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Latest news stories:
London City Airport to put terminal expansion plan on ice, due to Covid recession
London City Airport has put its plan to quadruple the size of its terminal on ice, as the Covid pandemic has decimated demand for air travel. City Airport is shelving £170 million of expansion work, which will mean loss of jobs. But it plans to continue with around £330 million of improvements this year, including eight new aircraft stands and a new parallel taxiway that will allow more arrivals and departures. The airport had been intending to finish the work on the terminal by 2023, and it could then cater for 6.5 million annual passengers. By contrast, in 2019 it had 5.1 million passengers. The airport said the recovery in air travel demand had been slower than expected, and its recovery (if it ever returns to 2019 levels) will take more years than thought earlier. The airport is owned by a consortium of investors including AIMCo, OMERS, Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and Wren House Infrastructure Management.
Dismay that Bristol Airport will appeal against Council refusal of its plans to expand for more passengers
Members of XR Bristol Airport Action Network (BAAN) are very disappointed that Bristol Airport is seeking to appeal against the decision ratified in March which rejected their application to increase passenger numbers per annum to 12 million by 2026. The decision made by the North Somerset Council's Planning and Strategic Committee amplified the views of the local community who clearly did not want this expansion. Some 8,931 written objections were submitted to the Council's planning website as opposed to 2,431 statements supporting the development. The Planning Committee rejected the original plan for expansion on the grounds that key environmental issues had not been properly resolved while insisting the economic benefits would not outweigh the environmental harm. Tarisha-Finnegan-Clarke, Coordinator of XR BAAN: "At a time when the Coronavirus has forced airports to drastically reduce the number of flights the aviation industry should be focusing on survival. Instead, the unfailing arrogance of Bristol Airport's management sees them pursuing their fantasy aspiration to expand passenger numbers. An appeal at this time is simply unappealing to so many people."
Concerns about proposed flight paths in and out of Manston when (if) it reopens for air freight
Development consent was finally granted in July, by the government, for a freight air cargo hub at Manston. The Thanet site is owned by RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP) which now has to complete the various stages of the Civil Aviation Authority CAP 1616 process for airspace change. RiverOak is currently on 'stage 2', known as the develop and access gateway. But CARMA, the Campaign Against the Reopening of Manston Airport, has questioned the lack of transparency of the process so far. They have drawn particular focus on the planned flight paths, claiming 30 towns and villages will be impacted. There are illustrations of some proposed flight paths, arrivals and departures, in the RSP documents. These show many areas of east Kent being overflown, for the first time. CARMA is very concerned that these routes have been drawn up, without information for, or consultation with, the public. Relevant community representatives have not been being properly informed. At the best of times, the CAA flight path alteration process is difficult for laypeople to understand, with "CAP1616 process" and "design options" and "airspace design principles" and "technical and operational interdependencies" among other bits of jargon, which are not written in "plain English."
T&E: Why Europe should focus on its own airline carbon market and forget the UN scheme
Transport & Environment argues why Europe should not depend on the inadequate, ineffective CORSIA scheme, for its aviation CO2 emissions. CORSIA does not include an actual emissions reduction target. It is at odds with the Paris agreement’s goals. The quality of the offsets is not good enough; there are so many of them that the price is far too low to make airlines reduce emissions. An EU system could do better. T&E says: "The aviation geeks of this world will know the argument [that international aviation can only be controlled by ICAO] by heart now: “aviation is an international mode of transport, so it requires international solutions”. But does it, really? A majority of the aviation industry is eager to privilege international solutions when they want to escape their environmental responsibilities, but are very happy to promote national solutions when it comes to getting [Covid] bailout money. This needs to stop. Aviation can’t have it both ways: it’s unfair for the sector to get support in bad times and refuse to contribute to European and national environmental efforts in good times. Especially when the industry isn’t effectively dealing with aviation’s climate problem by itself".
Liverpool Airport receives £34m loan from combined authority due to Covid-19 impact
Liverpool John Lennon Airport (JLA) is to get a loan of £34m from the city region combined authority to help give it stability during the Covid crisis. The funding was approved at a meeting of the combined authority on Friday, with the airport described as a "vital strategic infrastructure asset for the city region". The Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram said: “International connectivity is essential for the local economy and the roles of international gateways such as ports, airports and cruise terminals as economic hubs and drivers for local economies and tourism need to be maximised." ie. good to have people flying abroad for their holidays... The airport it indirectly supports around 6,000 local jobs, providing £250m per annum in economic impact, (not counting the contribution to the UK's tourism deficit...) The 10 Greater Manchester local authorities are also lending £250 million to the Manchester Airports Group (MAG) to help then with the Covid pandemic. This is from money borrowed at a low interest rate from government.
Covid: Dutch airline KLM to shed up to 5,000 jobs – AND other airline job loss numbers
KLM is cutting up to 5,000 jobs, despite a €3.4 billion bailout from the Dutch government, due to the Covid pandemic. KLM is part of the Air France KLM group. The job cuts over coming months would involve around 1,500 compulsory layoffs from KLM’s current workforce of 33,000. The jobs lost would be up to 300 flight crew, 300 cabin crew, 500 ground staff and around 400 jobs at KLM subsidiaries and in the Air France-KLM group positions. Then there would also be 2,000 voluntary redundancies announced earlier this year, and further cuts would be made through non-renewal of 1,500 temporary contracts. Some 4,500 to 5,000 positions in the KLM Group will cease to exist. Many other airlines are laying off staff. The numbers are approximately: Swissport (4,556 jobs). British Airways (up to 12,000 jobs). Job losses could also occur at IAG’s other airlines, Iberia, Vueling and Aer Lingus. EasyJet (around 4,500 jobs). Virgin Atlantic (3,000 jobs). Ryanair (about 3,000 jobs). Air France (maybe up to 7,500 jobs). Tui (8,000 jobs). Lufthansa (22,000 jobs). Scandinavia Airlines (5,000 jobs). Boeing (? 16,000 jobs). Airbus (15,000 jobs).
Letter to Chancellor saying there is no economic or social case for government funding of aviation decarbonisation projects
A group of aviation campaigns have sent a joint letter to the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak. This comes in response to a letter sent by Sir Graham Brady and other MP signatories, asking the Treasury to invest in aviation decarbonisation. The campaigners' letter says: "... there is no economic or social case for the government to invest taxpayers’ money in projects that might reduce aviation’s emissions. Doing so would perpetuate the current moral hazard in which the industry pollutes with impunity but expects others to bear the consequences and clean up after it." Data from the ONS shows air transport, and services incidental to it, account for less than 0.7% of GDP and only 0.4% of jobs. "The industry’s increasingly meaningless assertions, such as the one in Sir Graham’s letter that aviation “supports” 4.5% of GDP, should be treated with the scepticism they deserve". The industry overwhelmingly provides leisure, not trade, services. Over 80% of UK passengers travel for leisure purposes. "Using taxpayers’ funds to further support [aviation]... should be inconceivable in the current economic context." What is needed is "effective regulation that obliges the industry to decarbonise" and urgent government reform of regulation of the industry’s environmental impacts. See the full letter.
Plan for cargo hub at Manston Airport seriously flawed, says consultant
An aviation consultant, Peter Forbes (from Alan Strafford & Associates) has joined a group which believes the attempt to turn Manston airport into a cargo hub is seriously flawed. Mr Forbes believes RSP sees the only real value in the land as housing or industrial development. Its plans, even if they ever worked out, would be in addition to cargo flights at East Midlands, which handles the second largest tonnage in the UK after Heathrow. Mr Forbes also questioned the jobs figures that the airport is claiming, and its location, “The key disadvantage of Manston is its location at the extreme south-east corner of the UK and its poor surface access. Historic traffic levels at the airport have generally been modest." “The increased onward distribution times at Manston are particularly relevant for perishable goods, which comprise a significant proportion of all dedicated freighter cargo. In addition, the inability to offer night flights at the airport, which is a condition …, will be a significant constraint for the development of a freight hub, particularly for main international freight package couriers such as Fedex, UPS and DHL.” Two other aviation consultants, York Aviation and AviaSolutions, have also apparently said the airport is not viable.
AEF argues why government should NOT cut APD; it is needed as part of a greener recovery for the sector
The airlines take every opportunity to lobby to have APD (Air Passenger Duty) reduced, in an attempt to get more people to fly. "Airlines UK" representing BA, easyJet and Ryanair etc have again called on the UK government to suspend the tax. In fact, APD is only £13 for a return flight anywhere in Europe, so not enough to deter passengers. The AEF (Aviation Environment Federation) argues the case against any cuts in APD. They say there is no need to cut the tax, as air fares are likely to be low anyway, while airlines struggle to recover from the Covid hit; oil prices are also low. Air travel is substantially under-taxed, and there can be no justification for reducing its cost further, increasing demand and thus CO2 emissions. Air travel demand should not be encouraged, while there are no meaningful policies to tackle the sector's environmental impacts - noise and air pollution, as well as CO2. Airlines have benefited substantially from public funds, through furloughing staff; they should not be allowed to pay even less tax, while all sectors must make a fair contribution towards rebuilding public finances. And foreign holidays should not be incentivised at a time when the UK’s domestic tourism and hospitality sectors need to rebuild. Read the whole briefing.
British Airways have the PSO contract (since Flybe’s demise) for taxpayer subsidised flights between Heathrow and Newquay
The government agreed in 2018 to subsidise flights from Newquay to Heathrow. These were initially to be by Flybe. Flybe then collapsed in March 2020. The subsidy is through a Public Service Obligation (PSO) intended to give financial assistance to unprofitable routes, which are deemed "vital" for an area. The cost to the taxpayer was expected to be £3,4 million, over the 4 years of the PSO, till 2022. That would be £1.7 million from the DfT and £1.7 million from Cornwall Council. It appears that since Flybe collapsed, the PSO was put out to tender again. British Airways is now being paid £125,000 per month to operate these flights. The website Simple Flying says "under the emergency order, the [Cornwall] council will be paying British Airways £877,596 excluding VAT, to operate services to Newquay for 7 months .... According to details on the European Union’s Tenders Electronic Daily, the 7-month contract was issued as a result of the collapse of Flybe. Only one compliant bid, that of British Airways, was received in the 48 hours that the proposal was open." No passengers used Newquay airport in May 2020. The first flight date shown is 3rd September 2020.
