlines £500m for costs it has built up, prematurely, in (unwise)preparation for the building of a 3rd runway - even before all legal and planning hurdles were overcome. Heathrow said revenue losses in 2020 and 2021 would be more than £2.2bn - ie. the £1.7billion + the £500 million.  The CAA now has a consultation (ends 5th Nov) on Heathrow's request for RAB adjustment.  IAG, said “Heathrow is a wealthy, privately owned company which should seek funds from its shareholders as many other businesses in our industry have done to weather this pandemic. We look forward to participating in the CAA's consultation process."

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Heathrow Airport expansion: Supreme Court Appeal hearing on the ANPS. Briefing by Friends of the Earth

The hearing at the Supreme Court of the appeal by Heathrow against the judgement of the Appeal Court, in February took place on 7th and 8th October.  The case is whether the Airports NPS (ANPS) is illegal, because it did not properly consider carbon emissions and the UK's commitments under the Paris Agreement. Friends of the Earth have explained their arguments, against those of Heathrow. (It is complicated legal stuff ...) There is no onward appeal from the Supreme Court.  If any one of the grounds that won in the Court of Appeal remains, and the Supreme Court agrees that the Order made by the Appeal Court should still stand, then the ANPS will remain of no legal effect [ie. not valid or legal] until reviewed. [So the runway cannot go ahead]. The Secretary of State (SoS) for Transport must then consider if the government wish to leave it at that, or review the ANPS policy framework, to amend it. If the SoS does that, s/he will probably need to make changes that materially alter what the ANPS says. Such changes will need to be approved by Parliament following consultation, before the new ANPS can come into force. And if the FoE Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) challenge wins, there would need to be a new SEA and a new public consultation.

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France proposes much higher air ticket taxes, of €30 for <2,000km and €60 for longer (€180 and €400 for business class)

The French government is considering introducing much more tax on flying.  Air travel pays no fuel duty and also pays no VAT in the EU. Currently the UK has some of the highest flight taxes, of just £13 for a short haul flight, and £80 on long haul (rising to £82 from April 2021). This tax is to compensate for the lack of income to the Treasury for the absence of fuel duty or VAT. Now France is considering (it is not agreed) taxing economy flights of under 2,000km, €30 and €180 for business class.  The tax is only for a departure, not for an arrival.  For flights of over 2,000 km the tax would be €60 for economy class, and €400 for business class.  And €2,400 for private jet flights. Earlier this year, France introduced a tiny “air passenger solidarity tax,” which starts at €1.50 for a short haul economy ticket, and at the most is €18 for a long haul business class ticket. That level of tax is not enough to have any effect on achieving any environmental offset, or deterring flying. The higher levels of tax just might ... France’s Ministry of Ecological Transition is having a final meeting about the suggested changes on Saturday, and a bill is expected to be introduced in parliament by the end of October.

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Heathrow’s Supreme Court case: can it avoid paying for the failed 3rd Runway?

The Supreme Court will, on 7th and 8th October, hear the appeal by Heathrow airport, against the ruling by the Appeal Court, that the Airports NPS is illegal.  Rival scheme to build a Heathrow runway (keen to expand the airport), "Heathrow Hub" explains why Heathrow is going ahead with this further expense of the Supreme Court hearing, when it is struggling with huge financial problems and the reduction in demand for flights, due to Covid.  The way Heathrow's finances work is that, the more it spends - therefore increasing the size of its Regulated Asset Base (RAB) -  the higher the return it can earn, and the more it can charge airlines. So it has a vested interest in keeping its spending high, to the fury of the airlines. Heathrow Hub say:  “It is not commonly understood that if Heathrow abandoned its Supreme Court case then the CAA would be unlikely to approve its attempt to recover the £550m it has spent on the failed 3rd Runway, including a provision for its legal costs." If Heathrow did not struggle to the end, to try to get the runway approved, it would have to finance those huge costs itself.  Hence the reason for going ahead with the legal process, even though Heathrow admits no new runway is needed for at least 10+ years.

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Unite threatens strikes at Heathrow this autumn over huge pay cuts and “fire & rehire”

Unite, the Union, has been a keen backer of expansion at Heathrow for years. Members have for a long time been told that their jobs are at risk, without a 3rd runway. But their loyal support has been somewhat abused by Heathrow, which has tried to reduce the pay and conditions of workers at the airport, for years. How Unite is angry at the treatment its members are getting, while Heathrow struggles with the dramatic fall in the number of passengers. Unite says its members will strike this autumn, over the company’s attempts to cut the pay of 4,000 workers by up to £8,000 per year, which is around 25% of their pay.  They will start balloting for industrial action on Thursday 8 October with the ballot closing on Thursday 5 November with strikes following soon after.  Unite has dismisses HAL’s cries of poverty pointing to the vast salaries paid to senior executives - its chief executive was paid £3 million in pay and pensions last year - and asking why the salary sacrifice does not start at the top of the organisation. There were 49 directors at Heathrow who earned over £21 million between them last year (that averages £428,500 per year each).

