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 - January to March 2011

STATISTICAL RELEASE: PROVISIONAL FIGURES FOR
2010 GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS AND FINAL FIGURES
FOR 2009 GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS

DECC Press Release: 2011/033 - 31 March 2011

Greenhouse gas emissions - 2010 headline results

* In 2010, UK emissions of the basket of six greenhouse gases covered by the Kyoto Protocol were provisionally estimated to be 582.4 million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent. This was 2.8 per cent higher than the 2009 figure of 566.3 million tonnes.

* Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the main greenhouse gas, accounting for about 84 per cent of total UK greenhouse gas emissions in 2009, the latest year for which final results are available. In 2010, UK net emissions of carbon dioxide were provisionally estimated to be 491.7 million tonnes (Mt). This was 3.8 per cent higher than the 2009 figure of 473.7 Mt.

* Between 2009 and 2010, there were increases in CO2 emissions from most of the main sectors. The provisional estimates show increases in emissions of 13.4 per cent (10.1 Mt) from the residential sector, 3.3 per cent (6.0 Mt) from the energy supply sector, and 2.4 per cent (1.8 Mt) from the business sector. Emissions from the transport sector were relatively stable, down by just 0.1 per cent (0.2 Mt). All these sectorial breakdowns are based on the source of the emissions, as opposed to where the end-user activity occurred. Emissions related to electricity generation are therefore attributed to power stations, the source of these emissions, rather than homes and businesses where electricity is used.

* The increase in CO2 emissions between 2009 and 2010 resulted primarily from a rise in residential gas use, combined with fuel switching away from nuclear power to coal and gas for electricity generation.

Commenting on today's publication of provisional greenhouse gas emissions statistics for 2010, Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne said: "Britain's blighted by inefficient and draughty homes which is why we want to help people waste less energy through the Green Deal and install new cleaner technologies to heat their homes. As we come out of recession the Coalition's determined to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. That's why we are pushing on all fronts to turn around Britain's woeful record on renewables."


DEVELOPING A SUSTAINABLE FRAMEWORK FOR UK AVIATION

Scoping Document published

Statement by The Rt Hon Philip Hammond MP - 30 March 2011

My Department's Business Plan confirmed the Coalition Government's decision not to support new runways at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted. It also committed the Government to create a sustainable framework for aviation in the UK. This framework will replace the previous administration's The Future of Air Transport white paper which, while recognising aviation's economic benefits, failed to take sufficient account of climate change and the impact of aviation on local communities. Today I am publishing a Scoping Document which aims to define the debate as we develop a new long-term policy for UK aviation.

The Government is committed to returning the UK to sustainable economic growth. Aviation has an important role to play in delivering that growth. It makes a significant contribution to the UK economy and provides the international connectivity this country needs to thrive in the highly competitive global economy. This Government wants to see aviation prosper. Aviation should be able to grow, but it must also play its part in delivering our environmental goals and protecting the quality of life of local communities.

The Government has made clear its commitment to meeting the challenge of climate change. Today, aviation contributes around six per cent of UK CO2 emissions but this share will increase as demand for air transport increases and other sectors of the economy reduce their emissions. The Scoping Document explores the most effective ways of addressing aviation's environmental impacts, both global and local, and seeks answers to questions on both issues.

The publication of this Scoping Document represents the start of a dialogue to give a wide range of stakeholders an opportunity to contribute to the development of the policy framework. I expect the views expressed to be varied, and sometimes difficult to reconcile, but I want to move the aviation debate on from the polarisation which has characterised it in recent years, towards a consensus which balances the benefits that aviation brings with its impacts, both global and local.

We will publish a draft policy framework for public consultation in March 2012, and formally adopt the framework by March 2013.

OUR COMMENT: The Document is available here. You are invited to give your views on the issues discussed in this document, preferably as answers to all or some of 48 questions and you have until 30th September to respond. It is very important that as many people as possible do respond, especially if you live near an airport, work in the aviation industry or have to travel by air regularly (hopefully not too often!). The final policy will become the guiding rules for the future development of air travel and will affect a large number of people, both those living near airports and those having to travel by air, as well as having consequences nationally and internationally through the effects of aircraft on climate change.

Pat Dale


NIGHT FLIGHTS FROM UK'S BIGGEST AIRPORTS
COULD BE GROUNDED TO REDUCE NOISE FOR RESIDENTS

Daily Mail Reporter - 31 March 2011

The roar of the jet turbines can be unbearable for people trying to sleep.

Now the Government has finally vowed to clamp down on the night flights at Britain's busiest airports that can make like a misery for residents and people staying in hotels. At present 2,550 take-offs or landings are allowed at Heathrow between 11.30pm and 6am during the six-month winter season and 3,250 in summer. This equates to on average 16 flights night, or roughly two every hour.

The immensely powerful thunder of the planes' massive engines can vibrate houses and even penetrate heavily double-glazed windows. But ministers said that the noise was the 'least acceptable impact' of of flying and disruption to nearby householders.

Now details of changes to the night schedule at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted will be allowed a public consultation shortly amid a review of aviation policy that was announced yesterday. Possibilities include a shorter period with a total ban on night flights but more planes landing or taking off either side.

Gatwick is allowed 16,500 flights and and Stansted 12,500 - both more than Heathrow - because there are fewer people living near the airports.

Transport Secretary Philip Hammond said aviation industry needed to do more, not just on emissions but also on noise. The Government has already ruled out an extra third runway at Heathrow and is opposed to additional runways at Gatwick and Stansted airports.

Launching a 'scoping document' designed to seek views on a new aviation policy, Mr Hammond said: "We are not anti-aviation - we are anti-carbon." He went on: "We are firmly focused on the benefits aviation can bring, particularly in terms of economic growth. But we are not prepared to support growth at any price."

