Home Page Link Thaxted - under the present flightpath and threatened with quadrupled activity Takeley's 12th century parish church, close to proposed second runway Harcamlow Way, Bamber's Green - much of the long distance path and village would disappear under Runway 2 Clavering - typical of the Uttlesford villages threatened by urbanisation
Campaigning against proposals to expand Stansted Airport

image SSE NEWS ARCHIVE - April to June 2010


Pilita Clark and Jim Pickard - Financial Times 27 June 2010

Flying within the UK is heading for extinction, the transport secretary, Philip Hammond has claimed.

"Domestic flying in the UK will become in time a thing of the past," he told the FT in an interview on the new government's plans for aviation.

Mr Hammond, whose government has banned new runways at the country's three largest airports, Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted, says fast train links will be critical to addressing growing demand for air travel. But several airlines cast doubt on the idea domestic flights would become extinct, not least the country's largest domestic operator, Flybe.

"UK domestic aviation will be unaffected by the limited, London-centric nature of any high-speed rail investment that might be forthcoming over the next few decades," it said. "Indeed, there is a very strong argument that aviation which serves regions like the West Midlands and the north-west will actually see an increase in demand as a result of high speed rail."

BA also dismissed the idea that domestic flights would end. "There will still be demand from people in the UK regions who want to fly into the hub airport of Heathrow, particularly if the high speed rail links don't link directly to Heathrow," it said.

A Ryanair spokesman said air passengers would not switch to rail in the UK "because the trains are so slow and so expensive". Both Ryanair and its budget rival EasyJet said the more pressing issue for the government was reforming the UK's air passenger duty.

Executives from other airlines, who did not wish to be named, said there was still a thriving domestic aviation industry in Germany and France, which had the best high-speed rail networks in Europe. One executive added that it took each country decades to build these networks, in times of stronger growth, meaning it was unlikely the UK would see such infrastructure soon.

Asked how else the country might answer the need for greater airport capacity, Mr Hammond talked of the smarter use of airspace and "spare capacity in the Stansted runway".

But for a more comprehensive policy response, we must await the results of an aviation working group he set up earlier this month to look at making Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted what he likes to call "better not bigger" airports.

This will take time, which is a happy prospect for most of what are known in the industry as the Flap airports: Frankfurt, London, Amsterdam and Paris. For years the acronym has described Europe's leading airports - with the later addition of Madrid, where passenger numbers overtook Amsterdam's in 2007.

Heathrow has long been the clear leader in terms of passengers. But its supremacy is under threat. The other four now have more runways and only one - Madrid - is as poorly served by high speed or national rail as Heathrow.

Over the past 20 years Heathrow has dropped from first to fifth in Europe in term of destinations served, as it has grown more congested and its rivals have boosted capacity. The number of UK regional cities Heathrow serves has shrunk from 21 to six.

It is also slipping in terms of its services to fast-growing markets such as Brazil, where it lags behind Paris and Madrid; and China, where it comes fourth after Frankfurt, Paris and Amsterdam, according to research commissioned by the British Chambers of Commerce. And now, following the government's runway decision, many say future air travel demand will drift to Heathrow's rivals, a fact some of them candidly welcome.

"It is good news for us," said María Jesús Luengo of Aena, the state-owned operator of Madrid's Barajas airport, which has four runways to Heathrow's two. "It will bring to Madrid more activity and more economic growth."

Amsterdam's Schiphol airport, which has five runways, also expects to see gains from London's decision. "In the long run, there will be a very gradual shift of traffic finding it more difficult to use London airports," said Marcel Lekker-kerk, Schiphol's director of aviation marketing.

There is puzzlement among some in the aviation industry about why Heathrow is not getting another runway when the economic case is to their mind so clear.

Frankfurt airport's operator, Fraport, which expects hourly movements - take-offs and landings - to gradually increase by 50 per cent once its new fourth runway opens next year, says the need for the extra capacity was obvious. "Our case has been that we need the new runway to maintain our current position and to strengthen the airport for the future, and without the new runway we would see traffic over time gravitate elsewhere," says Fraport spokesman Robert Payne.

"Certainly in the immediate surrounding communities it was controversial, but the overall consensus was it was a positive for economic reasons; job creation and for securing the future of the airport as a major hub with the competitive pressure we have in Europe and the Gulf regions."

Heathrow's owner, BAA, which has been asked to join Mr Hammond's working group along with airlines and relevant authorities, is diplomatic about the situation. "We respect the position of the new government," it said, adding the group was an "enthusiastic" supporter of integrated high-speed rail. But BAA said it still believes there is a shortage of airport capacity and meeting this need would strengthen trading links.


Exclusive interview: John Penrose, the new Tourism Minister, tells
Charles Starmer-Smith that British holidaymakers now have a real voice

Interview by Charles Starmer-Smith - 25 June 2010

The Association of Independent Tour Operators has accused you of failing to represent the interests of holidaymakers and being "no more a dedicated Minister of Tourism" than your predecessors. How do you respond?

For the first time there will be someone waking up in the morning with the interests of the travelling public at heart and pushing their issues in Whitehall. I want to encourage holidaymakers to stay in the UK, but recognise the needs of outbound travellers, too. I have listened to the need for financial protection for those who put together their own holidays - it is a trend that is only going to increase and one we will seek to address.

Tourism contributes more to the economy than the financial and business sector yet it has received little support. Will the Government change this?

Travel and tourism contributes around £100 billion and it has been ignored for too long. As MP for Weston-super-Mare, I recognise how important tourism is - I have seen what it does for a community - and how important holidays are in financially straitened times.

Why has the Government decided to proceed with Labour's planned increase in Air Passenger Duty (see below) at a time when the industry has never been under greater pressure?

I cannot pretend that holidaymakers are not going to be affected, but we must not forget that this is one of the hardest Budgets any government has had to produce. For 80 per cent of travellers the increase is small - of only one or two pounds on a short-haul flight. But I recognise the implications for those travelling farther afield or from farther afield. It is a matter on which I will be lobbying the Treasury to consider as it explores changes to the aviation tax system - including switching to a per plane duty, which rightly will reward the airlines that travel with full planes.

How will we ensure that the Olympics will benefit tourism?

We will learn the lessons from previous events - both good and bad - such as World Cups in South Africa and Germany, the Olympics in Barcelona, Sydney and China. We have seen tourism drop in the years after events when high room rates were imposed. While I am not going to tell hoteliers how to do their jobs, it is an issue we will watch closely. Sports tourism is something that this country does well.

A recent Telegraph Travel poll found that 95 per cent of Britons feel that holidays in Britain offer poor value compared with those on the Continent. What can be done to change this?

We have to be realistic. No one is going to pretend that Britain can compete head-on with the traditional Spanish beach holiday destinations. We need to pick our battles: our heritage is second to none, we have beautiful scenery, fantastic culture and we are a compact country ?our attractions are easily reachable. There is a perception that our holiday resorts are all tired and old-fashioned, and we need to change that. If we are to improve them it needs to be done in partnership with the industry. But the last thing we should be is elitist - we must look at developments that suit every price point.

The Government has ruled out a third runway or any expansion at Gatwick or Stansted. Won't this hinder growth?

Theresa Villiers is leading the South East Airports Task Force. Heathrow is still undergoing refurbishment, and we are looking at ways to use our airports more efficiently. High-speed rail offers a real alternative. Book in advance and fares are competitive with budget airlines'. Stations are more accessible, they service city centres, there are no check-in troubles, your luggage goes with you and you walk off the train and into your destination.

APD: how changes will affect passengers

The Coalition is to press ahead with the rises in Air Passenger Duty (APD) that were outlined by the Labour government. From November, there will be the following increases: from £11 to £12 on Band A flights (up to 2,000 miles); from £45 to £60 on Band B flights (2,001-4,000 miles); from £50 to £75 on Band C flights (4,001-6,000 miles); and from £55 to £85 on Band D flights (6,001-8,000 miles).

According to Treasury figures, the tax will recoup £2.9 billion next year, compared with the £1.9 billion raised in 2009/10. However, the Treasury intends to raise £3.8 billion from air travel in 2014-15, so further increases in APD could be coming.

No mention has been made of reforming the controversial banding system used to calculate APD contributions, which is decided by the distance from London to the capital city of the destination. This method has thrown up a number of anomalies. For example, passengers travelling to Los Angeles (11 hours) currently pay less in APD than those flying to Barbados (eight hours).

The November increases will be even steeper for those travelling in premium- economy, business-class and first-class cabins. APD on Band A flights will rise from £22 to £24; on Band B from £90 to £120; on Band C from £100 to £150; and on Band D from £110 to £170. Several airlines have said that they will remove premium-economy seats from their aircraft if these rises go ahead. Meanwhile, passengers on private jets remain exempt from paying any APD.

The Government is planning to "explore changes to the aviation tax system, including switching from a per passenger to a per plane duty, which could encourage fuller planes". Reforms would be preceded by public consultation, and a paper setting out options is likely in the autumn.

Any move to a per plane duty could lead to even higher taxes. Earlier this year, Telegraph Travel disclosed that, under the Liberal Democrats' manifesto proposals to switch to a per plane duty, passengers on short-haul flights would pay up to 75 per cent more as part of plans to generate £5.3 billion each year.

What the travel trade says

World Travel and Tourism Council: "Travel and tourism contributes £140 billion annually to the British economy, greater than the £114 billion contributed by the financial sector. Yet travel and tourism has received little direct support, compared with £850 billion given to the financial sector. Investment need not come from the public purse, but could begin with a serious discussion about potential barriers to growth, such as APD."

Caribbean Tourism Organisation: "The current tax structure is unfair. Because our economies are so reliant on tourism APD is effectively a tax on our countries' exports."

Abta, the travel association: "Tax on aviation in this country has risen disproportionately over the past five years. While we broadly welcome the proposed switch to a per plane duty, it is essential that ordinary people are not taxed out of flying."

easyJet: "Four out of five British travellers would be better off under a per plane tax. But the increases in November will be self-defeating. Air tax is already higher in Britain than anywhere else in Europe."


Jim Pickard and Pilita Clark - Financial Times - 27 June 2010

In his former role as shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, Philip Hammond drily warned that he was destined to become a national hate figure as he supervised spending reductions across Whitehall. Now, in an ironic reversal, he is preparing the case to defend transport projects from the axe.

With growing doubts over a variety of transport schemes - from London's Crossrail to an order for new InterCity trains - Mr Hammond, the transport secretary, will tell the Treasury that such projects can justify themselves economically. They are "one of the best investments the taxpayer can make", he told the Financial Times in an interview.

The presumption in Whitehall is that transport will be among the departments that bear the brunt of the pain in October, as it has in previous austerity drives. Mr Hammond is ready to go out to bat for his department, claiming that it could still escape the harshest cuts. "Transport infrastructure investment... is a way in which the government can support the private sector economic recovery," he insists.

The minister has indicated his continuing support for Crossrail - though not at any cost - and for the new high-speed rail routes that form the bedrock of Tory transport policy.

Yet there is no escaping the cold mathematics of the imminent cuts. The coalition has promised to retain one costly transport policy - free bus passes for the over-60s. At £1bn that is equivalent to a quarter of the entire rail subsidy. Philip Hammond believes he can defy the presumption that transport will be among the departments that bear the brunt of the cuts pain

A commitment to 33 per cent cuts in real terms - as some predict - would mean shaving £5bn from the department's annual budget of just under £16bn. That could create some unwelcome repercussions for the travelling public, beyond the prospect of sharply rising rail fares.

For example, Mr Hammond has already frozen an order for hundreds of train carriages destined for Thameslink. These were to replace existing trains that would then be moved to the Great Western commuter route extending from London to Oxford and Newbury. If he cancels the Thameslink order, Mr Hammond is likely to face criticism for failing to address the shortage of rolling stock on the Oxford route - one of the most heavily used in the country.

Meanwhile, the InterCity Express trains used on the rest of the Great Western line, and on main north-south routes, were due to be replaced with 1,400 carriages built by Hitachi. Their fate seems equally uncertain with that order in effect frozen.

With finances a priority, Mr Hammond last week announced plans to sell the state's 40 per cent stake in NATS, the air traffic control service, which could be worth hundreds of millions of pounds.

High Speed 1, the service from St Pancras to the Channel tunnel, is already on the market for £1.5bn. Mr Hammond told the FT that he also wanted to sell Eurostar and some land holdings owned by the same public company, London & Continental Railways. Given that Eurostar has never made a profit, however, and most of these sites are still underdeveloped, sales may still be several years away.

Environmentalists believe the coalition is retreating from a green transport policy, having ruled out road charging - a potential revenue raiser - and having in last week's Budget delayed plans for a new form of aviation tax based on passengers rather than flights.

Yet the cabinet minister, a Jaguar driver, insists he will still continue with several environmental policies, such as providing £50m of new infrastructure for charging up electric cars. There is still likely to be a subsidy for buyers of hybrid and electric cars, he indicates, although he cannot guarantee that it will match the £5,000 promised by Labour.

On Mr Hammond's desk is a new hardback copy of Fire and Steam, a history of the railways by transport expert Christian Wolmar. The book may offer him insights on how to avoid future comparisons with another figure placed in charge of transport cuts: Dr Beeching, whose brutal efficiency programme of the 1960s left him vilified by a generation of rail users and enthusiasts.


Stansted Airport expansion 'is still a priority'

Sinead Holland - Herts & Essex Observer - 28 June 2010

AIRPORT commercial and development director Nick Barton is on a mission to put Stansted on the world map.

In an exclusive interview, Nick Barton of Stansted Airport, the man behind the hub's route development explained why expansion remains his priority - regardless of BAA's decision to withdraw plans for a second runway in the face of Government opposition.

Despite the current challenging economic climate, he remains convinced that full use of the existing runway - up from 22m to 35m passengers a year - is a realistic target and he is devoting at least 40 per cent of his working week to attracting new business.

Following the new coalition Government's decision to block all new runways in the south east, Stansted remains the only one of London's three airports with excess capacity ready and waiting to exploited. "Stansted will get busier quicker (as a result) because the demand for international travel into London is almost insatiable," said Mr Barton.

He said: "Stansted has some of the best aerospace infrastructure in Europe, if not the world, but Stansted has only been properly in existence since 1991 and there are many people - decision-makers - who when they were learning their trade, they learned about Heathrow and Gatwick, so they don't know what Stansted has to offer. Our mission is to make sure the world's aviation decision-makers know about Stansted."

As part of the renewed push to maximise traffic, BAA is waiting to finalise permission to handle the world's largest Code F aircraft, such as the Airbus A380 and Boeing's wide-bodied 747 800, so the airport is attractive to all carriers - both passenger and cargo.

While the prime slots from the existing runway have already been snapped up by the low-cost, point-to-point carriers like Ryanair and easyJet, who both use Stansted as a base, Mr Barton is looking to lure those with bases on the Continent, like Whizz, to fill in the gaps.

The success of Air AsiaX and its route to Kuala Lumpur has opened up the Far East and Australia. The key to the service's success is the network beyond both Stansted and the Malaysian capital, with passengers connecting from down under and travelling on to the European mainland. That's potential the BAA team are keen to exploit further.

Mr Barton said the ultimate aim was to make 10 per cent of airport's traffic long-haul. Restoring the airport's ill-fated links with the United States is a priority, as is establishing services to the Middle East. He said events like the 2012 Olympics would be a further chance to showcase Stansted's charms to an international market.

While BAA must return to court later this month to again argue why it should be allowed to keep Stansted as well as Heathrow, following the sale of Gatwick to satisfy the Competition Commission, Mr Barton stressed the issue of ownership had no impact on the push to find new business.

He said: "Our strategy is to grow the airport within the constraints of the single runway. We can achieve 35m - that will be hard to do, but undoubtedly great fun."


Pilita Clark - Financial Times - 29 June 2010

Ryanair is to cut capacity in the UK by 16 per cent this winter as it shifts its aircraft to countries with cheaper airports and lower passenger taxes such as Spain.

Europe's biggest budget airline said it would reduce the number of aircraft at its main UK base of Stansted, where it is by far the biggest carrier, from 24 last winter to 22. According to Michael O'Leary, chief executive, the capacity cuts would result in the loss of 2,500 jobs in a full year and 1.5m passengers between November and March 2011.

The airline also plans to cut winter flights at most of its other UK bases except for Edinburgh and Leeds Bradford. "These are real losses to the UK," said Mr O'Leary. "This is a time in winter when we should be bringing more people here, particularly to London."

Stansted played down his claims. "Last winter they said there would be a reduction in passenger numbers of about 2.5m and it turned out to be about 300,000, which was largely due to the economic downturn."

Mr O'Leary, sporting a German football top three days after England's World Cup exit, also lashed out at the new UK transport secretary, Philip Hammond, who told the as they were replaced by trains. "If he thinks the future is more trains, then sorry Mr Hammond you just haven't a bloody clue," said Mr O'Leary. "It's time to stop pandering to the environmental goons and start addressing how you're going to make Britain a more attractive tourism destination."

Mr O'Leary also said his counterpart at British Airways, Willie Walsh, had done a "fantastic job" of fighting striking BA cabin crew though if Mr O'Leary had been running BA, "I would have sacked them all long ago".

The UK capacity cuts, which may be followed by others in Ireland, are similar to those it has announced in recent years for Stansted, where it says its aircraft numbers have fallen from a peak of about 30 in 2007/08 to the 22 planned for this coming winter. Analysts said this was in line with the airline's refinement of a business model focused on relentlessly paring back costs.


Airline Plans: 'Vertical seats' will free up space

Donna Bowater - Daily Express - 29 June 2010

PASSENGERS with budget airline Ryanair could soon be able to fly standing up for just £5 as the company vows to revolutionise air travel.

Controversial chief executive Michael O'Leary said he would use a toilet tax to "change passenger behaviour" and fund the cheap flights. He defended plans to charge customers £1 to use the loo to pay for a standing area with "vertical seats" at the back of its fleet of 250 planes.

In a TV interview to be aired tonight, Mr O'Leary said his airline wanted to encourage travellers on one-hour flights to use toilets in the airport before flying so more passengers could use short-haul services. And the Irish entrepreneur said he hoped the coin-operated toilet would be introduced soon "and the other change we've been looking at is taking out the last 10 rows of seats so we will have 15 rows of seats and the equivalent of 10 rows of standing area".

A Ryanair spokesman confirmed the airline had consulted with Boeing over refitting its fleet with "vertical seats" to allow passengers to be strapped in while standing up, which would cost between £4 and £8 per person.

He said safety testing could be carried out next year, when the toilet tax would also be rolled out. The plans could involve taking out two toilets at the back of the plane to make way for the standing area. James Fremantle, of the Air Transport Users Council, said there were no rules preventing Ryanair from removing toilets on their planes and the changes could lead to cheaper flights "as long as it doesn't breach safety orders".

But a spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority said the plans were unlikely to meet safety requirements. He said: "It's aviation law that people have to have a seatbelt on for take-off and landing so they would have to be in a seat. I don't know how Mr O'Leary would get around that one. During turbulence, passengers also have to have a seatbelt on."

"Unless people were strapped to the side of the plane while standing up, it's incredibly unlikely to happen. If Ryanair wanted to introduce something like this and put forward a case that they could accommodate people wearing seatbelts somehow, the European Aviation Safety Agency would look into it and run various tests," he said.

Speaking on ITV's How To Beat the Budget Airlines, which airs tonight on ITV1 at 7.30pm, Mr O'Leary, who wore a German football shirt for a bet on Sunday, also defended online charges.

The programme comes after the airline revealed it would cut its winter capacity by 16 per cent from this year, blaming the "damaging" Air Passenger Duty. The cutbacks mean 1.5 million fewer customers than last winter will be able to travel. Martin Lewis, who hosted the programme to give money-saving tips to families going on holiday on a budget, said: "The toilet charge is the one I think is most likely to be introduced."


Comment: Government aviation policy will close the UK for more business

Air & Business Travel News - 25 June 2010

Michael Carrivick, chairman of the Board of Airline Representatives in the UK, says the CON-LIB coalition must revise its approach to aviation if business in Britain is to prosper...

The coalition government states in its programme that 'business is the driver of economic growth' (page 9), and that 'a modern transport infrastructure is an essential for a modern and dynamic economy' (page 31).

However, its aviation policies contradict those two objectives by banning any new runway capacity in South East England and by taxing the industry, and its users, as much as possible. Those policies effectively close the UK for more business!

The Board of Airline Representatives in the UK (BAR UK) continues to challenge the government over the contradictions of its existing transport policies and to lobby for visionary policies that meet business and environmental objectives in the decades to come.