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IATA now expects full-year 2020 traffic to be down 66% compared to 2019; previous estimate was for a 63% fall  

IATA downgraded its traffic forecast for 2020 to reflect a weaker-than-expected recovery, with little demand for air travel. They now expect full-year 2020 traffic to be down 66% compared to 2019. The previous estimate was for a 63% decline.  In August demand, expressed as revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs) down 75.3% compared to August 2019. It had been down 79.5% in July.  The falls were less for domestic air passengers than international August capacity overall (available seat kilometres or ASKs) was down 63.8% compared to a year ago, and load factor was down -27.2% to an all-time low for August of 58.5%. (ie. planes are much less full).  The fall in international passengers in August was down -88.3% compared to August 2019, and it had been - 91.8% in July.  The load factor fell 37.0% to 48.7%. In June, IATA was relatively confident of a recovery in air passenger demand by late summer. Due to Covid restrictions by most countries, it did not happen. In June IATA  expected airlines to lose $84.3 billion in 2020 for a net profit margin of -20.1%. They expected revenues to fall 50% to $419 billion from $838 billion in 2019. And for 2021, losses were expected to be cut to $15.8 billion with revenues rising to $598 billion. Now it is worse than that.

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Exeter Airport receives huge funding boost from Council to avoid it having to close

A package of funding worth nearly £1million designed to ensure Exeter Airport can avoid the "worst case scenario" of closure has been unanimously backed by East Devon District Council's cabinet. The combination of the collapse of Flybe, as well as the coronavirus pandemic, has led to the airport facing ruin.  Passenger numbers in May 2019 were 97,000 and in May 2020 the equivalent figure was just 9. From the beginning of the financial year to the end of the July passenger numbers dropped by 99.5% compared to the same period last year.  The Council approved a package of measures including a further deferral of £180,000 of business rate relief, forward-funding the airport’s share of the Long Lane enhancement scheme - nearly £750,000 - and to endorse the concept of a "sustainable aviation cluster" centred on Exeter Airport.  It is not clear that the money is enough to keep the airport going, and save the jobs of 96 employees.  It might eventually still need to close. East Devon District Council is expected to approve the measures.

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Much acclaimed first hydrogen flight (6 seater plane) used hydrogen generated by high carbon grid electricity

The alleged first test flight of a tiny plane fuelled by hydrogen took place recently. The plane was a little 6 seater, and it flew on a small circuit from Cranfield airport.  There was much hype about this supposedly huge technical leap, to a zero carbon fuel.  In reality, the New Scientist ascertained that the hydrogen was produced using grid electricity, which therefore caused the emission of carbon dioxide, as most grid electricity is produced from fossil fuels.  UK and US-based ZeroAvia flew the plane  saying it was the first hydrogen fuel cell flight of a commercial-size aircraft. The company hailed the test as “the first step to realising the transformational possibilities of moving from fossil fuels to zero-emission hydrogen”.  UK aviation minister Robert Courts said the flight was a sign of the “commitment of government of ensuring we get to net-zero” emissions and a “historic” moment for aviation. The hydrogen was produced using an electrolyser, which splits water into hydrogen and oxygen. However, ZeroAvia admitted that this was not using low carbon energy (in September around 40% of UK grid electricity was produced from oil or gas). Genuinely low carbon hydrogen on any scale is years away.

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APD to rise on long-haul only (>2,000 miles) from £80 to £82 from April 2021 – no change in short haul £13 APD

Air Passenger Duty (APD) -  the UK duty on flights - is set to increase for flights of over 2,000 miles, in April 2021.  The APD will rise from £80 now to £82, for a return flight - APD is only charged on departures.  For premium class air tickets of over 2,000 miles, the APD will rise by £4 from £176 to £180.  There will be no increase in APD for flights under 2,000 miles, which means any flight in Europe, which will continue to pay just £13 for a return trip (£26 premium class).  The rate for long-haul private jet etc rises from £528 to £541. (The distance is measured from London to the capital city of the destination country.)  This tiny APD rise is not doing to deter anyone flying.  The increase come  despite calls from the aviation industry to freeze or even scrap APD due to the problems the sector has because of the Covid pandemic.  There have been many calls for APD on domestic return flights to be scrapped, (as the APD is £26, not the £13 for a European flight) but there is no mention of those in the government announcement.  Perhaps the government appreciates that airlines take money out of the UK, and passengers to foreign leisure trips, o a far greater extent than they bring money in.

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Air France’s bailout ‘climate conditions’ and possible future aviation taxes

The state bail out of Air France by the French government earlier in the year got a lot of publicity. Some of the conditions looked as if they could be effective in cutting emissions. Now the restrictions on air travel look set to continue for many more months, airline finances and state help need to be reassessed. The pandemic has been a unique opportunity to shrink the sector, and insist that it takes effective action in future to significantly cut its carbon emissions. The NGO Transport & Environment (T&E) have assessed the potential effectiveness of the conditions, and are not impressed.  They say the Air France conditions included improving fuel efficiency (which it will do anyway, to save money); also removing the shortest flights (which will have minimal impact on the airline's overall emissions). And use of low carbon novel fuels, but if first generation biofuels were used, this would increase - not cut - CO2 emissions. Last T&E says the climate conditions attached to the bailout are not legally binding, leaving it to the good will of Air France. Each condition should be made mandatory, with clear financial penalties for failure to comply. The French government has now proposed reasonably high taxes on flights, of €30 for economy short haul, and €60 economy long haul (>2,000km) but this has to be approved by the political process.