Carbon Action Tracker assessment of international aviation sector – Critically Insufficient
The organisation, Climate Action Tracker (CAT) has assessed the international aviation sector, to see what commitments it has made to cutting carbon.The aim is to establish whether a sector is on target to agreed Paris Agreement commitments, hoping to keep global temperature increase to below 2C (or 1.5C ideally). They conclude that international aviation is in the lowest of their 5 categories, of "Critically Insufficient". If all countries and sectors did as little to cut emissions, and took the same approach, we would be on track for warming of over 4C. CAT explain the many reasons why the ICAO's CORSIA scheme, with its low ambition and only partial coverage of the sector, is insufficient. It is now impossible to predict future air travel demand, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, even if demand returns in the next three years, airlines will be under no obligation to offset their carbon, as emissions will probably be lower than in the year decided as the baseline, 2019. "Pre-COVID projections suggested that international aviation emissions would amount to 750 Mt in 2030 under an optimistic technology improvements scenario, or to 880 Mt under a low technology improvement scenario."
Night train routes are emerging, or re-emerging, across Europe – as people want to avoid flying
For a lower-carbon way to travel further afield in Europe, the night trains were a wonderful alternative. Travelling relatively slowly, they cause the emission of far less carbon than flights. But the advent of budget airlines and dirt cheap fares meant that over the past 20 years, most night train services were closed down. Now there seems to be a resurgence of interest, with new routes being announced. The Swedish government said it would provide funds for two new routes to connect the cities of Stockholm and Malmö with Hamburg and Brussels. France has announced an overnight service between Paris and Nice. Austrian train operator ÖBB bought 42 sleeper cars from Deutsche Bahn in 2016 and has resumed half of the night-time routes connecting Hamburg, Berlin, Munich and Düsseldorf to Austria, Switzerland and Italy. There is a route between Sylt in northern Germany and Salzburg in Austria. There is renewed enthusiasm among some of the public, as people reflect more deeply on how they travel - partly due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but also increased concern about climate breakdown. The recovery of the night train may not be all smooth running, however, as the economics of night services remain difficult.
APPG on Heathrow Expansion and Regional Connectivity launches inquiry into Building Aviation Back Better
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Heathrow Expansion and Regional Connectivity has launched an inquiry into how the aviation industry can build back in a post Covid-19 world. The APPG is keen to receive evidence from a range of organisations on how to build a more sustainable aviation policy that supports both workers and the environment. People have till 14th September to respond. The sector is unlikely to recover to levels of flying in 2019 till perhaps 2023. This presents an opportunity to reset the UK’s aviation strategy and initiate a green recovery. This should set aviation on a fairer and more sustainable course, while providing any support necessary for workers to shift to green jobs. Aviation policy which must strike an equitable balance between the benefits aviation brings and its adverse environmental, economic and health costs. The issues on which the APPG is seeking comment include the Aviation White Paper, taxation, regional balance, bailouts, the UK policy framework for decarbonisation, and community impacts, such as noise, night flights and air pollution.
Net Zero APPG says there needs to be a Carbon Takeback Obligation on sectors like airlines, to permanently remove CO2
A Net Zero All Party Parliamentary Group (NZ APPG) has been set up, to assess the progress being made by the UK towards its climate target. The group has set out a 10 point action plan, to get the government to scale up its efforts to "drive the UK towards net zero and ensure a green Covid recovery." There is an immense need for a "green recovery package to accelerate economic growth, create jobs and reduce emissions.” This has to focus on green-job creation, prioritise energy efficiency, decarbonise heat, and energy storage. The right investment, and the right regulatory conditions are needed. The NZ APPG want the Chancellor to develop a clear and systematic Net Zero Roadmap, complete with interim targets and robust implementation, review and governance arrangements. On aviation, they say UK should "Establish a ‘Carbon Takeback Obligation’ for fossil fuel extractors and importers, and airlines, requiring them to permanently store an increasing percentage of the CO2 generated by the products they sell, rising to 100% (net zero emissions) by 2050."
Young climate activists urge council to reject Leeds Bradford Airport development – “Don’t let us down”
‘DON’T let us down’ was the plea being made by young climate activists who are calling on Leeds City Council to reject plans for a new airport terminal. Leeds Bradford Airport is seeking permission to create a new, £150 million building to replace its current terminal which dates back to the 1960s. Environmental campaigners say the terminal flies in the face of attempts to tackle global heating. Leeds YouthStrike4Climate (Leeds YS4C) have sent an open letter to the city council’s leaders which reminds them that they declared a Climate Emergency in March, 2019. The expansion plans would make it ‘impossible’ for Leeds City Council to keep its promise to make the city carbon neutral by 2030. There will also be a lot more plane noise pollution. Leeds climate striker Annwen Thurlow said: “Our house is already on fire - we cannot let this expansion add more fuel. The council has a responsibility to protect our health and wellbeing, of people and planet. Young people in Leeds and across the world are relying on them. "So we say to them - please don’t let us down.”
Leeds Bradford Airport: Scientists object to expansion plans which will increase CO2 emissions
A group of five climate scientists have objected to Leeds Bradford airport's expansion plans as they make it "impossible" for Leeds to meet its greenhouse gas emissions target. The airport wants to build a new terminal, but this would mean more flights and more passengers, and so more carbon emissions. The scientists said the expanded airport's greenhouse gas emissions would be higher than the emissions allowed for the whole of Leeds in 10 years' time. The airport could cause the emission of 1,227 kilotonnes of greenhouse gas emissions in 2030, compared to 1,020 kilotonnes allowed for the whole of Leeds in 2030. One of those objecting is Prof Julia Steinberger, a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which advises the United Nations. The IPCC has warned that restricting global warming to 1.5˚C above pre-industrial levels will require “rapid and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”. The scientists say expansion would just represent "business as usual" and lock in higher CO2 emissions. If similar developments were replicated around the world, it would lock us into catastrophic climate change, which highlights that the proposed development is not only highly harmful but also unfair."
Southampton airport runway extension plans would lead to higher CO2 emissions
Plans to lengthen Southampton Airport’s runway (by 164 metres) have come under fire amid concerns over their impact on climate change. The airport's 2nd public consultation on revised plans has now been launched. Local campaigners Airport Expansion Opposition (AXO) said: “A ‘carbon-neutral’ airport’ is like ‘fat-free lard’. It’s just not possible. We need to act now on climate change. Lower carbon fuels and electric planes capable of carrying significant numbers of passengers are decades away. The airport says extending the runway isn’t about ‘bigger planes’. But its own figures show that it is about flying many more of the bigger, noisier A320 jets than previously. The result of this is, as the new documents show, over 40,000 extra local people being exposed to aircraft noise.” And "Regional connectivity can be maintained with the airport as it currently is, and since most travellers are UK residents heading out on holiday most of the benefit of their travel will be abroad.” The airport claims its future is in doubt (usual stuff about jobs...) unless it lengthens the runway.
Business air travel likely to remain at lower levels, for years – big impact on airline finances
The airline industry has largely been funded by business air travel, and those paying for premium seats, or very high air fares, bought at the last minute. Cheaper air tickets to get "bums on seats" would not themselves enable airlines to make profits; the expensive seats are what enable those cheap tickets to be offered. Now the demand for flights has collapsed due to Covid, and the decline in business flying is intense. Many companies do not see their level of business flying returning. Some think there may be a return in perhaps two years, though it may never happen. Will visiting clients/customers be as vital in future, to make deals or impress? Business travel in the US makes up 60% to 70% of industry sales, according to estimates by the trade group Airlines for America. The standard and acceptability of internet communications, video-conferencing, and Zoom have shown many organisations that they do not need much air travel. Companies do not want to risk staff getting abroad and being stranded. Business passengers travelling to big cities like London have created hotel, catering, conference, taxi etc demand, but that is all likely to reduce in future. Even if/when Covid is beaten, the impacts on business flying are likely to be long-term.
£200 million from government for research into lower carbon planes
The UK government has unveiled £400m in private and public sector funding for technologies and research aimed at cutting aviation CO2 emissions. BEIS has announced that projects aiming to develop high performance engines, new wing designs and ultra-lightweight cabin seats - all intended to cut fuel consumption - will be getting funding from the Government's Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) programme of £200 million. Business Secretary Alok Sharma said the £200 million would be matched by £200m from industry. There may also be money from universities, including Nottingham and Birmingham, for this research. The ambition is "zero carbon aviation" as part of the Government's FlyZero initiative. Britain would like to become a world leader etc in lower carbon aviation technologies. There is a The Net Zero All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) of MPs that is working on the necessary transition to "net zero" by 2050. The UK needs to be seen to be leading on this, before hosting COP26 in November 2021 (postponed from Nov 2020). The APPG has a 10 point action plan that says fossil fuel extractors and importers, as well as airlines, should be required to permanently store an increasing percentage of CO2 generated by the products they sell, rising to 100% by 2050, via a proposed "carbon takeback obligation."
ICCAN produces review and 6 recommendations about aviation noise metrics and their measurement
The issue of plane noise has been of great concern to hundreds of thousands of people, for ages. ICCAN was set up in 2019 to look into the problem, seeing if there might be ways to manage it better, and for people to be considered more - and their noise concerns taken seriously. One key problem is how noise is measured, and therefore how overflown communities can get factual data on the noise they are experiencing. This is complicated. Acoustics is not a simple science, and especially difficult to explain in plain English to laypeople. The noise an area suffers depends on the number of planes overhead, their height, their type, what they are doing at the time, the frequency of the flights overhead, the time of day (or night) and the background level of noise an area already experiences. Traditionally aircraft noise is averaged over a period of time. That provides numbers that can be compared to other places and other times. But it makes no sense to those being affected. But nobody hears an average of plane noise. They hear a number of separate noisy events. Now ICCAN has produced a review of aircraft noise metric and their measurement, and their recommendations, for how improvements should be made.