"The aviation industry needs to do more, not just on emissions but also in terms of its other environmental impacts, particularly noise. The current pace of technological change is not fast enough to reconcile growth on the scale of recent years with meeting our climate change targets or, in relation to some airports, our aspirations on local environmental impacts."

Mr Hammond said aviation should be able to grow, but to do so, it had to "play its part in delivering our environmental goals and protecting the quality of life of local communities".

But BAA, which operates Heathrow, warned against more restrictions at the world's busiest airport. Officials claimed that new rules could cause problems with cancellations and responding to poor weather.

Earlier this week it emerged that complaints about Heathrow pushed the airport to 99th in a global table of passenger satisfaction - behind even Calcutta. Travellers were so fed up at long security queues and poor 'ambience', they ranked it far down the league of 146 leading airports. Confidential data revealed it also lags behind Johannesburg, Athens, Amsterdam Schipol and even Humberside Airport.


BANNING NIGHT FLIGHTS COULD PRODUCE
LARGE FINANCIAL SAVINGS

Report commissioned by HACAN - 24 March 2011

A night-time ban on flights from Europe's busiest airport Heathrow could produce up to £860 million in financial savings, new research suggests.

Economic costs caused by the ban could be outweighed by savings from reduced health costs of sleep disturbance and stress caused by the noise pollution of night flights.

The UK authorities currently restrict the number of night flights between 11.30 pm and 6.00 am at Heathrow to 5,800 a year or around 16 per night. Later this year, the Government is expected to consult on a new night flight schedule at London's Heathrow, Stansted and Gatwick airports.

However, the CE Delft social cost benefit analysis, commissioned by HACAN, found that the economic benefits of having less night noise and consequentially less sleep disturbance, in addition to other positive side effects, would outweigh the costs of decreased earnings for the aviation sector and a possible decline in tourism revenue.

The study estimated the impact to society by identifying three possible combinations of actions by airlines and passengers:

1: All night flights are rescheduled to the day and passengers opt for a daytime flight

2: All night flights are rescheduled to the day with 65 per cent of passengers (those who terminate at Heathrow) accepting another arrival time, whilst the remaining 35 per cent of passengers (who are transfer passengers) no longer stop there.

3: All night flights are cancelled and are not rescheduled

The research assessed the economic costs and benefits of the three possible scenarios from 2013 to 2023. It estimated that the first alternative - where flights were rescheduled and passengers continued to fly but at different times - would produce a total saving of £572 million (?673 million). This is mainly the result of the high value placed on noise reduction, which had an estimated benefit of £821.7 million (?966 million).

Changes in frequency of flights and travel times i.e. people not being able to fly on their desired time caused a loss of £250.1 million (?294 million).

For the second alternative, where only terminating passengers continue to fly, the effects add up to a saving of £860 million (?1 billion). Again this was mainly from the benefits of noise reduction (worth £821.7 million (?966 million)). Costs from changes in frequency and times of flights were not as large as these are greatest for transferring passengers and in this scenario they no longer fly. However, there was a greater cost to airline profits.

In the third scenario it is estimated there would be a very large loss in tourism (worth £831.7 million (?978 million)) and a loss in airline profits (£66.8 million (?78.6 million), which counteracts the £821.7 million gain from noise reduction. The net result is an estimated loss of £35.2 million (?41.4 million). However, this scenario is very unlikely.

Several economic costs were not included as they were difficult to value, such as non-aviation revenues from shops and car hire, effects on employment and effects on profits from air passenger duty. If they were included the outcome could have been less positive.

In addition, the gains are largely from noise reduction benefits and the researchers stress that the value of noise reduction varies with the valuation method. The study used a valuation based partly on annoyance, but if it was based on blood pressure then the benefits would be considerably less, for example, the benefits of the second situation would drop from £856 million to £40.1 million.

The researchers recommend studying the benefits of noise reductions in more detail.


NOISE POSES MAJOR THREAT TO HEALTH, SAYS WHO

ENDS Europe DAILY - 30 March 2011

The World health Organisation's regional office for Europe has called on governments and local authorities to introduce further noise control measures after a report showed that traffic-related noise poses the second biggest health threat after air pollution.

Constant exposure to traffic noise increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases and high blood pressure, says the report. One in five Europeans have their sleep disturbed by cars, trains and airplanes. This can cause problems such as tinnitus.

The report, which was supported by the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC), says that each year at least one million healthy years of life are lost due to disability or disease caused by traffic noise. This was determined by measuring exposure to traffic noise in relation to illnesses.

In June, the EU executive is due to propose a revision of road traffic noise legislation that will update limits on noise from cars, buses, trucks and vans. These limits have not been changed for more than a decade. Green transport group T&E called for stringent new standards in response to the WHO's latest findings.

An EU study conducted by consultancy TNO has recommended setting moderately tighter limits to begin with, followed by much stricter standards a few years later. The economic benefits of this approach would outweigh the costs, it says.

Another study published by T&E in 2008 found that road and rail noise is linked to 50,000 fatal heart attacks and 200,000 cases of cardiovascular disease in Europe annually. This costs an estimated E40bn annually to treat. T&E will hold a conference on noise policy with EU policy makers in Brussels in late May.

The commission is also expected to review the environmental noise directive in the coming year. A draft implementation report has been finalised and is expected to be published in mid-May. Member states must submit their second monitoring reports of traffic noise next year. Most were late in submitting their first reports due in 2007.