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Reading to Heathrow train line delayed by two years – at least

The Great Western rail link between Reading to Heathrow will be delayed by up to two years. A DCO application to construct the new line was expected this year but has now been delayed until winter 2021/2022 - at the earliest.  A spokesman for Network Rail said the Reading to Heathrow line has been delayed due to the court of appeal’s ruling against plans to expand Heathrow and the impact of Covid-19 on the aviation industry. The Supreme Court will hear Heathrow's appeal against the Appeal Court decision, on 7th and 8th October. If Heathrow was to win the case (a massive IF) then the rail link - to speed passengers getting to the airport - a new tunnel would be created connecting Reading to Heathrow in around 20-30 minutes, with passengers from Reading currently having to use the 50-minute Rail Air bus or go into London to get to the airport.  Reading Station and Heathrow Airport both already have terminus platforms built for the line in anticipation of the scheme. The Department for Transport (DfT) is looking to fund the project with help from Heathrow Airport on the basis of expansion, apparently. (Though Heathrow is struggling financially to survive now ...)

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Airbus – in dire financial problems – talks of plans for hydrogen fuelled future planes

Airbus has been publicising its hopes to have hydrogen-fuelled passenger planes in service within 20 years.  Apart from the technical problems of how to store liquid or compressed hydrogen on a plane, and how to transport it etc, there is the massive problem of the energy it would take to generate the vast amount of hydrogen that would be needed. Currently there is "blue" hydrogen, which is generated from fossil fuels, and the production of which emits carbon (unless and until there is CCS to store that CO2 underground) or "green" hydrogen, which would be produced using low carbon electricity, from wind farms etc. Currently there is almost no "green" hydrogen. There are claims that burning hydrogen at high altitude would not cause the emission of soot particles, so contrails might form less than conventional jet kerosene. It would certainly produce water vapour. The necessary atmospheric research studies probably have not been done, at scale. Hydrogen, like electric planes and wonderful zero carbon fuels, are the hopes of the sector - that their climate problem can be (improbably) solved. Meanwhile Airbus' CEO announced it is in danger of collapse, due to Covid, and it needs to cut 15,000 jobs, or more than 11% of the group’s workforce.

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CAA review finds Heathrow ‘wasted’ money and was “inefficient” as costs of 2 tunnel refurb projects costs spiral

The CAA's economic performance review concludes that Heathrow has “wasted” money on two ongoing tunnel refurbishment schemes and acted inefficiently.  The cost overrun of both schemes combined is estimated at £212.4M, although the CAA suggests that those costs could be inflated further by the time work is completed.  Costs on the cargo tunnel job between Terminal 4 and the Central Terminal Area have soared by £152M, from its approved £44.9M budget to the current final cost of £197M, the report reveals.  The cost of upgrading the main vehicular tunnel to Terminals 1, 2 & 3 has risen by £60.3M from an approved budget of £86M to £146.3M. On the cargo tunnel, the CAA states that “there is clear evidence that the actions of HAL may have directly contributed to wasted spending or lost benefits”. The delays have lead to a loss of benefits to consumers. Heathrow could have been more efficient in managing its work contractors. The CAA will now assess whether to remove costs associated with the tunnel refurbishments from HAL’s Regulated Asset Base (RAB) – which effectively means HAL would have to pay for cost overruns, rather than charging airlines.

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Dodgy economics behind plans to expand our airports – they won’t tackle unemployment, or bring more money to the UK

A useful article from the New Economics Foundation looks at the reality of claims about the economic benefits of expanding airports. Traditionally airports have said they are vital for business travel; the reality is that a small proportion of air passengers are on any sort of business trip, and that is especially the case at regional airports. Most air passengers are British people flying on leisure trips abroad (to spend their money there).  Regional airports claim that they merely take passengers who would otherwise have flown from the larger airports, such as Heathrow and Gatwick. The reality is more people take cheap leisure flights from a convenient local airport.  There is always a lot of hype about the number of jobs that airport expansion will create, but in fact the sector has been automating as much as it can, and the number of jobs  - the "job intensity" - is lower than it was in 2007, while the number of passengers has risen significantly. Airports have also reduced squeezed the working conditions of some airport workers, to gain "efficiencies." NEF says: "Despite what airport executives say, expanding our airports won’t tackle unemployment or bring more money to the UK."

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European Commission under fire for including ‘carbon sinks’ (eg. forest) into EU climate goal of 55% cut on 1990 level by 2030

The EU has a current target of cutting carbon emissions by 40% on the 1990 level by 2030. But with the European Green Deal, it has been proposed that target should be increased to 55%. Some European countries do not want this - while climate experts say even greater carbon cuts are needed.  The European 55% target would include use of "carbon sinks" in the figures, so there is an assumed amount of carbon being absorbed by forests etc, meaning net carbon emissions would appear to be lower than they really are. This might be a difference of 2% or else perhaps 5%.  Some environmental campaign groups said this use of carbon sinks was “an accounting trick” and “Relying on forests to reach climate targets sends the wrong signal that it’s OK to keep polluting because the land will absorb it.” In Europe, forests are currently a net carbon sink because they take in more carbon dioxide than they emit.  But their capacity to absorb CO2 “has been shrinking” over the years, and if left unchecked, could further decline - due to cutting down trees and forest, and damage to them from fires, pests, more demand for biomass, and impacts of climate change. Mature forests have to be kept healthy, and just planting new saplings is not enough.

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Trainee air-traffic controllers told by NATS their training course is over and they have lost their jobs

Some trainee air-traffic controllers with only weeks before graduation have been told their training course is over and they will not get jobs. NATS, the UK air-traffic control provider, is the latest aviation employer to cut jobs.  The trade union for controllers’, Prospect, said the move was “a disastrously short-sighted and cruel decision”. Now there is little air traffic due to the pandemic, with about 11-12% as many air passengers in July 2020 as there were in July 2019. NATS said the trainees would be able to re-start training when air traffic increases, to 2019 levels, though many in the sector say this may not be for perhaps 3 years. A spokesperson for NATS said: “We currently have 275 trainees who have passed through the college and are waiting to re-start their on-the-job training at units across the country once traffic increases. ... we have [decided]  to pause training at our college, which means the 122 trainees have until the end of September to decide if they prefer to leave or wait to see if any redeployment opportunities emerge over the course of October.” As air traffic control becomes more automated, there may be fewer controllers needed in future.