BA is retiring its whole fleet of 747s (lots used to use Heathrow) due to the Covid fall in air travel
British Airways has said it will retire, with immediate effect, all of its Boeing 747s as air travel demand has fallen so much due to Covid - and it may never recover to be how it was before. BA has 31 jumbo jets, which make up about 10% of the BA fleet. It had planned on retiring the planes in 2024 but has brought forward the date. There are about 500 747s still in service, of which 30 are still flying passengers. More than 300 fly cargo. The rest are in storage. The four-engined 747s are not fuel efficient, so cost a lot to run - and emit a lot of carbon. They are very noisy, causing noise nuisance to millions living under fight paths near airports. Even before Covid, Air France, Delta and United had already retired their 747 fleets. With expected lower air travel for years, even if a vaccine is found fairly soon, airlines need to save money, and 747s are more expensive to run than 2-engined planes. It will also be difficult to fill them up. They depend on the hub model of airports, and are less suited to the more popular point to point sort of air travel. With the end of 747s and A380s, much of the rationale for Heathrow expansion ends. Unfortunately, it is due to the 747s in the 1970s making air travel cheaper, that brought in the era of cheap, readily available air travel - with its environmental costs.
ICCAN progress report, after a year’s work looking at aviation noise – it should be a priority post-Covid
What seems a long time ago, in 2015, the Airports Commission recommended that an independent body should be set up to deal with aircraft noise problems. So in 2019 ICCAN (the Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise) was finally set up. It was hoped that this body would be able to help people who are subjected to aircraft noise, and who have no sensible means to get the level of noise nuisance reduced. In reality, ICCAN says its aim is "to improve trust and public confidence in the management of noise in the UK through the delivery of a comprehensive work programme." And: "It is not, and never has been, our role to have a view on the future expansion of the aviation industry, but as part of making the UK a world leader in managing aviation noise ...." It has no powers. It has now produced its Progress Report, one year from starting work. Its main aim has been contacting many "stakeholders", finding information, getting well informed. Now its lead commissioner, Rob Light, says the Covid pandemic "should be seen as a chance to rebuild and regrow aviation in a more sustainable way" and noise should be a key priority.
Around 250 job losses likely at Bristol airport, due to collapse in its air travel demand
Nearly 250 jobs could be lost at Bristol Airport because demand for air travel has plummeted. The unions are saying these redundancies would leave a ‘huge economic hole’ in the region. Bristol Airport has begun consultation with Unite over making 76 directly employed staff redundant. Swissport has also announced 167 job losses. A smaller number of redundancies at other firms are also expected to be announced soon. There are the usual claims about the alleged economic benefit the airport brings, and the number of jobs it supports. These conveniently ignore the fact that most flights are taken by local people flying abroad for their leisure, spending their money abroad - not in local businesses or local leisure/ holiday destinations. To try to save jobs, the unions want delay, in the hope that air travel demand picks up. The AOA - lobby groups for the industry - said this week up to 20,000 jobs at Britain’s airports are at risk as a result of the collapse of air travel due to the Covid pandemic. Bristol is yet another area has has become too dependent on the airport for jobs, and this vulnerability has now been shown up. Aviation is no longer a sector with guaranteed security and growth for a local economy.
Heathrow to close southern runway for several weeks, then use it for daytime only, till October
Heathrow has announced, with no warning, that it will be only using the northern runway from 13th July to 2nd August. It is doing extensive repairs (probably in fact resurfacing) on the southern runway, that means it cannot be opened even part of the day. So people living under the approach path to the northern runway, or under the departure flight paths, will not get the respite period they are used to. Normally flights are switched at 3pm each day. The disruption is planned to last until early October. After 2nd August, there will be flights on both runways, but the southern runway will be closed from 7pm to 7am. Therefore those under flight paths for the northern runway will get all the noise. Campaigners fear that the use of "mixed mode" (ie. landings and take-offs using the same runway) could become the “new norm” if Heathrow seek to use this method of operating permanently, post-pandemic, as a way of increasing the current flight cap of 480,000, to an estimated 565,000 flights per year. Mixed mode would allow that increase in flights without building a 3rd runway, which Heathrow probably can no longer afford.
Natural England says Leeds Bradford Airport expansion should not be approved – necessary details have not been provided
The government's environment adviser, Natural England, says Leeds City Council should not approve controversial plans for the Leeds Bradford Airport expansion, unless further evidence on the potential impacts is provided. Natural England states the airport's planning application lacks detail and "there is currently not enough information to rule out the likelihood of significant effects" on the environment. It has asked the airport to provide additional information, so the council can asses the impact the new £150 million terminal would have on air quality, local wildlife and protected landscapes. Natural England therefore advises Leeds City Council that it should not grant planning permission at this stage. The airport wants to increase passengers numbers from 4 million to 7 million a year. Climate scientists, environmentalists, The Group for Action on Leeds Bradford Airport (GALBA) and four Leeds MPs are also calling on the council to reject the new plans. GALBA, said the airport has not bothered to assess the damage that their expansion plans would do to wildlife and nature.
Public consultation over Southampton runway extension slightly delayed – and campaigners fight for Marlhill Copse trees
The public consultation through Eastleigh Borough Council over plans to extend Southampton Airport's runway by 164 metres has been delayed. It was due to start on July 10th, but now the start date is not known - the delay may only be a week or so. The consultation is due to last 30 days. The airport also wants to add 600 more parking spaces to the existing long stay car park. There is a lot of local opposition to the plans, largely due to the noise impact and the extra carbon emissions of more flights. Neighbouring local authorities including Winchester and Southampton councils objected to the scheme. There has already been one consultation, in late 2019, and the airport may make modifications in this second consultation. The final decision will be by Eastleigh Borough Council. The airport bought a small woodland near the airport, Marlhill Copse in 2018. It now wants to fell many of the trees, citing safety concerns. The trees in fact would only be a potential safety concern if the airport is allowed to expand. Three trees have already been felled, on the pretext of "good forestry management". Campaigners are trying to get this tree felling and tree height reduction stopped.
MAG to appeal council’s refusal of Stansted expansion proposals – SSE says this is “CALLOUS, CYNICAL AND POINTLESS”
The Manchester Airports Group (MAG) has decided to appeal against the refusal by Uttlesford District Council of the expansion plans of Stansted airport. Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) Chairman, Peter Sanders, said this was “callous, cynical and pointless” and prolongs uncertainty. MAG has been seeking an increase in the permitted number of flights using Stansted, up from the present limit of 35 mppa to 43mppa. Stansted’s actual throughput in 2019 was 28 mppa and will be very significantly lower in 2020 due to the impact of Covid-19. Uttlesford District Council (UDC) first received MAG’s expansion proposals for Stansted in June 2017 and spent more than two and a half years considering the issues prior to 24 January 2020 when its (cross-party) Planning Committee voted by 10 votes to zero to refuse the application. MAG itself had said it wanted the application to be determined locally rather than nationally, and that UDC was the “competent and appropriate authority” to deal with its application. But now it is appealing, for the decision to go to a Public Inquiry, that would be costly for UDC at a time when finances are struggling.
Government grants Manston DCO to allow the airport to re-open, against Planning Inspectorate recommendation
Manston has been closed as an airport since May 2014. It is the first airport to have to take its plans through the DCO (Development Consent Order) process, dependant on the Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS). It always failed as an airport in the past, largely due to its location. In October 2019, the Planning Inspector recommended to the Secretary of State for Transport that Manston should not be re-opened. The decision was then for transport minister Andrew Stephenson, "with the secretary of state, Grant Shapps, recused to avoid any conflict of interest." He has now given approval to the DCO for the airport to re-open, for cargo and even passengers - overruling the Planning Inspectorate (PINS). The airport claims it could open by 2023, handling up to 10,000 cargo flights a year as well as passenger services, with construction starting as early as 2021. There is huge opposition to the plans, due to noise and air pollution. The approach path from the east is directly over Ramsgate, about 2 miles from the airport. PINS had said opening Manston would have "a material impact on the ability of government to meet its carbon reduction targets". The ANPS is currently not valid, awaiting a Supreme Court hearing on 7th and 8th October.
Prof Whitelegg: How the aviation sector should be reformed following the Covid-19 crisis
Prof John Whitelegg says the Covid pandemic provides a key opportunity for major reforms to the aviation sector. The sector is not likely to reduce its carbon emissions to the extent necessary, even for the net zero target for 2050. The Committee on Climate Change has said there will need to be measures to limit demand for air travel, and it "cannot continue to grow unfettered over the long-term.” They say "we still expect the sector to emit more than any other in 2050.” Aviation continues to receive an effective subsidy, due to the absence of VAT and fuel duty that amounts to about £11 billion per year (compared to about £3.8 billion taken in APD). There are well known negative health impacts caused the plane noise, with some of the best researched being cardiovascular. We need to change the dominant expectation that air travel with continue to grow. There has to be realisation that air passengers must pay the costs of the environmental damage they cause. Some necessary changes would be charging VAT; taxing frequent fliers; adopting WHO noise standards for health; full internalisation of external costs; fiscal instruments to shift all passenger journeys under 500kms in length from air to rail. And more.
International aviation and shipping likely to be added to UK carbon budgets – but not in time for the 6th budget?
Even excluding international aviation and shipping (IAS) the CO2 from transport makes up about of the UK's total emissions. But so far these emissions have been excluded from the UK's 5-year carbon budgets. This has been a glaring deficiency of the budgets, even if the aviation and shipping emissions were to some extent "taken account of". There has been pressure for years, and repeated advice from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) - the government's official advisers on climate - to include these sectors fully, starting now. It appears that, at last, this will eventually happen and they will follow the CCC's guidance. But not before 2023. This emerged from the first meeting of the Department for Transport’s net zero board, which included some environmental campaigners. The government recently said aviation makes up 8% of the UK's climate impact. UK carbon budgets are set 12 years ahead of time to provide sufficient long-term guidance to investors. The 5th carbon budget (covering 2028 - 2032) has already been set, without the inclusion of IAS. The 6th carbon budget will be set in 2021. The CCC will publish its advice to government on the 6th budget, for 2033 - 2037 in December 2020. But 2023 is too late for this ... so the 7th carbon budget?