A major factor in the UK's success has been its long-standing position as the leading global transportation hub. This position is now under serious threat as a result of previous delays in infrastructure development and now a lack of effective long term planning and solutions for South East England. The belief that airlines, passengers and freight will move either to other UK airports, or onto rail, simply does not stand up to scrutiny.

Fundamental to any transportation policy is that aviation is a highly efficient industry and a key driver to the economic prosperity of this country. The industry also continues to make efficiency gains in respect of emissions and noise and the government's isolated approach on taxation does not sit well with the EU emissions trading scheme and is negatively impacting the country's international reputation.

Much has been said and written about airports; however it is indisputable that airports and airways systems are more flexible and use less land than railways. Airports also serve as major cargo ports and a significant proportion of travellers are inward visitors and buyers.

Heathrow is a vital transportation hub and it is about time policy makers started to understand all that this entails. Gatwick Airport, good as it is, can never offer the required amount of scheduled airline connectivity on its single runway.

London needs to expand its airport capacity to meet the future needs of the country; failure to expand Heathrow will see its global importance diminish and the UK economy with it. It is illogical having a policy that prefers to see additional flights to provincial airports when visitors to the UK wish to go to London.

The final mystery to airlines and all airport users is the policy to build a high speed rail line linking London to the north which is not integrated with the main airports. This continual isolated approach to transport infrastructure is inefficient, wasteful of resources and economically damaging to the country. Government aspirations and policies appear to be at odds with each other and need to be sorted out.

Might there already be a change of heart in the government? That's far too early to say. However, there is some encouragement that the Secretary of State for Transport has established the South East Airports Taskforce. It is to be hoped that, during its deliberations, the real impact of current policies will be realised and cause a radical re-think.

Our airports need to prepare for more business, but are being denied the chance. Let's hope common sense prevails, otherwise, as the saying goes 'failing to prepare is preparing to fail'. This country simply cannot afford to do that.


Sara Turner - Air & Business Travel News - 17 June 2010

Richard Gooding, CEO at London City Airport, called on the business travel community to lobby government on its plans for the future of aviation.

Speaking at the Business Travel Market at London's Excel, Gooding said the aviation industry was under increased pressure from "scary" changes to APD and constraints on expansion.

The government plans to scrap APD in favour of a per plane tax, which many airlines, including Easyjet, will welcome. But Gooding warned: "The scary bit is that the government has set out to increase the take from APD by 40%. That's going to be paid by you and your customers."

He said that as Britain is an island nation, it relies more on air transport than any other European country, and that if transport links did not keep pace with the continent, the UK may lose business. "You could argue we like the idea of Heathrow being constrained. In the short term that may be true, but we have to take a long term view. Travel will go to the continent and eventually the big institutions will move."

The Lib-Con coalition has scrapped plans to expand Heathrow and Stansted airports, and is setting up a task force to look at how the two airports, along with Gatwick, can be more productive.

Gooding said the industry needed to be more "robust" in countering constraints on aviation. "This industry has the capability of lobbying about these things. So far we've been poor," he said.

The London City CEO said that travel through the airport, of which 70% is on business, has seen a sustained rise. In the first five months of the year, London City airport has seen a 4 to 5% increase in travellers, compared to the same months the previous year.


James Glossop - The Times - 27 June 2010

The European Commission is to investigate who owns airport landing slots

The transport consultants Steer Davies Gleave are expected to lead the review into how slots are traded.

The potential value of the slots is enormous, with Continental paying $209 million for four pairs at Heathrow two years ago. At that time, bmi British Midland valued its slots at the aiport at £770 million, which would make the Heathrow market worth about £7.5 billion.

In theory, landing rights belong to the Government, but some airlines believe that slots are assets that should belong to them - particularly if they have paid millions for them.

If the Commission rules in their favour, it could strengthen company balance sheets. British Airways, for example, has about 41 per cent of Heathrow's slots that could be worth more than £3 billion based on the bmi valuation - more than doubling the airline's current market value.

Landing rights are traded in secret but in an attempt to pre-empt the Commission's investigation, the airline industry has decided to publicise the trades. Airport Co-ordination Limited, a company owned by the big airlines, has set up a website to allow other airport users to track the trades. Chris Bosworth, managing director, said: "We wanted to give airlines somewhere they can buy or sell slots easily."

ACL's data shows that summer 2010 has already been the busiest period for slot trading in a decade with 435 trades per week, compared with 74 in 2001. The high number this year is because of bmi, which has sold 212 slots to other carriers to raise money and reduce capacity. Virgin Atlantic has also sold landing rights to Aer Lingus.


Pilita Clark - Financial Times - 25 June 2010

If you had to come up with a collective noun for a bunch of airline people, what would it be? A flock? A formation? A swarm? Sometimes, especially after a day or two at a large air industry gathering, I start to think of other words, such as a "moan" or a "fret" or a "whinge". There is an old joke in the business that the whine you hear in an aircraft after the engines are turned off is just the pilots talking.

But these days, the pilots are not alone. Consider the blast of grievance emitted two weeks ago in Berlin at the annual general meeting of the International Air Transport Association, the body that acts for most of the world's oldest and best-known airlines. In front of hundreds of airline executives, Giovanni Bisignani, Iata's vivacious Italian chief, launched an assault on the "national embarrassment" of overcharging airports; the "shortsighted nonsense" of striking crews; and, to cheers from his audience, the "leeches" in travel reservation companies.

That was before he got to the "unco-ordinated bureaucratic mess" in Europe, where authorities shut down airspace for nearly six days because of the menace of a volcanic ash cloud from Iceland that many airlines say never existed.

Listening to him, it struck me that the last time I heard so much complaining, it came not from an airline boss but a passenger. One of the great paradoxes of modern flight is that so many more of us do it, yet so few of us seem to enjoy it. The world of aviation has come a long way since Howard Hughes was showing off his latest plane to Katharine Hepburn and people dressed up to go to the airport. Today, there are terrorists with explosives in their underpants and airline bosses such as Ryanair's Michael O'Leary who wants to charge people to use the lavatory, and says he would "wipe their bums for a fiver".

So what comes next? Will anything change? Or do the people making the decisions that will shape the future of flying think today's trends will merely become more marked?

It is now 16 years since the billionaire investor Warren Buffett said capitalism would have been better off if Orville Wright had been shot down at Kitty Hawk in 1903, because the industry had made a net loss ever since. Things have only grown worse. Over the past decade, airlines have lost another $50bn thanks to the September 11 terrorist attacks, soaring fuel prices and recession. The situation is especially awful for many of the household name international carriers in Europe and the US. Every other week seems to bring news of a real or longed for merger as they struggle to fend off sprightly no-frills rivals, striking workers and deep-pocketed Middle East newcomers.

Last year, the biggest airline in the world in terms of the number of passengers carried was not the American Airlines of George Clooney's hit film Up in the Air, or even its giant rival Delta, but Dallas-based budget carrier Southwest Airlines. The fifth biggest was Southwest's rambunctious Irish love child, Ryanair. These airlines fly shorter distances compared with international companies such as British Airways. But unlike BA, which has lost nearly £1bn over the past two years, they have stayed profitable. And their rise has made flying possible for millions.


Daily Mail Reporter - 30 June 2010

Full body scanners at airports could increase your risk of skin cancer, experts warn.

The X-ray machines have been brought in at Manchester, Gatwick and Heathrow. But scientists say radiation from the scanners has been underestimated and could be particularly risky for children. They say that the low level beam does deliver a small dose of radiation to the body but because the beam concentrates on the skin - one of the most radiation-sensitive organs of the human body - that dose may be up to 20 times higher than first estimated.

Dr David Brenner, head of Columbia University's centre for radiological research, said although the danger posed to the individual passenger is 'very low', he is urging researchers to carry out more tests on the device to look at the way it affects specific groups who could be more sensitive to radiation. He says children and passengers with gene mutations - around one in 20 of the population - are more at risk as they are less able to repair X-ray damage to their DNA.

Dr Brenner, who is originally from Liverpool but now works at the New York university, said: "The individual risks associated with X-ray backscatter scanners are probably extremely small. If all 800 million people who use airports every year were screened with X-rays then the very small individual risk multiplied by the large number of screened people might imply a potential public health or societal risk. The population risk has the potential to be significant."

Following trials, the airport scanners were officially introduced at Manchester Airport in January, at Heathrow Terminal 4 in February and at Gatwick in May this year. The most likely risk from the airport scanners is a common type of skin cancer called basal cell carcinoma, according to the academic.

The cancer is usually curable and often occurs in the head and neck of people aged between 50 and 70. He points out it would be difficult to hide a weapon on the head or neck so proposes missing out that part of the body from the scanning process. "If there are increases in cancers as a result of irradiation of children, they would most likely appear some decades in the future. It would be prudent not to scan the head and neck," he added.

He recently aired his concerns to the Congressional Biomedical Caucus in the US - members of Congress who meet to exchange ideas on medical research. Dr Brenner urged them to look at his concerns but said it was important to balance any health issues against passengers' safety when flying. He said: "There really is no other technology around where we're planning to X-ray such an enormous number of individuals. It's really unprecedented in the radiation world."

The Civil Aviation Authority said the radiation received from the scanning process is the equivalent to two minutes radiation received on a Transatlantic flight. The Civil Aviation Authority, Department for Transport and Health Protection Agency insist that the technology is safe and say their tests show it would take 5,000 trips through the scanner to equal the dose of a single chest X-ray. They said in the climate of high security, it is essential that security staff use 'all means possible' to minimise risks to airline security.

The CAA said: "The device has been approved for use within the UK by the Department for Transport and has been subjected to risk assessments from the Health Protection Agency. To put the issue in perspective, the radiation received from the scanning process is the equivalent to two minutes radiation received on a Transatlantic flight."

"Recent press publications have been a little alarmist and may have heightened concern in frequent travellers who may worry about their repeated exposure. Under current regulations, up to 5,000 scans per person per year can be conducted safely."


Oliver Tree - Mail on Sunday - 27 June 2010

If you are jetting off for an exotic holiday this summer, spare a thought for those you leave behind.

Because it seems that sun-seekers are responsible for leaving the rest of us languishing under grey skies - thanks to the emissions from aircraft engines. These vapour trails create clouds which, experts claim, can block out sunlight for millions. This is the reason that our skies appeared unusually blue when the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull was erupting, and all flights over Britain were banned.

The phenomenon occurs when aircraft fly above 25,000ft, where the air temperature is around minus 30C. This causes water vapour emitted by the engines to crystallise and form the familiar white streaks across the sky, known as contrails. These can be short-lived. But if there is already a significant amount of moisture in the atmosphere they can linger for hours, as the excess water vapour from the engines tips the surrounding air past its saturation point.

This acts as a catalyst to speed up the natural process of cloud formation. Cirrus clouds - the wisp-like formations seen at high altitude - begin to form around the contrails. Scientists say these grow into thin layers of cloud and can cover up to an astonishing 20,000 square miles of sky - or about a fifth of the UK. The level of moisture in the air at high altitudes is unrelated to weather conditions at ground level, which is why it is possible to see contrails on a clear day.

Reading University's Professor Keith Shine, an expert in clouds, said that those formed by aircraft fumes could linger 'for hours', depriving those areas under busy flight paths, such as London and the Home Counties, of summer sunshine.

"People from abroad are amazed by the number of vapour trails in the skies over London," he said. "When the air is wet enough, the cloud formed by contrails can last for hours."

Experts have warned that, as a result, the amount of sunlight hitting the ground could be reduced by as much as ten per cent. Professor Shine added: "Over the busiest areas in London and the South of England, this high-level cloud could cover the sky, turning bright sunshine into hazy conditions for the entire area. I expect the effects will get worse as the volume of air traffic increases."

In a 2009 Met Office study into the effects of contrails, scientists from a number of UK institutions used a weather satellite to track a large military aircraft as it circled over the North Sea. The team expected high-level winds to disperse its contrails without trace. But instead they helped to form clouds, which the researchers were astonished to find eventually covered a massive 20,000 square miles.


29 June 2010

Major infrastructure stays on fast-track as planning quango closes.

A new democratic, fast track system for decision making on major infrastructure projects to support the UK's return to economic growth was confirmed today by Decentralisation Minister Greg Clark. Mr Clark confirmed that the Infrastructure Planning Commission - a quango with the power to approve major infrastructure projects - will be abolished in line with the Coalition Agreement.

It will be replaced with a new rapid and accountable system where Ministers, not unelected commissioners, will take the decisions on new infrastructure projects critical to the country's future economic growth.

A Major Infrastructure Planning Unit will be established in the Planning Inspectorate to continue fast-tracking major infrastructure projects like offshore windfarms and nuclear power stations. Ministers will take decisions on applications within the same statutory fast-track timeframe as the current regime.

In addition, all National Policy Statements (NPS), the Government's future infrastructure blueprints, will now be subject to ratification by Parliament. Ministers believe these critically important national documents must have the strongest possible democratic legitimacy.

Decentralisation Minister Greg Clark said: "New infrastructure is critical to the country's return to economic growth and we believe we must have a fast track system for major projects - but it must be accountable. The previous system lacked any democratic legitimacy by giving decision making power away to a distant quango on issues crucial to every community in the country. Today the coalition is remedying those deficiencies by putting in place a new fast track process where the people's elected representatives have responsibility for the final decisions about Britain's future instead of unelected commissioners."

Energy Minister Charles Hendry added: "A fast and efficient planning system is critical for facilitating investment in much needed new energy infrastructure. By abolishing the Infrastructure Planning Commission we will ensure that vital energy planning decisions are democratically accountable."

Matt Thomson, Head of Policy at the Royal Town Planning Institute, said: "We welcome the Government's clarification that the function of the IPC is to be retained even if the body itself is not. It is critical that there is a specialist body with the skills and expertise to consider proposals for essential major infrastructure projects to allow decisions to be made in the national interest. We believe that people's confidence in the system will be strengthened by the commitment that final decisions on major infrastructure projects will be taken by the Secretary of State within a defined time frame."

David Green, Chief Executive of the UK Business Council for Sustainable Energy said: "The UK Business Council for Sustainable Energy welcomes the Government's commitment to continuing the streamlining of the consenting process for nationally significant infrastructure projects, which needs to reflect the pressing national need for energy infrastructure and deliver certainty whilst ensuring meaningful dialogue on proposals with communities."

New primary legislation will be brought forward to close the IPC. Until it is in place the IPC will continue to consider and determine applications as National Policy Statements are designated to ensure there is no delay in handling applications.


16 June 2010

Sir Alan Haselhurst (Saffron Walden) (Con): Despite the huge satisfaction felt in my constituency at the Government's decision not to proceed with the second runway at Stansted airport, is my right hon. Friend aware that blight and uncertainty still overhang the communities closest to the airport? Will he look to see if other measures can be taken to provide them with longer-term assurance?

The Prime Minister: First, may I say what a pleasure it is to see my right hon. Friend being able to speak about these issues for the first time in many years. I am sure he will do so often and with great power from the Back Benches. He is right to say that we are very clear in the coalition agreement about Stansted airport. I hope that removes some of the blight and uncertainty; I will certainly bear in mind what he had to say.


Jane Croft, Law Courts Correspondent - Financial Times - 24 June 2010

The Competition Commission yesterday began a legal challenge in the Court of Appeal over the scrapping of its ruling that would force BAA to sell Stansted and one other airport.

The regulator, which claimed that BAA's near-monopoly over Britain's biggest airports harmed passengers' interests, ruled in March last year that BAA, a subsidiary of Spain's Ferrovial, should sell Gatwick, Stansted and either Edinburgh or Glasgow airports. BAA sold Gatwick for £1.5bn, but in December it won an appeal to overturn the regulator's decision.

The Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) ruled that the Commission probe displayed "apparent bias" because Professor Peter Moizer, a member of the panel that ordered BAA's break-up, was also an adviser to a pension fund linked to Manchester Airport Group, a potential buyer of its airports.

Prof Moizer has been a strategic adviser to the Greater Manchester Pension Fund, the retirement scheme for the 10 local authorities in the area. These authorities own Manchester Airport Group, which played an active role in the inquiry and said it was a potential acquirer of airports.

Jonathan Sumption QC, acting for the Commission, opened the hearing, arguing that any suggestion of bias was "rather extravagant". Lord Pannick will today open the case for BAA.

Last month Peter Freeman, Commission chairman, said he would strive to reverse the tribunal judgment that scrapped the order for BAA to dismantle. Mr Freeman said: "We did not agree... and particularly don't agree [it] should cause an entire market investigation to be done again. That seems an outcome that is perverse, wasteful and wrong."


Department for Transport (National) - 15 June 2010

A drive to reduce long queues and the number of delayed flights was announced today as Transport Secretary Philip Hammond unveiled a new group tasked with improving operations at the major South East airports. It will be made up of key players from the aviation world and chaired by Aviation Minister Theresa Villiers, with the initial focus on Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted.

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond said:

"This marks the start of a new chapter in our aviation policy. I have a clear vision for our airports which sees greater reliability, shorter queues, less hassle and better services for passengers. It is absolutely crucial that we get this right as aviation is vital to our national economy."

"We have been clear in our opposition to additional runways at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted, so the challenge we face now is making them better within existing runway capacity constraints. Working together with key partners within the aviation community, this group will look at how to secure the successful future of aviation in the Southeast and Heathrow's hub status within the constraints of the existing runways."

"Our vision is for better not bigger airports, with new investment targeting improvements in reliability and passenger experience."

The group features representatives from airlines, airports, passenger groups, business, environmental groups and other industry bodies such as the Civil Aviation Authority and NATS.

Today's announcement complements the Government's separate commitment in the Queen's Speech to reform the economic regulation of UK airports, which should help to drive investment in existing airport facilities and improve performance to benefit passengers.

1. Members invited to partake in the group are:

    Minister of State for Aviation (Theresa Villiers)
    BAA Heathrow
    GIP Gatwick
    BAA Stansted
    CAA (Civil Aviation Authority)
    NATS (National Air Traffic Services)
    BA (British Airways)
    Virgin Atlantic
    London First
    AUC (Air Transport Users Council)
    AOA (Airport Operators Association)
    AEF (Aviation Environmental Federation)

    2. The first meeting of the group is expected within the next month, at which the precise terms of reference will be agreed. These will then be available on the DfT website.


BAA.com - 10 June 2010

BAA's passenger traffic in May was affected by the effects of the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud and by the British Airways' cabin crew industrial action.

Despite this, BAA's UK airports handled 8.6 million passengers in the month, which was a drop of 4.5% on May 2009. Heathrow handled 5.3 million passengers, 3.1% down on last year. Without these impacts, it is estimated that Heathrow would have recorded an increase of 2.8% and the group as whole an increase of 0.4%.

Losses attributable to the volcanic ash cloud and industrial action were estimated to be as follows:

Airport TerminalPassengers (000s)% of expected traffic
BAA UK Total4455%

In total, BAA's UK airports recorded a drop of 4.8% in the number of air transport movements. Continuing a period of exceptionally strong growth in cargo traffic, and despite the drop in aircraft movements, cargo tonnage was up by 36.1% at Heathrow and by 33.7% at the wider group level.


Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent - Daily Telegraph - 9 June 2010

The WWF says government officials are taking 200,000 'unnecessary' flights every year.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) used Freedom of Information laws to find out how many flights are taken by staff at Government departments.

The report found that in 2008/09 alone officials took more than 450,000 flights. Some 90 per cent of the flights are to British destinations, while most of the international flights are to cities in Europe that can easily be reached by train.

The report said the majority of flights are 'unnecessary'. At least 200,000 flights each year are to destinations that could be reached by train and the rest could be replaced by video conferencing.

David Norman, Director of Campaigns at WWF, said the Government could cut 200,00 flights a year and save more than £30 million. The flights are also causing 59,000 tonnes of pollution to be pumped into the atmosphere by burning aviation fuel.

"Businesses have done everything in their power to cut out wasteful spending on unnecessary flights during the recession. Yet WWF's report shows that very few government departments have made similar efforts to reduce their flying, throwing away potential savings of well over [£30 million per year]," he said. "It's shocking that nine out of ten flights by government officials are to destinations within the UK. There's a huge opportunity here to cut costs and carbon emissions."

The last Government promised to reduce air travel by officials as part of plans to reduce its own carbon emissions by more than 12 per cent by 2012. However the WWF report found less than half Government departments managed to reduce the number of flights taken between 2007 to the end of 2009.

The worst performers include HM Revenues & Customs and the Department of Health. Flying in both departments increased over the three year period. Even the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC), that is in charge of a multi million advertising campaign urging the public to cut emissions from transport, spent £715,115 on 1,378 flights last year, with 676 of those taken domestically.

Ben Stewart, of Greenpeace, said the last Government should have done more to improve its own performance on cutting flights and urged new ministers to act. "For a Government that boasted about its commitment to fighting climate change, they could and should have done better on cutting their own impact on the environment from flying," he added.