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Plan B Earth case for Supreme Court appeal by Heathrow, against Appeal Court ruling that ANPS was illegal, due to Paris Agreement

On 7th and 8th October, there will be a Supreme Court hearing of the appeal, by Heathrow airport, against the ruling by the Appeal Court in February 2020 that the Government's Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS) was illegal. Heathrow cannot proceed with plans for a 3rd runway, without a legal ANPS.  The government itself decided not to challenge the Appeal Court decision - it is only Heathrow.  Friends of the Earth and Plan B Earth are defending the case. The decision of the Appeal Court was due to the failure of the ANPS to properly take into account the UK's commitment to the Paris Agreement (aiming to keep global climate warming to 1.5C) and thus its duty to keep carbon emissions from rising. Plan  B Earth has published its response, challenging the Heathrow claim that the Paris Agreement is "not" government policy.  It is a 29 page document, but the conclusion is copied here. It states that: "At the time of the designation of the ANPS in June 2018, the Secretary of State (SST) [Chris Grayling] knew, or ought to have known, that the Government had: a) rejected the 2˚C temperature limit as creating intolerable risks, in the UK and beyond  b) committed instead to the Paris Agreement and the Paris Temperature Limit, and that it had  c) committed to introducing a new net zero target in accordance with the Paris Agreement.  These matters were fundamental to Government policy relating to climate change and it was irrational for the SST to treat them as irrelevant.

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Academic study suggests post-Covid re-think of size of airline sector, its costs and impacts

In a new paper, published in Science Direct, Professor Stefan Gossling looks at the future of the airline industry, especially after the set-back it has had from Covid. He says it is important to “think the unthinkable”, and not only what is possible for aviation, but what is desirable for society ... most stakeholders in industry and policymakers would agree that it is desirable for aviation to become more resilient financially and more sustainable climatically ... COVID-19 has forced many airlines to reduce their fleets, retire old aircraft, or stop serving long-haul destinations  ... As a result, air transport capacity is diminished. Further reductions in capacity may be achieved by reducing subsidies ... A scenario for a resilient aviation system should have a starting point in the question of how much air transport is needed ...where risks are accounted for, and where their cost is part of the price paid for air travel. In a situation of reduced supply, there should be an opportunity for airlines to increase profitability ... Many questions need to be asked, such as those addressing volume growth, the sector's reliance on State aid, its unresolved environmental impacts, and hence the basic assumptions on which aviation operates.

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Heathrow urged by 5 councils to end 3rd runway ‘fantasy’ – instead focus on cutting CO2 and noise

Councils have called on Heathrow to abandon once and for all its bid for a third runway and concentrate instead on working with the aviation industry to achieve zero carbon emissions and reduce noise impacts for overflown communities. Heathrow is due to challenge February’s Court of Appeal ruling against the expansion plan in October  (7th and 8th) at the Supreme Court. The 5 councils, (Hillingdon, Wandsworth, Richmond upon Thames, Hammersmith and Fulham, and Windsor and Maidenhead) say there is no logic in the airport persisting with its runway fantasy. Cllr Gareth Roberts, Leader of Richmond Council, said: "COVID-19 has changed everything. This is a unique period when we are all rethinking traditional assumptions about how we work, travel and grow our economies. As local councils we want the industry to get back on its feet. But this won't work without a fundamental rethink about the place of aviation in our society – and indeed where future capacity is most needed. Even Heathrow's chief executive has admitted that a new runway would not be needed for years due to the pandemic. Yet still the airport and its shareholders press on with the process and the prize of a planning permission for a runway that will never be built."

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Tax-free sales by airports, ports etc for overseas visitors to end by 1st Jan 2021, with lower duty-free import allowances

The UK government is set to end tax-free sales at airports, ports and Eurostar stations from 1 January 2021. As the Brexit transition period comes to an end, the UK government cited “concerns over how the benefit is passed on to passengers and in some instances, the relief is not consistent with international tax principles.” The VAT retail export scheme, which currently enables EU visitors to claim refunds on goods purchased in the UK, will also be withdrawn from the same date. The airports are unhappy about this, as it will cut their income, and some jobs would be lost.  The Treasury said: "Overseas visitors  - including in the EU - will still be able to buy items VAT-free in store and have them sent direct to their overseas addresses, while the costly system of claiming VAT refunds on items they take home in their luggage will be ended.” It described the scheme as “a costly relief, which does not benefit the whole of Britain equally”, adding that the current use is mostly centred in London. Visitors arriving from EU and non-EU countries will be allowed 42 litres of beer, 18 litres of still wine and 9 litres of sparkling wine duty free from 1.1.2021 (much lower than currently).

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Greenpeace Netherlands is going to court to force the Dutch government to discontinue their bailout for KLM

Greenpeace Netherlands is going to court to force the Dutch government to discontinue their bailout for airline KLM, because climate conditions are lacking. As a first step, Greenpeace formally informed the government. This lawsuit could potentially have important consequences for other airline bailouts. Just in Europe alone, governments have supported the airlines with €32.5 billion so far.  A spokesperson said the Dutch bailout "fuels the climate crisis, breaking the duty of the Dutch government to protect its citizens.”  KLM does not have a solid climate action plan and the environmental policy for aviation from the Dutch government is inadequate. The bailout is not even definitely saving many jobs in the airline. Vague hopes that in future electrical planes or planes that fly with sustainably sourced fuel, will not be available before too long are unrealistic. Therefore the number of flights needs to reduce substantially, and Greenpeace says this should start with revoking short-distance flights under a thousand kilometres. KLM was responsible for 8.6 MtCO2 emissions in 2018.