Study shows the unequal distribution of household carbon footprints in Europe – and air travel component
A study carried out by Leeds University and Trondheim University (Norway) looked at the distribution of household carbon footprints in European counties. It investigated the link between higher household income, and their carbon emissions. This included the contribution from air travel. The authors say they found significant inequality in the distribution of high carbon footprints (CFs). The top 10% of the EU population with the highest CFs contribute more carbon compared to the 50% of the EU population with the lowest CFs. Only 5% of the EU households (eg in Romania) live within a CF target of 2.5 tCO2eq/capita per year, while the top 1% of EU households have CFs of 55 tCO2eq/capita. The most significant contribution to CO2 is from air and land transport, making up 41% and 21% respectively of the CF for the top 1% of EU households.The households with the highest CFs are by and large the households with the highest levels of income and expenditure. The high CO2 emissions by the more affluent present challenges for environmental and social objectives. The authors say: "Exploring the prerequisites for living well within carbon limits is a key focus of our time."
Electric flying not feasible for larger planes or longer distances
There has been a lot of mention in recent years about the possibility of planes being powered by electricity. That has the potential to cut the CO2 emissions of aircraft. However, the aspiration of electric planes is likely to be a dangerous diversion from taking measures now to cut the CO2 from the sector, if it has the effect of creating the false hope of breakthroughs. The reality is that flying needs a very energy-dense fuel, such as kerosene. Currently there are some tiny planes, able to carry under 10 passengers, that may be able to make short flights, of under 1,000 km, in the next few years. That is entirely different from a passenger plane carrying 200 passengers many thousand miles. Power is particularly needed on take-off, and while climbing. Liquid jet fuel is burned during the flight, so the planes lands lighter than when it took off. The battery is the same weight throughout, putting more stress on the plane while landing. The engines would have to use propellers, and not be jets - and there are limits on how fast propellers can turn. There are real constraints, caused by physics, in the ability of electricity to power larger aircraft.
Airlines granted huge CO2 emissions reprieve by UN compromise, even further weakening the CORSIA scheme
The UN’s aviation emissions offsetting scheme, CORSIA, will not take 2020 into account as the baseline when calculating how much airlines have to pay to neutralise their CO2 emissions. Normally, without the atypical year due to the Covid pandemic, the emissions baseline (reference point) would have been taken as 2019 and 2020. Now only 2019 emissions will be used. Had 2020's far lower CO2 emissions been included, that would have created a much more taxing challenge for airlines, and would have meant them having to buy many more carbon credits, costing them much more money. Environmental groups have derided the decision to ignore 2020's emissions as “making a mockery” of climate policy. The change will mean that the 3-year pilot scheme will be useless, as CO2 emissions from aviation are unlikely to climb back to the level in 2019. There will be no CO2 requiring offsets, being below the now raised threshold. According to Carbon Market Watch, “while CORSIA will officially start in 2021, airlines will not have to do anything until several years later.” Anyway, carbon credits are now ludicrously cheap.
Why Boris’s zero-emission long-haul British aircraft is just pie in the sky
The prime minister’s call for Jet Zero on Tuesday may owe more to his fondness for a punchy slogan than any realistic view of how UK aviation might develop in the next 30 years. His wish for the UK to build long-haul zero- emissions plane may never be achieved. It is just not credible. Short-range electric flight is, for the very smallest planes, already a reality. Multiple firms, including UK start-ups, are working on zero-emission eVtols – electric vertical take-off and landing craft, or flying taxis – for domestic inter-city travel, carrying just a handful of passengers. Battery weight and range means that manufacturers currently view larger electric planes as feasible only for short-haul flights – and even then the focus is largely on hybrid-electric, with jet fuel needed for take-off. The big UK contribution to this vision, a Rolls-Royce-Airbus collaboration called the E-Fan X, was dropped in April. Meanwhile, work continues at Cranfield university and elsewhere, trying to convince sceptics that hydrogen could eventually be a viable fuel for passenger jets, produced using surplus (?) renewably-generated electricity. Or combined to produce an "electro-fuel" - but that still emits CO2 when burned in a plane engine.
Public enjoying peace and tranquillity from absence of Heathrow flights
Almost 3,500 people took part in a survey organised by the No 3rd Runway Coalition on aircraft noise during Covid lockdown. The aim was to see what impact the absence (or near absence) of aircraft noise had on people who are usually overflown. 80% of respondents found the experience of fewer flights to be positive. 49% noticed the reduction in flights all day long. 52% said there had been an impact on their sleep. The most common themes in responses were the beneficial effect of fewer flights on mental and physical health, through a reduction in noise, and (from postcodes close to roads providing access to the airport) an appreciable improvement of air quality. Health impacts mentioned included improved sleeping patterns, greater use of gardens, and greater enjoyment of green spaces. The survey also included responses from around airports other than Heathrow (Gatwick, Stansted, Birmingham, Aberdeen, Leeds Bradford). Paul McGuinness, Chair of the Coalition, said: “With powerful clarity this survey presents a picture of just what will be lost, in quality of life terms, when flights resume at Heathrow." The absence of flights has been a unique opportunity to appreciate how great the impact of the noise normally is, with Heathrow working at full capacity.
EasyJet plans to close bases at Stansted, Newcastle and Southend – and cut staff by as much as 4,500
EasyJet says it has begun consultations on plans to close its bases at Stansted, Southend and Newcastle airports, though it will keep routes using those airports. It will no longer keep planes there, or base crew there. EasyJet may also be cutting its number of employees by up to a third, about 4,500 out of 15,000 overall. About 1,300 cabin crew could lose their jobs, and also 727 pilots (which is about a third of the total). The Unite union said "There is no need for this announcement at this time, especially since Easyjet has taken a multi-million pound government loan which it ought to be putting to use defending UK jobs." But there is little demand for flying at present, and no certainty about Covid in the coming months. Easyjet currently has 11 bases in the UK, with 163 aircraft, serving 546 routes. There are 7 aircraft based at Stansted, with 335 crew. At Southend, there are 4 aircraft and 183 crew; and at Newcastle there are 3 planes and 157 crew. The job cut proposals are not limited to the bases that may close. EasyJet does not expect 2019 levels of demand to be reached again until 2023.
Dutch government KLM €3.4 billion rescue plan, with some conditions
The Dutch government has said the national airline, KLM, is set for a €3.4 billion bailout package, if it meets certain targets, but this still requires regulatory approval from Brussels, in case it conflicts with EU state-aid rules. KLM was promised between €2-4 billion at the end of April, when both the Dutch and French governments pledged financial support to the Air France-KLM group. France’s €7 billion bailout was quickly approved by the EC’s competition regulators. The €3.4 billion package would be made up of €2.4 billion in state-guaranteed bank loans and a €1 billion direct loan. The loan would be provided in tranches and last up until 2025, with each payment only made after the government has judged that conditions are being adequately fulfilled. Senior staff who earn more than three times the average salary will have a 20% pay cut. Until the state’s investment is repaid in full, no dividends will be paid out to shareholders and management will not get bonuses. Cost-cutting measures worth 15% will have to be made. The number of night flights from Schiphol will be cut, but details are not yet decided. KLM will also have to halve CO2 per passenger-kilometre by 2030, BUT there is no cap on KLM's total CO2 emissions.
Still unknown if Bristol airport will appeal against expansion refusal – they have to decide by 19th September
Bristol Airport has not yet decided whether to appeal against a decision to refuse its expansion plans. North Somerset Planning and Regulatory committee councillors went against the council officers’ recommendation earlier this year, to reject the expansion plans which would have allowed the airport to increase its current capacity from 10 million to 12 million passengers per year. The councillors ruled that environmental and societal impacts outweighed the economic benefits of the expansion. The airport has 6 months in which to appeal, and that time ends of 19th September 2020. A spokesman for the airport said a decision on whether to lodge an appeal had yet to be made and was still under review. The decline in air travel demand will be a factor in the decision. The costs of a public inquiry could run into tens of thousands of pounds for North Somerset Council. It has confirmed it will defend any appeal but said it was unable to comment on any potential costs. It would be for the Planning Inspector who is overseeing the case to decide what costs and conditions to impose on North Somerset Council, if it loses.
Committee on Climate Change progress report to government – aviation mentions
The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has published their progress report, for 2020, on the UK government's efforts on reducing CO2 emissions. It has a lot to say on aviation - far more than in its 2019 progress report. They say that iInternational aviation and shipping (IAS) should be formally included in UK climate targets, in the carbon budgets, when the Sixth Carbon Budget is set, and net-zero plans should be developed. This has been a key demand, from environmental experts. At present aviation emissions are just taken account of. The CCC say that aviation accounts of 8% of the UK's CO2 emissions (a briefing note in Feb 2020 for Parliament said it was 7% in 2019). The CCC also say that the UK's airport capacity strategy should be reviewed in light of the country's net-zero target. Due to the dramatic impact of Covid on the aviation sector, the CCC say a household & business survey is needed, of long-term travel expectations of the pandemic. They add that action is also needed on non-CO₂ warming effects from aviation, which probably account for double the climate impact of the CO2 alone, emitted at altitude. They say ICAO's CORSIA scheme should be strengthened.
France to ban commercial flights on shortest domestic routes
France plans to ban commercial air travel on the country’s shortest domestic routes in a bid to prevent low-cost carriers picking up links Air France-KLM is being forced to abandon as part of the terms of a Government bailout package. The aim of stopping Air France from flying domestic routes, if the trip can be made by train in under 2.5 hours, to cut CO2 emissions, is not to allow in other airlines instead. Austria has also placed constraints on short-haul flights, as part of a state-funding plan for Deutsche Lufthansa. The domestic flights ban would include about 40% of internal French flights. The carbon reductions achieved by this would actually be tiny - about 6-7% of Air France's total. Ryanair plans to operate 6 French domestic routes this summer, but says they are on longer routes, not included in the ban. Air France-KLM received €7 billion in loans and guarantees from the French government, and the Minister said the airline would be required to become “the most environmentally friendly airline on the planet”. However, the overall bail-out package is flawed, and is unlikely to produce the desired, necessary, reductions in Air France's CO2 emissions.