PUBLIC PERCEPTIONS OF AVIATION AND THE ENVIRONMENT
NEED TO BE TURNED AROUND, SAYS UK CAA CHIEF

Green Online - 28 March 2011

Despite investment by airlines in new aircraft, the aviation sector has not been seen to take the environment issue sufficiently seriously so far, said Andrew Haines, the Chief Executive of the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). People want to fly more but they also want and need a safe, sustainable and enjoyable environment, and ways were needed to meet those twin demands, Haines told a London conference last week. He said the signals from UK politicians indicated that they will not support aviation growth unless industry creates the political and social appetite for it.

Speaking at the same conference, UK transport minister Theresa Villiers said building new runways at London's airports would have made it more difficult to meet climate change commitments and was too high a price in terms of the local environmental impact on surrounding communities.

Haines told delegates at the 'Aviation in the 21st Century' conference, organised by WEET, that reconciling growth and sustainability in aviation was a delicate balancing act that industry and regulators were having to perform. "Currently aviation's impact on the environment is relatively small," he said. "But as other sectors decarbonise, proportionally our impact is going to grow, as aviation demand growth continues."

He said with a forecast demand growth of 5% a year over the next five years, IATA's fuel efficiency improvement goal of 1.5% a year to 2020 and carbon-neutral growth from 2020 was a significant challenge for the global industry.

"Even against our own target here in the UK - getting aviation emissions back down to 2005 levels by 2050 - we have a tough job ahead. The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) estimates for that to happen, demand growth must be limited to 60%. That's against the 200% estimated in the absence of a carbon price and with unconstrained airport expansion."

"Then there's noise pollution, which is a massive impediment to industry growth. It may not figure in international negotiations, but it plays big locally, and needs to be taken just as seriously. It's a live issue across the South-East of the UK and in parts of Europe. So we need to find solutions that balance national need with the growing value local communities quite rightly place on tranquillity."

He warned the industry that the environment was not a 'fly-by-night' issue. "If anything, it's only going to grow in importance. So anyone in the industry - and I include those of us tasked with regulation - who doesn't believe that this is the case is doing themselves and their customers no favours," he added.

"Industry needs to make - and show - considerable effort. It isn't obviously on the front foot. I know there's some work underway, but it's not clear to the consumer. The industry needs a credible line on the environment. And just as importantly, it needs to stick to it."

Haines said that many in the aviation sector were hoping for the government to change its policy to something they like better. "It's not going to happen." He added: "Our sense at the CAA is that aviation will have to pass through a set of environmental gateways before growth is allowed. In other words, aviation needs to stop sticking its collective head in the sand, and make the environment a top priority."

He said the CAA would be pushing to publish more data that would allow passengers to see what impact their travel choices are having on the environment and informing the wider public about industry's performance. In addition, work would continue on advising the Environment Agency on the EU ETS, helping airports reduce their impact on local communities and looking to play a part in promoting projects that use low-carbon technologies, like biofuels.

Theresa Villiers, whose ministerial brief includes aviation, said finding the best way for aviation to grow sustainably and successfully was "among the most important transport challenges we face in the modern world". She said to would be a mistake to see the issue as a binary choice between economic and environmental concerns, and the steps needed to decarbonise the economy could open up significant economic opportunities for the country.

Villiers revealed that an aviation policy scoping document would be published shortly that would ask strategic questions to inform the development of a sustainable framework for the future of UK aviation. "We aim to conclude that process in 2013 after a wide ranging national debate and extensive engagement with industry, environmentalists, community groups and the full range of stakeholders," she said.

"In recent years, the debate has become increasingly polarised. We want to try to build more of a consensus that recognises the crucial benefits that aviation brings to our society and our economy, but also acknowledges the need for restraint and for aviation to do more to address its environmental impacts. However, the process for producing that strategy over the next two years does not mean we stand still on our efforts to deliver important aviation policy goals."

Villiers said action was needed at a European level on delivering the Single European Sky programme and the UK government was committed to including aviation in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS). "We are also working through ICAO and the UNFCCC to push for international agreement on aviation emissions," she added. "Progress has been slow in recent years but the first major ICAO conference in which this government took part saw a modest step forward. We are also actively contributing to technical work to set international CO2 standards for new aircraft types and to devise metrics for reporting aviation CO2 emissions. It may not grab headlines but this detailed work is pivotal if we are to make real progress at a global level."

"Technology is, of course, crucial to delivering our aviation policy goals and Britain can be at the forefront of that technological change. Over the horizon, I hope we can look forward to real advances on biofuels. Though I think it's wise to admit there is no miracle technical solution round the corner on carbon or noise, technology may provide some of the answers."

Villiers said the government's proposed high-speed rail (HSR) route up the spine of the country, together with potential direct rail services to Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Cologne, along with current Eurostar routes to Brussels and Paris, could provide a viable rail alternative to around 140,000 flights per year.

However, Andrew Haines, himself a former rail industry chief executive, believed HSR would not be a "magic panacea". He said the cut-off point above which rail journeys cease to become an attractive alternative to flying was three-and-a-half to four hours. "Even with expanded HSR services to and from Europe, only a relatively few of the destinations currently offered at Heathrow would be within that timeframe. Add to that the fact that just 13% of UK aviation emissions result from journeys of less than 1,000 kilometres. The CCC showed that even with 'speculative' penetration, rail and high-speed rail could only reduce UK aviation demand by 8%."

Meanwhile, the UK government did not put up Air Passenger Duty (APD) in the Chancellor's budget this week, as some had originally predicted, news which was grudgingly welcomed by IATA chief Giovanni Bisignani. "I congratulate the Chancellor on his wise decision at this critical time of rising oil prices. He has begun to address the falling competitiveness of the UK aviation sector - at least by not making the APD situation worse. But much more needs to be done. Air passenger taxes in this island nation, which relies on air transport for connectivity, are still the highest in the world," he said.

