Issues in a nutshell

The main problems caused by aviation, as we see it can be summed up as:

Climate Change


Local airport effects

Tourism deficit

Government policy


All these points are backed by mainstream research – read more in our Briefing Sheets section.

“Love Miles”

For some thought-provoking opinions on “love miles” (the air journeys taken to
visit friends or relatives abroad) see Tahmina Anam’s piece in Guardian Comment
– and the many, many comments it generated.

“I’m trying hard to be eco-friendly.   But please don’t ask me to give up flying
to visit my family”

24th April 2008.         Tahmina Anam, a Pakistani living in Britain,  says “there is no other way to live
apart, no other way to make it OK that our lives happen in each other’s absence,
than to allow ourselves the promise of regular visits.” (Guardian Comment)    



Aviation and Noise

Millions of people are disturbed by aircraft noise….and it will get worse

Heard it:

Aircraft Noise                                                                   71% had heard it

Traffic Noise                                                                        84%       ”       ”      

Neighbour/neighbourhood Noise                81%       ”       “

Bothered, annoyed or disturbed by it:  


Aircraft Noise                                                              20% bothered to some extent

Traffic Noise                                                                  40%       ”            ”                ”

Neighbour/neighbourhood Noise          37%       ”               ”                “

Aircraft Noise                                                               7% bothered moderately  
Traffic Noise                                                                  22%       ”               ”                     ”        

Neighbour/neighbourhood Noise          19%         ”             ”                     ”          

Aircraft Noise                                                              2% very or extremely bothered
Traffic Noise                                                                  8%             ”             ”                     ”                            

Neighbour/neighbourhood Noise          2%               ”             ”                   ”                

•   Figures from the 2001 National Noise Study carried out by the Building Research
Establishment (BRE) for DEFRA – the most comprehensive study of recent years.

Individual planes have become considerably quieter since the 1970s but this has
been off-set by the huge growth in aircraft numbers – causing more noise in total.

The Aviation White Paper admits that, if growth continues at the present rate,
the noise problems will become worse.   The ‘silent   plane’ still remains no more
than a gleam in the researcher’s eye.


Complaining about noisy and off-track aircraft:

If you have complaints about noise, or of planes away from set flight paths,
you can complain to your local airport management (check who is the appropriate
manager to write to).

Send a copy to the DfT:   Martin Capstick, Aviation Environmental Policy, Department for Transport, Great
Minster House, 76 Marsham Street, London, SW1P 4DR

Please copy your letter to us at AirportWatch, ( or  copy your local campaigning organisation.    AirportWatch, 2nd Floor, Broken
Wharf House, 2 Broken Wharf, London   EC4V 3DT      
Stop Stansted Expansion have excellent advice on their website about what to
complain about, how to complain, and what happens when you complain.   It is focused
on Stansted, but the information is more generally relevant.
There is also useful advice on how to complain about aircraft noise on the GACC
(Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign) website at

Air Quality at and Around Airports

Air pollution is a major issue for those who live in the vicinity of large airports.

Emissions from aircraft, air-side support vehicles and airport related traffic
all contribute to a build up of potentially harmful gases such as oxides of nitrogen,
carbon monoxide, VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and ozone. They also produce
small particulates.

The most important pollutants are usually nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and small particulates
(PM10, PM2.5). These often breach standards set by the UK government and the EU
to protect human health.

For detailed information on air quality see Briefing on Air Quality around airports

Aviation and the economy

“Surely we need  flying  for the economy?”

Aviation’s contribution to the economy is less than the aviation industry and
the Government suggest

The Government’s estimate of   aviation’s contribution to the economy is based
on a report largely paid for by the aviation industry.   The report, The Contribution
of Aviation to the UK Economy was carried out by consultants Oxford Economic Forecasting
in 1999 with an update in 2006.

•  The report ignored the tax-breaks the industry receives through tax-free fuel
and being zero-rated for VAT –           worth at least £9 billion a year.

•  Nor did it factor into its calculations the huge cost aviation imposes on society
and the environment, which are   estimated to be around £16 billion a year.