But a spokesman for DECC said all departments are working to cut flights wherever possible. He pointed out that DECC only takes flights when rail travel is too expensive or time consuming and the carbon emissions are offset.

Friends of the Earth said everyone needs to take the train wherever possible if the UK is to meet climate change targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.


The Environment Agency is the first Government quango
to ban flights to destinations that can easily be reached by train

Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent - Daily Telegraph - 7 June 2010

Staff at the watchdog, that is in charge of protecting the UK's environment, are not allowed to fly anywhere in England and Wales. Flights to Paris and Brussels that are a few hours away by train are also banned and journeys to most destinations in Continental Europe will be taken by train.

However staff will be allowed to travel to Edinburgh and Glasgow by plane in exceptional circumstances because the rail service is still a slow and expensive option.

The organisation has already reduced business car mileage by 24 per cent (11 million miles) over the last four years and is expected to save approximately 30 tonnes of carbon a year through its new policy.

Dr Paul Leinster, Environment Agency Chief Executive, said staff will only travel when necessary. "We aim to lead the way on environmental performance. Our restriction on domestic air travel builds on previous and continuing action on business mileage, energy use, waste to landfill and renewable energy generation. It's another important step in reducing our carbon emissions," he said. "Reducing energy use, carbon emissions and waste can all help to reduce operating costs and environmental impacts."

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has been criticised for allowing staff to take more than 1,000 domestic flights, including 26 return flights to Manchester that can be reached in two-and-a-half hours by train.

Environmental groups welcomed the actions of the Environment Agency and said other Government agencies must now implement a similar policy.


A Bishop has been accused of double standards for arranging a pilgrimage
to Turkey - nine days after saying flying was "damaging God's planet"

Daily Telegraph - 8 June 2010

The Rt Rev Nicholas Reade described airline companies as the "most polluting form of travel the world has ever known". He said that families should think "long and hard" about the consequences of jetting off for holidays abroad and that people should cut "indiscriminate" use of planes, including long-haul flights.

The Bishop urged businesses to halt frequent flights for meetings when video conferencing is available, and said people should have an annual allocation of air miles, limiting their travel, with levels bar-coded onto passports. But now it has emerged that the Bishop has planned a nine-day trip to Turkey visiting the sites of seven historic churches - and has already flown to the location for research purposes.

He has asked vicars to appeal to their congregations for people interested in the May 2011 trip - with 30 parishioners signing up so far. The party will travel the more than 1,600 miles flying from Manchester to Istanbul on a Turkish Airlines flight, before visiting the ruins of early Christian communities including Ephesus, Miletus and Loadicea.

The Bishop of Blackburn, the Church of England leader of East Lancashire, defended the trip, which he is personally leading, and said that it would be a vital spiritual and learning experience for his congregation.

Michelle Di Leo, director of pro-aviation campaign FlyingMatters, said: "Clearly for the bishop it is one rule for him and one for the rest of us. He can try to justify this trip, yet he does not think it is appropriate for people to travel across the globe for holidays or to see their families. To preach to others while he enjoys the benefits is unacceptable." Ms Di Leo said that under the Bishop's own criteria it seemed hard to justify taking so many people on the trip.

Businesswoman Margo Grimshaw, who often uses air travel for work and holidays, said: "It sounds like another case of 'do as I say, not as I do'."

Brian Jackson, of East Lancashire Friends of the Earth, said: "He is right to suggest people should cut down on unnecessary flying, but one should practice what one preaches. He shouldn't fly to Turkey. You can get a very fast train through France or Spain."

The visit will follow a journey completed by St Paul in what was Asia Minor, taking in the Seven Churches of Revelation.

Around one tonne of CO2 is produced for every 4,000 miles flown by an air traveller, but experts said that the pollution damage to the atmosphere at 30,000ft is double that at ground level.

Environmental charity WWF, which is campaigning for UK businesses to cut out one in five flights within five years, urged the Bishop to consider alternatives which cut the need for flying.

Lucy Bertenshaw, WWFs campaign manager for transport, said: "We are working with businesses to help cut unnecessary flying, adopting conferencing technologies, such as audio, web and video, where possible, or choosing lower carbon travel. We would hope the Bishop reduces the need to travel and uses audio, web or video conferencing where possible."

Last week the Bishop said: "People should lift their eyes to our crowded skies and speak out, not least for the vulnerable victims of climate change, against indiscriminate air travel that damages God's world. I am not say 'do not fly' but I am saying 'think of the consequences'."

"Inequality, trade imbalances and the questionable need to take long-haul holidays were all illustrated by the crisis following the eruption of the Icelandic volcano. How many of those who found themselves stranded at the wrong end of flight routes really needed to be there?"

"We are persuaded by economics and status that we 'need' holidays abroad whenever we feel like it, and so we are happy to go on booking seats on the most polluting form of travel the world has ever known. It is God's world we live in; a place for wonder and respect. It is not a kind of holiday resort to be polluted with airline kerosene, or a market to be raided through exploiting others."

"Someone suggested to me that there should be a re-definition of air miles, not as a reward for frequent flying, but as a recognition of environmental obligation. Everyone could receive an annual allocation, with levels bar-coded onto passports. Those declining to fly could sell their miles to tourists and businesspeople, with prices increasing for miles travelled. Such a move would help people decide whether they really needed to fly half-way round the world before they felt they were on holiday, and businesses to reconsider so many international meetings, in these days of video-conferencing."

But yesterday defending the Turkey trip, he said: "The New Testament is quite rightly the handbook for our faith and to visit the places that actions happened or visit the communities where letters were written always helps to make the Christian story more relevant and vibrant."

The Bishop said the visit did not contradict his views on "indiscriminate" flying, despite encouraging large numbers of his flock to join him in the trip. He said: "I was not talking about stopping flying, but about flights in moderation. This is not just any trip or holiday. We will be following in the steps of St Paul and illustrating and putting our faith in context. Three years ago I went to Turkey with a small group from the Diocese, and as we were returning I felt this was something that it would be good to share more widely."


Automotive - 23 June 2010

INDUSTRIAL landlord Segro completed its purchase of BAA's 50 per cent stake in the Airport Property Partnership (APP) yesterday, by selling £237m of its own assets to the venture. The sale means the APP portfolio of UK airport real estate has grown to £684m, the biggest investor in the sector.

Segro agreed to buy into the partnership with Aviva for £111.3m in April, and has now transferred assets at Heathrow, Gatwick and central London. The price of the assets sold to APP represents a 5.1 per cent net initial yield.

"Through these two transactions, Segro has significantly strengthened its Heathrow portfolio, one of our core locations... and generated net disposal proceeds for the group," said Segro chief executive Ian Coull.

OUR COMMENT: How much property round Stansted is involved? It is believed to include the commercial unit inside the airport that was recently the subject of an application for change of use to non airport activities, in contravention of Uttlesford's policy of reserving airport space for airport activities. Permission was not granted.

Pat Dale


Financial Times - 23 June 2010

There is often a whiff of unreality about Dubai. When state-owned airline Emirates made one of the biggest ever civil aircraft orders earlier this month, it looked like a case in point. The global airline industry has lost $25bn in the past two years. Recovery hinges on resisting the temptation (it usually fails) to order more planes in the upturn - in effect pursuing market share at the expense of profitability.

Airline chiefs are promising "capacity discipline" this time and well they should. But the Middle Eastern airlines seem to be living in a parallel universe. Capacity there is set to rise 16 per cent this year and Emirates' latest purchase means it now has 90 double-decker Airbus A380s on order, more than half its current fleet size.

But there is method to this madness. Dubai is turning itself into a central hub for air transfer traffic between west and east. New planes fly far enough to give Emirates, which flew 27m passengers last year compared with British Airways' 31m, a global reach. They are also more efficient, allowing the airline to undercut European flag carriers such as British Airways and Air France-KLM on price.

Passengers will always pay more for direct flights but many are willing to transfer if the ticket is cheaper and the wait is not too long. As for profitability, Emirates lacks the legacy costs and rebellious workforces that plague the older flag carriers. And when the oil price goes up, its owners' pockets just get deeper. Emirates made about $1bn in net profit last year and had an operating margin near 10 per cent.

All that adds up to a potentially disruptive force in the long-haul market, though Emirates will first have to deploy its new planes profitably and secure more slots at major airports. That could lead to cheaper long-haul flights in bigger and greener planes. Airline investors should be worried; consumers might well shrug and grin.


Stanstedairport.com - 23 June 2010

AirAsia X has introduced a new premium cabin, with flatbed business class seats, on its fleet of aircraft operating between Stansted and Kuala Lumpur.

Speaking at the launch of the new premium class seating, Stansted Airport's Commercial and Development Director, Nick Barton, commented: "Stansted is at the heart of low-cost air travel in Europe and we're delighted to be part of this exciting development in long-haul, low-cost, premium flatbed seating."

"AirAsia X is revolutionising air travel connections between Europe, Asia and beyond. A recent survey of passengers departing Stansted showed that two thirds of travellers were connecting on flights from Kuala Lumpur, with over 90% booked on AirAsia's network to destinations including Melbourne, Perth, Singapore and Hong Kong."

"The new premium cabin is an exciting development for long-haul business class passengers, and we look forward to supporting AirAsia X as they continue to develop their services here at Stansted."

AirAsia X CEO Azran Osman-Rani said: "As frequent flyers ourselves, we understand the great need for comfort especially for long-haul flights. AirAsia X is currently flying from Stansted to Kuala Lumpur and on to long-haul destinations in Australia, China, and India in addition to the short-haul destinations available across the Asia Pacific network and beyond. Both business and leisure travellers can now enjoy greater low-fare connectivity than ever before whilst treating themselves to the luxury and comfort of our new Premium FlatBed seats."

"AirAsia X routes have seen encouraging feedback on the new seats; from our Australian cousins who like a bit of lay flat luxury to our friends in India, China and further afield enjoying the low cost option of flying flat compared to the legacy carriers."

OUR COMMENT: Flat beds or not, Air Asia is still too noisy for those in bed down below!

Pat Dale


EU fines for pollution should be welcomed if they force the government to act

Comment on Mike Tuffrey's report - The Guardian - 23 June 2010

The report on Britain being given a second and final warning by the European commission to clean up the capital's air (Clean up! Europe warns Britain 4 June) quoted a spokesman for the mayor of London saying that his air quality strategy will help to "address the concerns that triggered this legal action". I am far from convinced.

European Union warnings about fines for air pollution might seem like the last thing we need, but this was a necessary decision. Emission level laws have been in force since 2005. The previous government failed to act, and the mayor, Boris Johnson, is simply not showing the urgency required.

Poor air quality is one of the biggest public health issues facing the UK, with the problem most severe in central London due to high levels of traffic. As the article quoted: "Particle pollution is responsible for more than 4,300 premature deaths a year in London at an annual cost of up to £2bn." This figure came from the mayor's London air quality strategy, but the Commons environmental audit committee also predicted that, across the UK, poor air quality was responsible for up 50,000 premature deaths.

Much attention is rightly given to reducing the 3,000 deaths on our roads, including talk of tough new alcohol limits. Yet because air pollution is largely invisible, both Whitehall and the mayor have been able to dither and delay.

Since the European commission started legal proceedings against the UK some 18 months ago the number of new practical measures to tackle air pollution has been pitiful. In the meantime many children in London have faced stunted development of their lungs, and 690,000 Londoners continue to suffer from asthma.

There was no clearer demonstration of the complacency in tackling air pollution than that of Johnson's spokesman, who dismissed the EU's legal threat because "the mayor has published an air quality strategy and the government has resubmitted additional information to the commission".

However, for the mayor's strategy to address the EU's concerns would depend on desperate measures, including hosing down roads and making unannounced road closures in central London on bad days.

Instead of these ragbag measures, the mayor must consider bolder and more effective proposals. A plan for a clean air zone in central London - modelled on Berlin, where only vehicles which comply with emissions standards can be driven - would take the oldest and most polluting diesel engines off our streets and offer help for both retro-fitting filters and scrappage. It would put to good use the existing camera technology in the western extension area that Johnson wants to dismantle.

The threat of EU fines is not the main issue. Yet if they persuade Whitehall and the mayor into taking real action we might one day look back and be grateful that it was these fines, or the threat of them, that finally tackled the killer of air pollution.

OUR COMMENT: London is only part of a nationwide problem, mainly traffic induced, but aircraft and airport traffic can make a significant contribution round expanding airports.

Pat Dale


Which? customer survey shows Thomas Cook ranked worst
for leg room, while Ryanair criticised for baggage allowance

Helen Pidd - The Guardian - 22 June 2010

British airlines were poorly rated in a Which? survey with Thomas Cook Airlines worst for short haul flights.

After months of dealing with volcanic ash cloud disruption, British airlines have been dealt another blow: they are some of the worst carriers in the world, according to a customer survey from the consumer magazine, Which?

While Swiss Airlines came top of the satisfaction list for passengers on short haul flights, the eight worst-rated carriers were all British. Thomas Cook Airlines came bottom of the short haul table, deemed worst for leg room; while no-frills airline Ryanair was rated poorly for its checked baggage allowance. Jet2.com, Easyjet, BMI Baby, Thomson Airways and Monarch Airlines were all poorly rated.

After a year plagued by strikes and record losses, British Airways came out middling in the Which? research. Customers on its short haul flights praised BA's cabin staff, cleanliness and approach to dealing with delays, but it was still rated just 11th out of 18 airlines. On long haul flights, BA's inflight entertainment was well rated, but the airline fell short on value for money, leg room and refreshments.

The best airline to fly long distance with, according to Which?, is Air New Zealand, which was rated top for cleanliness and inflight entertainment. Second best was Singapore Airlines, with Emirates coming third. The Middle Eastern airline was rated top for checked-in baggage allowance, permitting each passenger a 30kg bag.

The survey also found that despite Ryanair's reputation as the cheapest airline in Europe, the Irish carrier was often not the cheapest option for a family of four travelling with hold luggage. Flying London to Barcelona, for example, Easyjet was far cheaper, and deposits passengers in the city's main airport, whereas Ryanair uses an airport actually in Girona - a 57-mile ?12 bus ride away.

Which? also reports on how expensive it can be for British passengers reaching airports by train, particularly those using London airports. The cost of a single ticket from Glasgow to Prestwick airport cost just 17p a mile, whereas it costs £1.22 a mile on the Heathrow Express between Paddington and Heathrow.

"We've also found evidence suggesting that, on routes to the three biggest London airports, train companies could be deliberately bumping up fares for customers travelling to airport stations," said Which? in its new Holiday magazine.

When Which? compared the cost of travelling per mile to the station one stop before the airport on the Stansted Express, there was a 24% difference between the 39p per mile you would pay from Liverpool Street to Stansted Mountfichet, and the 51p per mile you would pay to the airport instead. The result is that it would be cheaper to get out at Mountfichet and hail a cab.


Governments change. Budgets come and go. But some things in life stay the same - the sale of the Tote, for example, for which the phrase "betting in running" must have been invented

Alistair Osborne and Helia Ebrahimi - Daily Telegraph - 23 June 2010

The bookmaker, now going through the Government auction ring for the fifth time since 2001, headed a familiar field of state-owned assets again put up for sale by a Chancellor desperate to cut our £155bn deficit.

Royal Mail, NATS, High Speed 1, the student loan book, some super-fast radio waves and, potentially, the Dartford Crossing (again) completed the Budget line-up. But the bad news is that, in the context of the deficit, they are all relatively worthless - or at least worth less than they once were.

Take the Tote. Each time it goes round the track, triggering a fresh bout of internecine warfare in the racing industry, the bookie comes back worse for wear. The previous Government said neigh to a £400m offer - after a private equity bidder fell foul of the stewards. Now the word on the rails is that £200m would be a good price.

High Speed 1, the fast rail link, might go for £1.5bn - though only £500m of that is likely to be equity. Worse, the previous administration spent £5.7bn building it - so a sale actually crystallises a big loss.

The Government's 49pc stake in air traffic control company NATS is worth about £500m, but bankers advise that this may prove a tough sale to get off the ground. An airline group holds 42pc of the equity, NATS' staff own 5pc, and BAA has 4pc, making for a potentially messy sale.

The Dartford Crossing might raise serious money - £1.5bn to £2.5bn, if a buyer has relative freedom to set tariffs. But that also depends on the Government parking plans to build a second bridge funded by the private sector. Build that and the Crossing's value plummets.

As for Royal Mail, it could be floated - but only if the Government guarantees the postal group's £10bn pension deficit, dwarfing its value. No buyer will take that on.

Oddly, George Osborne forgot to mention one of the Government's most prized assets - its stake in uranium enrichment group Urenco, worth £2bn plus. Maybe nuking the deficit isn't really an option, though.

OUR COMMENT: NATS holds the keys to the skies - who will, who should, control the keys?

Pat Dale


Katia Moskvitch, Science Reporter - BBC News - 3 June 2010

UK received a first warning about London's air pollution levels in 2009.

The European Commission has threatened to take the UK to the European Court of Justice over air quality breaches.

The UK could end up paying as much as £300m in fines.

The government received a second and "final" warning from the commission after the levels of dangerous airborne particles, or PM10s, in London and Gibraltar exceeded EU limits. The commission says high levels of PM10 may lead to serious health problems.

"Air pollution is bad for our health. It reduces human life expectancy by more than eight months on average and by more than two years in the most polluted cities and regions," said the EU's environment commissioner Janez Potocnik.

Surprise reaction

The UK government said the warning was "a surprise". "It's disappointing that the commission has felt it necessary to issue a second and final written warning," said a spokesperson for the UK's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

"As the commission is currently assessing the UK's request for additional time to meet the limit value in London, and has nine months to do so, it is difficult to see what further action the commission expects the UK to take."

"We remain confident that the evidence presented should satisfy the Commission. Furthermore, the Mayor of London has committed to applying targeted measures at priority locations if necessary."

The UK received its first warning in early 2009. It then tried to get a time extension for meeting the EU standards, but the request was denied. The Commission judged that London did not have any real plans for cleaning up the air and would not be able to reduce pollution by the time the exemption period expired in 2011.

But a spokesperson for the Mayor of London commented: "The government made a submission to the European Commission last year seeking additional time to meet limit values. Since then the Mayor has published an air quality strategy and the government has re-submitted additional information to the Commission. We are therefore confident that these developments will address the concerns that triggered this legal action. London is well on track to meet and exceed these values by 2011."

The additional data was submitted by the government in May. It has not yet received a reply - but a "final" warning instead.

Health problems

Small enough to be inhaled, PM10s are emitted mainly by cars, factories and domestic heating systems. Breathing in too much of these pollutants may lead to asthma, cardiovascular problems, lung cancer and premature death, said the commission.

Liberal Democrat London Assembly environment spokesperson Mike Tuffrey called the warning "a real wake up call to both central Government and the Mayor of London".

Murad Qureshi, the Labour Party's environment spokesman, said he did not believe London Mayor Boris Johnson was doing enough to tackle the problem. "It's no great surprise that London is singled out as the bad boy when our mayor won't take the bold, brave action necessary to improve the air we breathe," he said.

According to the charity Environmental Protection UK, some 35,000 people die from particle pollution in the country every year - and as many as 4,300 in London alone.

"Whilst [the previous UK government] has been waiting, the health of thousands of people has suffered," said Philip Mulligan, the charity's CEO. "We can only hope that the new government takes real action to improve the air we breathe rather than continuing to try to duck out of our commitments."

Other activists say that Mr Johnson must stop "relying on the government to act". "By making London a safer place to walk and cycle and improving public transport, the Mayor could get people out of cars and ensure cleaner air for everyone who lives, works in or visits the capital," said Friends of the Earth's London campaigner Jenny Bates.

OUR COMMENT: PM10 is not a problem in Uttlesford or around Stansted airport but other engine (vehicle and aircraft) emissions, namely nitrogen oxides, are a potential danger to health especially in traffic congestion areas such as Bishop's Stortford's London Road junction (airport and local traffic) and in Saffron Walden (local traffic) where four areas show too high measurements. Hatfield Forest and its ancient trees are also at risk from aircraft emissions.

Pat Dale


Michael O'Leary, the colourful chief executive of Ryanair, will find himself £20m richer later this year after Europe's biggest low-cost carrier
announced plans to pay a dividend

Daily Telegraph - 1 June 2010

Ryanair told shareholders today that it will pay a one-off special dividend of £500m in October, as it slows spending on new planes. Mr O'Leary, who has been at the helm of the airline since 1994, owns about 4pc of Ryanair's shares.

"It doesn't look like we're going to make a deal to buy planes in the near term, so it was appropriate to return money to shareholders," Howard Millar, Ryanair's chief financial officer, told Bloomberg News.