Bisignani urged the UK to commit to abandoning APD - "long touted as an environmental tax" - should aviation join the EU ETS in 2012. However, IATA repeated its opposition to the EU ETS as it was an inefficient environmental mechanism, contravened international agreements and undermined efforts for developing a global economic measures framework. "We oppose misguided efforts on the EU ETS. But if it comes into place the UK APD must go - completely," said Bisignani.

He said the UK collected more than £2 billion (US3.2bn) from APD, which was enough, he claimed, to offset the entire annual carbon footprint of the UK aviation sector four times over.

With an opposing view, Tim Johnson of environmental NGO Aviation Environment Federation (AEF) said an increase in APD was urgently needed. "This would be a step towards making the aviation industry pay for the environmental costs such as noise and CO2 emissions that it imposes and to make a fair contribution to the nation's finances. The present tax is well short of what would be required to equalise aviation taxes with other sectors of the economy. For instance, if aviation fuel were taxed at the same rate as petrol, this would raise £10 billion ($16bn) per year."

The two also had contrary views on the UK government's decision to drop plans to switch APD from a per passenger to a 'greener' per plane levy, with Bisignani welcoming the move and Johnson expressing dissatisfaction.

"We are disappointed that the very public commitment made by the government to replace APD with an aircraft-based tax has been dropped without any consultation on how obstacles to its implementation could be overcome," said Johnson. "This means that freight transport and transfer passengers will continue to escape paying any tax. We are calling on the government to find a way to close these loopholes."

The shelving of the pledge, ostensibly on legal grounds, could be a precursor in the run-up to the introduction of the EU ETS to drop any lingering environmental pretence over APD in order to face down industry, and to some extent EU regulatory, argument about a double-counting of aviation CO2 emissions.


ABTA ISSUES WARNING OVER
GOVERNMENT'S AVIATION POLICY REVIEW

Travel Mole Online - 1 April 2011

ABTA has warned that the Government's new aviation policy will not stop the UK slipping down the international competitiveness chart for aviation.

It said the policy review, announced this week, does not address airport capacity at the UK's busiest airports, which it believes is "one of the most important issues concerning the industry and the travelling public".

ABTA head of public affairs Luke Pollard said: "I welcome the Government's challenge to engage in a serious debate about the future of aviation, and the environmental impact of flying, but any serious debate can't ignore the impacts of a shortage of capacity in the UK's airports in the South East. The Government's decision to remove airport capacity from discussion is like issuing a rail policy without considering train tracks."

"Overcrowding is immediate, real and pressing given that the UK is hoping to welcome tens of thousands of extra overseas visitors in 2012 and hopes to use the travel and tourism industry to grow the UK economy in the long term."


AVIATION & TRANSPORT NEWS

26 March 2011

AIRLINES: Airlines spread wings with 128 new routes

The Independent (Simon Calder) reports that airlines are preparing to launch 128 new routes from the UK this summer, with Ryanair responsible for the bulk of the growth. The budget airline is starting 90 new services from the UK in the next three months, including some that defy conventional aviation wisdom, such as Birmingham to Kaunas in central Lithuania, and Bristol to Rzeszow in Poland. Other unusual routes include Flybe's new services from Exeter to Dusseldorf and Southampton to Clermont-Ferrand in central France. Wiz Air is offering some interesting options from Luton: new destinations include Cluj-Napoca and Tirgu Mures in Transylvania and Skopje in Macedonia. Dublin-based CityJet is launching summer-only flights from London City to several destinations in southern France, including Pau, Toulon and Avignon; in June British Airways is launching two new services from London City, to Faro and Malaga.

The Independent (Simon Calder) adds in a separate report that one significant factor with boosted summer schedules is that fares tend to fall as airlines launching new routes are obliged to keep prices low to stimulate business. Lower fares are also often the result when new capacity is added on one 'city pair'. When EasyJet starts flying from Manchester to Montpellier, the new service is likely to draw traffic from Ryanair's existing Liverpool to Nimes service, forcing the Irish airline to cut fares. Price skirmishes can also be expected from London to a range of destinations: EasyJet's new Gatwick to Amman service starting tomorrow will offer fares typically 30%-50% lower than rival services from BMI and Royal Jordanian out of Heathrow. Meanwhile, EasyJet is going head to head with British Airways with a new Gatwick to Bologna service.

The Sun (Staff) reports that British Airways is launching three more routes to leisure destinations: Gatwick to Marrakech thrice weekly and Heathrow direct to Buenos Aires daily, both from tomorrow; and twice weekly flights from Gatwick to San Juan, Puerto Rico from Monday. The Daily Mirror (Staff) says adventurous tourists can now fly from Manchester to Baghdad on a new service to be launched by Viking Hellas at the end of the month. The Greek airline said it is responding to demand from Manchester's growing Iraqi population and expats as well as 'thrill seekers'. Emirates launched a Manchester to Basra service, via Dubai, in February and expects to add more.


NATS SALE COULD SEE OVERSEAS BUYER FLY OFF
WITH MORE OF UK'S INFRASTRUCTURE

Government and BAA consider selling their stake
in air traffic controller, paving the way for a private buyer

Dan Milmo - The Observer - 27 March 2011

A majority stake in Britain's national air traffic controller could be put on the market by the end of the year, raising the possibility that another piece of UK infrastructure will come under foreign ownership.

The government is considering selling all of its 49% stake in Nats, the national air traffic service, and airport group BAA is also likely to dispose of its 4% shareholding, creating an opportunity for a private buyer to take control. Recent transport sell-offs indicate Nats will attract strong interest from non-UK companies, while the cautionary tale of Railtrack still has the public fretting over the safety implications of any transaction.

Last year a 30-year concession to run the High Speed One rail route from London to the Channel tunnel was bought for £2.1bn by two Canadian investment firms, while BAA, privatised in the 1980s, was bought in 2006 by a consortium led by Spanish conglomerate Ferrovial.