Aviation industry decision to weaken CORSIA climate plan could break ICAO’s own rules
Countries attending the UN’s ICAO meeting this week look set to weaken the only international policy to address the climate impact of aircraft. But the way the decision is being made could be in violation of the organisation’s own rules. ICAO has for years been supposed to take responsibility for international aviation CO2 emissions, but have done almost nothing. It has a scheme, CORSIA (Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation) set up in 2016. It would, at best, deliver only small CO2 emissions reductions, nowhere approaching on the scale needed. Now ICAO plans to further weaken the CORSIA scheme, by changing the way the baseline for emissions is determined. A bad scheme would become a very bad scheme. This may be illegal, according to its own regulations - ICAO has always been opaque and concealed information. The change of baseline, using only 2019 emissions, not the average of 2019 + 2020, would mean no airline offsetting obligations until 2028 or later. It could also reduce the overall chance of cutting aviation carbon by 25-75%. The final decision on the baseline change is expected on 26th June.
Heathrow air pollution down dramatically during Covid lockdown
With very low numbers of planes using Heathrow (97% down) over the past 3 months, due to the Covid lockdown, this has been an excellent opportunity to get data on air pollution - comparing days with, and without, the planes. Using data from Air Quality England, local group Stop Heathrow Expansion have found that five air quality monitors around Heathrow which breached the maximum legal limit in March – May 2019 have shown an average 41% improvement in the same period in 2020. Our current air quality laws state that nitrogen dioxide concentrations must not average more than 40 micrograms per cubic metre (µg/m3), per year. This level is often exceeded at a range of locations around Heathrow. Readings from a site on the Northern Perimeter Road showed a 50% improvement in air quality. Another site outside Cherry Lane Primary School had a 46% reduction in NO2 emissions, from 44.1µg/m3 in March – May 2019 to a safer 23.9 µg/m3 in the same period in 2020. As well as fewer planes, there were fewer road vehicles. Air pollution figures from inside the airport boundary were substantially lower, showing the source is planes, not only road vehicles, as Heathrow likes to claim.
Unite furious about Heathrow drastic cuts in workers’ pay and conditions, and threat of sackings
Unite, the principal union for aviation workers, has accused Heathrow of using the Covid-19 pandemic as an excuse to permanently cut the pay and conditions of its workforce, a move Unite has described as being about ‘greed, not need’. The airport is proposing to cut workers’ terms and conditions including: Pay cuts of up to 37%; the closure of the final salary pension scheme; removal of paid breaks and all allowances; weakening the redundancy agreement, and not paying workers for the first 3 days of sickness. Unite says all the cuts would be permanent, and if Unite does not agree to them, Heathrow will sack its entire workforce and rehire them on poorer terms and conditions. Unite represents around 4,500 workers who are directly employed at the airport. Heathrow will not compromise with Unite. In the meantime, Heathrow paid its shareholders a dividend of £100 million this year. And John Holland-Kaye claims it has a £3.2 billion "war chest" and that it could survive till the end of 2020, even with almost no flights. So it is particularly galling that it is needing to reduce its wage bill by so much. Many of the workers have kept working, during Covid, to help the airport stay open. Unite will fight using whatever industrial, political and legal channels are necessary.
Blog: Broke Heathrow should not receive any taxpayer cash
The issue of whether Heathrow could ever pay for a 3rd runway is one that has become even more pressing, now the airport has been hit very hard by Covid-19. Its finances have been shaky for a long time. In an analysis, by Chair of the No 3rd Runway Coalition, Paul McGuinness, sets out the facts. Heathrow has claimed that it "can survive with no passengers for the next 12 months, so our’s is a very good position to be in”. But in fact Heathrow admitted to its staff (email of 6 April) that the publicised “£3.2 billion war chest” is merely the liquidity that can be mustered when “we have drawn down all the cash and credit facilities at our disposal”. So, yet more borrowing to be repaid in the future — presumably by passengers. Looking into Heathrow finances, it is clear that it has sold assets and borrowed against those that remain, in order to finance enormous dividend payments to shareholders (92% of which do not pay UK tax), while avoiding corporate taxes. It has an eye watering level of debt. By the end of 2019, its borrowing against its assets was £15.449 billion, so it had reached a leverage ratio of 97% — higher than any comparable UK infrastructure or utility operation. Read the whole blog for details.
Leeds Bradford Airport CEO says the plan is about modernising not expanding
Leeds Bradford Airport (LBA) has been planning to expand, building a new terminal that would allow more annual flights and passengers - and thus more CO2 and more noise. The plans have been fiercely opposed. Now, with the airport effectively closed for months, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the chief executive has written that the plans are not about expanding. He says the building plans are to improve and modernise the terminal, and "LBA is not expanding because we are not proposing to grow beyond the airport’s existing consented capacity limit of 7 million passengers. Our present limit is already 7m passengers and LBA is not proposing to increase that limit." He claims planes are now so (allegedly) "quiet" that tight noise restrictions are not as relevant as years ago. There is the usual stuff about the airport aiming to be carbon net zero by 2023 - which is lovely, though it excludes the carbon from flights, making it somewhat irrelevant. The CEO comes out with all the usual industry platitudes about "clean" planes, and "sustainable" fuels, and future electric planes ... none of which mean much. And cycle routes to the airport ...
Luton airport delays expansion plans, due to Covid and stated intention to be “greener”
In 2019 Luton airport put out plans to expand, from 18 million passenger per year, (mppa) up to 32 million. This expansion, being over 10 mppa, needs to go through the Development Consent Order (DCO) route, rather than a normal planning application. The airport is owned by Luton Borough Council which is also the local authority that should regulate it. Now with a massive decline in air travel demand, due to Covid, Luton airport has decided to delay the process, and not submit its DCO this summer, as originally intended, but in 2021. It claims it wants to be more "green" with less environmental impact, etc etc (tricky with so many more passengers and flights, and thus more noise, more CO2, more air pollution and more congested surface transport). Local opposition groups are pleased about the delay, as is Hertfordshire County Council, which is against the plans due to the adverse noise impact. Luton is too dependant on the airport, and so has suffered from the loss of jobs, and income from the airport, due to the pandemic. It would be wiser to delay until there is clarity on the government policy on aviation carbon, in its ambition of aiming for zero carbon by 2050.
Many BA flights for July moved from Gatwick to Heathrow, to rationalise operations there
British Airways is switching many short-haul flights from its second-biggest base, Gatwick, to Heathrow in July. BA has already warned that it may abandon Gatwick permanently, or drastically cut its operations there. For 30 years, Gatwick has been the base for BA’s leisure routes, including Mediterranean, Caribbean, Latin American and Indian Ocean destinations. BA Airways has a majority of the slots at Heathrow, but this summer it will use only a small fraction of them, for its much-reduced international network. The move may help the airline to cut costs, by increasing the efficiency of the operation at its main base, Heathrow. A daytime short haul holiday flight to the Mediterranean can be slotted in between early and late long haul trips, making better use of aircraft and crew. It will also remove some key BA routes from direct competition with easyJet, which is the dominant airline at Gatwick potentially enabling both airlines to increase fares. There may be more BA routes from Gatwick later in the summer, depending on how the Covid pandemic is being dealt with. BA has been described, by the Transport Select Committee, as a “national disgrace” for the way it has treated its staff, forcing them to leave, and then being re-employed on much worse contracts.
Government announce a new “Jet Zero” council … but no details or notice to environmental organisations
In a surprise announcement at Friday’s government Covid-19 daily briefing, Grant Shapps, the Secretary of State for Transport, revealed plans for a ‘jet zero’ council, that will include representatives from the aviation industry, Government and environmental groups. Its alleged goal is "to make zero emissions transatlantic flight possible within a generation." No further details were made available. No environmental group was given any notice about this new initiative. As the principal environmental body working on aviation issues, the AEF (Aviation Environment Federation) should have been included, if the government initiative was serious - not just a bit of nice publicity for the aviation sector. AEF has written to Shapps, to say that if the ‘jet zero’ council is to be a worthwhile initiative, the Government must ensure that it does not simply provide good PR for airlines and airports about a future aspiration - while allowing current emissions to grow unhindered. The initiative must be part of a wider programme of government action to deliver the UK’s climate commitments. The council must operate in a transparent manner including engaging with environmental organisations and all relevant stakeholders. See the full letter.
GACC asks Gatwick to build back better – less noise, no night flights
Flights using Gatwick will slowly restart from 15th June, so noise, air pollution and CO2 emissions are set to increase again. Local campaigners, GACC (Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign) are asking Gatwick to embed noise and other environmental improvements into their recovery plans. During Covid lockdown, Gatwick was only open for a period each afternoon and evening with no night flights. People normally adversely affected by plane noise have benefited hugely from the welcome break from plane intrusion. GACC wants a continuing ban on night flights, especially as air traffic will not return to pre-Covid levels for an unknown time. The Covid pandemic is a unique opportunity for the airport to re-establish a pattern of working that is less environmentally damaging, in terms of noise and carbon. GACC is asking that as well as a night ban, airlines should prioritise flying their least noisy aircraft in their fleets - and provide incentives that encourage airlines permanently to retire older, noisier and more polluting aircraft. Also to use air traffic control to disperse noise, minimise arrival noise impact, and achieve higher, quicker, departures.
New report – on the need for Covid financing to include a right for aviation workers to re-train
Tens of thousands of aviation sector jobs are at immediate risk due to Covid. Across Europe airline owners and executives are lobbying for, and in many cases receiving, generous unconditional loans and underwritings from governments to prop up their struggling businesses. Yet these interventions do little to protect the wellbeing of workers, nor do they address major challenges facing the sector, such as the need to stabilise core national and regional infrastructure and to rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A new briefing produced by the New Economics Foundation (NEF) proposes a new approach to bailouts, steering the sector through its transition. They propose a co-ordinated sector-wide package including delivery of a new skills and employment strategy, a new job re-skilling programme which protects employment while workers are supported to transition into alternative roles. Also conditions to all financial support to suspend shareholder dividends, to end excessive executive pay, unethical tax practices, and to require investment in green technology and decarbonisation.