Ryanair's first dividend since the company went public in 1997 came as the airline reported a sharp rise in profits to £319m in the year to March 31, from £105m. Sales for the year edged higher to £2.99bn from £2.94bn. The carrier benefited from lower fuel costs during the year.

Despite its expectation that fuel costs will rise in the current year, Ryanair is confident that higher fares will see its profits climb to between £350m and £375m. Mr O'Leary also attacked the decision to close European airspace in April, as ash from the Icelandic volcano swept across the continent. Forced cancellations cost the airline about £50m.

Joe Gill, an analyst at Bloxham Securities, told Bloomberg that "the chasm between their business model and the rest of the airline industry is remarkably stark. The big surprise, though, is the timing of the special dividend. I guess they are more confident with their cash-flow predictions."

Shares in Ryanair climbed 5pc to £3.45 in early trading in Dublin.


Daily Telegraph - 1 June 2010

Mr O'Leary, the airline's chief executive, rounded on the Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre for its handling of aviation's biggest crisis since the war.

The low-cost airline's outspoken boss, whose initial response to the Met Office's handling of the volcanic eruption had been restrained, described the creation of a no-fly zone as "entirely unnecessary." During the six day shutdown thousands of flights were grounded and the travel plans of millions of passengers were thrown into disarray.

In April Mr O'Leary was careful not to join others in the industry who had poured scorn on the charts produced by the Met Office which led to the closure of British airspace. But with his airline facing a £50 million bill as a result of the lockdown - mainly in paying the hotel and food bills of those stranded by the wave of flight cancellations - Mr O'Leary was withering in his condemnation.

He said that Met Office charts "suggested the that the big black plume of volcanic ash had spread from Iceland all over the southern Atlantic, much of continental Europe and half way across Russia as well as over a large part of the arctic circle."

"The fact is the sun wasn't blocked out in any of these areas and none of is could see a bl**dy thing didn't seem to worry the Met Office, where we suspect the only place that there was volcanic ash was in the basement of the Met Office or in between the ears of the people who produced these charts," he said.

"I don't mind paying passenger right to care when it is our fault. But if it is not our fault and some stupid regulator or government has closed down airspace, because some idiot in a basement in the Met Office in London spills coffee over the map of Europe and produces a big black cloud, we shouldn't be paying for your right to care," Mr O'Leary continued.

"They made a complete dog's balls of it yet passed this cost onto the airlines. We paid compensation for their mismanagement for and incompetence."

Mr O'Leary also called for the amendment of EU regulations which meant that airlines had to pick up stranded passengers' hotel bills following the volcanic eruption. "It's absurd that your travel insurance company pays out nothing because it's an act of God and therefore is excluded from the policy, yet the poor old airline pays for your seven or four extra days of holidays in the Canary Islands at a cost far in excess of the 30 euros you paid us."

Mr O'Leary also denied "profiteering" after Ryanair announced that customers will face higher baggage charges in the peak July and August months. Customers will have to pay £20 for their first checked-in bag, up from £15, and £50 for their second bag - doubled from £25. He insisted it was a move to discourage passengers from carrying unnecessary amounts of baggage for short breaks.

The Met Office defended its handling of the volcanic ash crisis. "We work to recognised international standards which are set aviation industry itself. Our model can be configured to provide forecasts to any tolerance of ash that is deemed safe by the aviation regulatory authorities. The advice we produce always combines information from radar, satellite and research aircraft. We use this material to create and verify our forecasts."

"Our dispersion model has a highly successful track record - including prediction of the spread of pollution resulting from the 1991 Kuwaiti oil fires during the First Gulf War); The movement of the smoke plume across southern England from the 2005 Buncefield oil depot accident and the 2008 Bluetongue outbreak in northern Europe."


Daily Mail Reporter - 3 June 2010

Ryanair is increasing the cost of checking-in suitcases to up to £80 per bag during the summer holiday season.

The airline promotes itself as a budget fare operator but hits passengers with a raft of 'must pay' extra charges that dramatically push up the price of flights. The charge for a first bag that is checked into the hold via Ryanair's website will rise from £15 to £20 in July and August, while the figure for the second bag goes up from £35 to £40.

Ryanair customers will have to pay £20 for their first checked-in bag, up from £15, under new charges announced yesterday. But a customer who forgets to check-in online will be charged £40 for the first bag and £80 for a second bag at the airport in July and August.

The same charges will apply if the flight has been booked through a call centre. At present the charges are £35 for a first bag and £70 for a second bag. The increases will hit families with young children particularly hard as they have no choice but to check-in extra bags with nappies, clothes and other equipment.

And Ryanair has a relatively mean limit of 15kg for checked-in bags, which is lower than many airlines. If a family of four were to check in eight bags at the airport - rather than online - the bill could be as much as £480 each way. Ryanair is also planning to charge passengers £1 to use lavatories on its planes.

The company has profited from the strikes at British Airways as worried travellers seek alternative carriers to avoid disruption.

The increase in bag charges was condemned by industry experts. Bob Atkinson, of travelsupermarket.com, said: "This is cynical exploitation from Ryanair and a real blow for families travelling on a budget."

Rochelle Turner, head of research at Which? Holiday, said: "Ryanair might claim that they are incentivising people to travel light, but we think it is more a case of penalising those families who can only go away on holiday at this time. Having to pay an extra for checking in bags during July and August is unfair."

The airline's controversial chief executive, Michael O'Leary, confirmed the baggage charges yesterday as he revealed profits for the year to March of £281million. He claimed the figures as a triumph when compared to a loss of £150million the year before. The company reported a 14 per cent increase in travellers to 67 million.

Ryanair claims the higher fees are designed to 'incentivise' people to take as little luggage as possible. Mr O'Leary said: "We are pretty much telling you we don't want your second bag at all. How can we be profiteering when we are making it more affordable for families to go on holiday?"

He said his family had paid 100 euros in baggage fees on Ryanair last year. He will have no problem paying the higher charges this year, for he is in line for a dividend payment of £16.7million on his 4 per cent shareholding in the airline.


Daily Mail - 2 June 2010

The boss of Airbus-owner EADS appeared to rule out the prospect of striking a deal to sell its planes to Irish carrier Ryanair until its motormouth chief Michael O'Leary 'changes'.

Ryanair recently dropped plans to buy 200 new aircraft from Airbus rival Boeing after talks collapsed following a squabble over the price. Notoriously tough negotiator O'Leary has previously hinted he may go back to Airbus to open talks about a new order.

But Louis Gallois last night seemed to indicate Airbus would not be interested in opening negotiations while O'Leary remains in charge. He said: "We will leave Boeing working with Mr O'Leary."

Asked if this meant Airbus would never deal with Ryanair, he added: "Never is a long time. But maybe one day Mr O'Leary will change, but until then it is very difficult."

It follows this week's pledge by Ryanair to return £418m to shareholders in a one-off dividend, as it now has surplus cash.

The boss of the pan-European defence and aerospace group also urged European governments to continue supporting the fragile economic recovery with stimulus operations. He added: "My main concern is that we need to maintain some growth in European economies. If austerity plans are leading countries to cut public sector spending or to increase taxes, that does not support growth."

"I think everybody has to be careful not to kill growth in Europe. Europe is the most depressed big area in the world at the moment."

The EADS chief also highlighted the group's plight in hiring sufficient numbers of engineers in the UK and the rest of Europe, forcing it to hire graduates in India, China and Russia.


Martin Ferguson - Air Travel - 4 June 2010

ABTA, the UK travel agents' association, today (June 3) called on the travel industry to battle possible government plans to raise taxes on long haul flights. The Association said it wanted its members, business travellers, holidaymakers and all industry figures to "barrage" their MPs over their concerns about higher taxes.

The UK's new Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government has said it will reform the current and controversial Airport Passenger Duty (APD). It is expected to replace it with a per-plane duty (PPD), a tax levied on planes rather than passengers. But the government has not said it will lift the increase in APD planned to come into force this November.

APD, which was also increased last November, is then due to rise by £1 per passenger on short haul flights, £12 on medium haul and between £25 and £30 on long haul journeys.

ABTA, whose members are mainly in the leisure travel industry, said it "cautiously" welcomed the tax switch from passengers to planes. But it warned against "aggressive and punitive rates of tax which will price average travellers out of foreign holidays, endanger jobs and damage the UK's position as a global aviation hub".

Mark Tanzer, ABTA's ceo, said: "A rise in aviation tax levels will put pressure on jobs and damage local economies reliant on tourist expenditure both here and abroad at a time when as an industry, we are already suffering."

"A fairer banding system which is more closely aligned with distance travelled will be absolutely necessary to ensure that there is no further financial burden on those who can least afford it. We'll be pressing for PPD to be fully consulted upon so that the poorest nations and travellers are not hit the hardest."


SSE's poster campaign was launched this week

Saffron Walden Reporter - 3 June 2010

STOP Stansted Expansion (SSE) has launched the final stage of its campaign against major expansion at Stansted Airport.

The key message of SSE's new initiative is 'Never Again ... but we'll settle for 50 years' and the objective is to secure a commitment that no additional runways will be permitted at Stansted until 2060 at the earliest.

SSE's first action has been to write to BAA chief executive Colin Matthews setting out the justification for the moratorium, as follows:

"The people of this area have lived under the threat of a further runway or runways at Stansted Airport for almost half a century. On four separate occasions since the early 1960s we have had to mobilise, raise funds and expend enormous amounts of time and energy, fighting one public inquiry after another in order to defeat the threat. On each of those four occasions we have ultimately won the argument, but only to find that the same or similar plans for an additional runway or runways at Stansted are resurrected a decade or so later. We believe this is profoundly unfair and that it is time to say that 'enough is enough'.

In 1979 BAA provided the people living in the vicinity of Gatwick Airport with long term peace of mind by entering into a legally binding agreement with the local planning authority that it would not build a second Gatwick runway for a period of at least 40 years, i.e. before 2019.

We believe that it is now Stansted's turn to have long term peace of mind and for the reasons we have explained above we regard 50 years as the appropriate duration for a Stansted moratorium."

SSE wants to see a commitment to a 50 year moratorium on any new runways at Stansted included in the Government's new National Policy Statement on airports, due to be published in draft form early next year. This will largely determine the long term future for Stansted and will be finalised following public consultation in 2011.

SSE wants to ensure that the local community is fully aware of the importance of the forthcoming National Policy Statement and its new campaign is designed to raise local awareness so that as many people as possible respond to next year's public consultation. As part of the build up to this the 'Never again' theme will feature prominently in a new poster campaign.

Over the coming months SSE will also be aiming to enlist support for its efforts from all relevant local authorities in the vicinity of Stansted Airport as well from local MPs and all East of England MEPs. SSE will also be meeting Government ministers and other leading politicians to press the case for a 50 year moratorium on major expansion at Stansted Airport.

Commenting on the start of the campaign, SSE campaign director, Carol Barbone, said: "Having had to face up to - and defeat - the threat of a second Stansted runway four times in the past 50 years, we believe that the people of this area have now earned the right to be given 50 years peace of mind. And there is already a precedent. In 1979, BAA gave a legally binding guarantee that there would be no second runway at Gatwick for at least 40 years. It's now Stansted's turn."


Letter to the Dunmow Broadcast - 3 June 2010

I WONDER if the Stop Stansted Expansion nimbys, pictured cavorting around on the front page of the Broadcast (May 27) have considered the effect on other people of the scrapping of the plan to construct a second runway?

Articles in other local newspapers quote the loss of thousands of prospective jobs in the area. Proposed plans by BAA to increase the utilisation of Stansted's remaining single runway would lead to increased delays to inbound flights, as an increased number of landings are co-ordinated with an increased number of takeoffs.

This would have the effect of greater noise and environmental pollution on those unfortunate enough to live under the main inbound holding points. One is to the north-east of Thaxted, and the other to the west of Harlow.

I imagine that the SSE heroes will now have time on their hands. After removing their signs which are disfiguring our local roadsides, perhaps they could all join in the Takeley antispeeding Taliban.

This seems to involve growing a beard, preferably in the style of an Amish farmer and then, armed with a clipboard and a hi-viz jacket, standing by the roadside in Takeley pointing a hairdryer at passing motorists and pretending to be a speed trap.

Ray Canway

OUR COMMENT: The Stansted/Uttlesford area is fortunate in that to date unemployment has been lower than in other areas and a high proportion of those who work in the airport have to travel from the surrounding areas including North London. It makes much more sense if investment that creates new jobs is made in areas where they are needed and where risks to the health of local residents are not put at risk. Ray Canway is correct in prophesying that maximum use of the existing runway will cause more noise and pollution (and a few more jobs), he should join SSE and campaign for better environmental controls and air flight charges that are more representative of the damage caused to our environment. We should all think before we fly!

Pat Dale


Sarah Arnott - The Independent - 1 June 2010

Britain's airlines will today demand compensation for the volcanic ash debacle from the new coalition Transport Secretary.

Although meetings have been going on with Whitehall officials since the eruption in Iceland closed parts of European airspace for six days in April, today is the first chance airlines have had to raise the issue with the Secretary of State, Philip Hammond.

There are two elements to the carriers' call for compensation. First, they claim that the authorities over-reacted by instituting a blanket ban on air travel and were too slow to refine the response. Second, they say airlines should not have to bear the costs of disruption caused by natural disasters.

The carriers are seeking hundreds of millions of pounds in recompense from the Government, to cover both income lost during the shutdown and costs incurred looking after passengers who were stranded abroad.

Airlines have paid a heavy price for the ash cloud, with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimating a global price tag of $1.7bn (£1.1bn).

Although no immediate decision on compensation is expected from Mr Hammond, the industry will put its case vociferously. An insider said: "The discussion will come back to the view that not everything was done to prevent the crisis happening in the first place, and also that once it happened not everything was done to re-open airspace quickly."

The first part of the claim focuses on the authorities' responses to the crisis, which the IATA's director general, Giovanni Bisignani, has labelled "a European embarrassment and a European mess".

Airlines are incensed that politicians took so long to appreciate the magnitude of the problem, leaving five full days of chaos caused by the flights ban before ministers from different countries even spoke to one another.

"Europe was closed down, transport systems were paralysed and the airlines were dead scared and working around the clock but [ministers] all went away for the weekend as if nothing was happening," said an industry source. "That is clearly not a sensible way of going about things."

Airlines are also critical of the use of computer models to estimate areas affected by the ash and then to ban all flights, rather than using more sophisticated satellite images to establish precise concentrations of debris and allow airlines to shift flight plans to avoid worst-hit areas.

Since the initial crisis in April, the regulators' models have been refined and subsequent closures have been more targeted. But carriers will also want to discuss how airspace closures are managed in the future.

The other main concern is about responsibility. In the event of natural disasters, governments tend to meet their citizens' needs. But airlines were caught out because aviation legislation states that a carrier must look after its passengers if a flight is disrupted. "It turns out that we are the unlimited insurer of last resort in the case of a natural catastrophe, which clearly cannot be right," one insider said.

Given the parlous state of the public finances, the industry is resigned to a long battle for compensation and is considering at legal options. "The expectation is that we will not get anything without legal recourse," a source said.


Sarah Arnott - The Independent - 8 June 2010

Europe's aviation industry is facing worsening losses, even as the rest of the world's airlines are expected to return to profit, the International Air Transport Association (Iata) warned yesterday.

Thanks to sharp improvements in the global economic outlook, particularly in the Far East, Iata is now forecasting $2.5bn (£1.7bn) profits for the industry this year, rather than the $2.8bn annual loss it predicted as recently as March.

"The global economy is recovering from the depths of the financial crisis much more quickly than could have been anticipated," Iata's director-general, Giovanni Bisignani, told the organisation's annual conference in Berlin yesterday. "Airlines are benefiting from a strong traffic rebound that is pushing the industry into the black."

Global passenger demand is now expected to grow by 7.1 per cent this year, cargo demand by 18.5 per cent, and yields by 4.5 per cent. And every region except Europe is on track to make money. In Asia-Pacific, profits are expected to hit $2.2bn; in North America $1.9bn; in Latin America $900m. Even in Africa, airlines are looking at $100m profits - their first since 2002.

But in Europe, the industry is lagging so badly that Iata has actually downgraded its forecasts, and is now forecasting $2.8bn losses, even worse than the $2.2bn loss it was forecasting three months ago. "The recovery is asymmetrical," Mr Bisignani said. "Worsening conditions in Europe are in sharp contrast to improvements in all other regions."

The biggest factor behind Europe's poor performance is the economic situation. With GDP growth expected to be a meagre 0.9 per cent this year - compared with the whopping 7 per cent expected in Asia (excluding Japan), and as much as 9.9 per cent in China - European air travel is simply not seeing the boost in traffic volumes becoming evident elsewhere.

But economics is just one of a litany of difficulties bedevilling the region's airlines. There is also a political dimension. A lack of political leadership is creating immense uncertainty over the Greek sovereign debt crisis and the implications for the euro, weighing down demand for travel and sending consumers hunting extra-hard for bargain, Iata says.

The region's airlines are also struggling with industrial relations problems, including cabin crew strikes at British Airways and pilot walk-outs at Lufthansa earlier in the year. And then there was the eruption of Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano, which closed vast swaths of European air space for six consecutive days in April and for various short periods since. Although demand is now returning to normal, the ash cloud crisis cost the global industry some $1.8bn in lost revenues, of which 70 per cent was borne by European carriers, according to Iata's latest estimates.

Even the good news for the worldwide industry comes with a warning. Total revenues are now forecast to come in at $545bn this year, compared with $483bn in 2009. But they are still below the $564bn seen the year before. And with profit margins running at a slender 0.5 per cent, it would take only a slight dip - such as a shift in the oil price, or a miscalculation in airlines' capacity adjustments - to flip the industry back into the red.

"The industry is fragile," Mr Bisignani said. "The challenge to build a healthy industry requires even greater alignment of governments, labour, and industry partners. They must all understand that this industry needs to continue to reduce costs, gain efficiencies and be able to restructure itself if it is to be sustainably profitable."

OUR COMMENT: The industry also needs to remember that there are limits to acceptable expansion.

Pat Dale


A survey of public reaction to the absence of aircraft noise

Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign - April 2010

Due to volcanic ash, all UK air space was closed for six days in April 2010. No aircraft took off from, or landed at, Gatwick Airport, the second largest airport in the UK, between Thursday, April 15 and Wednesday, April 21.

This situation created an unparalleled opportunity to study the environmental impact of the airport. The Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign decided to undertake research into the public reaction to the unexpected absence of aircraft noise, and the cessation of airport-related road traffic. The Environmental Research Group, at Kings College, London University, in conjunction with Reigate and Banstead Borough Council, has undertaken research into the decline in local pollution at Gatwick.

GACC circulated by email a questionnaire (copy attached) to 40 parish councils in an area of roughly 15 miles radius from the airport. All are members of GACC but this did not distort the results as there are no councils in the area which are not members of GACC. The population of the councils varied from 300 to 3,000. The questionnaire was also sent to 22 environmental and amenity groups, and to three airport-related groups.


The benefits

Finally councils and groups were asked to mark out of 5 what were the main benefits of no aircraft.

More enjoyment of the countryside was mentioned by all and given top marks by nearly all. This probably included people who found more enjoyment in their gardens.

Making life less fraught was the next most important benefit (4 marks out of 5), closely followed by no visual intrusion, not having to look up (average 3.9).

Other benefits recorded by most respondents were lack of interruptions and the ability to carry on conversations (3.1 and 2.9 respectively). One respondent added the comment: 'removal of a constant irritation'.

Ten out of the sixteen respondents mentioned unbroken sleep and not being woken in the morning. These were given average marks of 3.1 and 3.0.


For six days peace was restored to the countryside around Gatwick. Older people commented that the world had gone back to what it was like in the 1930's. It was a less fraught world with blue skies and birdsong, where one could talk to one's neighbours without constant interruptions and without constant irritation, and where one could sleep more soundly at night.

It was a reminder of what the world would be like today if aircraft had not been given exemption from the laws limiting noise which apply to every other industry.

No one in their right mind would suggest that all air travel should be stopped. The very real benefits of peace and quiet do, however, suggest that continuing pressure needs to be exerted to secure more stringent controls on aircraft noise. This has been the prime purpose of GACC over the past forty years. We have achieved a good deal but this survey shows that there is still a long way to go.

Extracts from this excellent survey are available online.


Press Release - Stansted Airport Media Centre - 24 May 2010

Stansted Airport today announces that it is withdrawing its application to build a second runway at the airport.

The move follows a clear indication that Government airports policy will change, following the recent General Election.

Stansted will also withdraw, with immediate effect, the provision for assisted relocation within the home owner support scheme introduced at Stansted in 2004. However, in line with assurances given to local people, the airport will proceed with the purchase of eligible properties currently going through the process, where it can be demonstrated that the owner is marketing or has marketed the property, and has not been able to agree a sale.