The government hoisted the "for sale" sign again in last week's budget when it said it "intends to realise value" from the Nats stake. A government source confirmed that a complete exit from the business is "an option on the table", although ministers are not close to a final decision. BAA confirmed that the group's 4% shareholding has no long-term future in the group. "We've stated a number of times that we intend to sell all non-core assets," said a spokesman. "The stake in Nats is the last of those investments, and we're following the government's moves with interest."

Potential bidders for a controlling stake in Nats include New York-based Global Infrastructure Partners, the owner of Gatwick airport; and Lockheed Martin, the US aerospace and defence group. Nats is in strong financial health, posting a pre-tax profit of £74.2m last year as it handled more than 2m flights.

Confirmation that the transport secretary, Philip Hammond, is considering a full exit has aroused opposition from trade unions, the Labour party and airlines.

Some of the biggest names in British aviation are members of the Airline Group, a consortium that owns 42% of Nats and whose members are British Airways, Virgin, bmi, easyJet, Monarch Airlines, Thomas Cook and Tui Travel. In a letter to Hammond last month, the group warned of "highly damaging" consequences if the state sold off its stake, including threats to safety and lack of heft in negotiations with European air traffic control bodies.

Urging the government to retain a 25% stake, the airlines hinted that they will follow the government out of the door if there is a complete sale - raising the possibility that 95% of the business will have a new owner by the year end. The remaining 5% is owned by staff.

A source close to the Airline Group warned that Nats could be bought in a debt-laden transaction similar to the sale of BAA, whose borrowings total more than £12.3bn. The source said BAA's reputation as a focused business has suffered since and pointed to last week's publication of a report into its handling of the December snow fiasco. "We don't want a highly leveraged takeover of the sort that we saw at BAA. Hopefully, the coverage of the report will convince ministers of the consequences of getting it wrong."

The Prospect trade union, which represents more than 3,000 air traffic controllers, has also urged the government to retain at least 25%, saying: "We think it is very important for the government to retain a significant stake in Nats and we are deeply concerned about the idea of an external organisation gaining an overall majority stake."

Nats argues safety concerns are overblown, given that strict standards are set and overseen by the Civil Aviation Authority regardless of ownership.

The shadow secretary of state, Maria Eagle, warned that the Labour party, which part-privatised Nats in 2001, would oppose a full sell-off. "It is vital that government remains able to represent the national interest at this key strategic asset which operates at no cost to the taxpayer and delivers a dividend to the Treasury," she said. "If they go ahead with this reckless plan to reduce the government's stake to less than a quarter then Labour will oppose their plans and vote against them in parliament."


RYANAIR BLAMES EU FOR NEW CHARGE

Sarah Arnott - The Independent - 31 March 2011

Ryanair will add ?2 (£1.76) per passenger to all bookings from Monday to pay for the cost of flight cancellations and delays in "force majeure" events.

The budget carrier blamed the hike on "unfair and discriminatory" EU regulations that left uncontrollable events such as the weather as the responsibility of airlines.

Last year the combination of the ash cloud from the Icelandic volcano, closures because of snow and strikes across Europe cost the company more than ?100m, Ryanair said. It was forced to cancel more than 15,000 flights and more than 2.4 million passengers had their travel disrupted.


MARKET REPORT: EASYJET LEVY COULD SPARK
RECOVERY IN BUDGET SECTOR

Toby Green - The Independent - 1 April 2011

Like the rest of its peers, 2011 has been tough on easyJet, with climbing oil prices helping its share price lose over 20 per cent since the turn of the year. Yesterday, however, the budget airline ticked up as investors' hopes were raised that the introduction of a new levy by Ryanair could spark a recovery for stocks in the sector.

Earlier in the week the Irish group announced a new charge of ?2 per passenger to cover the cost, it said, of EU regulations on compensation for cancellations and delayed journeys. Describing the news as "potentially very significant," Investec said it could be "a turning point" for the industry as a whole that may prompt a sharp rally.

The broker said that Ryanair's policy of no fuel surcharges, as well as its public attacks on airlines which do have them, has "forced the network carriers to stop raising short haul surcharges," and it added the new levy meant the rest of the sector could follow suit.

"Airline demand is price-elastic, so this could choke off some demand," said its analysts."However, as long as all carriers adopt a similar levy, there'll be no competitive advantage - this is an orderly way of raising fares, led by the industry price-setter."

It predicted that, in the best case scenario, easyJet could gain £81m as a result of introducing the charge, and the group put on 3p to 340.9p despite the FTSE 250 closing 84.46 points lower at 11,591.98 and another rise in oil prices. However, International Airlines Group slipped back 5.5p to 227p, even though the broker said it may benefit by up to £82.5m from the levy.


BAA MUST SELL STANSTED
DESPITE MORATORIUM ON NEW RUNWAYS

Competition Commission presses on with BAA airport
sell-off policy as government opposes runway expansion

Dan Milmo and Graeme Wearden - The Guardian - 30 March 2011

The Competition Commission has vowed to press ahead with attempts to force BAA to sell off Stansted airport, at the same time as the government has confirmed that the airport's owner will not be able to build a new runway at the site.

The commission said it had not changed its mind about demanding BAA sell Stansted and either Glasgow or Edinburgh airport, despite a change in government that has ushered in an embargo on new runways in south-east England. Competition in building new landing strips was one of the factors behind the decision to break up BAA - a conclusion that BAA says has been undermined by the runway ban.

In a statement, the commission said it had "provisionally concluded that the sale of the airports is fully justified and that passengers and airlines would still benefit from greater competition with the airports under separate ownership". BAA said it would "carefully consider" the commission's provisional decision.