Wandsworth Council, and the other councils, to challenge latest efforts by Heathrow to revive plans for 3rd runway
Wandsworth Council is poised to support fresh legal efforts to cement its recent victory over plans to expand Heathrow Airport. The airport’s owners and the construction company involved are trying and rescue the plans with an appeal to the Supreme Court. So Wandsworth has indicated it wishes to join other councils and environmental groups in guaranteeing the Supreme Court judges hear both sides of the argument. The council is seeking permission to intervene as “an interested party” due to the importance it attaches to the outcome - and the negative impact a 3rd runway would have on tens of thousands of Wandsworth residents. Being represented at the hearing would mean the council and its allies can ensure that the strong arguments against Heathrow expansion are fully aired. The government has not sought to overturn the Appeal Court ruling. The councils that brought the case – Hillingdon, Wandsworth, Richmond upon Thames, Hammersmith & Fulham and Windsor & Maidenhead, together with the Mayor of London and Greenpeace - are working together on the Supreme Court case.
Heathrow launches voluntary severance scheme to staff on more generous earlier contracts – and can’t rule out further job cuts
Heathrow has about 7,000 directly employed staff, and has experienced a reduction in flights of around 97% due to Covid. It has It has already cut a third of its managerial roles - people on relatively high pay. It is now trying to encourage staff who were employed before 2014 to offer to take voluntary severance (which is different to redundancy). Any payments over £30,000 are subject to tax. If someone is redunded, that post cannot be legally filled for several months. With severance, the job can then be refilled. Heathrow is trying to get rid of those on more generous contracts, with better terms and conditions, and employ staff on worse contracts. That is what British Airways has done, to the fury of the unions. The Unite union is a staunch supporter of Heathrow, and seems to have agreed to go along with Heathrow's severance offers. It is likely there will also be many redundancies, as air travel demand is unlikely to pick up to earlier levels for several years. A total of 76,000 people are employed across 400 different companies at Heathrow. About 25,000 of those jobs might be at risk.
‘Final blow’ to aviation climate plan as EU agrees to weaken rules
There had been hopes that the EU would insist on keeping more effective means of reducing carbon emitted by airlines. The current proposals by ICAO, in their CORSIA scheme, are too weak to be effective. The EU now say they will back the CORSIA scheme, which means watering down the rules. Airlines want the baseline period, from which to measure airline carbon emissions for the CORSIA scheme, to be the two years, 2019 and 2020. But 2020 is going to be a year of atypically low airline activity. So they want the base line period to be just 2019. That means giving airlines a free pass to pollute for the next 3 to 6 years depending on the speed of the Covid recovery. That is what the EU has now agreed to, having initially stood out against it. So airlines could save $15 billion in carbon offsetting costs, paying nothing till 2024. This weakening of the scheme would further damage the credibility of the CORSIA offsetting scheme, which is widely regarded as weak and not aligned with the Paris Agreement goals. It will now become essentially meaningless. The ineffective CORSIA scheme undermines many governments’ stated intentions to bolster climate ambition.
IATA anticipate airlines globally losing $84 billion in 2020, $16 billion in 2021. Airline CO2 down 37% from 2019 level in 2020
The massive reduction globally in air travel demand, due to the coronavirus, will mean the airline sector will probably lose about $84bn (£66 billion) this year. [In February, it was anticipating a loss of $29 billion]. IATA says airline revenues would drop to $419bn in 2020, down 50% from 2019. IATA said it expects airlines to lose $230 million on average each day in 2020, with half as many air passengers as in 2019 - returning to the level in 2006. IATA has to be bullish about the prospects for 2021, saying they anticipate the loss globally to be $15.8 billion, as revenues start to increase and passenger numbers return to 2014 levels. If there is a second wave of Covid globally, that will not happen. Airlines have been given billions in aid, to tide them over the pandemic crisis. IATA expects RPKs (Revenue Passenger Kilometres) to fall from 8.68 trillion in 2019, to 3.93 trillion in 2020 (and perhaps 6.10 trillion in 2021. They expect the load factor to fall from 82.5% in 2019, to 62.7% in 2020, maybe partly due to social distancing on planes, as well as low demand. They anticipate carbon emissions of global airlines to be 574 million tonnes CO2 in 2020, a 37% fall from the 914 million tonnes in 2019. And perhaps rising back to 748 million tonnes by 2021.
Austrian government to introduce higher taxes on flights, with a minimum flight price of €40
The Austrian government, headed by Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, announced a rescue package of €600 million for Austrian Airlines on 8th June. But there are also 3 new measures, designed to make aviation less environmentally damaging. These include the immediate introduction of the reform of the air ticket tax. Instead of the previous €3.50 for short-haul flights, €7.50 for medium-haul flights and €17.50 for long-haul flights, it is now a standard of €12 euros. So that is more for shorter flights, but less for long-haul trips. In addition, there will be an increased tax of €30 for flights of under 350 kilometres, with the objective of deterring people from flying short distances - and encouraging train use instead. In addition, the law on airport fees will be amended, so the tax will be based on carbon emissions and noise. There is to be a minimum price for any air ticket, that will be €40. Austria is the first country to introduce this. Austrian politicians describe the environmental harm done by aviation as environmental and social "dumping", which is making profits at the expense of the climate and employees.
Building Back Better for Aviation: joint NGO briefing on changes needed by the aviation sector
In a joint briefing with Greenpeace UK and other environmental NGOs, the Aviation Environment Federation (AEF) has set out the steps necessary for government to create the aviation industry as it recovers from the Covid pandemic. This is a unique opportunity for the sect or to change, in ways that reduce its negative environmental impact. The briefing suggests the sector needs to be fully accounted for, in the economy-wide drive to achieve net zero emissions. It should be equitably taxed to help fund the green recovery and to reduce demand for flying; and it should use technology to mitigate remaining emissions (if possible). There needs to be a commitment now to legislate for formal inclusion of aviation carbon emissions in carbon budgets, at least from the 6th carbon budget onwards. Though most flights are taken by relatively-affluent (or affluent) people, the tax on flying is too low. The rate of APD paid by 78% of air travellers (£13) has increased only £3 since 1997, and, adjusting for inflation, has fallen in real terms. APD only raises £3.8billion for the Treasury each year, and that could be increased substantially, if there was VAT charged, and fuel duty.
Airports no longer looking like a great investment – crazily high prices were paid in the past
The pandemic and the resulting cut in demand for air travel has left many airport deals, such as the sale of London’s City airport in 2016, and Gatwick in 2018, looking very expensive. French giant Vinci bought a 50.01% stake in Gatwick to become the world’s second-biggest airport operator, in December 2018. It paid investors, led by GIP, £2.9bn for the stake. GIP had bought the whole airport for just £1.5bn in 2009. Investors thought airports were a safe bet for predictable cashflow and high returns. In 2016, GIP sold London City airport in London’s Docklands to a Canadian-led consortium of pension funds for £2bn, more than 40 times its earnings, having bought it for £750m in 2006. But now investments in airports do not look good. "Airports have gone from cash generators to drains as flights are grounded", shops are closed and there are tiny numbers of passengers. By 2019 Gatwick paid its shareholders £1.5 billion since 2009. It is not at all clear if or when air passenger numbers will return to anything like previous levels. London City had about 50% business travel, which has now been drastically cut, as firms lose money, or close down, and internet meetings have substantially replaced face-to-face. Airlines are losing money fast, and laying off staff.
Transport & Environment says UK should count international flights from UK in CO2 emissions targets
Transport NGO, Transport & Environment (T&E) has urged the UK to take proper account of carbon emissions of international flights taking off from the UK. These must be included in the government’s calculations on reaching net zero emissions - by 2050 or earlier - as part of a “green” recovery for the airline industry. Currently only the carbon from domestic fights is properly included in UK carbon budgets. Four airlines in UK (BA, Ryanair, EasyJet and Whizz) have already had £1.8 billion in loans from the Bank of England scheme. T&E calculates that more than £30bn has been promised or given in bailouts to airlines across Europe due to Covid-19. They say the recovery of the industry must be sustainable and tied to policies to cut carbon emissions. Among these, it said international aviation emissions must be included in the government targets to reduce CO2 emissions. The Committee on Climate Change recommended (September 2019) that emissions from international flights should be included in net zero calculations, but the government has yet to respond to the committee’s letter.
Four airlines have so far benefited from £1.8 billion of Bank of England lending, for Covid crisis (with no CO2 conditions)
British Airways, EasyJet, Wizz Air and Ryanair have taken £1.8bn from the government’s rescue finance lending. Money has come from the Bank of England’s Covid Corporate Financing Facility. This is despite ministers’ assurances on a green recovery from the coronavirus crisis. Other high carbon sectors have also benefited. The 4 airlines alone have taken £1.8bn in lending from the scheme so far. Aircraft engine-maker Rolls-Royce has taken a £300m bailout. Campaigners say the government must attach new conditions to the support it is giving, which could top £67bn in total to, to all sector companies - rising from the e so far borrowed more than £16bn borrowed so far. Society needs to decide if assistance should be given to high carbon industries, at a time when carbon emissions need to be drastically cut, quickly. Greenpeace said: “Airlines have been given exactly what the chancellor, the prime minister, economists and the public said they should not be given – billions in cheap and easy loans to keep them polluting, without any commitments to reduce their emissions or even keep their workers on the payroll.”
Heathrow trying to get out of paying its business rates bill (£113 million) to councils and government
Heathrow is trying to get out of paying its £113.2 m business rates bill, The airport's business rates are the largest in England and Wales. They are split between Hillingdon Council – the local authority, which receives £16.3m, with the rest going to the Greater London Authority and central Government. The rates are calculated, in accordance with an estimation of Heathrow’s rental value, as at 1 April 2015 - not on the success of the company. Heathrow say their rates bill should be cut because it was “based on a world in which people flew”, but campaigners believe that they should be paying the full £113 million bill on the basis that the money goes towards the community and a failure to pay could jeopardise many local projects that are funded through the rates. Paul McGuinness, Chair of the No 3rd Runway Coalition, said: "A responsible company is expected to set aside (preferably in a separate account) all its anticipated tax liabilities. Lest we forget, the rates bill that they owe to the community is broadly the same size as the £100m dividends payment that they made, so willingly, to their foreign shareholders just a few weeks ago”.