David Johnston, Stansted Airport's managing director, said: "We have reflected carefully on the new Government's clear intention to change its airports policy and have moved quickly to withdraw this application."

"Stansted Airport is a key driver of economic growth in this part of England, and we will continue to work hard to bring new business here and to work with our neighbours, and the wider community, to provide jobs and strong business and travel opportunities in the months and years ahead. We continue to believe that new airport capacity is needed in the South East of England, to strengthen the UK's international trading links."



* BAA Ltd /Stansted Airport Ltd has today written to the following to advise of this decision:
Secretary of State for Transport, Government Office for the East of England, Planning Inspectorate, Dept for Transport, Dept of Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, Highways Agency, Uttlesford District Council, Essex County Council, Hertfordshire County Council, Stansted Airline Consultative Committee, SSE, those served Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs) and Compulsory Rights Orders (CROs) , objectors to the CPOs and CROs and all those within the HOSS boundary.

* The G2 applications and orders were submitted in March/April 2008.

* Home Owners Support Scheme (HOSS) - explanation of what the scheme was originally designed to do:

The voluntary scheme was to enable those property owners who qualified and who lived within the defined boundary, to sell their homes or commercial premises without financial penalty, if they needed or wanted to, before the proposed second runway opened.

As noise boundaries are usually adopted for generalised blight schemes, HOSS adopted a predicted contour of 66 dBA Leq. This represented a medium to high noise annoyance, determined by the Government as the extent of potential blight that might occur due to the operation of the new runway in 2030. This was the level used on other major infrastructure developments, such as the Channel Tunnel Rail Link.

BAA promised to buy property at a market rate index-linked from June 2002, which is the time before extra runway capacity at the airport was considered, to prevailing price levels at the time of sale. The data used to assess this movement was taken from Land Registry published data of house price movements in the county of Essex.

This was to ensure that homeowners who needed or wanted to move could sell their homes for the price they would have realised if the runway plans had not existed. The agreement would have been transferable to future home owners if current home owners sold before the runway had been given the go-ahead.

OUR COMMENT: After 10 years of the battle against unsustainable expansion there is now a respite. The original much lauded "Airport in the Countryside" only began to seriously intrude into the life of the surrounding community when the original cap of 15mppa was approaching. Since then applications for expansion have appeared at regular intervals, aided by the Labour Government's unfortunate Aviation White Paper, born in 2002 which called for a massive increase in flights and highlighted Stansted and Heathrow as airports that needed extra runways. While the realisation that the need to curb climate change has to apply to aviation as well as other industries has only partly been accepted by the Labour Party, the present coalition have consistently accepted that continued airport expansion is not desirable or necessary. However, those who still believe that bigger airports and more flights are an essential key to economic success will probably try again. We must be vigilant!

Pat Dale


John Ellul - Cambridge News - 20 May 2010

Reports that Government opposition could block plans for a second runway at Stansted Airport have been met with caution from protesters.

Following the formation of a coalition by the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, the parties published a seven-page document outlining their initial agreements, including plans for the environment. The joint statement features a pledge to block further development at London's third largest airport.

Carol Barbone, campaign director of anti-expansion group Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE), was keen to point out that people should not get too relaxed. She said: "The coalition Government's commitment to refuse a new runway at Stansted is an important milestone for us, and one that we have worked hard to achieve, but we still have work to do before we can relax our guard. Only when BAA's second runway planning application has been torn up and Government policy rewritten to oppose Stansted's expansion in the long term can we rest."

SSE is now pressing for early meetings with new Government ministers responsible for transport and planning to discuss ruling out a second runway at Stansted in the long-term. Saffron Walden MP Sir Alan Haselhurst has been at the forefront of opposition to expansion plans over the last eight years and remains firmly against a second runway at the airport.

Uttlesford District councillor Peter Wilcock welcomed the news. He said: "I am delighted that the new government coalition is backing the long-held Liberal Democrat view that aviation cannot be allowed to grow at the present rate because of its impact on climate change. The coalition's opposition to more runways at Stansted Airport is a vindication of Uttlesford Council's decision to refuse planning permission for another runway at Stansted in 2006, when the Liberal Democrats ran the council. Hopefully BAA will withdraw the application and put an end to the blight to many households."

A spokesman for BAA said: "We will work with the new Government to ensure that airports continue to play an important role in promoting jobs, economic development and building the strong international trading connections on which our future prosperity depends."


Essex County Standard - 15 May 2010

THE new Government's opposition to a second runway at Stansted is a blow to businesses in the region, it has been claimed.

The Government is firmly opposed to extra runways at the Essex terminal, Heathrow and Gatwick. The stance has been welcomed by environmental campaigners and residents.

Denise Rossiter, managing director of Essex Chambers of Commerce, says it is a major blow to businesss. The terminal is the biggest single-site employer in the East of England with more than 11,000 staff.

Ms Rossiter said a second runway would have created jobs and strengthened the case for better road infrastructure. She said: "I think it's an absolute blow for business. I am speaking on behalf of probably three quarters of our members that want Stansted. More than 200 businesses are on the airport site and it is the biggest employer for the local community."

Dr Adam Marshall, from the British Chambers of Commerce, said the decision would diminish London and the South East's attractiveness to investors, which could impact on the UK economy.

Carole Barbone, campaign director for Stop Stansted Expansion, said: "It's very good news the coalition Government has made its opposition to a second Stansted runway clear."


Angela Jameson - Times Online - 20 May 2010

Eurotunnel has enjoyed a 30 per cent increase in its online bookings since the closure of large parts of European airspace this week because of the volcanic ash cloud.

Continuing uncertainty over flights, exacerbated by planned industrial action by cabin crew at British Airways, has prompted a surge in forward bookings with the Channel Tunnel operator.

"Passengers want to take control of their travel plans," a spokesman for Eurotunnel said. "We are seeing a 50 per cent increase in visits to our website and bookings are up 30 per cent."

The company also reported a sharp upturn in business travellers buying fully flexible tickets to take their cars through the tunnel.

Eurotunnel's half-year results will be published in mid-July, giving a fuller picture of the impact of the ash cloud that was triggered by a volcanic eruption in Iceland last month.

More than 1,000 flights to and from European airports were cancelled this week when Heathrow and Gatwick were closed from Sunday evening until the following afternoon. Amsterdam Schiphol airport, one of Europe's main transit hubs, cancelled 500 flights and left 60,000 passengers stranded.

The volcano has also given the ferry industry a boost. Operators had to cope with a surge in passenger numbers last month, with thousands returning to Britain by sea, and demand remains high. Rates for crossings have soared. It will cost at least £1,000 to take a family and car to northern Spain by ferry during the school summer holidays.

Paddy Power, the bookmaker, is letting travellers "hedge" themselves against the threat of airport closure. Would-be holidaymakers can place a bet on a specified UK or Irish airport closing for at least one hour because of volcanic ash contamination, with the odds varying by airport and date.

A £1,000 holiday leaving Heathrow on July 18 can be covered by placing a bet of £50 at 20-1. Customers will each be allowed up to £2,000 of cover.


Travellers must find new ways to Channel-hop
so that we're not at the mercy of the airlines

George Pitcher - The Telegraph - 24 May 2010

Twenty-five years after we married in Piemonte, my wife and I have returned to north-west Italy to celebrate our silver wedding anniversary. Mrs P wanted to take the train, as we did a quarter of a century ago, when rail travel was cheaper than flying - but there wasn't a sleeper ticket to be had. As Turin is a British Airways destination, the threatened industrial action by cabin crew had panicked the business classes and holidaymakers alike on to the trains.

It brought home to me just how much our British airlines hold us to short-haul ransom, by virtue of a 22-mile stretch of shipping lane known as the Channel, or La Manche. They treat their passengers as freight in the air and cattle on the ground, and they shouldn't be allowed to get away with it. There are alternatives, if travellers could only be woken from their trance in the cobra eyes of the airlines.

As it happens, we drove down here. Does that mean we have hastened the progress of the planet to a carbonised grave? In truth, I don't much care any more, though not contributing to an airline's profitability is a good feeling. And once you are over that stretch of water, you see how easy life could be without a mile-high hop astride one of British Airways's or easyJet's paraffin budgies.

The beautiful, sweeping motorways consume hundreds of barely noticed kilometres, and sleek trains glide noiselessly through plains of oilseed rape, as vivid as a Van Gogh dream. It is possible to rediscover the tranquillity of a journey. We stopped for the night at a small market town called Poligny, at the foot of the Alps, where, in a converted water mill incongruously called L'Hôtel Vallée Heureuse, we ate three magnificent courses, accompanied by lovely local Jura wines, all for 38 euros. A similar experience may be available in, say, Macclesfield, but I've yet to find it.

Against that, and in exchange for the illusory convenience of speed, we are offered interminable airport queues; intrusive - and invariably pointless - security that requires further wasted hours of waiting in a fluorescent dystopia; rude and unhelpful staff; inedible food; drinks that you only take as self-medicated analgesics; and the vicissitudes of further delays from causes ranging from volcanic dust or terrorist scares to airline incompetence (this list is not mutually exclusive). We put up with this because we are seduced by the idea that it is in some way desirable to spend a couple of hours in the sky at 600 miles per hour, sandwiched between two similar periods of time checking in, losing and relocating luggage and probably many more hours travelling to and from airports.

Our problem, of course, remains the Channel. We still haven't cracked it. Nor can we still claim that our transport infrastructure on this side is woefully inadequate. With the new fast line from St Pancras, a friend tells me his commute from near Ashford in Kent has been cut from 90 to 35 minutes. It might give Ukip voters the vapours, but if Kent retained its primeval land link with northern France, we would all be barrelling south by high-speed train rather than being herded as lambs to the slaughterhouse at the aptly named airport terminals.

As it is, the capacity of Eurotunnel is pathetically inadequate, as the collapse of its system demonstrates whenever there is a snarl-up in or near its tunnels. If you're driving, the Shuttle can feel like a motorised airport, with the only escape being a ludicrously inflated FlexiPlus ticket, which simply supplies a croissant, a newspaper and a mildly embarrassing queue-jump in exchange for a price which is usually close to three times the standard fare.

As for the ferries, I gave up on them when the online booking form asked for the exact dimensions of my car in centimetres. Don't they know they're competing with crumby airlines, whose market must be there for the taking?

Where are the new, competitive Chunnels, the sleekly beautiful roll-on, roll-off hydrofoils leaving every 10 minutes, or even the graceful, sweeping suspension bridges linking English and French motorways and railway tracks? Buried beneath a sarcophagus of dismal economics, I presume. But we must look to a future in which travelling to continental Europe isn't a human experience at the mercy of the smug arrogance of BA's Willie Walsh or Ryanair's Michael O'Leary, for whom customers are either a weapon in a power play with a union or travelling assets to be stripped of their value.

My daughter is joining us here in a couple of days. She is flying Ryanair. I've told her to expect something like the opening scene of the movie I Am Legend, when crazed crowds flee a mutant virus in New York. Why put up with that? There have to be better alternatives to flying.


Travel Mole - 14 May 2010

Almost half the population will consider taking more domestic breaks in the future, a new study into the "staycation" claims.

The VisitEngland research found an 18% rise in the number of domestic holiday trips taken with travellers spending £1 billion more in 2009 than in the previous year. The research identified two groups who changed their behaviour in 2009 to generate the uplift in domestic holidays. Together, the 'Staycationers' account for one in four of the population.

One group - 'Switchers' - accounted for 13% of respondents and included a high proportion of families. They were primarily motivated to switch a foreign holiday for one at home because of financial constraints.

The second group - 'Extras' - accounted for 15% of respondents and tended to be younger, and were more likely to be single. This group was less affected by the credit crunch and their economic situation and was more motivated by a desire to explore the UK and go somewhere new. They also took more overseas breaks in addition to more domestic breaks.

The study found that 86% of Staycationers described their holiday experience as 'excellent' or 'very good', and 80% described their break as 'excellent' or 'very good' value.

More than half said their holiday was better value than the overseas holiday it replaced. And 90% of Staycationers expect to take at least one break in England this year.

Some people will choose to travel abroad again when they can afford it, but with half the population expecting that they will take more domestic breaks even beyond 2010, the year of the staycation seems likely to have a longer term impact for English tourism, according to the domestic tourism agency.

The research discovered that the uplift in tourism last year has helped awaken a "latent pride" in England as a holiday destination, and as a result, in the longer term, almost half the population expect to take more domestic breaks then than they did in the past.

VisitEngland chief executive James Berresford said: "These findings prove that England's new found popularity as a holiday destination is not merely a flash in the pan. Of course, circumstances last year certainly encouraged more Brits to take a break at home, however this research shows that there is a more permanent shift in attitudes to holidaying at home. It's a hugely rewarding experience to rediscover your own country and it's clear that once you do, you want to do it again and again."

"England is a wonderful destination. We have some of the world's best countryside, coast line, cities, festivals and people - literally on our doorstep. With so much on offer to see and do I'm not surprised England is becoming more and more popular with Brits as a top class holiday destination."

* The research was carried out over two stages. In an initial quantitative stage, 1,000 adults were interviewed about their attitudes to the credit crunch, their holiday behaviour in 2009 and their plans for 2010. A qualitative stage followed with eight group discussions in London, Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds among respondents with a variety of opinions towards domestic breaks.


A survey of public reaction to the absence of aircraft noise
by the Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign

A Report from Gatwick Airport

Due to volcanic ash, all UK air space was closed for six days in April 2010. No aircraft took off from, or landed at, Gatwick Airport, the second largest airport in the UK, between Thursday, April 15 and Wednesday, April 21.

This situation created an unparalleled opportunity to study the environmental impact of the airport. The Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign decided to undertake research into the public reaction to the unexpected absence of aircraft noise, and the cessation of airport-related road traffic. The Environmental Research Group, at Kings College, London University, in conjunction with Reigate and Banstead Borough Council, has undertaken research into the decline in local pollution at Gatwick.

GACC circulated by email a questionnaire to 40 parish councils in an area of roughly 15 miles radius from the airport. All are members of GACC but this did not distort the results as there are no councils in the area which are not members of GACC. The population of the councils varied from 300 to 3,000. The questionnaire was also sent to 22 environmental and amenity groups, and to three airport-related groups.

Care was taken to avoid any obvious bias. The questionnaires were filled up mainly by the parish council clerks (who are employed locally), or by their chairmen, in some cases after consultation with their members. While it would not be suggested that these replies represent a scientific or democratic sample, there is no reason to suppose that this process introduced any bias into the results. Similarly the environmental and amenity groups are normally concerned with issues such as countryside protection, planning, wildlife and local history: while they might be expected to put a rather higher value on peace and quiet, they are not normally concerned with airport issues.

A low response rate

It was disappointing that replies were received from only 13 parish councils, and from only four amenity groups. Not surprisingly all three airport-related groups replied. While these response rates would be considered respectable for postal market research, they raise the obvious possibility that those who did not bother to reply were those who least welcomed the new-found silence. This explanation is, however, counteracted by the fact that all the councils and groups send an annual subscription to GACC demonstrating some concern about the airport. More likely explanations would be that:

a. Some of those to whom the questionnaire was sent may have been stranded abroad unable to get home, or were concerned that friends or relatives had had their travel plans disrupted;

b. While GACC took great care not to rejoice in the situation and to acknowledge the severe problems caused by the aviation shut-down, the press and TV were full of reports of thousands of cases of hardship: many of those to whom the questionnaire was sent may have felt it inappropriate to welcome the silence;

c. The ten days given for completing the survey coincided with the busiest period of activity in the national and local elections. At least one person to whom the questionnaire was sent was a local government candidate;

d. All organisations are suffering from 'consultation fatigue' - constantly consulted on every type of issue, seldom thanked, and with a general impression that their replies are ignored.

The low response rate means that we cannot present the results as a definitive scientific study. Moreover, of course, the replies themselves are inevitably subjective and depend on the personal opinions of the person (or persons) filling in the questionnaire. But for what they are worth, the results are summarised below.

Substantial environmental benefit

Almost all those who responded said that most people in their area had noticed the absence of aircraft noise. And almost all said that it had been seen as a substantial environmental benefit.

A couple of parish councils, both about 15 miles from the airport and not under any main flight path, said that only a few people had noticed the difference, and that the benefit was small.


Respondents were asked to choose the adjective which had most frequently been used by local people to describe the situation. The most frequent was 'wonderful'. Other descriptions were 'amazing', 'pleasant', 'peaceful', 'weird', and 'profound'. One comment was: "It shows that aircraft noise has crept up on communities so that only when total peace is restored do people realise what they have lost as a result of airport expansion."

Daytime most important

Most benefit from the quieter skies was felt during the daytime (8.00am to 7.00pm). All bar two respondents marked this as 5 out of 5.

A considerable benefit was felt during the evening (7.00pm to 11.00pm), with councils and groups giving an average mark of 2.7 out of 5.

The morning period (6.00am to 8.00am) got a lower mark, 2.3 out of 5.

Night-time (11.00pm to 6.00am) was the period when least benefit was said to be felt.

What is the cost of noise?

The questionnaire stated: 'It is notoriously difficult to put a monetary value on peace and quiet, and many academic studies have run into difficulties. But comparing the situation with no aircraft noise with the normal level of noise, how much do you think it would be reasonable to ask airlines to pay per passenger to compensate for aircraft noise?'

While it might be thought that there would be a natural temptation to penalise the airlines by giving a high figure, this was probably tempered by the fact that many of those responding, and their families, use air travel themselves. The replies varied from nil to £10, but the most frequent figure was £1 per head.

Airport-related road traffic

Although Gatwick is on the M23, it has no main roads to the east or west, resulting in a high level of traffic through many villages. This situation has been aggravated in recent years by the use of SatNav equipment which enables drivers to choose the shortest route across country. But it has always been difficult to ascertain how much traffic is airport-related.

The replies reflected the topography of the road network, but nine councils and groups reported a 10%, 15% or 20% reduction in traffic levels, and a 5 or 10 minute improvement in journey times.

Peace, birdsong and clear skies

When asked 'what was it that people said they noticed most when there were no aircraft', a feeling of peace was recorded most often (average marks 4.7 out of 5), closely followed by birdsong (4.6) and by clear skies with no contrails (4.5).

Old fashioned country noises, such as dogs barking/cocks crowing, or people talking/children playing, were noticed less often, averaging only 2 out of 5 marks.

In the absence of aircraft noise, other noises become more prominent. Road noise and lawnmowers were mentioned by most respondents but only with low marks (2 out of 5) for their importance. The noise of small aircraft or helicopters was given a high mark by a number of councils and groups near Gatwick. Although Gatwick was closed, private aircraft were permitted to operate from Redhill and Biggin Hill: they made the most of the unexpected freedom to fly over and around Gatwick causing a good deal of annoyance.

The benefits

Finally councils and groups were asked to mark out of 5 what were the main benefits of no aircraft.

More enjoyment of the countryside was mentioned by all and given top marks by nearly all. This probably included people who found more enjoyment in their gardens.

Making life less fraught was the next most important benefit (4 marks out of 5), closely followed by no visual intrusion, not having to look up (average 3.9).

Other benefits recorded by most respondents were lack of interruptions and the ability to carry on conversations (3.1 and 2.9 respectively). One respondent added the comment: 'removal of a constant irritation'.

Ten out of the sixteen respondents mentioned unbroken sleep and not being woken in the morning. These were given average marks of 3.1 and 3.0.


For six days peace was restored to the countryside around Gatwick. Older people commented that the world had gone back to what it was like in the 1930's. It was a less fraught world with blue skies and birdsong, where one could talk to one's neighbours without constant interruptions and without constant irritation, and where one could sleep more soundly at night.

It was a reminder of what the world would be like today if aircraft had not been given exemption from the laws limiting noise which apply to every other industry.

No one in their right mind would suggest that all air travel should be stopped. The very real benefits of peace and quiet do, however, suggest that continuing pressure needs to be exerted to secure more stringent controls on aircraft noise. This has been the prime purpose of GACC over the past forty years. We have achieved a good deal but this survey shows that there is still a long way to go.


Plans by BAA to rent out surplus warehouse space
at Stansted airport have been refused by planners

BBC News - 6 May 2010

Uttlesford District Council's Development Control Committee voted against the application on Wednesday.

BAA had wanted permission to rent the space to non-airport related businesses which is against the council's policy.

The committee heard much of the 60,000 sq ft (5,580 sq m) warehouse has remained empty since it was built and BAA blamed the current restrictions.

Campaign group, Stop Stansted Expansion, welcomed the decision.

OUR COMMENT: The news failed to report that adequate space for commercial development was available outside the airport. The intention of the Council's policy has always been to encourage sustainable commercial development that reduces transport mileage and allowing non-airport activities within the airport itself would not meet these standards or be in the best interests of the local community.