BAA, which sold Gatwick in 2009 for £1.5bn, had argued that further sales were not needed as the government had blocked expansion at Heathrow. However, selling two more airports will at least help the company to cut its £12bn debt, analysts said. In October 2010, the court of appeal ruled in favour of the commission's findings following an appeal by BAA.

"There now appears to be greater capacity available which will increase the potential for competition between the London airports. The introduction of new ownership at Gatwick, while too recent for us to base any conclusions on, has also given a foretaste of the benefits competition can bring," said Peter Freeman, chairman of the commission.

Would-be buyers of the Essex airport are unlikely to factor a second runway into their bids after the government kept the door shut on expansion today. In an indication that there will be no movement on runways for some time, a scoping document on aviation asked airlines and airport owners to "address the question of how we prioritise available capacity where demand exceeds supply". One solution mooted by ministers - to raise flight taxes for airports in south-east England while making the rest of the UK cheaper - has met with opposition from London-based carriers and airports.

The document only acknowledges the pressure for more airports in passing. It states: "We recognise the strong view from some stakeholders, particularly within the business community, that additional airport capacity is required to meet the UK economy's needs." However, the document stresses that "environmental constraints" must be addressed first.

Demanding that the industry do more to address carbon dioxide emissions and noise, the document adds: "The current pace of technological change is not fast enough to reconcile growth on the scale of recent years with meeting our climate change targets or, in relation to some airports, our aspirations on local environmental impacts."

The publication ends with a list of 49 questions for airports, airlines, businesses and members of the public to consider. Further movement on a formal policy will take some time, however, with a policy framework due to be implemented in two years' time. Bata, the lobbying group for British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and other UK carriers, which has criticised the lack of firm government policy, said it would respond "vigorously" to the document. "It is essential the UK aviation industry remains competitive in the face of the global challenge from our European neighbours and the emerging economies across the globe," said Simon Buck, Bata's chief executive.


STANSTED AIRPORT VOTED THE 'WORLD'S BEST'

Nick Thompson - Reporter - 31 March 2011

STANSTED Airport has been named 'world's best low-cost airport' at the 2011 World Airports Awards in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The UK's third busiest airport scooped the best in category prize in the annual Skytrax airport customer survey, based on the feedback of 11.38 million passengers, across 100 different nationalities and covering 240 airports worldwide.

Welcoming the award, Stansted?s Managing Director Nick Barton said: "I'm absolutely delighted Stansted has been named as the best low-cost airport in the world, especially as the award is decided by those who matter the most - the passenger. Stansted is firmly established as a world leader at serving the low-cost airline sector that has transformed air travel."

"We have a route network that stretches to around 150 destinations with Stansted now offering more direct scheduled European flights than any other airport in the world. We are extremely proud Stansted is home to airlines such as Ryanair, easyJet, germanwings and airberlin, plus AirAsia X, one of the new breed of long-haul, low-cost airlines."

"These are some of the most profitable and innovative airlines in the world, operating modern and efficient aircraft fleets, and who continue to grow and open new markets. It's thanks to the help and support of our excellent airline partners that we have gained this global honour and recognition."

"The airport has just celebrated the 20th anniversary of HM The Queen opening our iconic terminal building in 1991. This award is a fitting tribute to the world class airport infrastructure developed by Lord Foster that has been brilliantly complimented by the modern efficiencies and technological improvements achieved by the low-cost airline sector."


THE BUDGET: AIRLINES STARTLED AT 'DELAY' TO
APD INCREASE THEY KNEW NOTHING ABOUT

Transport and Aviation News - 24 March 2011

Most papers report that the UK's leading airlines have accused the government of concealing a looming increase in air passenger duty despite claims the levy will be frozen for a year. The Guardian (Dan Milmo) notes the British Air Transport Association said it was not expecting any increase in APD and was surprised by the Budget announcement that a rise would be delayed by 12 months.

APD will remain fixed for a year at a level airlines complain is already too high. Moreover, Treasury forecasts indicate strong annual rises are on the way, with the levy intended to generate £3.1bn in 2013 and £3.6bn in 2016 compared to £2.2bn last year. PwC partner Mark Schofield said inflation-linked increases in APD would not be enough to hit such targets and warned of the likelihood of major rises. Unless growth is generated by new passengers, considered unlikely given that UK passenger numbers have fallen for three successive years, the extra income will have to be driven by increases in the levy.

Meanwhile, the Chancellor confirmed that plans to charge APD on a per plane basis rather than per passenger had been dropped because they contravened international law. He also said the 'arbitrary' banding system used to calculate the level of APD paid - which currently means those flying to the Caribbean pay more than those travelling to California - would be improved, and pledged to address the fact that private jets do not pay APD. "The wealthiest should not escape the tax the ordinary holidaymaker has to pay," Mr Osborne told MPs.

The Daily Telegraph (Gordon Rayner) quotes leading industry figures, including EasyJet chief executive Carolyn McCall who said: "The continued omission of transfer passengers from APD undermines what the coalition promised to achieve by replacing it with a fairer, greener per-plane tax". Thomas Cook chief executive Manny Fontenla-Novoa was more scathing: "APD is a phoney tax under the pretence of being green. The government should have had the courage to revise this stealth tax so that British people do not have to continue to face unfair taxes on their hard-earned holidays".

However, Friends of the Earth transport campaigner Richard Dyer said the APD freeze was very disappointing: "Aviation is a major contributor to climate change but it gets off lightly by not paying fuel tax or VAT".

For the industry's chat on the APD announcement, see the Fair Tax on Flying Facebook page.


STATEMENT ON THE BUDGET

Airport Watch - 24 March 2011

AirportWatch, the national network of airport community campaigns, welcomes the Chancellor's proposal in the Budget to tax flights taken on private business jets.