Portugal’s proposed new airport would threaten thousands of protected birds – ClientEarth is taking action
The government is gearing up to build a new airport - Montijo Airport - on Portugal's most important wetland – the Tagus Estuary. The area is on the path of hundreds of thousands of migratory wetland birds that congregate there for the winter or on their journey between Northern Europe and Africa. It is also protected under numerous international treaties due to its importance for these protected species. Attempts to go ahead with the project show a disregard for important EU laws and a lack of consideration of the severe impacts of building the airport on an internationally protected nature site. ClientEarth are taking action to try to prevent this. With 7 national NGOs, they have filed a court action against the government, aiming to annul Montijo Airport’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), because the airport plans have not properly considered the impact on the nature reserve and its wildlife. The Portuguese authorities failed to carry out the necessary tests and have simply proposed to ‘relocate’ the habitats and birds. In the Netherlands, thousands of people have signed a petition against the construction, as it would seriously threaten the migratory Black-tailed Godwit, the Dutch national bird.
UK airports face multimillion-pound business rates bills – money that should be paid to councils
Heathrow and Gatwick airports are facing £ multi-million business rates bills, despite the pandemic having grounded aircraft and dramatically cut their incomes. The airports are among thousands of UK companies set to appeal against their rates bills. Heathrow apparently owes £113.2m for the current tax year, the highest of any site in England and Wales, according to an annual review of business ratepayers by Altus Group, a real estate adviser. Gatwick has the next biggest bill at £29.2m. Business rates, which are paid to local councils, are calculated on the basis of rateable values — effectively an estimate of a property’s rental value at a given date. Rateable values are set according to rents on April 1 2015. They are not based on how well, or how badly, a company is doing. Heathrow bleated that the rates were based on “a world in which people flew”. The airports argue that rates relief will help them protect jobs. Some sectors - - retail, hospitality or leisure - have been given rates holidays. The money from the rates is a key part of the income of councils, and if not paid, then the funding and spending of councils is at risk.
Southampton Airport expansion plans go to second consultation – no date yet set
The airport plans to extend the runway by 164m to allow for larger 190-seater aircraft, and more flights. It wants to double the number of passengers. Its plans will go to a second public consultation, by Eastleigh council, before a decision is made. Environmental campaigners and two neighbouring councils, Southampton and Winchester, have raised concerns over noise and air pollution. The airport makes the usual statements about lots of new jobs, and local economic boost (in reality, more of the passengers will be people in the area taking holidays abroad, taking their leisure money out of the UK). Local group, AXO, Airport Expansion Opposition, has been leading opposition to the plans. A final decision is expected to be made by Eastleigh Borough Council, but everything is held up by the Covid pandemic, and no date has been set. The council said: "We are awaiting amended information in support of the application. Once we have received this, we will undertake a full re-consultation on the proposed runway extension."
Airlines are lobbying government to allow flights, with no quarantine, from 45 countries (“air bridges”)
The UK is due to start imposing 14-day self quarantine on any passenger arriving in the UK, by air or ferry or train, from the 8th June. This is considered by many to be far too late, but the government claims this is a sensible time to impose it. But the airlines believe quarantine would mean nobody would want to travel to the UK, certainly not for a holiday. And they feel few Brits will want to go abroad, if they have to lock themselves away for 2 weeks. So the airlines are lobbying for no less than 45 COUNTRIES to be excluded, so people could enter the UK from those countries with no quarantine. The choice of countries appears to be those that Brits most like to travel to, with odd additions and omissions. The hope is that these countries will allow Brits to holiday there, and encourage their citizens to come here. The idea is that the "air bridges" would be between countries with low Covid transmission. The problem is that the UK rate of transmission is currently not low. There are serious concerns that allowing so many people to enter the UK would increase Covid transmission. There is also the risk of the "Dublin dodge" by which people in countries not on the air bridge list can still enter the UK, quarantine-free.
Open letter to ICAO – the CORSIA scheme should not be weakened, just because of Covid
Thirteen organisations concerned with aviation carbon emissions and carbon trading, have written to ICAO to ask that they stick to the intentions for how the CORSIA scheme is set up, and do not weaken it. The stated purpose of CORSIA is to help the international aviation sector achieve “carbon-neutral growth from 2020”. It is due to use as a baseline the aviation CO2 emissions from 2019 and 2020. However, with the Covid pandemic, airline carbon emissions will be much lower than anticipated this year. If ICAO used 2019 and 2020, the amount of carbon the sector could emit, and the cost of emitting it, would be far lower than anticipated. So IATA wants to change the rules, so the carbon baseline only considers 2019, not including 2020, which would result in significantly lower offsetting requirements for airlines compared to the current CORSIA design. In fact, under most recovery scenarios, the change sought by IATA would eliminate all offsetting requirements for the duration of the CORSIA pilot phase and potentially several years thereafter. The rules need to be adhered to.
“Aviation Climate Alliance” – first newsletter – what could the post-Covid aviation sector look like?
Many organisations are united in their determination that when the aviation sector emerges from the Covid pandemic and lockdown, it will have to be slimmed down, and commit to effective and real cuts in its carbon emissions. There will need to be low-carbon jobs, in place of jobs in high carbon sectors that will need to change. A new informal grouping has been formed, between trade union and environmental campaigners, to help push for environmental and climate conditions being placed on any government assistance for the aviation sector, and more "green" jobs in future. It is named the "Aviation Climate Alliance", and its membership includes AirportWatch, the PCS union, the Stay Grounded movement, the Campaign Against Climate Change, and the Aviation Communities Forum (ACA). It will produce regular newsletters, putting many of the news items and relevant pieces of information together, to help campaigners access the news and facts. The first newsletter has been produced, and can be seen (see link). It was kindly put together by Tahir Latif, of the PCS union. To be added to the mailing list, firstname.lastname@example.org.
New “Future of Aviation Group” set up – Chair Henry Smith MP – “to fight for the future of UK aviation”
The aviation sector has fared very badly (as have so many others) in the Covid pandemic lockdown. People have not been able to travel, for the genuine reason that the number of infections needs to be reduced, to keep people safe from a disease that can make some people very ill indeed. The sector wants preferential treatment by government, to help it out. It always tries to make out that it is vital to the economy (in reality, must of the aviation industry sucks British money abroad, as Brits spend on their foreign trips and holidays). Now MP for Crawley, Henry Smith, has set up a new industry lobby group, calling itself the Future of Aviation Group. He has written, with 3 other MPs, to Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, asking for clarity about how the recovery of the sector can be supported by government. They want clarity from government on many issues including quarantine arrangements for all passengers arriving in the UK; clarity on the Covid health measures airlines should agree internationally; consideration of business rates relief; and support for domestic air routes.
Jet2 holidays and flights secured with emergency £172 million cash boost
Jet2 and Jet2holidays are owned by the Dart Group, based in Leeds. It grounded all flights since March, due to Covid, and is planning on re-starting some after the 1st July. Now the company has managed to raise £172 million in a bid to stave off the impact of coronavirus. To raise the money to keep the company afloat, with no flights, it has managed to pool together an extra £172 million by selling almost 30 million shares to investors. These were sold at a price of 576.5 pence per share, with the scheme apparently "significantly oversubscribed". This may keep the company solvent for the next few months. They hope to be able to encourage as many Brits as possible to take bucket and spade holidays, and city breaks, as soon as possible. Campaigners at Transport & Environment (T&E) have produced a tracker, for state bailouts of airlines in Europe, with details of amounts, conditions etc, which can be seen at https://www.transportenvironment.org/sites/te/files/Airline-bailout-tracker_8_May_2020.pdf
BA cancels all flights from Leeds Bradford Airport to Heathrow
British Airways has cancelled all its flights from Leeds Bradford airport to Heathrow. It is dropping a number of routes as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, which will see its network shrink. They must know that the Leeds Bradford link does not make them money. For many years the Leeds Bradford to Heathrow route was operated by British Midland, which later became BMI. It dropped the link in 2009, citing lack of profitability. BMI was later subsumed within British Airways. BA re-launched the service between Leeds Bradford and Heathrow in 2012. But the route has always struggled commercially - rail to London is a better option. Initially there were three round-trips a day, but for the summer 2020 schedule – which never began – only 10 departures each way were planned. It was Yorkshire’s last air connection with London. Most passengers will either move to Manchester flights or use the LNER rail link, which reaches the capital from Leeds in around 2 hours, 15 minutes. Leeds Bradford is pressing ahead, rather bizarrely, with expansion plans. Heathrow always made out that increasing air "connectivity" to the regions was a key benefit of a 3rd runway (that is also now seriously delayed ... if it ever happens ..)
Danish companies hope to make “sustainable” fuel, if they can get enough off-shore wind electricity
Copenhagen Airports, and several big companies in fuels for road, marine and air transport, have formed a partnership, to attempt to develop an industrial-scale production facility to produce allegedly "sustainable" fuels. They plan to produce fuels, including hydrogen, by using electricity, starting by 2023, for buses, trucks, maritime vessels, and planes. The total electrolyser capacity would be 1.3 gigawatts, which would likely make it one of the world’s largest facilities of its kind. There are the usual claims of lower carbon emissions, and more jobs. To lower carbon emissions, it has to use renewably generated electricity, which would come from offshore wind power from off the island of Bornholm. There has to be enough of this electricity. All low carbon fuels have cost much more than fossil fuel equivalents, and this would be the case for these fuels, unless there was very cheap surplus electricity reliably available. The project is promoting itself as a low-carbon way out of the Covid pandemic, creating new low-carbon jobs, and making Denmark a leader. The country has the goal of reducing CO2 emissions by 70% by 2030 compared to 1990.