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Heathrow area risks fate of 1980s mining towns, says airport boss – area too dependent on the airport

Perhaps even more than other airports like Gatwick and Luton, a large part of the economy around Heathrow has become over-dependent on the airport. Now the CEO of Heathrow, John Holland-Kaye has said boroughs like Hounslow risk becoming like “a mining town in the 1980s” with the collapse in air traffic putting tens of thousands of jobs at risk. Many more people work in businesses associated with Heathrow, than directly for the airport itself.  In August, Heathrow had around 1.4 million passengers, which is less than 20% of its "normal" amount.  People are not flying for leisure, due to the risk of Covid itself, or the need to quarantine. There are few business trips, as they are being replaced by Zoom etc.  Many in the aviation sector do not think levels of flying will return to their 2019 levels for 2-3 years, or more - if ever.  Heathrow had losses of £1.1bn in the first half of 2020. Recently Heathrow issued formal section 188 notices, allowing it to potentially fire and rehire some 4,700 employees, after months of negotiations with unions representing its directly employed ground staff failed to produce an agreement. Section 188 means the airport can bypass negotiations after a 45-day period has elapsed. There might overall be 25,000 Heathrow-related job losses.

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Climate Assembly report: members aware future aviation CO2 has to be limited

The Climate Assembly was set up by the UK government in 2019. It consisted of 108 citizens, selected to be representative of the population and its views. They met over 6 weekends, with expert guidance and information, to discuss how the UK could get to net zero carbon by 2050. One of the many issues discussed was air travel. Overall there was wide support among the Assembly for limiting the growth of the sector, to some extent.  The anticipated growth of about 65% (from 2018 to 2050) was seen as too much. Many believed there would be advances in technology that would allow for increased numbers of passengers, but keeping to 30 MtCO2 aviation emissions by 2050 (the CCC's scenario). There was support for increasing the price of flying for frequent fliers, and those who flew long distances.  Assembly members wanted to see the airline industry invest in greenhouse gas removals, and in lower carbon technologies (which would make flying more expensive). Members wanted more engagement with the UK population, to understand the necessary changes. They wanted more parity between the cost of rail and flying, where flying is now often hugely cheaper. The committees behind the report have asked Prime Minister Boris Johnson to respond before the end of the year.

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Heathrow saddled with £504 million bill from thwarted expansion

Heathrow has been left with a £500M bill from its thwarted 3rd runway expansion. The airport chose to spend a lot up-front, in its plans to get a new runway, even before waiting for the legal challenges and approval of its DCO (Development Consent Order). Heathrow hoped it could charge airlines using the airport for these costs. It was always a risk that the runway would not happen, and the money spent in promoting it and planning for it would be sunk. The  Court of Appeal ruled against the Airports NPS in February, on grounds of the carbon emissions the 3rd runway would generate. The appeal by Heathrow will be heard on 7th and 8th October.  Meanwhile the CAA has restricted the amount Heathrow can charge airlines - and now there has been a massive reduction in Heathrow air traffic, and income, due to Covid. The New Civil Engineer gives a breakdown of what Heathrow (unwisely) spent, in the expectation the runway would definitely go ahead. According to the CAA’s Economic regulation of Heathrow: policy update and consultation, the costs are broken down into £394M of planning (category B) and £110M of early construction (category C) costs.  These include ground investigations, all sorts of advisors, and designers.

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BA hits out over £500m bill (Category B costs) for Heathrow failed 3rd runway plans that it wants to pass on to airlines

A row has erupted between Heathrow and British Airways, its largest airline, over the plans to get airlines to pay the £500m bill relating to the airport’s third runway expenses so far. A regulatory consultation by the CAA recommends allowing Heathrow to charge carriers for expansion costs incurred until February this year. These are called "Category B" (£500m) and early "Category C" costs, associated with getting planning consent.  CAA regulations allow Heathrow to increase charges in line with costs incurred.  Willie Walsh, the outgoing boss of IAG, that owns BA, has repeatedly clashed with Heathrow over the framework, which he has said encourages the airport to “spend recklessly."  IAG has never wanted to pay for Heathrow's costs in developing the runway (partly as the extra capacity at Heathrow would increase competition with BA by other airlines). CAA director Richard Stephenson said it was reviewing responses to the ­consultation (held in summer 2019) and had yet to make a ­decision.  Heathrow has pressed ahead, spending a great deal on its runway plans, even before legal obstacles had been cleared. The restriction of early spending by the CAA meant a delay in the runway timetable of 2-3 years.

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Luton Council’s £60m loan to Luton Airport company set for approval ‘in private’

A £60m loan by Luton Borough Council to its airport company is set for approval, in private, by the executive later this month. The first of two emergency loans - together totalling £83m - has gained the support of Luton Council’s scrutiny finance review group, at the second attempt. The second loan worth £23m to London Luton Airport Limited (LLAL) is scheduled for the 2021/22 financial year, after the council’s emergency budget in July.  The Labour controlled council were forced by the Liberal Democrats to discuss the loan report in public. But officers asked for the council to take legal advice and defer the issue. It seems that 5 five Labour councillors recommended the council's executive approve the £60m loan deal, with the 3 Liberal Democrats in opposition.  The executive will formally decide upon the loan at its meeting on Monday, September 14th. The Liberal Democrats said the almost £400m in loans are secured against the assets of the company. "But, the council already owns all of LLAL’s assets by virtue of its 100% ownership of the company. It follows that for all practical and accounting purposes the £400m loans are unsecured.”