HACAN Chair John Stewart, who chairs the network, said "This move is long-overdue. In the forthcoming consultation we will be urging the Chancellor to raise Air Passenger Duty by at least the rate of inflation each year. Ideally the rate of inflation plus 1%. The fact of the matter is that aviation remains under-taxed as it pays no VAT and no tax on its fuel."


I WANT TO PAY AIR PASSENGER DUTY ON ALL MY FLIGHTS

Blog by Sam Thewlis - 11 March 2011

You don't? Let me explain.

You see, a recent consortium of assorted airline type folks wrote a letter to Mr George suggesting he abolish Air Passenger Duty (APD) completely on flights leaving the UK.

The twenty-five travel companies and organisations (including British Airways, Tui, Thomas Cook, Abta, BAA and Virgin Atlantic) think that abolishing APD, which has rocketed a whopping 325 per cent over the last six years, would not only help out our poor, long-suffering British families, but also improve the UK's economic outlook, as the tax is putting people off flying and coming to the UK. Apparently a decrease in flight numbers has everything to do with the APD and nothing to do with the fact that no one has any money as we are in a recession.

The campaign has a catchy name (Fair Tax on Flying) and a whole lot of indignation behind it. Still if the issue was as burning in consumer minds as they would have us believe, perhaps they wouldn't have needed to use such leading questions as this in their 'impartial' survey?

"At present, the UK government collects Air Passenger Duty (APD) from every passenger flying through a UK airport. The amount of APD paid depends on the distance of the flight and whether you are travelling in economy or business class. As an example, a British family of four flying from a UK airport to Florida in economy class will pay £240 to the British government in flight tax. Do you think that this tax on flights is, too much, about right, not enough?"

But, perhaps you should be careful what you wish for. APD currently brings in an estimated £2.2 billion in tax - rising to £3.6 billion in 2015. Not an amount to be sniffed at. If the Chancellor were to abolish APD, he would have to make up that shortfall somewhere, or somehow, else. Where would you like to see £2.2 billion shaved? The NHS? Schools? Any remaining public services?

Of course, the alternative to cuts is to levy another form of taxation. Given the fair tax on flying alliance wants us to be fair, why not levy VAT and fuel duty on air travel from which air travel is currently excluded? After all, when we fill up at the pump we pay 58.95p per litre in fuel duty and then pay VAT on top. That would be fair, now wouldn't it?

Fair, but astonishingly expensive. Would you rather pay £12 per person to fly to Barcelona or the tax on the 1414 mile round trip - at 100 miles per gallon (4.55 litres) per person, that's a measly £37.92 in fuel duty and £7.58 in VAT on the fuel duty. That's almost four times as much wonga out of your pocket (because you can be sure the airlines won't shoulder the cost), not taking into account the VAT on the cost of the fuel itself. And don't even bother thinking of flying to Australia?

Besides, we all know that the 'taxes' part of the 'fees,taxes and charges' added on by airlines when trying to book their £1 flights to Los Angeles is only a very small proportion - can you really see the bucket airlines passing the whole saving on? Perhaps they would have a new 'non-accounting for non-tax' charge instead?

All in all, if I were a member of the consortium, I would stop and think how good I actually have it. Besides, surely the people lobbying should be the passengers, after all, we are the ones who are paying the levy in increased air fares.


LABOUR CLOSE TO DITCHING 3RD RUNWAY

Press Release - Airport Watch - 21 March 2011

Labour is ready to drop its support for a third runway at Heathrow. The change, to be considered as part of a review of the previous Government's transport commitments, would kill off plans to expand Europe's busiest airport.

Last May the coalition overturned a plan to allow construction of another runway by 2020. Philip Hammond, the Transport Secretary, has also ruled out new runways at Gatwick or Stansted.

Businesses argue that London and the wider economy will suffer if expansion is not allowed. However, residents living under the flight paths would welcome the move from a party that, since 2003, has put a third runway at the centre of its aviation policy.

Maria Eagle, the Shadow Transport Secretary, said that environmental concerns had gained traction. "Ed Miliband has always been clear that he is skeptical about a third runway at Heathrow," she said. "So I do not start our policy review with any preference."

Pressed to say whether this meant Labour no longer held unequivocal support for a third runway, Ms Eagle added: "Not at this stage because we have got our policy review and as I have said practically speaking it is off the agenda for the length of this parliament."

However, the Opposition shares the fear of business leaders who say that London risks being left behind if international transport links cannot keep up with competitors.

"London has to fight for its status daily against emerging places such as Shanghai or Mumbai and can it really maintain that status without having a major hub airport? What will happen to Heathrow if there isn't expansion?" Ms Eagle said. "We don't set out saying, it has got to be in the south east, it has got to be somewhere else or even if there has got to be expansion. If there is expansion it has got to be sustainable."

Opponents said that a Labour U-turn on Heathrow would extinguish for once and for all the threat of increased noise and air pollution around the airport.

BAA, the operator of Heathrow, said: "Clearly aviation is central to our recovery and in supporting the trade links that the Chancellor and Prime Minister have been promoting in China and India."


STANSTED'S ICONIC TERMINAL
CELEBRATES 20TH ANNIVERSARY

Herts & Essex Observer - 15 March 2011

Stansted Airport is today celebrating the 20th anniversary of Her Majesty the Queen officially opening one of the world's most iconic terminal buildings on 15 March, 1991. Since the first flight departed to Glasgow four days later, over 250 million passengers have passed through the Lord Foster designed structure on over 2.5 million flights.

The new terminal launched a new era for airport buildings, combining the use of natural light, increased height and space and ease of access to create a calmer, more comfortable and simpler airport experience for passengers that has now become the norm around the world.