UK tourism deficit, by air travel in 2019, was £30 billion – casting serious doubt about the industry’s claims to be vital to the UK economy
Each year the Office for National Statistics (ONS) publishes data on the number of journeys are made by British residents abroad (leisure and business), and the amount they spend on their travel and while abroad. They also collect comparable data for visits to the UK. The documents can be found in the ONS Travel Trends data. Each year there is a "tourism deficit" which is the amount by which the expenditure on trips abroad by UK residents exceeds the amount spent by visitors to the UK. It is a huge sum, generally thought to be in the region of £15 to £22 billion in recent years. Now the ONS have realised they have made errors in how data has been gathered, underestimating the amount being spent by Brits abroad. While the tourism deficit (all travel modes) was thought to be £22.5 billion in 2018, it is now thought to be £31billion. The tourism deficit for 2019 is now known to have been £33.9 billion. It is also possible to work out how much of this is due to air travel, and that is about 88%. So the tourism deficit due to air travel was actually just over £30 billion in 2019. This is worth remembering, when the industry claims it is so vital to the UK economy. In 2019 under 10% of trips abroad by UK residents were on business. The rest were various forms of leisure.
UK had a tourism deficit of £33.9 billion in 2019, with 88% of that (ie. about £30.04 billion) due to air travel
The current clampdown on international air travel has helped the UK Balance of Payments, by reducing the country’s trade deficit by almost £3 billion per month. This is from the "tourism deficit", which is the amount by which the amount spent by British people travelling and spending abroad, exceeds the amount spent by visitors to the UK. Figures released on 22nd May by the government's Office of National Statistics (ONS) show that the UK posted a record trade deficit of £33.9 billion on international tourism in 2019. This is more than £2 billion above the 2018 figure which was itself a record tourism trade deficit. The ONS data shows 88.2% of the tourism deficit was due to air travel. UK residents made 93.1 million visits abroad in 2019, spending a total of £62.3 billion overseas. By contrast, overseas residents made 40.9 million visits to the UK, spending £28.4 billion. The net result was a £33.9 billion deficit in the UK Balance of Payments. Just 9.0 million of the 93.1 million overseas visits (9.7%) by UK residents in 2019 were for business purposes. The lack of money leaving the UK comes at the expense of countries such as Spain, Greece and Italy losing billions of €s in revenue from UK tourists.
Home Secretary announces new 14 day quarantine for all UK arrivals – from 8th June. To be reviewed in 3 weeks
New measures at the UK border to guard against a 2nd wave of coronavirus infections have been announced by the Home Secretary. They include 14 days’ self-isolation for anyone entering the UK, bar a relatively short list of exemptions. The government takes the view that as the number of Covid infections in the UK falls, we cannot afford to have more entering from abroad, though they did not see the necessity to do this earlier.Anyone arriving at an airport, or other place of entry, will have to have filled in a contact form, with the address at which they will be staying. In theory, people will be required to self-isolate for 14 days and could have spot-checks during the period to ensure compliance. It is unclear by whom; the police do not have the resources to do so. There is theoretically a fine from breaching self-isolation, of £1,000. That limit might rise, if the infection risk rises in future. The measures will be reviewed in 3 weeks time. People should use personal transport, such as a car, to travel to their accommodation where possible. Once they arrive there, they should not leave their accommodation for 14 days, even to get food, if possible.
UK airports likely to cut £1bn of construction projects: construction industry setback
The Covid crisis and the dramatic cut in demand for air travel means airport expansion projects will not be going ahead any time soon. As much as £1bn of capital investment is now on ice, deferred or cancelled, according to analysis by Construction News. Heathrow's plans for a 3rd runway are now delayed, if not entirely cancelled. Heathrow had a capital expenditure budget of £1.1 billion for 2020, but this has been cut to about £450 million. Of that it had already spent £224m on capital works in the 1st quarter of 2020. That means far less work for construction firms. Gatwick says it is deferring its capital expenditure plans “for the foreseeable future”. Birmingham Airport is delaying a £30m extension of its terminal indefinitely, even though ground was broken on the project at the start of the year. Edinburgh Airport has said expenditure on some projects would be deferred. Longer-term projects have also been hit. Luton Airport says it would no longer submit its DCO for the construction of a 2nd terminal in June, with no new date given. There is no detail of plans for Manchester and Stansted airport works. There will be jobs lost in the construction sector, with more competition for what work there is.
Gatwick has been urged to drop expansion plans by GACC campaigners due to the Covid pandemic
There are almost no flights at Gatwick, nor have there been for weeks, due to the Covid pandemic lockdown. When flights will resume is not known, but even aviation optimists think it could take 3-4 years (or more) for air travel demand to again reach the level in 2019 - if it ever does. However, the airport says it is still going ahead ahead with plans to bring its current emergency runway into use as a full runway. But local campaign, GACC (the Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign) has written to Gatwick's CEO, Stewart Wingate, asking the airport to drop its expansion plans, arguing not only that there is no credible demand case, but it would be incompatible with national and local environmental goals. Peter Barclay, GACC chairman, said the group sympathised with employees and others whose jobs had been affected, but believes there is no credible case for expansion at Gatwick. It is also undesirable that the planning process would absorb council and other resources that should be focused on supporting people and businesses impacted by the pandemic. GACC says the plans for the emergency runway should be withdrawn.
Independent aircraft noise commission ICCAN calls on UK government to prioritise aviation noise issues post-COVID-19
As aviation experiences an all-time low in demand for air travel, ICCAN - the UK’s Independent Commission on Civil Aviation Noise - has proposed to use the unique opportunity to address aviation noise once services begin to increase post COVID-19. ICCAN has called on the UK government to make managing aviation noise a key priority after the pandemic restrictions, when aviation levels begin to increase again. In a letter to Grant Shapps and Kelly Tolhurst, ICCAN’s Head Commissioner, Rob Light, argued that the unprecedented situation should be seen as a chance to rebuild the sector in a more "sustainable" way. This means on noise, as well as on carbon emissions. ICCAN believes that there must be a clear, consistent and transparent approach to noise mitigation and, therefore, the current ways of working must change. The dramatic cut in aircraft noise due to the pandemic is a unique opportunity to understand the impact of noise nuisance from planes. It is expected that when flights resume, aircraft noise will seem more noticeable, and will generate a significant negative reaction from local communities. This has to be taken seriously in future.
Grant Shapps plan for ‘air bridges’ for holidaymakers to fly on holiday hit by Cabinet backlash
Only two days earlier, Grant Shapps came up with the suggestion that flights might be resumed, without a requirement for quarantine, between the UK and some countries with low rates of Covid-19 spread - called "air bridges." But now there has been a Cabinet backlash against this (rather bonkers) idea. The travel industry is desperate to get people flying again, on holiday, and are lobbying Shapps hard, to be allowed to resume as fast as possible. Now Number 10, the Foreign Office and Home Office are said to have branded the idea “unworkable” and it was not authorised. A government source said: "It was just Grant freelancing ...he's got the airlines on his back ... " And "Grant Shapps is trying to protect what he can of the tourist and airline industry because he doesn’t want them to fail on his watch.” Although the 14 days quarantine for any passenger entering the UK has not yet been finally agreed, it is thought it will be reviewed every 3 weeks. The concept of anything like an "air bridge" is a long way off. There are concerns about the economic hit for countries that have become dependent on UK tourists.
DfT ‘refuses to back down’ over £27bn roads legal challenge over carbon emissions
In April the Transport Action Network (TAN) revealed its intentions to launch a legal application to the High Court, as the DfT ignored environmental legislation in approving the five-year funding plan. Now the DfT have given TAN's lawyers its official response. It has “refused to back down”. The legal challenge by TAN was made, as a result of the judgement by the Appeal Court in February, on the Heathrow case. It ruled that the Airports National Policy Statement (ANPS) was illegal, as proper consideration had not been given to carbon emissions and the UK's obligations under the Paris Agreement. The DfT letter claims, rather improbably, that decarbonisation will be addressed ‘at a society-wide level’ and its largest ever roads plan in fact ‘is a fully-integrated part of this wider effort to reach net zero emissions’. The legal challenge, by the same lawyers who won the Heathrow case, will proceed with the case on road building. As the courts found the ANPS was illegal, any other NPS will have to take carbon properly into account. Heathrow is appealing to the Supreme court on the February ruling, with a hearing on the 9th and 10th October.
Bath and North East Somerset Council rejects Bristol Airport application to increase night flights in summer months
Bath and North East Somerset Council has rejected an application by Bristol Airport to increase the number of night flights. The airport wants to increase the number of night flights to 4,000 throughout the whole year, starting in summer 2021. Currently the airport is allowed 3,000 night flights throughout the summer months and 1,000 in winter. The airport wants to be able to move some of their winter allocation to the summer, when demand is higher. Bath and North East Somerset Council rejected the application - stating it would have a negative impact on people living in towns near the airport. The request for more flights comes after the council opposed the expansion of Bristol Airport in March 2019. Then in March 2020 North Somerset Council threw out the plans, (which included increasing passenger numbers by an extra two million each year and building more car parks) on the grounds they were “incompatible” with the council’s declaration of a climate emergency. The extra night flights would cause noise nuisance to people in both councils.
The Covid-19 crisis should be the catalyst for “greening” the world’s airlines
The Covid pandemic provides a vital opportunity to reduce the scale of the aviation sector, and its carbon emissions. Any rescue packages for airlines or airports need to come with "green" strings, such as lower CO2 emissions and more efficient taxation, to cut demand for air travel. As oil prices are so low, there is the danger that air tickets will be cheap, once flying resumes - even if airlines can only sell a % of their seats, due to "social distancing." The sector has enjoyed low taxes for too long. It is time jet fuel was properly taxed, especially on domestic routes - where there is direct competition with rail travel. The Covid crisis has weakened airline claims that they should be treated as profit-seeking independent companies rather than public entities with social responsibilities. European governments have probably agreed €12.7bn in bailouts, with another €17.1bn under discussion. Even before Covid the airline industry was feeling public pressure from “the Greta effect”, "flying shame", Extinction Rebellion and the Appeal Court decision to block Heathrow expansion on climate grounds. The CO2 from aviation needs to be incorporated fully into national climate targets.