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New study indicates non-CO2 impacts of aviation are twice as large as the CO2 alone

A new study trying to elucidate the various non-CO2 impacts of aviation has been published. There is very complicated science about the positive radiative forcing (ie. extra impact on increasing global temperature) of the water vapour, NOx and other gases, and particles emitted from jet engines at altitude. This study concludes that the non-CO2 impacts of "aviation emissions are currently warming the climate at approximately three times the rate of that associated with aviation CO2 emissions alone." They have looked in detail at the various effects and interactions. There are numerous non-CO2 impacts, some of which cause more radiation to be reflected back out to space, and some cause heat to be trapped, warming the earth. These effects include the contrails, ice cloud changes, sulphate and soot particles from jet engines, water vapour from jet engines, NOx emissions and production of ozone. The effects of contrails and extra cloud formation are perhaps easier to study, and more research is needed on the impacts of soot and sulphate particles.  The confirmation of the large contribution to warming, from the non-CO2 impacts of aviation is important.  The climate impact of aviation, including non-CO2 effects, has to be fully taken into account in how the sector fits into the UK's climate targets, and reaching "net zero".  Currently the DfT ignores non-CO2 impacts, though the CCC has recommended that they should be included.

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Heathrow has lost £1 billion since start of March, is cutting staff pay, and could cut 1,200 jobs

Heathrow says that it has lost £1 billion since the start of March, due to the Covid pandemic. There could be 1,200 Heathrow jobs lost.  The airport served a formal notice to staff yesterday, triggering a 45-day consultation period over compulsory job losses. The airport and unions have failed to agree to a deal over the future of its frontline workforce after months of talks. Heathrow is proposing salary cuts of between 15-20% for some affected staff, with a phased reduction in salaries over 2 years. A voluntary redundancy scheme has been offered. The airport claims there might be few compulsorily redundancies, but only if the unions agree a deal. About 4,700 frontline staff are affected, including engineers, security and airside operations. Heathrow has already lost 450 out of 1,000 head-office managerial staff.  The airport had indicated previously that as many as a quarter of staff could be made redundant, so up to 1,200 jobs may go. Heathrow said its proposals "guarantee a job" for anyone who wants to remain with the business. The Unite union is not happy with the airport's offers.  Gatwick is losing about 600 jobs, a quarter of its workforce. 

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Draft Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill calls for international aviation to be fully included in the UK’s Net Zero target

The proposed Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill (CEE bill) which is to be tabled as a private member's bill by Caroline Lucas MP on 2nd September, would see international aviation, shipping, and consumption included properly within the UK's 2050 net zero target. These are necessary in closing the gaps in the UK's Climate Change Act (CCA), where they have been excluded in the past. The CEE bill has support from the minority parties and Labour, as well as scientists, business figures and Extinction Rebellion. Currently when the UK claims its carbon emissions have fallen, the drop is largely from switching electricity generation from coal to gas, and the arrival of more renewables. Over recent decades, carbon emissions embodied in imports have grown, as have carbon emissions from international aviation and shipping. But those are not considered under the CCA. The CEE Bill proposes legislation to address the biodiversity crisis, by placing a stronger legal requirement for the government to protect and restore forests, soils, and ecosystems so then can provider a natural means of absorbing CO2. Despite Covid, bold government action is needed in the UK, now, especially before the postponed COP26 meeting in November 2021 in Glasgow.

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Protest by opponents of Southampton airport, against the “madness” of its expansion plans

Opponents of expansion of Southampton airport took part in a protest on Saturday 29th, as did many other groups at airports across the UK.  The group say the airport should not be expanding, at a time of climate crisis, and the impact would be a needless increase in carbon emissions, from the extra flights using the airport.  They said  1. The economic case does not stack up, in jobs, house prices or health impacts.  2. The noise impacts of expansion, with many more local people negatively affected.  3. More air pollution will affect local health and mortality rates, from an increase (the airport's own figures) of 272%  in NOx emissions. 4. No figures have been provided for ultrafine particles, which could be even worse than NOx for human health.  5.  The expansion will contribute to climate change and a ‘carbon-neutral’ airport is a myth; the expansion would roughly double current carbon emissions, and the airport is only looking to offset the relatively small ground emissions, not those from flights.

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Bristol Airport Action Network crowdfunding to challenge airport’s appeal against North Somerset Council rejection

BAAN (Bristol Airport Action Network) Committee Coordinators are crowdfunding, to raise £6,000 for their attempt to challenge the airport's appeal against the refusal, by North Somerset Council, of its expansion plans.  BAAN says: the airport's plans "would mean an extra 23,600 flights and two million passengers a year (as well as an extra 10,000 car movements a day). They would also mean a further million tonnes of carbon to be emitted a year at this time of climate and ecological emergency. Our position is that this airport expansion (and others that are planned) is not legally compliant with the Climate Change Act, The Paris Agreement and the Government's commitment to be carbon neutral by 2050 and MUST BE STOPPED." They are doing all they can to stop the expansion. BAAN say: "We have been given a very favourable fee quote from a specialist planning barrister and are talking to a number of top experts who are likely to give their time pro-bono or at much reduced rates to represent us at the appeal. We are also being helped by Greenpeace and other environmental organisations." Donations would be greatly appreciated.