Pat Dale


Sinead Holland - Herts & Essex Observer - 29 April 2010

STOP Stansted Expansion is at odds with one of its staunchest allies this week over airport warehousing. Stansted AirportUttlesford District Council (UDC) planning officials are recommending that members approve an application to allow - for the first time ever - space to be rented to outside tenants.

Usually only airport-related businesses can use space within Stansted's perimeter, but officers believe the condition should be waived for seven years, following a plea that despite strenuous efforts, it has been impossible to find airport-related tenants for a 60,000 sq ft development built two years ago. As a result, rental income of some £400,000 a year is being lost.

Council officials admit the recommendation to approve next Wednesday (May 5) is contrary to its own longstanding planning policy which states that industrial and commercial development unrelated to the airport will not be permitted on the site.

Objections to the application have been lodged by Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) and by the local parish councils of Takeley, Stansted Mountfitchet, Birchanger, Great Hallingbury, Hatfield Broad Oak, Great Canfield, Elsenham, Great Easton and Tilty and Broxted. A number of individual representations have also been made.

SSE believes approval could be the thin end of the wedge, allowing the airport to compete against other local landlords on the open market and opening the door to a business park on the airport.

Campaigners highlight the "fundamental unfairness" of using land bought "cheaply through compulsory purchase" to undercut competitors. They also fear the go-ahead will encourage landowners outside Stansted's boundary to demand they be allowed to use their sites for airport related business like car parking.

Usually SSE and UDC stand together against airport expansion, but SSE chairman Peter Sanders said: "For years UDC's officials have been telling us that all planning applications must be decided in accordance with its planning policies. Now, when BAA complains about losing £400,000 a year rental income, officers want to break their own rules. We can only hope that our councillors have better judgement and will throw out this application which would be to the detriment of local residents and local businesses. Moreover, it is fraught with all sorts of long-term risks and dangers."

A spokesman for UDC said: "Planning officers will give their professional advice to members through the report to development control committee. It is then up to members of the committee to decide on the application."

A spokesman for BAA pointed out that the application has been made not by the operator but by APP (Airport Property Partnership). He added: "The application is for a temporary waiver of the restrictions but it's down to the council to consider the request in line with its planning policies, the same as it would do with any other application."

Yesterday (Tuesday, April 27) BAA announced that its stake in APP (Airport Property Partnership) - which it owned jointly with Aviva Fund Management Limited - was sold to SEGRO plc for £244m.

The joint venture controlled 18 industrial warehouses in or near Heathrow, Stansted, Edinburgh and Gatwick airports. The sale is subject to clearance and is expected to complete by mid June.


Herts & Essex Observer - 5 May 2010

RESIDENTS seized their first chance to air concerns with Stansted's watchdog.

They grilled BAA bosses at the meeting of the consultative committee which scrutinises operations at the airport. After a shake-up of the organisation, a 15-minute forum has been introduced at the start of each agenda to let members of the public voice their views.

Barbara Armishaw, whose home near the airport perimeter is one of six which are the subject of a compulsory purchase order (CPO) as part of plans for the G2 second runway project, said: "We've been living under the threat of CPOs for seven years and if [BAA] are not going to withdraw [the second runway plans] they need to give compensation."

She said that householders' lives were on hold and they needed certainty. She complained that residents were stressed and too scared to invest in their properties.

The G2 plans are currently on hold, but Stansted's commercial and development director Nick Barton made it clear they were not being withdrawn. He said: "We understand, but we cannot - apart from apologise for the disruption - do anything to ameliorate or improve the situation."

He reassured Mrs Armishaw that improvements to her property would be reflected in any future purchase price.

At the meeting last Wednesday (April 28), residents John Pryor and Jo Stewart complained about the disruption AirAsia X's late-night flights to Kuala Lumpur cause and registered their dismay about a summer increase in the service.

Mr Barton and Stansted's head of environment, Dr Andy Jefferson, reassured them that BAA was working with the airline and other carriers to improve track-keeping and to reduce infringements. Dr Jefferson pledged to visit villagers and update them on noise monitoring.

Irene Jones asked the committee to consider backing a national, no-fly Quiet Day, following the six days of silent skies which resulted when all aircraft were grounded by the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud last month. She said: "It was a priceless plus side to be able to walk in the countryside beneath clear, blue skies."


Readers' Letters - Saffron Walden Reporter - 6 May 2010

WHEN the planes stopped flying overhead for a week the skies were at times pure blue.

On Friday I took a photograph of the sky over Saffron Walden cross-crossed with plane trails. The trails were gradually breaking up and spreading out into mini-clouds.

The good news was that they weren't rain clouds. The bad news is that BAA still wants to build a second runway at Stansted and more than triple the number of planes flying over us.

Peter Riding
Saffron Walden


Gill Plimmer - Financial Times - 30 April 2010

BAA, the owner of Heathrow and Stansted airports, will ask for state aid to compensate for the £28m cost incurred by the Icelandic ash cloud that shut British airspace for six days.

The airport operator, which yesterday reported a narrowing of first-quarter pre-tax losses, said the monthly passenger total at BAA's two London airports fell 1.6m, or 22 per cent, in the month to April 25 after the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano spread a plume of dust across the region.

"We are pursuing all possible options to recover the cost. We are arguing the case for help for the industry at large," said Colin Matthews, chief executive of BAA. The company, which is majority owned by Ferrovial of Spain, had also approached its insurers, he added.

The UK government will decide whether to help companies affected by the crisis after European transport ministers meet next week. Siim Kallas, Europe's transport minister, has said governments are likely to be allowed to pay compensation for travel-industry losses from the ash cloud, which grounded tens of thousands of flights and stranded hundreds of thousands of passengers.

But analysts have cast doubt on the strategy. Andrew Lobbenberg, analyst at RBS, warned that aviation businesses could receive different treatment depending on their government's resources. "There's no guarantee that different governments will agree the same bail-out. How is the poor old Greek government going to be bailing out its airlines or airports?" said Mr Lobbenberg.

The comments came as BAA reported a £195.5m pre-tax loss for the three months to March 31, an improvement on the £316.2m loss a year earlier. Revenue climbed from £432.2m to £456.1m, reflecting a 2.9 per cent increase in aeronautical income, a 5.6 per cent rise in gross retail income and an 11 per cent jump in other income.

Net debt widened to £8.75bn at March 31 from £7.73bn a year earlier, which in part reflected its investment in Heathrow and Stansted airports. BAA has invested £208m in the two airports, of which 47 per cent came out of its own pocket.

Passenger traffic at Heathrow airport rose 1.6 per cent in the quarter from a year earlier, to 14.6m, in spite of the loss of 180,000 passengers due to strikes at BA and disruption from bad weather.

OUR COMMENT: Should local residents claim for interference with sunlight supplies when planes are operating? What losses have been inflicted on the tomato crops? Strawberries? - and countless other commercial vegetables and fruit?

Pat Dale


News from the EU

ENDS Europe DAILY - 27 April 2010

It would be technically feasible and economically affordable for the EU to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2020, EU climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard told the European Parliament's environment committee in Brussels on Monday.

Ms Hedegaard was presenting preliminary results from a European Commission assessment due in June on the feasibility of raising the EU's CO2 reduction goal for 2020. So far Europe has said it would only do it if other countries also upped their ambitions.

Cutting emissions by 20% is now one-third cheaper than when the target was adopted in 2007, Ms Hedegaard told MEPs. This is because the economic crisis has cut emissions. "If we were prepared to invest the same amount today as two years back, we would already come to [about 20%]".

The commission plans to publish its assessment before an environment ministers' meeting on 11 June. "This does not mean that the day after we come with the communication, we come with a decision," the climate commissioner added. European leaders meeting later that month will discuss the issue.

Poland and Italy in particular have opposed greater emission cuts in the past. Ms Hedegaard said greener growth was essential to stay competitive. "Due to the crisis we have been able to reach the same reduction without the same increase in innovation and that is the big risk for Europe," she added.

EPP member Anja Weisberger said a move to 30% must still depend on other countries' commitments. The MEP noted that a domestic US climate bill was delayed again this week after a dispute over immigration. UN climate chief Yvo de Boer has urged the EU to unilaterally go to 30%.


ENDS Europe DAILY - 6 May 2010

Eleven EU countries are predicting they will exceed their pollutant caps for NOx set for 2010 in the National Emission Ceilings directive (NEC), according to the latest estimates published by the European Environment Agency (EEA).

Austria, Belgium, France, Ireland, Luxembourg, Malta and Spain are expected to exceed their national NOx ceilings by more than 10%. The others, namely Germany, Slovenia, Sweden and the UK, are likely to exceed their ceilings by less than 10%.

According to the EEA, this is partly because the road transport sector, a significant contributor, has grown more than expected and partly because vehicle emission standards have not always delivered the foreseen level of NOx reductions.

National ceilings for non-methane volatile organic compounds (NMVOC) are expected to be missed by three countries: Spain, Portugal and Austria. Caps on methane emissions will be exceeded by the Netherlands, Germany and Spain.

Malta is the only country expected to miss its emission ceiling for SO2. The EEA data also shows that Spain is facing the highest number of breaches, with three out of four pollutants covered by NEC expected to be exceeded, confirming earlier predictions

There are some improvements however. The Netherlands, which was previously expected to miss its cap on NOx, is now predicted to comply. Poland, which thought it would not meet its NOx and NMVOC caps, is now saying it will achieve all targets.

The European Commission has not yet tabled long-awaited proposals to tighten national air pollutant caps. No date has been set, an official told ENDS on Wednesday. Power association Eurelectric has said new rules should not put an undue burden on industry, calling for a cost-benefit analysis.

OUR COMMENT: Aviation emissions round airports contribute a significant part of the Nitrogen oxides in the air and affect local air quality. They also add to the greenhouse effects at altitude. UK's Defra is asking for an extension to time limits set for achieving clean air - while the Ministry of Transport has been encouraging further aircraft flights! What will the new government do? Will they keep those promises to limit airport expansion?

Pat Dale


Subject: [European Aviation Emissions Report - Quarter 1 - 2010

The UK emits much more from its aviation than any other country in the EU. In March, UK aviation emitted 4,591.019 tonnes of CO2, with the next country Germany with 3.380,864 tonnes, and then France at 2,437,198 tonnes. (UK is 25% of the EU total).

Heathrow is by far the airport responsible for the most emissions of CO2. In March, 1,739,734 tonnes of CO2, with Frankfurt in second place at 1,133,326 tonnes, and Charles de Gaulle at 985,933 tonnes.

As for airlines, Lufthansa comes out as having the most emisisons, followed closely by BA, then Air France, then KLM, then Ryanair, Iberia and then EasyJet.

(Calculations are approximate, and based on a distance based formula only)


All London flights grounded as volcanic ash from Iceland closes UK airports

Ben Bailey - Times Online - 15 April 2010

All flights from London will be suspended from midday after ash from Iceland's volcanic eruption closed UK airports causing massive disruption to thousands of passengers.

Flights were cancelled after ash moved towards UK airspace following an eruption in Iceland yesterday. About 1,300 flights go in and out of Heathrow every day. A spokesman said: "There is going to be significant disruption, particularly in the peak periods later on."

A Stansted spokesman said 400 to 450 flights operated to and from the airport each day and it was hard to say how many would be affected. He said: "Fortunately we have got past our busiest departure period. "But this has the potential to affect flights tomorrow and beyond, depending on how long the restrictions are in place."

A Gatwick spokesman said: "We are currently still open but from midday all London airports will have no flow, no arrivals or departures. "At the moment we have had 147 cancellations. It's a matter of safety. We would like to remind passengers that they need to ring their airline before setting off."

Budget airline Ryanair said that from 9am, no further flights were operating to or from the UK today. It added that cancellations and delays could also be expected tomorrow. The restrictions were necessary because volcanic ash can damage aircraft engines.

A BAA spokesman said: "Due to airspace restrictions, in accordance with international regulations as a result of the on-going volcanic activity in Iceland, we anticipate that all flights in and out of Heathrow and Stansted airports will be suspended from 1200 today. Therefore, we strongly advise passengers intending to fly from this time not to travel to the airport today. We will provide further updates as we get more information from air traffic control provider Nats (National Air Traffic Service)."

Hundreds of people were evacuated from their homes in south-west Iceland after a volcanic eruption yesterday at Eyjafjalljokull, which is part of the Mount Katla range.

Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow airports were shut while airports across the rest of the UK were also badly affected. Forecasters believe the ash could take a number of days to disperse.

Matt Dobson, a forecaster for MeteoGroup said: "The concern is that as well as the eruption, the jet stream passing through Iceland is passing in a south easterly direction, which will bring ash to the north of Scotland and Denmark and Norway. But it is impossible to say how much ash will come down. It could be a threat in these areas from now until tomorrow or Friday."

A spokesman from Nats said: "The Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre has issued a forecast that the ash cloud from the volcanic eruption in Iceland will track over Europe tonight. NATS is working with Eurocontrol and our colleagues in Europe's other air navigation service providers to take the appropriate action to ensure safety in accordance with international aviation policy."

Around 50 members of the Great Britain Ice Hockey Supporters Club heading for the world championships in Slovenia were stranded at Stansted. The club's merchandising secretary, Gordon McQuade, of High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, said a party of supporters had been due to fly out this morning. "The championships are taking place in Ljubljana but we are actually flying to Trieste because ironically Ljubljana airport is closed because the runway is being resurfaced. We were due to fly out with Ryanair this morning. All we have been told is that the flight is cancelled and we are just waiting to hear what is going to happen."

The ash cloud also caused disruption to all flights from Manchester Airport. Newcastle International Airport said its airspace was closed at 7am, stopping flights in and out. Bristol Airport said around 20 flights had been affected by the problem, while Bournemouth Airport said one Ryanair flight to Dublin had been cancelled.

Thousands of passengers in Northern Ireland were also caught up in the air chaos, with the closure of Belfast International Airport and George Best Belfast City Airport. Crowds who filled departures lounges for early morning flights to destinations throughout the UK were told services had been cancelled indefinitely.

The volcanic ash scare also caused Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman Vince Cable to cancel planned General Election campaign visits to Dunfermline and Edinburgh.

Flight Sergeant Andy Carnell, a spokesman for RAF Search and Rescue, said that their aircraft would continue to fly. He said: "We will continue to provide full search and rescue cover, however we will consider all requests we get on a case by case basis. The ash is mainly affecting the air traffic control radar but we can fly in cloud and reduced visibility. As helicopters we don't rely on approach radar and we can navigate around the UK very easily, and we can fly in areas where there's very little air traffic control."

The Aeronautical Rescue Coordination Centre (ARCC) at RAF Kinloss was co-ordinating the transfer of a patient from east Scotland to London. It would not normally send a helicopter from Scotland so far south but due to the air traffic control (ATC) restrictions there were no civilian aircraft or military fixed wings options available. The call came in at 3.13am and the patient was taken by ambulance from Dunfermline to a Royal Navy Sea King helicopter from HMS Gannet at Prestwick. An RAF spokesman said: "If we had not taken this patient by helicopter then the only other option was a road ambulance."

The plume of ash also prevented aircraft from leaving Birmingham International Airport, leading to the cancellation of around 70 flights. A spokeswoman for the airport said around 10 other flights were listed as delayed and that some passengers on charter services had been checked in to await departure.

Luton Airport said some airlines operating there had decided to cancel a number of flights. A spokeswoman said: "Flights will be severely disrupted today." Flights from East Midlands Airport were also affected and passengers were being advised to check with their airline before travelling. A spokeswoman said: "We've had some disruption at East Midlands Airport. There are currently six bmibaby inbound and outbound flights that have been cancelled." Exeter Airport said it had cancelled eight flights up to 3.30pm today, but a spokeswoman said afternoon flights are being "reviewed".


The silent skies over Britain enforced by the volcanic ash cloud have prompted calls for regular plane-free days to save emissions and give residents under flight-paths a break from noise pollution

Aislinn Laing - Daily Telegraph - 21 April 2010

Residents groups and environmental campaigners say the volcanic eruption and subsequent European travel ban has made people appreciate the peace and quiet they were missing. Many are suggesting it should even be made a regular occurrence once the restrictions are lifted.

John Stewart, from Hacan, a campaign group representing residents opposed to airport expansion, said even one day a year without planes would make a difference. "We've been getting lots of emails and letters calling for it," he said. "It seems people are finally thinking outside the box in a way we probably wouldn't have done before this volcano erupted."

"We would never suggest Heathrow should be shut down because it supports the economy but it's at least worth looking at something to bring us this peace and quiet on a more regular basis."

Ralph Smyth, of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said his organisation was looking at lobbying for a plane-free day at least once a year and potentially more regular, regional shutdowns. He said that while travel plans had been disrupted by the unexpected events of recent days, a plane-free day could be beneficial.

"This disaster has also revealed to many what they've been missing: overnight the skies were stripped of the sight and sound of aeroplanes, and without the rumble and drone of aircraft people are reporting they can hear the simple sounds of the countryside once more," he said. "Perhaps the time is right to consider a National Quiet Day to remind us all for one day at least of what we are all losing in our rush to be somewhere else."

Daily Telegraph readers have joined the clamour to extend the peace that has reigned over the last few days. One, Iain Baldwin from Bicknacre in Essex, said one plane-free weekend a month would be much appreciated in his rural area. "I?ve just returned from exercising my labrador in the local woods and the silence is wonderful, allowing the full birdsong to be heard," he wrote.

Another, Ian Glover-James, from Fulham in West London, said his area was enjoying the first peace in the skies since the late 1950s. "Now, what chance of a geographical faultline emerging, indicating imminent earthquake activity, along the circumference of the M25, necessitating its immediate closure?" he wrote.

The last flight-free enclave was in Lewis in the Western Isles, where planes were banned on the sabbath along with drinking, cinema going and children's swings. There was outcry when Loganair, operated by British Airways, forced its way onto the tarmac at Stornoway on Sundays in 2002.

Environmental groups have pointed to the example of Paris, which closes major roads in the summer, as a blueprint for introducing plane-free days.

But Roger Wiltshire, secretary general of the British Air Transport Association, said a plane-free day would cost the economy billions of pounds in the long-run. "We are competing with transport hubs in other countries for international travel and should not be doing anything to put us at a competitive disadvantage," he said. "There are already restrictions around flights at night but any plan to go further is misguided and would not only harm the industry itself but tourism and the economy as a whole."


Ben Webster, Environment Editor - Times Online - 19 April 2010

The grounding of 63,000 flights over the past four days has saved 1.3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, more than the annual emissions of many developing countries.

Aviation is responsible for about 2 per cent of global emissions of CO2, but accounts for a much higher proportion of emissions in European nations, which have many frequent flyers. Aircraft are responsible for more than 6 per cent of Britain's CO2 emissions. On a normal day, the 28,000 flights in European airspace emit about 560,000 tonnes of CO2, or a third of the world?s aviation emissions.

The Aviation Environment Federation calculated that the CO2 saving over four days had been greater than the annual emissions of Malawi, Sierra Leone, Rwanda and about 50 other developing countries.

Jeff Gazzard, the federation's spokesman, said: "The use of trains, ferries and video conferencing has skyrocketed as planes have been grounded. While volcanic eruptions are not an everyday occurrence, surely the take-away message from the past few days is that the world has not stopped revolving and people can find alternatives to air travel. We hope that this will prompt people to stop and think about whether their flight is really necessary."

The total environmental benefits of the grounding of aircraft may be far greater because millions of business travellers have had to find alternative ways of communicating - and some are likely to change their working habits permanently.


Robert Cumber - Hounslow Chronicle - 21 April 2010

THE EMPTY skies above Hounslow earlier this week boosted pupils' behaviour and concentration levels, according to staff at one primary school.

While schools across London were forced to cancel lessons with staff stranded abroad, teachers at Berkeley Primary School, in Cranford Lane, Heston, welcomed the break from planes roaring overhead.

Catherine Bridger, deputy headteacher at Berkeley, said: "It's been very quiet and very nice. The children's behaviour has been remarkably improved and we've had lovely PE lessons outside without having to stop every five minutes. It's easier to teach and easier for pupils to concentrate during lessons."

Schools across Hounslow have long complained about the impact of aircraft noise on children's education, and Ms Bridger's comments will add fresh weight to those claims. There were no flights in or out of Heathrow between last Thursday and Tuesday evening due to concerns ash clouds from Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano could damage planes.

Although schools across the country were badly affected by teachers and pupils being stranded overseas, most of those in central Hounslow managed to struggle through.

Paul Enright, headteacher of St Mark's Catholic School, in Bath Road, Hounslow, said several teachers and about 30 students had been unable to make it in after the Easter holidays.

