Address UK air capacity ‘ticking time bomb’, says CBI

Address UK air capacity 'ticking time bomb', says CBIUK business leaders today called for a single UK airport hub with work to start by 2020 – with a second new runway by 2050.

The Confederation of British Industry did not identify where airport expansion should take place but urges the Airports Commission not to ignore the UK’s wider network of airports in its recommendations if maximum connectivity is to be achieved.

A CBI report highlights that by drawing on both transfer passengers and local populations, hub airports are best placed to act as a catalyst for these new routes.

Eight new routes to emerging markets alone would generate as much as £1 billion a year in trade, the study claims.

It shows that from a sample of 15 emerging markets, hub airports serve on average nearly three times as many destinations as point-to-point airports (27 to 8 destinations), while also delivering almost twice as many flights on the routes that are served – 1.5 daily flights from hubs on average, compared to 0.8 from point-to-point.

But with the UK’s hub capacity at Heathrow already full, the UK is falling behind on direct flights to emerging markets.

By drawing heavily on transfer passengers, the UK’s EU competitors with their own unconstrained capacity are creating connections to new destinations within the emerging destinations such as Xiamen in China and Recife in Brazil, as well as links to the major markets of the future, like Peru, Indonesia, Taipei and Chile.

CBI deputy director general Katja Hall said: “With Heathrow full and the UK slipping behind in the race for new connectivity, it is essential that the Airports Commission delivers a solution that addresses the ticking time bomb of our lack of spare hub capacity.”

The report warns that the Airports Commission must deliver a solution that injects competition for routes wherever possible, urging it to deliver an action plan that boosts ground access infrastructure to airports across the UK, as well as kick-starting the process of deciding where a second new runway in the south-east might be required by 2050.

“First and foremost, UK business wants action,” Hall said. “There can be no more excuses – we need to see the Airports Commission deliver a strong case for new capacity and a clear schedule for delivery, and politicians to commit to spades in the ground by the end of the next Parliament.

“But this research shows that while all airports have a role to play in growing the UK’s connectivity, not all airports play the same role.

“While no-one can predict the future of air travel, the track record shows that it tends to be hub airports that deliver the new connections to emerging markets that we desperately need.”

Using transatlantic flights as an example, the CBI research shows that routes that are served by multiple airports at each side tend to be as much as £500 cheaper than those served by just one destination at each end.

Hall added: “A thriving network of point-to-point airports will deliver another major plus for business users – affordability. Where demand exists, we need to take action to support the development of direct links, injecting competition wherever possible.

“Figures show that if people can’t easily get to an airport, they won’t use it, so sometimes our infrastructure on the ground is the missing link to the new air connections we need.

“We also can’t ignore the next capacity crunch which looms on the horizon by 2050.  If we are to avoid yet another damaging investment hiatus that put a brake on competition in the south-east, it’s important we think ahead now.”

The CBI’s call for hub capacity to be concentrated at a single location as the best way for boosting connectivity to new markets coincides with Heathrow stepped up its battle with rival Gatwick by placing adverts in today’s national newspapers claiming a third runway at the west London hub would deliver at least £100 billion of economic benefits to the UK.

Sourced from Travel Weekly

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