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Bristol protests against the airport appealing against North Somerset Council rejection of expansion plans

Extinction Rebellion and local groups held a number of protest on Saturday 29th August, at UK airports. A large event was held at Bristol Airport, in protest against the decision by the airport to appeal against the rejection of their expansion plans, by North Somerset Council. Extinction Rebellion held a "mourning procession" and hundreds of people marched to the airport, observing Covid social distancing, and in silence, to follow a death theme. One of the protest organisers commented: “When the refusal of Bristol International Airport (BIA) expansion plans became international news in February this year, everyone thought we’d seen the death of the terrifying fantasy of an expanded airport in this time of ecological and climate emergency. We were wrong." Another said the "democratic process, underpinned by massive public objection, is being threatened, whilst lies about economic benefits and carbon-neutrality are spread with flagrant disregard to the truth." And it is crazy that precious council funds have to be wasted on this unnecessary appeal, when the money is need to deal with Covid-related issues, among many others.

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Letter to Kelly Tolhurst (Aviation Minister) from airport groups, about the need for aviation noise policies

Many airport campaigns have written to Aviation Minister, Kelly Tolhurst, asking her to provide details of the government's intentions about policies on aircraft noise. The organisations remind her of some of their key points. They want government to "put in place policies, processes and institutions which can together achieve outcomes that all parties accept are fair and balanced, a goal that the policies of the past two decades have failed to achieve". The aviation industry needs to be sufficiently incentivised to reduce noise, and it is not good enough to merely "limit, and where possible, reduce total adverse effects on health and quality of life from aviation noise”. Those are just meaningless in terms of cutting the plane noise experienced by people overflown. The groups fear that proposals for the Aviation 2050 document are in fact even weaker than the extant 2013 Aviation Policy Framework which says “the industry must continue to reduce and mitigate noise as airport capacity grows” . The campaigners want noise impacts to be "as low as reasonably practical", and any increase in noise in future, from more flights, to be balanced by reductions in noise and other environmental impacts - with compensation for those negatively affected. See the full letter.

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Gatwick could lose 600 jobs, and it could take 4-5 years for passengers to return to 2019 levels

Gawick plans to cut a quarter of its workforce due to the impact of coronavirus. So about 600 jobs could be lost following an 80% reduction in the 2019 number of passengers in August. It only has the North Terminal working.  CEO Stewart Wingate said the cuts were a result of the "devastating impacts" coronavirus had on the airline and travel industries.  In March, Gatwick announced 200 jobs would be lost, and it later took out a £300m bank loan. With the collapse in passenger numbers, the company said it was looking to further reduce costs. About 75% of staff are currently on the government's furlough scheme, which is due to end in October. The DfT says: "If people need financial support quickly they may be able to claim Universal Credit and new style Jobseekers Allowance."  Many staff belong to the union, Unite, which will fight to minimise redundancies.  The airport has said it will take "four to five years" for passenger numbers to return to pre-pandemic levels. Its revenue fell by 61% in the half year, January to June, compared to 2019. While Covid remains a very real issue, and levels are slowly rising in many countries, air passengers have no certainty about from which countries they would need to quarantine themselves for 14 days, on their return.

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Extinction Rebellion to protest in Leeds against Leeds Bradford Airport expansion plans

Socially-distant protesters plan to gather in Millennium Square on August 29 in support of the Group for Action on Leeds Bradford Airport (GALBA). GALBA will be cycling a route around Leeds, Bradford and Wakefield to highlight areas which may be affected by aircraft noise pollution if the airport's expansion plans are approved.  Leeds Bradford Airport (LBA) submitted plans to build a new "state of the art" £150million terminal in early 2020. It would  be closer to a proposed parkway rail station, announced by Leeds City Council last year.  The terminal would accommodate seven million passengers per year by 2030. Extinction Rebellion (XR) has held several protests this year against the expansion plans, both outside Leeds City Council’s Civic Hall headquarters and outside a public consultation meeting held at the Mercure Parkway Hotel.  XR says the proposed expansion, yet to be approved by the council, will increase carbon emissions - fuelling climate change. One activist said:  "I will be able to look my daughter in her eyes and tell her I tried to put an end to this madness, that we knew there was a better way to live and I fought for it with everything I had."

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Extinction Rebellion mobilises in Bishop’s Stortford against Stansted Airport expansion

Extinction Rebellion (XR) East Herts is campaigning against Stansted Airport expansion with a protest march in Bishop's Stortford.  MAG, the owner of Stansted airport, wants the Planning Inspectorate to decide at a planning inquiry on its planning application to be allowed to handle up to 43 million passengers a year, up from the current 35m cap, after Uttlesford District Council did a U-turn on their previous consent decision, and refused permission.  The airport claims there will be no more flights, even with 8 million more passengers per year ...  Uttlesford Planning committee members concluded MAG had failed to demonstrate that the inevitable extra flights would not result in an increased detrimental effect from noise, pollution and other environmental impacts. Councillors also regarded infrastructure proposals as inadequate. XR East Herts is calling on MAG to withdraw its appeal on the grounds that expansion would generate 74,000 more flights each year. There would be a considerable increase in the carbon emissions. XR Herts is not affiliated in any way with local group, Stop Stansted Expansion, that also wants MAG not to proceed on its attempts to expand.