However, he praised the efforts made by staff to get back, including one teacher who made it home from Barcelona by train and ferry and another who only arrived home from Ireland at 5am but still made it into school that morning. He praised the efforts of staff and supply teachers to ensure the school was able to run all lessons as normal.

There were no disruptions either at The Heathland School, in Wellington Road South, Hounslow, or Heston Community School, in Heston Road, Heston, according to staff, despite a number of teachers being absent.


The Independent - 22 April 2010

The last week has not been a happy one for the aviation industry, nor for the thousands of stranded travellers waiting for the air to clear. But if Eyjafjallajökull's eruption has made us think about the reality of a world with less flying, it could, in fact, turn out to be a blessing.

Without question, there has been hardship for passengers stuck abroad, and economic worries for a few select industries that rely directly on air freight, such as importers of cut flowers. But there are economic upsides too. For every tourist who couldn't fly in to the UK, almost two couldn't fly out, and those two may well be spending money at UK tourist destinations that have suffered in recent years from the rise in cheap flights.

The shutdown could go some way to trim the UK's £17bn "tourism deficit" - the difference between what we spend abroad and what visitors spend in the UK. Luckily it's been sunny in Britain, so maybe the charms of Devon or the Lake District will change a few people's holiday habits in the longer term.

But perhaps the biggest economic winner thus far has been the telecommunications industry. Video-conferencing companies are reporting a boom in bookings, while businesses that have already invested in their own equipment will have been among those least affected by the crisis. And on Monday, EU Transport Ministers held a "virtual" meeting via video-conferencing to discuss the impact of the volcano. It may have been a solution born of necessity, but it will hopefully have opened their eyes to how much carbon, time and taxpayers' money could be saved this way.

WWF works hard to promote alternatives to air travel. Through our 1 in 5 Challenge, we're helping businesses and public bodies to cut 20 per cent of their flights. If every business in Europe did so, it would save 22 million tonnes of CO2 a year, equivalent to taking a third of the cars off the UK's roads. The companies we're working with have found that they save huge amounts of time and money, as well as cutting carbon by cutting flights.

It's important to show that we can fly less and still stay competitive. Because while no one is proposing grounding every plane, we'll have to fly less in future if we're serious about meeting our carbon targets. The Government has set a target that emissions from aircraft be no higher in 2050 than they were in 2005. That's a good start (although it will still put an extra squeeze on other sectors).

But the Government now needs to get serious about what that target really means. Luckily, it will be forced to, thanks to some rumblings of a different kind, that took place in the High Court earlier this week.

Earlier this year, a coalition of local councils, residents and green groups, took the Government to court over the third runway proposed at Heathrow. We argued that current plans to expand some 30 airports across the country are incompatible with the UK's climate change targets.

The judge agreed, and on Tuesday, he ordered the Government to sign an undertaking that when it updates its airports policy to fit with the UK's new planning system, it will not use, or even refer to, the Air Transport White Paper which has held sway since 2003. That's a huge win for the environment. It confirms that the Climate Change Act really does have teeth, and that future governments cannot just build huge pieces of carbon-intensive infrastructure without considering the climate consequences.

It also sends airport policy back to the drawing board. The real hope is that when the next Government, whatever its colour, starts to sketch out a new aviation policy, they will look back to the week we couldn't fly but still got on with our lives, and think long and hard about just how much air travel is really necessary.

The writer is Head of Transport of WWF-UK, the British arm of the World Wide Fund for Nature


Saffron Walden Reporter - 21 April 2010

LIFE without Stansted Airport wasn't all bad. Just ask 46-year-old Sarah Cousins who lives in Brick End, Broxted. After 17 years of living with the constant drone of aircraft engines she was thrilled to finally "have her garden back".

Whether during take-off or landing, planes fly just a few feet above her house, to the point that it is almost impossible to hold a conversation.

Mrs Cousins said: "There has been no noise at all. It has been fantastic. We can hear the birds singing and the children playing. Since Thursday we have been enjoying the garden for the first time in as long as I can remember. It is a shame it won't always be like this because it is nice to have it back."

In the past, Stansted has only shut down for short periods, due to snow, terror attacks, or crashes.

However this shutdown had a much different feel to it explained Mrs Cousins. "It was more surreal," she said, "Well almost quite spooky actually because there seemingly was no evidence to suggest why planes were not flying. You looked outside and the skies were blue. Whereas you can see snow on the ground and during 9/11 it was obvious what was going on. Throughout this closure we always had the feeling that a plane was about to pass over our heads but it never did."

Having lived so close to the airport for so long, Mrs Cousins has seen it grow from a small rural runway into the third busiest in the UK. She added: "Usually we have to stop conversations half way through whilst a plane flies over. It really is that loud. It can be a little embarrassing when we have guests. But these past few days have been great."


Sapa-DPA News Environmment - 16 April 2010

It is, proverbially, an ill wind that blows nobody any good, and that holds true even when the wind is laden with tons of ash from an Icelandic volcano. "What we need now is another volcano to shut down the motorway. That way it would be really quiet."

The ash cloud grounded thousands of flights and stranded hundreds of thousands of travellers across Europe on Friday, but for residents in the neighbourhood of Brussels airport, at least, it was a Godsend.

"It's so quiet, I thought I was in our summer cabin," which is buried in the forests of Latvia some 250 kilometres from the nearest airport, this correspondent's visiting mother-in-law said. "How loud the birds are!" she marvelled. This correspondent lives on the flight path into Brussels airport, and is more used to hearing Boeings than blackbirds as he sips his morning tea.

The eastern suburbs of Brussels are generally seen as the more affluent side of town. But they are also on the approach route to Zaventem airport, and residents regularly complain about the noise created by low-flying aircraft. Thursday's total shutdown of Belgian airspace in response to the ash cloud has come for some, at least, as a blessing.

"It's been really heavy for the last week: it was like they were coming down on the roof. And then yesterday it stopped completely - it was wonderful," said Anna, 33, a NATO diplomat who lives so close to the airport that she says she can tell the difference between an Airbus and a Boeing just by engine noise.

The effects of the shutdown were audible in suburban gardens, where the song of blackbirds, bluetits and Brussels' vocal colony of ring-necked parakeets rang out free of the challenge of jet engines. The effects were also visible overhead. Normally the air over Brussels is criss-crossed with aircraft vapour trails in the early morning, but on Friday the sky was pristine blue.

"It's just like when I was a girl," this correspondent's 98-year-old neighbour, most of whose early memories are of World War I, said nostalgically.

With Belgian airspace tipped to remain closed for at least 24 hours, some suburbanites were hoping that the Icelandic ash cloud would prove a silent windfall for their gardening weekends.

But others still had something to wish for. "What we need now is another volcano to shut down the motorway. That way it would be really quiet," said 43-year-old bank manager Philippe.


David Robertson, Business Correspondent - Times Online - 16 April 2010

Shutting down Britain's airspace could cost airlines more than ?100 million if the disruption carries on into the weekend. The wider economy will also suffer as tourists, businessmen and cargo, including fresh food for supermarkets, are unable to get into the country.

British Airways grounded hundreds of flights yesterday but is yet to calculate the potential losses. In the past, similar standstills caused by fog have cost the airline between £10 million and £20 million a day.

The extra financial burden comes at a bad time for BA. It is already on its way to losing £600 million this year after a strike by cabin crew last month cost the company £45 million.

The disruption to services had an immediate impact on Ryanair after the airline grounded all of its British and Irish flights. More than £70 million was wiped off the company's market value, while BA's market value fell by £4.5 million and easyJet's dropped by £5.6 million.

The effect on the wider economy is much harder to calculate, but economists said that it could be many millions of pounds. Dr Steve Bond, a senior lecturer at City University, in London, said: "This will impact many facets of our lives, from delayed post to a lack of strawberries in supermarkets."

There have only been a couple of other examples of large-scale disruption caused by volcanoes. One incident in Alaska in 1989 resulted in the cancellation of North American flights for several days. US airlines estimated the disruption cost them $100 million.

The chaos caused by the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland is likely to be worse than the Alaskan eruption because European airspace is so congested. The ash cloud will also affect airlines elsewhere in the world because they will not be able to fly through European airspace to get to other destinations.

James Hogan, the chief executive of Etihad, the United Arab Emirates carrier, was meeting with The Times yesterday when he was told that Britain's airspace would be shutting down. Etihad has three flights a day from the Gulf into Heathrow, as well as flights to Manchester and Dublin. Mr Hogan said that passengers en route from Australia and Asia would be put up in hotels in Abu Dhabi. Maintenance work on two A340 aircraft would be stopped so that they could be used to get stranded passengers home once the restrictions had been lifted.

Mr Hogan said the airline was not insured against this kind of incident and it would have to swallow the costs. Hundreds of thousands of customers will have to rebook their flights, apply for a refund or seek compensation for lost bookings.

As yesterday morning wore on, airport after airport shut down until all services were suspended by midday, until further notice. At Leeds Bradford international airport, 47 flights were cancelled, ruining travel plans for 3,500 people. Ryanair had abandoned all flights to and from Ireland by 10am and all flights to and from Norway, Sweden and Denmark by 11.30am.

There are roughly 5,000 inbound and outbound flights each day in Britain. Normally about 1,300 flights and 180,000 passengers go in and out of Heathrow alone every day, while Gatwick has 679 flights carrying 80,000 passengers. At Stansted, about 450 aircraft fly to and from the airport each day. The National Air Traffic Service said that no one could recall a time when Britain's controlled airspace had been completely closed.

Hayley Bettany had been looking forward to flying to the Caribbean with her family to be married on a beach. At the time that her plane should have been taking off for the Dominican Republic from Manchester airport, Ms Bettany and her fiancé, Graham Brien, 36, and their party of 11 were being summoned to the check-in desks at Terminal 2 to receive the bad news. "We have been planning this trip for 16 months and now a volcano in a place I have never heard of has erupted and spoilt my dream," Ms Bettany said.

There were chaotic scenes at Heathrow as passengers tried to come to terms with being stranded for the foreseeable future. Many were angry that all flights had been cancelled - some said that it was an overreaction.

Isobel Connolly, originally from Cork, had flown from her home in San Francisco to see relatives in Ireland but found herself stuck at Heathrow. "Basically, we're stranded here and a lot of people are angry," she complained. "I realise it's an act of God. However, it would be nice to have another exit strategy."

Marie-Claude Dunleary arrived at Edinburgh airport with a group of 32 French pupils for a flight home to Paris. "We are going to have to go back by coach," she said. "The children are fine. They are just worried about what they are going to eat tonight."

With passengers desperately seeking alternative routes and transport, Eurostar bookings soared. A spokeswoman said that by mid-morning, seats on its services were extremely limited. "We are looking at several thousand extra bookings," she said. "We are going towards full capacity. Some people are also booking for Friday because they want to be certain about travelling."

Eurostar runs about 46 trains a day. The spokeswoman said that the firm was looking at putting on extra trains but cautioned that this was a different and more difficult procedure than domestic arrangements.

Some who had booked for domestic travel with British Airways were offered journeys by road instead. BA sent coaches to each of its five domestic destinations every two hours. "A fair amount of people will have got to their destination," the carrier said.

The demand for ferry crossings also surged, as airline passengers hoped to find an airport open on the Continent.

Threat from big sister

The Eyjafjallajökull volcano may be causing problems but scientists believe that there could be worse to come (Hannah Devlin writes).

All eyes in the volcanology community are on Eyjafjallajökull's larger sister, Katla. It is about 8 miles (12.8km) to the west under the Myrdalsjökull ice cap. An eruption could cause widespread flooding and disrupt air traffic between Europe and North America. Katla is close enough to be affected by power shifts in Eyjafjallajökull's system.

There is also a chance that a horizontal sheet of magma under Eyjafjallajökull could shoot out and enter a magma chamber beneath Katla, almost certainly causing an eruption. There have been no signs of turbulence beneath Katla, which last erupted in 1918, but experts say a blast is overdue.

"So far there have been no signs of the reawakening of the Katla volcano, but a lot of things can still happen, so we are monitoring it quite closely," Páll Einarsson, a geophysicist at the University of Iceland, said.


Guardian Online Blog - 21 April 2010

Climate sceptics' favourite theory that volcanoes produce more CO2 than human activity has exploded in their faces with Eyjafjallajokull eruption.

Along with the ash and lava, there have been many interesting asides tossed into the air for our consideration by the Eyjafjallajokull volcano. We have noticed just how reliant our globalised systems are on air travel. We have been reminded of nature's brute force and primordial beauty. And we have been intrigued by what a wonderfully complex language Icelandic appears to be ? to Anglo-Saxon ears, at least.

But one opportunity the volcano has gifted us in particular is the chance to put to bed once and for all that barrel-aged climate sceptic canard which maintains that volcanoes emit far more carbon dioxide than anthropogenic sources. It's always been a favourite, but has been pushed even further up the charts of popularity in recent months by the repeated claims of Ian Plimer, the Australian mining geologist who wrote the climate sceptic bible Heaven and Earth last year.

Here, for example, is what Plimer wrote on Australia's ABC Network website last August:

The atmosphere contains only 0.001 per cent of all carbon at the surface of the Earth and far greater quantities are present in the lower crust and mantle of the Earth. Human additions of CO2 to the atmosphere must be taken into perspective. Over the past 250 years, humans have added just one part of CO2 in 10,000 to the atmosphere. One volcanic cough can do this in a day.

John Cook of the increasingly popular Skeptical Science website currently lists the "volcanoes emit more CO2 than humans" viewpoint as number 54 on his ever-growing list - 107, to date - of debunked sceptic arguments.

It was also a point picked up by my colleague James Randerson when he interviewed Plimer last December. In Heaven and Earth, Plimer says: "Volcanoes produce more CO2 than the world's cars and industries combined." Randerson challenged Plimer on this point, stating that the US Geological Survey (USGS) states: "Human activities release more than 130 times the amount of CO2 emitted by volcanoes."

Plimer responded by saying that this does not account for undersea eruptions. However, when Randerson checked this point with USGS volcanologist Dr Terrence Gerlach, he received this reply:

I can confirm to you that the "130 times" figure on the USGS website is an estimate that includes all volcanoes - submarine as well as subaerial... Geoscientists have two methods for estimating the CO2 output of the mid-oceanic ridges. There were estimates for the CO2 output of the mid-oceanic ridges before there were estimates for the global output of subaerial volcanoes.

Despite having seemingly lanced this festering boil for good, the focus on Eyjafjallajokull over the past week has allowed this question to bubble back up to the forefront of people's minds. It was enough to trigger the Paris-based AFP news agency to seek some answers:

Iceland's Eyjafjoell volcano is emitting between 150,000 and 300,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) per day, a figure placing it in the same emissions league as a small-to-medium European economy, experts said on Monday. Assuming the composition of gas to be the same as in an earlier eruption on an adjacent volcano, "the CO2 flux of Eyjafjoell would be 150,000 tonnes per day," Colin Macpherson, an Earth scientist at Britain's University of Durham, said in an email.

Patrick Allard of the Paris Institute for Global Physics (IPGP) gave what he described as a "top-range" estimate of 300,000 tonnes per day. Both insisted that these were only approximate estimates. Extrapolated over a year, the emissions would place the volcano 47th to 75th in the world table of emitters on a country-by-country basis, according to a database at the World Resources Institute (WRI), which tracks environment and sustainable development.

A 47th ranking would place it above Austria, Belarus, Portugal, Ireland, Finland, Bulgaria, Sweden, Denmark and Switzerland, according to this list, which relates to 2005.

Experts stressed that the volcano contributed just a tiny amount - less than a third of one percentage point - of global emissions of greenhouse gases.

So, please, can we now put this hoary old chestnut to bed?

One extra volcano-related aside: with European carbon market prices fluctuating around the ?14 per tonne mark at present, this would mean that Eyjafjallajokull would theoretically be liable to a maximum daily bill of ?4.2m if it were a fully fledged, carbon-trading nation or corporation. But who would dare get close enough to present it with an invoice?

Mrs Anne-Marie Griffin, Chair - Fight The Flights


Michael McCarthy, Environment Editor and Phil Boucher - The Independent - 22 April 2010

Scientists have used the no-flying period caused by the ash cloud to show for the first time that airports are themselves significant causes of pollution. Although long suspected, the fact that mass take-offs and landings are large pollution sources could never be proved before, because aircraft pollution could not be measured as separate from the pollution caused by vehicles operating near by.

But an analysis of the first three days of the unprecedented closure of UK airspace, at Heathrow and Gatwick, shows that there is a definite air pollution caused by air traffic in the vicinity of airport hubs.

Pollution near both airports dropped significantly during the first three days of the shutdown. During last Thursday, Friday and Saturday, levels of two major pollutants, NO2 (nitrogen dioxide) and NOx (the generic term for oxides of nitrogen, taken together) fell virtually to zero.

Such nitrogen pollutants can exacerbate breathing difficulties in older people and those suffering from cardiac conditions, and can react with sunlight to form an even more damaging pollutant, ozone, which causes the sort of "urban smogs" seen in Los Angeles. NOx and NO2 are particularly associated with jet aircraft, as they are produced by the high-temperature mix of aviation with fuel.

The new analysis has been produced by Ben Barratt and Gary Fuller of the Environmental Research Group at King's College, London. The group said yesterday: "This period of unprecedented closure during unexceptional weather conditions has allowed us to demonstrate that the airports have a clear measurable effect on NO2 concentrations, and that this effect disappeared entirely during the period of closure, leading to a temporary but significant fall in pollutant concentrations adjacent to the airport perimeters."

"We have always been fairly confident that there was this 'airport effect' but we have never been able to show it," Dr Barratt commented. "The closure gave us the opportunity to look at it, and there is a very strong indication that it is the case."

The researchers are also going to study the pollution effects of the fall in airport motor traffic during the shutdown. Ed Dearnley, of Environmental Protection UK, which specialises in air quality campaigning, said yesterday: "This has been an excellent opportunity to find out exactly what the environmental impact of airports really is."


Times Online - 23 April 2010

Profligate air travel is the elephant in the room of environmental discussion

Sir, I remember brilliant blue skies from my childhood and had thought it mere nostalgia (letter, April 22). But when the planes stopped flying, I realised it was not - it was actually true. It has been exhilarating.

Then the planes returned and with them we lost our blue sky. I watched with dismay the encroaching grid of trails build up over the day, each one spreading out, joining with the next and obscuring the blue until by the afternoon the sky was virtually white. It was truly horrible to watch. It will happen every day while we pollute our environment in this way.

Profligate air travel is the elephant in the room of environmental discussion. It's time people began to acknowledge it.

Angie Powell
Milverton, Somerset

Sir, While I have sympathy for those adversely affected by the closure of UK airspace, let's put their misfortune into perspective compared with those, like me, who live near airports or under flightpaths.

At worst, those whose travels were disrupted may have had a "once-in-a-lifetime" trip cancelled or their return delayed, but the inconvenience was short-lived and the cost modest. They do not have their quality of life worsened every day with no hope of escape except to give up their home at great financial loss.

The abuse of local communities around airports has been gradual and is generally taken for granted - even by us. The closure of UK airspace and a week of peace without contrails criss-crossing the sky made us realise just how much we have lost.

Ken McDonald
Stansted Mountfitchet, Essex

Your Comments

G wrote:
Don't those who complain the most about aircraft noise chose to buy their houses under flight paths or next to airports? I'm not quite sure how their argument works!
April 23, 2010 8:10 AM BST

Stanley Cohen wrote:
Of course, Mr Blakey, and if He had wanted us to take showers, He would have put our armpits on top, wouldn't He?
April 23, 2010 6:12 AM BST

Stanley Cohen wrote:
Must have been the sound of her neighbour, Edward Heath, conducting then.
April 23, 2010 6:11 AM BST

John Blakey wrote:
If people want to travel did God not give them legs so they can walk?
April 23, 2010 5:44 AM BST

James Smith wrote:
She was hallucinating, Mr Cohen. Salisbury Cathedral does not have a ringing peal of bells.
April 22, 2010 11:19 PM BST

Stanley Cohen wrote:
Bill, you shouldn't, and really you can't, stop people wanting to travel. You remind me of the lady who bought a prestigious house in Cathedral Close, Salisbury and then tried to obtain an injunction to silence the bellringers.
April 22, 2010 9:22 PM BST

Bill Duffay wrote: Silly extrapolation, Stanley. People's lives are ruined by the constant expansion of airports. They didn't necessarily choose to live near an airport; the airport grew to include them in its pollution. But as for the 'elephant in the room': actually excessive air travel has been a green cause for a decade or more. I'm glad to see it is reaching popular consciousness, and that the Tories have promised to scrap the planned 3rd runway at Heathrow.
April 22, 2010 8:06 PM BST

Stanley Cohen wrote:
Oh do let's return to Ox-drawn ploughs and touching our forelocks to the Squire! I'll bet these folks would be lost without their tellies and their I-pods and mobiles. They have no notion as to the effort that goes into min imise pollution and noise from aircraft and who is going to stand up and say we don't need it? Pathetic! Buy a hut in the Orkneys if you want clear and silent skies.
April 22, 2010 6:55 PM BST


Ash Attack shows real value of aviation to global
economic and social fabric. More shocks to come.