•  And it skated over the point that UK air tourists take more money out than
foreign visitors bring in –

There is a “tourism deficit” to the UK economy – estimated at around £17 billion
per year.

•  Independent experts argue that the report over-estimates the number of jobs
aviation expansion would create.


Government Aviation Policy

What is being planned is the biggest single programme of aviation expansion this
country has ever seen
The 2003 Aviation White Paper set out the Government’s aviation policy until
2030.   It expected to see a near trebling in the number of passengers using UK
airports.   To cater for this, it argued that the country would require up to 5
new runways, plus "full use" made of the existing runways at virtually the airports
in the country.   If this went ahead, it would be the biggest single programme
of airport expansion this country has ever seen.    In its ‘Progress Report’ on
its White Paper, published in December, the Government confirmed the key policies
set out in 2003
Government policies on climate change and on aviation expansion are completely

UK Air Passenger Demand and CO2 Forecasts   – November 2007

The government published, at the same time as the Heathrow consultation, new
forecasts for passenger demand in Nov 2007.   The forecasts are for the
as a whole and for the big London
airports. They revise the previous demand forecasts (published in 2000) and the
carbon dioxide forecasts published in 2004.   The figures anticipate passenger
numbers in the UK rising from    228 million in 2005, to  270 million   in 2010,    to
325 million in 2015,    480 million   in 2030 and  around 580 million in 2050.
The full document can be seen at:     UK Air Passenger Demand and CO2 Forecasts   (140 pages)
Explanation and comment to understand the forecasts is available on the AEF website.
The AirportWatch Economics group has produced a critique of the forecasts.      “Fallible Forecasts” 

Carbon offsetting for your flight – does it work?

AirportWatch is not convinced that offsetting schemes are effective.     With more
people buying carbon offsets to try and compensate for the carbon dioxide produced
from their flights, the effectiveness and justification for these offsets is increasingly
being questioned.   The Observer article discusses the problems.

The Observer – Carbon offsetting Ripoff? 

An article in the Sunday Times reveals that offsetting schemes involving tree
planting can take a century to remove the CO2 from the atmosphere, making them
very ineffective as a meals of reducing the climate changing effect of emissions.

Offsetting your carbon footprint takes decades    


If you can’t make your mind up about offsetting, have a look at the Cheatneutral
website.     As it helpfully says:

“What is Cheat Offsetting?

When you cheat on your partner you add to the heartbreak, pain and jealousy in
the atmosphere.  
Cheatneutral offsets your cheating by funding someone else to be faithful and
NOT cheat. This neutralises the pain and unhappy emotion and leaves you with a
clear conscience.”
And there is a jolly film for you to enjoy ……….. sit back and have a laugh          


The aviation industry’s advertising ………..

IATA – mastery of greenwash – The IATA adverts

IATA   (the International Air Transport Association) has produced a series of
adverts, which appear in in-flight magazines and in other media.   The aim is to
tell people how green flying is, how the aviation industry is trying very hard
to reduce emissions, and how flying really is wonderful.     Their solutions to
the carbon emissions problem  range from reducing the number of ice cubes on board
planes, blaming cows, flying in straight lines, to keeping the  planes clean.

Quite an eye-opener………..   enjoy them for yourself at 
The IATA adverts text


“But people love air travel, and we don’t want to stop the poor from flying !”

Surveys  show most   people would be prepared to pay more to fly for the sake of
the environment

•  Most cheap flights are actually taken by the better off – and they are not
likely to be the ones who live under flight paths and near the busy feeder roads.

•  ‘Choice’ can be deceptive. Often the real reason for ‘choosing’ the plane is
because ‘everyone else does’, or because we’re unaware of alternatives.

•  It would be physically impossible for the whole world to fly as much as the
UK currently does. Yet climate change will hurt the part of the world whose people
fly the least. There is a real question of justice here.

IATIShould I fly less?
The environmental problems caused by aviation
Does flying damage the environment
Air travel and the environment
Air travel and climate change
Does my flight really cause climae change

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