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How airships could provide low carbon transport, especially freight (going with the wind)

Zeppelins and dirigible airships might provide a low carbon transport alternative.  There is speculation that they could be used to transport air cargo, instead of high carbon aircraft. It is possible they will also be transporting passengers, on short or medium length journeys. British and French companies are working on designs for airships. Hybrid Air Vehicles in Bedford has already completed seven flights of its Airlander 10 prototype, after some mishaps along the way. It is filled with helium.  It can theoretically carry ten tonnes of freight or up to 90 passengers. It can take off and land almost anywhere flat-ish with a 600 meter expanse, or indeed on water, without the need for airports or buildings, in convenient locations near towns or cities. It cruises at 130 km/h using the vectored thrust of helicopter technology – hence the “hybrid” - and is an order of magnitude lower carbon. CO2 is even lower, if its engines are electric. "High-carbon air travel risks losing its social licence to operate. A carbon tax is coming ...  The air-freight industry may not survive en masse unless it cuts emissions drastically." But is there enough helium available? It would have to fly with the wind, ie. from west to east, using winds like the jetstream. 

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Challenge to Manston airport DCO – barristers from 39 Essex Chambers, and Harrison Grant solicitors

Paul Stinchcombe QC, Richard Wald QC and Gethin Thomas are instructed by Kate Harrison and Susan Ring of Harrison Grant LLP in a judicial review of the Secretary of State for Transport’s decision to approve the re-opening of Manston Airport, as a dedicated freight airport. In so deciding, the Secretary of State overturned the recommendation of the Examining Authority [the Planning Inspectorate] to refuse development consent. They act on behalf of Jenny Dawes, a local resident who participated in the examination. Manston Airport has been disused since it was formally closed in 2014. The claim, issued on 19th August, contends that the Secretary of State’s analysis of the need for the development was flawed, and that moreover, the Secretary of State failed to discharge his duty to ensure that the net UK carbon account for the year 2050 is at least 100% lower than the 1990 baseline (“Net Zero”), under section 1 of the Climate Change Act 2008.

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Air pollution is likely to increase the chance of developing Type 2 diabetes

Research in 2015 showed that there is a link between air pollution and the development of Type 2 diabetes. [That is the diabetes people generally acquire later in life, that is treated with medication, rather than insulin injection].  The study looked at 102 published studies from various countries. The results stated:  "Air pollution is a leading cause of insulin resistance and incidence of type 2 diabetes mellitus. The association between air pollution and diabetes is stronger for traffic associated pollutants, gaseous, nitrogen dioxide, tobacco smoke and particulate matter." And the conclusions: "Exposure to air pollutants is significantly associated with increased risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus. It is suggested that, environmental protection officials must take high priority steps to minimize the air pollution, hence to decrease the incidence of type 2 diabetes mellitus." There is probably more research needed, to establish details, but it appears that there is definite positive link between the two.  So areas with high levels of particulate and NOX air pollution, such as around Heathrow, are likely to see more ill health, including more diabetes.

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Manchester set to close Terminal 2 again from 2nd September – not enough air travel demand

Manchester Airport will close its Terminal 2 from 2nd September, as there is so little air traffic. It had previously reopened in July, along with Terminal 3, after closing in March due to a 'significant fall' in passenger numbers caused by the the coronavirus pandemic. All flights will now operate from Terminal 1 and 3 'until further notice', officials said. More countries are now included in the list, from which returning travellers have to self-isolate for 14 days - which is cutting demand for air travel. 

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Wizz Air wants to expand UK operations with plan for creating a Gatwick base

Low-cost Wizz Air (Hungarian) is to open a new base at Gatwick. It wants the CAA to allow it to obtain more slots from its rival airlines that are not able to use them, due to the Covid pandemic. Wizz plans to launch four new routes from Gatwick by late October as it hopes to get people flying again.  It is using the crisis in air travel as an opportunity to grab market share from less agile competitors with higher costs, that are looking to conserve cash until passenger demand recovers. Air travel within Europe remains very unclear, with the numbers of Covid cases changing rapidly in some countries, and fast changing regulations and restrictions.  Wizz previously operated a limited schedule of flights using Gatwick, but the creation of a base will allow it to operate aircraft and crew from south London permanently for the first time as it shifts resources there. It hopes to get more Gatwick slots, as they become available. Airlines like easyJet and BA are likely to be unable to use many of their slots. Wizz announced in April its plans to cut close to 20% of its workforce and cut the wages of top management, pilots and crew.

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Heathrow “to slash staff pay by up to a third” becoming a “low cost employer”after collapse in air travel 

Heathrow staff are being asked to accept pay cuts of up to 37% and will lose their final salary pension scheme. It will also end paid breaks and allowances, worsen redundancy terms, and refuse to honour a pay rise. The airport wants to slash pay and conditions for its 7,000 workers in a bid to become a low-cost employer, according to union chiefs – an allegation denied by management. Air travel demand is currently low, (88% lower in July 2020 than in July 2019) and not expected to rise much in the short term. The aviation sector cannot afford to pay so many staff, when it has little income. Heathrow said it has been forced to take action now to protect jobs. But the union Unite (which has always been an enthusiastic backer of Heathrow and its expansion plans) has told its members that the airport is acting out of “greed, not need” and said it was using the pandemic as a smokescreen to cut pay and conditions. It added that Heathrow paid £100m in dividends in April. Unite says John Holland-Kaye told unions that he wanted to make the business a “low-cost employer” during a meeting on July 30th. Many staff working around Heathrow are not directly employed by the airport, but associated businesses. There could be over 20,000 job losses in these companies.

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