Aviation Analyst - 21 April 2010

Aviation's value in world commerce and communications is generally taken for granted - until it stops. Ask any travel agent or airline today what the social wear and tear has been as a result of the ash cloud over Europe; from deep inconvenience to family tragedies, surface transport options have proven woefully inadequate to fill the gap, even those within Europe, let alone the hundreds of thousands of travellers stranded around the world.

The commercial and economic value is easier to account, although it will take months to see the full impact of this week's airspace shutdown. It will be vast, many billions of dollars - far greater than the immediate economic impact figures doing the rounds at present.

Nearly one third - by value - of all world trade in goods moves by air. Closing Europe's airspace has the effect of shutting down nearly a third of that operation.

Our whole global economy is built around fast movement of high value products, from fresh produce, through computer products, car parts, urgent medical supplies and even gold. More economically importantly even than that, entire supply chains rely on immediate delivery of ingredient products for manufacturing and retailing. Thus there is a near-endless variety of affected companies and consumers as the blockage moves downstream.

Then there is the world's largest "industry", tourism. The disruption to tourism flows caused by the European grounding stretches far beyond the local impact, with all the potential tourists by air also being prevented from flying in either direction.

Added to the impact on trade in goods, in other words, this week's disruption consequently is so significant that it will have a measurable negative effect on the terms of world trade.

The carbon footprint vs the social and economic cost

Aviation accounts for around 8% of global economic output (and more, depending on the degree of proximity applied), while generating about 2% of total carbon emissions. That is a pretty favourable cost/benefit ratio - especially considering that the industry has had a history of continuous improvement with regards to both noise and efficiency.

The Ash Attack has provided an unplanned social and economic experiment, with airlines again at the epicentre. All those who believe that airplanes are toxic to the environment have had a sneak preview of what the world would be like if, indeed, people and goods did not fly.

One effect is fewer (airline) emissions. The UK's Plane Stupid, a group dedicated to opposing air travel, suggests that the exclusion of aircraft in European airspace has saved some 200 tonnes of carbon emissions (although the volcanic eruption has more than a passing impact on the environment and the temperature of the atmosphere - the underlying issue). Clearly the best way to reduce mankind's carbon footprint is to cease breathing and end global trade. But somewhere between the two there is a medium that is realistically sustainable; even the most radical carbon campaigners generally stop short of suicide as a solution to global warming/climate change.

The group's carbon reduction calculation did not however account for the drastically increased emissions resulting from travellers forced to turn to alternative use of much less efficient surface travel modes as car or bus - and the also-questionable emission profile of trains, depending on whether they are powered by coal/electricity or nuclear sources.

There are other social consequences. One feature of the risk-based judgment that shutting down airspace was necessary was obviously the risk of personal injury. Air crashes are dramatic and front page news. No politician or senior bureaucrat would want to be pilloried by the media in front of graphic

Yet air travel is, by a massive margin, the safest form of passenger movement. It is inevitable for example that there will have been a spike in road accidents as a result of the large number of additional travellers over the past few days. In 2008 - certainly with higher numbers of surface than air travellers - 39,000 people died in road accidents in the EU alone, and another 1.7 million were injured.

But, for the entire world's air passenger traffic in 2008, there was a total of 502 deaths in aircraft accidents - with around three billion passengers flying that year.

The respective numbers are not directly comparable, but it is a demonstrated fact that post-September 11, as fearful travellers chose to go by car instead of flying, US road casualties increased by thousands. The resultant very real social costs cannot easily be measured, although there are accountable - and very large - dollar figures to accompany the costs of services involved in such events.

And everyone is affected?

It is not just large companies, such as the major airlines which are in the firing line. For example, few Kenyan flower growers realised that they were so intimately linked to the airline industry, until the supply route for their exports suddenly closed; the car and computer industries, with their high value input items also quickly suffer as supply dries up. Lobster fishermen around the world were left with masses of product on their hands, with nowhere to go. Restaurants and food markets all over the world were affected directly or indirectly, and consumers quickly saw food prices increase.

The airlines themselves have lost up to USD1 billion a week as a direct result of this unforeseen natural disaster; Asia Pacific airlines alone have already lost around USD250 million. Inevitably, the European airlines have been worst affected.

One or two perhaps, like Ryanair with its huge cash pile, could afford to sit and wait it out, at least for a while. Others face serious damage. British Airways for example needed this like a hole in the head. It anticipated an operating loss of up to GBP800 million for the financial year just ended, a GBP3.7 billion pension fund deficit and fares more strikes after the British General Election (the trade union Unite is already positioning itself to block pressure for cost-saving changes to employee contracts arising from this event).

Further down the pecking order, smaller LCCs and regional airlines that are more cash flow sensitive, especially during this period when business should be picking up towards the (northern) summer, will be carefully counting the cost. Those that operate high frequency/volume operations to southern Spain in particular, from where most northern European holidaymakers are trying to get home by bus via Madrid, or by what other means they can, are particularly at risk.

Not only do they suffer an injurious loss of revenue, they also have the added insult of having (legally or ethically) to pay for alternative accommodation and travel arrangements for their stranded customers.

Then there are the immediate relatives: airports, air navigation service providers, all of the airline and airport suppliers - which are legion.

Where there's a loss, there's a claim lawyers' heaven looms

Always where there is financial loss there is a claim. Already national governments are lining up to challenge the European Union to find the money to compensate their airlines, and others. But there are difficulties here.

There has not been an even process, where all key participants were involved. There has been a variety of decision makers involved, some better qualified than others - and some notable failures to make decisions, as British Airways and Lufthansa have been quick to point out. And, amid this haste and uncertainty, basically a lot of actions have been taken with probably only scant attention paid to the ultimate legal outcomes. This all makes for a lawyers' heaven.

'Europe' is a broad area, parts of which have been badly affected by the eruption while other parts have not. The reaction by some ANSPs has been stricter in some cases than others. There is a history of division between the more 'successful' (typically 'northern') airlines and those that frequently went cap in hand to their governments to cover constant losses caused by profligacy, most of them in the southern part of the continent where the ash has so far failed to permeate. They have suffered less, also being excluded from operating within the cloud zone, but it is the northern airlines which have accrued the biggest damage. It will be interesting to see if Ryanair joins the compensation queue - if it were to do so, it would probably be at the forefront.

In this legal minefield and as noted by CAPA, the aero-engine manufacturers reportedly may be threatening to withdraw warranties on any engine flown through the ash - something which is difficult to estimate precisely. Presumably that is why at least three airlines flew their own 'test missions' at the weekend: to gather technical evidence of their own to compare with the authorities' computer simulations and 'guesstimates'.

Engine warranties are big business for airlines - engines can cost as much as 40% of the total aircraft price. Interestingly, and in a strange case of role reversal, although large parts of Norwegian airspace opened on Tuesday afternoon, 20-Apr-2010, two airlines, SAS and Norwegian, declined to fly as they deemed the cloud to be too thick. In the air, the dust cloud, on the ground a legal minefield.

But there is also a global assortment of discomfited travellers and businesses and industries, all of whom will be looking for someone to sue in these unusual circumstances.

How rigorous was the risk assessment?

Furthermore, this begs the question as to how much research could, or should have been done into the propensity for engine damage in this scenario before ICAO issued recommendations and advisories (which are, necessarily, far from black and white in terms of measurable conditions and therefore open to interpretation).

After all, volcanoes are hardly a new issue, with several recorded incidents of large jet aircraft flying straight through thick (not thin and widely dispersed) ash plumes, some of which suffered severe damage, others a little damage and others none to speak of. Some reports indicate there may have been as many as 80 such incidents over two decades. It does not need an actual eruption to undertake tests when the damage-causing material in these sub-glacial eruptions is, effectively, sand.

If scientists aren't coming out of this very well, then neither are politicians and their governments. Most seemed virtually oblivious to the crisis for three days, keeping their heads well down, when the blame game started.

In the UK the responsibility for deciding whether or not aircraft can fly seems to be split, incongruously, between the public sector Civil Aviation Authority (understandably), the Meteorological Office (a government department that became a semi-privatised agency, which is responsible for forecasting the weather), along with the air navigation services provider, NATS. The latter is also part privatised and run by a group of airlines, thereby indirectly overseeing their own financial suffering by preventing themselves from flying.

There are also suggestions that Brussels might have taken precedence, possibly even overriding decisions being taken by national administrations. And, eventually, as the dust started to die down, the national transport ministers finally arranged a telephone hookup.

NATS now advises that it is "working closely with Government, airports and airlines, and airframe and aero engine manufacturers to get a better understanding of the effects of the ash cloud and to seek solutions".

The hundreds of thousands of people left stranded, and businesses disrupted who each have their own tale of misery can be excused for saying "you should have understood it long ago." Not to mention some very vociferous airlines.

A volcanic future? The uncertainty persists

Meanwhile, the only certainty is that there can be no certainty for the time being. It does appear that the worst is over, but this is a wilful creation and unpredictable. Suggestions are that there is more to come. So far the volcanic eruption under the Eyjafjallajökull Glacier in Iceland has actually created no records.

So far it is barely a pale shadow of some of the bigger examples. In the 18th century the Laki eruption wiped out a quarter of the population of Iceland and ruined crops for years across Europe. By comparison this eruption, under the fifth largest (but much smaller) one, is trifling.

It must be of worldwide concern that seismic activity in on the increase, both in Iceland and more widely (China, Haiti, Chile etc). Iceland sits at the convergence of the Atlantic and European tectonic plates, making it particularly prone to this sort of activity. That fact, coupled with prevailing winds that go west-east/southeast, means that whenever there is an eruption this sort, major disruption is likely to occur.

Rumours began to spread this week that another volcano, the awesome Hekla volcano was bubbling up ready to blow. Fortunately it isn't, yet.

The volcanoes mentioned here are amongst many that could erupt at any time. Like Los Angeles and Yellowstone Park, Iceland is overdue for 'the big one'.

(Ironically, one airline that has fared reasonably well out of this week's events is Icelandair. Although many of its European services were cancelled, transatlantic flights westwards were able to continue, both out and inbound, as the cloud drifted in the other direction. And when Glasgow Airport reopened for a short time on 20-Apr-2010, one of the first airlines to land was Icelandair, carrying passengers from cities such as Boston and Seattle, most of them probably ignorant previously of Icelandair's sixth freedom services between Europe and North America.)

The Constant Shock Syndrome

In 2003, following the onset of Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), with its massive negative impact on aviation (just as the industry was recovering from the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, the 2000 Tech Bubble Burst and 2001's September 11 attacks), CAPA coined the phrase "Constant Shock Syndrome" to describe the constant dunking that airlines receive. There is rarely any warning.

Now, just as there are gentle signs of recovery from 2009's disastrous economic downturn (and the effects of H1N1), European airlines - and many others - are attacked again from left field. Several are in serious straits, notably some smaller regional operators who fly just within Europe.

If there is anything certain in the lives of airlines, along with airports and the entire feeding chain, the Constant Shock Syndrome is well tested and proven. There will be more, whether it is from volcanic eruptions, or other more familiar shocks. For now, to corrupt two familiar expressions, it is 'Groundhot Day' all over again.

(CAPA analysts in the US (Ron Kuhlmann) and the UK (David Bentley) provided some of the material for this report).


Dunmow Broadcast - 12 April 2010

A LABOUR government will not support expansion plans at Stansted Airport if it is elected for a fourth term.

In the party's 2010 election manifesto Labour reiterated the need for a third runway at Heathrow, but ruled out any support for a second runway at Stansted in the foreseeable future.

The document, published today (Monday April 12), states: "Heathrow is Britain's international hub airport, already operating at full capacity, and supporting millions of jobs, businesses and citizens who depend upon it. We support a third runway at Heathrow, subject to strict conditions on environmental impact and flight numbers, but we will not allow additional runways to proceed at any other airport in the next Parliament."

The statement means that none of the mainstream parties capable of winning the General Election on May 6 will support expansion plans at Stansted during the next parliament. The Conservatives and the Lib Dems had already previously said they are against expansion plans.

OUR COMMENT: It remains to be seen whether BAA now withdraws their already delayed application or whether they allow the local blight to continue. Since the 2003 Aviation White Paper is clearly out of date and out of favour we await the yet to be elected new Government?s replacement, a national policy statement as required by the latest Planning Act.

Pat Dale


Mark Anstead - Daily Mail - 12 April 2010

If you are unlucky enough to live close to a massive infrastructure project, keep your fingers crossed that you live close enough to be paid wads of compensation. If so, you can then sell up and move without having suffered much financial loss.

But if you live fractionally outside the 'compo' mushroom cloud, you may end up being offered nothing at all. Your house will crash in value and you will have to sell it for whatever you can.

This is the situation facing about 550 homeowners in Essex villages in the ten miles between Takeley and Thaxted that have been devalued by BAA Airports Ltd's plans for a second runway at Stansted.

For the lucky ones who fall inside a tightly defined 'noise' boundary, BAA is willing to purchase their properties for an amount calculated to represent market value had the second runway never been proposed. And for one couple, whose home just falls in the area, the offer has been a lifesaver.

Until three years ago, Andy and Sam Hood believed their five-bedroom family house set in 4.5 acres, where they claim to have spent almost £1million making improvements, fell outside BAA's boundary by 150 yards. But in 2007, the map was redrawn and, luckily for the couple, their home was included.

For houses that fall inside a tightly defined 'noise' boundary, BAA is willing to purchase the property for an amount calculated to represent market value had the second runway never been proposed.

Now Andy, 45, a former investment banker, and Sam, 42, an interior designer, are completing the sale of their home to BAA for more than £2 million. The couple, who have two children Lotty, 14, and Molly, ten, insist that if they were just a few yards further north they wouldn't have been able to sell for more than £1.5 million.

"We are £500,000 better off," says Andy. "When BAA announced a potential second runway at Stansted in 2003, the property market nosedived. Nobody wanted a home they couldn't sell in future because of anticipated aircraft noise, so it was difficult to find any buyers. As soon as we discovered we were eligible for BAA's support, we breathed a huge sigh of relief."

While the public inquiry over Stansted's proposed second runway has been repeatedly delayed, BAA has been keen to publicly offer some sort of compensation to those affected.

In 2004, it launched its Home Owner's Support Scheme, promising to buy properties from anyone unable to sell if they lived inside a strictly defined noise area. The boundary was first drawn up on the assumption that the new runway would be used at both ends, but in 2007 a Government review insisted flights should be restricted to landing on one runway and taking off on the other, and the lines were redrawn.

According to campaign group Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE), however, BAA's scheme has been applied without any sensitivity to the way the property market works.

"The scheme is pulling communities apart," says the SSE's Carol Barbone. "The boundary runs through villages and may include one house but not its neighbour, even though both will have aeroplanes overhead and suffer falls in value. Where the boundary runs through villages and hamlets, we think that BAA should absorb those communities entirely."

The Hoods bought their house for £345,000 in 1994. They converted the double garage into a one-bedroom annexe, built a large indoor pool and remodelled the interiors. In 2003, Andy resigned from his job with Lehman Brothers and the couple lived on savings before opening an interior design shop in Chelmsford, since sold, and then launched www.amara.co.uk, a homewares website turning over £1million annually.

"Considering Lehman's collapse in 2008, I'm glad I got out when I did," says Andy. "But over the past six years, I have had plenty to worry about with our home. When we moved here we thought we were far enough away from the airport not to be affected by noise."

After verifying in 2007 that their property fell inside BAA's adjusted noise boundary, the first step was to have two local estate agents assess their home's value estimated for 2002. If the difference between valuations was less than ten per cent, a mid-point would be agreed with BAA, but due to the uniqueness of their home, a third valuation was needed.

The final figure, £1.4 million, was then pegged to an index tracking price rises in detached Essex homes since 2002 and the couple had to market the house for a year, changing the asking price each quarter to match the index.

"We had no viewers at all," says Andy. "Then at the end of 2009, the index surged seven per cent, so I drove to the airport and gave BAA our documents and forms - we had heard they dragged their feet in some cases, but for us the whole process has been easy, taking only a few months."

Andrew Kershaw, of Fine and Country estate agents in Dunmow, says that after the second runway was announced, the market in affected villages came to a standstill. "It was as if the light went off in that area for two years and nobody would touch properties in Takeley, for example," he says. "Today, homes in that village are worth at least 15 per cent less than they would have been, even after the recession is factored in."

BAA's Debbie Fazan says the company has bought 130 properties under the noise blight scheme for about £50 million. "We are letting them until the market recovers," she says. "The boundary has been approved by the Department for Transport, but anyone falling outside it who is worried their home has been affected will have an opportunity to make a Part I claim under the Land Compensation Act after the runway is built."


Sinead Holland - Herts & Essex Observer - 8 April 2010

A CAMPAIGN for train commuters started rolling this week with demands that hard-pressed workers - not airport holidaymakers - get priority.

Bishop's Stortford's MP Mark Prisk has joined forces with Conservative colleague Sir Alan Haselhurst, the member for Uttlesford, to lobby the Government to give locals millions of pounds worth of new carriages.

The pair wrote to Transport Secretary Lord Adonis on Wednesday (April 7) calling on him to put the brakes on plans for the Stansted Express to get the lion's share of new rolling stock.

It was announced at the start of the year that train operator National Express would lose its East Anglia franchise three years early in March 2011. The Department of Transport is looking for another operator to begin a new franchise next year.

The Stansted Express makes few stops on a line which includes stations in Great Chesterford, Audley End, Newport, Elsenham, Stansted Airport, Stansted Mountfitchet, Bishop's Stortford and Sawbridgeworth, meaning it is useless to many local commuters.

The MPs told Lord Adonis: "The terms of the new franchise agreement will have important implications for many of our constituents, not least those who have to endure the current overcrowding on the West Anglia main line between Cambridge and Liverpool Street on rolling stock which is approaching 30 years old."

"A key issue for your department and the new franchisee will be the basis for allocating the 120 new Electrostar carriages which are due to start coming into service early next year at around the same time as the new franchise commences. The current plan seems to be to give priority to Stansted Express (STEX) by converting the service to new 12-car Electrostars. This would mean that virtually none of the new carriages would be regularly available for commuter rail services between Cambridge and Liverpool Street other than during off-peak hours and at weekends. This is a totally unacceptable proposition."

The MPs pointed out that the Stansted Express carried 6,000 passengers a day to the airport each weekday compared with 8,000 in 2006. Despite the decline, the frequency of STEX was increased from two to four trains per hour in 2005 and the service now largely operates with eight carriages rather than four.

They said: "As a result there is already substantial over-provision for airport passengers compared to local commuters and it would exacerbate this situation if STEX were to be increased to a 12-car norm. In fact, we are advised that a 12-car STEX service would provide eight times more seats for airport passengers than the present level of demand."

The Conservatives said that potential remedies ranged from ending the dedicated STEX service to reviewing its frequency, introducing more stops at local stations or reconsidering the 12-car plan. The MPs suggested: "Leaving STEX as an eight-car service for the time being would enable five new eight-car Electrostar trains to be dedicated to local commuters."

Lord Adonis was told: "It surely cannot be right to put the needs of occasional airport users - mostly travelling for leisure purposes - ahead of the needs of regular local rail users - mostly travelling to and from their place of work. The new franchise agreement must provide a fair deal for local commuters and stop treating them as second-class citizen."

Sir Alan said that he and Mr Prisk were not trying to score political points off Labour, but seeking to emphasise the inequality between services for the airport and their constituents.

Their demands have already found favour with commuters from across the Observer patch. Spokesman Simon Clifford, who travels from Stansted to London daily, said: "We would go further. Firstly we would call for a complete independent review of airport passenger usage of Stansted Express trains and a review of the timetabling of commuter trains on the line."

"We don't see the issue simply as a new trains issue but as a service to customers issue and especially those customers who regularly travel to work, school/college or use the service to visit friends and family. Most passengers understand the limitations of the rail infrastructure but we want the optimum service from what we have!"

A BAA spokesman said the airport welcomed consultation on the franchise as "the STEX service is not good enough at present". He claimed its inadequacies had driven away passengers and airlines - but despite that, Stansted remained the UK's number one airport for public transport use.

He pointed out that the STEX service was used by commuters as well as those travelling to and from the airport - but that the numbers of local passengers had diminished as City redundancies take effect.

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