The past two decades have also seen the terminal play host to a wide range of events and celebrities, including Hollywood films, numerous TV programmes and adverts, a congregation of 1,500 people for a recording of Songs of Praise and even a baptism in the terminal's chapel.

In addition, over 140 of BAA's current 1,300 staff have proudly worked at the airport for the full 20 years of the terminal's life, with many more repeating the feat at the other 200 on-airport companies.

Nick Barton, Stansted's Managing Director, marking the milestone, said: "Stansted's iconic terminal building is a fantastic triumph for great British design and engineering and helped create a new era of innovative airport construction and style that still provides the inspiration for new terminal developments all over the world."

"The terminal is the centre piece of the modern Stansted, and we are all extremely proud that the Lord Foster building is still as good today as it was when Her Majesty the Queen opened it 20 years ago. Stansted is now firmly established as a truly international gateway and an integral part of the vibrant community we proudly sit within and serve. This is in no small way thanks to our superb terminal structure."

"With exactly 500 days to the start of the London 2012 Olympics, I fully expect Stansted to play a leading role in welcoming thousands of overseas visitors to the Games. I am very confident that thanks to the hard work of our dedicated staff and our excellent facilities, including brilliant terminal infrastructure, Stansted will create a fantastic first and last impression the UK can be proud of."


TRANSPORT SECRETARY LAUNCHES
NEW STANSTED EXPRESS TRAINS

Hertfordshire Mercury - 17 March 2011

THE first new Stansted Express rolling stock was officially launched today (Thursday, March 17).

At a special naming ceremony at London's Liverpool Street station, the Secretary of State for Transport, the Rt Hon Philip Hammond MP, unveiled the first of the new trains that will begin to operate between Stansted Airport and Cambridge to the capital from May this year.

The 120 new state-of-the-art class 379 Electrostar cars, ordered for the National Express East Anglia network and manufactured by Bombardier at the only site in the UK building trains today, will provide a major boost in quality, comfort and reliability for the thousands of passengers who use the popular airport service every day.

To complement the introduction of the new trains and to increase rail capacity at Stansted, work is under way to lengthen platforms at the airport's railway station to allow for the operation of 12 car trains as rail demand grows in the future.

Welcoming the launch of the new Stansted Express train, Nick Barton, managing director, said: "We're absolutely delighted to see the first new train for the Stansted Express unveiled by the Secretary of State for Transport today and we now look forward to May when we begin to welcome the new trains on the Stansted Airport service."

"Stansted is already the UK's No 1 major airport for passengers using public transport so the long-awaited introduction of the new trains is really great news. They are vital in helping us to promote the airport and deliver improvements to the passenger journey. The replacement of the existing rolling stock gives Stansted the newest trains serving any airport in the UK and is a huge step in driving Stansted's importance in the key London and South East of England aviation market."

"The new trains will benefit our staff and commuters who rely on the service to get to and from work, whether from London or Cambridge. They will also be welcomed by our local communities who will be able to use these new trains and enjoy the enhanced comfort and quality they offer. With the 2012 Olympics just around the corner, the welcome to Britain and the reputation of public transport in the UK will be in the spotlight like never before, but we can all be rightly proud that the Stansted Express is clearly heading in the right direction."

The 30 four-carriage trains will run from the end of this year on National Express East Anglia's service to Stansted Airport and also between London and Cambridge. Stations served by these trains in the Mercury area will include Waltham Cross, Cheshunt. Broxbourne and Roydon.


LORD SUGAR SCRAPS PLANS FOR HOTEL
AND GOLF COURSE NEAR STANSTED AIRPORT

Eleanor Patmore - Herts & Essex Observer - 11 March 2011

LORD Sugar has fired plans for a luxury hotel and golf complex a mile from Stansted Airport.

The straight-talking self-made millionaire and star of BBC show The Apprentice is believed to have pulled the plug on the project as it was no longer viable in the current climate and now that second runway plans have been scrapped.

The 441-acre (178ha) Hatfield Park Farm site in Bush End has instead been sold by Amsprop, the property branch of his business empire, for above its £3.2m guide price and is likely to be retained as arable farmland.

The hotel and golf complex project was originally overseen by Cambridge-educated Simon Ambrose, who won the third series of The Apprentice in 2007 - even coming to Saffron Walden to win over locals at a networking meeting at Chesterford Research Park before leaving Lord Sugar's employ in April last year to set up his own property development firm.

Agent Giles Allen, of Strutt and Parker, confirmed on Tuesday Hatfield Park Farm - which has outline consent for a 150-bed hotel, conference rooms and three golf courses - was put on the market in mid-January and a deal was expected to be completed in the coming weeks.

Mr Allen declined to reveal who the new owner was but said there had been a "huge" amount of interest, especially from the farming fraternity. "We sent out in excess of 200 particulars and we had six parties bidding at various times," Mr Allen said. "The farmland market is extremely strong and we were not surprised by the amount of interest we received."

Although he was approached by several developers, he said the number of enquiries from farmers was much higher. He added: "Farmers are very confident in buying land and are very keen to do so because of the very strong soft commodity prices both in the UK and world market. There are low levels of supply and very high levels of demand."


UK AIRPORT PASSENGER NUMBERS
SLIDE BELOW 2004 LEVELS IN 2010

Dermot Davitt - The Moodie Report - 10 March 2011

UK airports handled 210 million passengers during the 2010 calendar year, a fall of -3.4% (or 7.4 million) on 2009, according to figures published by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). Passenger numbers have now fallen consecutively for three years to a level lower than in 2004. With last year's ash cloud, industrial action and weather-related problems among the key factors, there were significant year-on-year falls in January, April, May and December.

Iain Osborne, CAA Director of Regulatory Policy said: "The UK's fragile recovery is not yet driving increases in passenger numbers. Although the decline in business travel levelled out last year, leisure travel continued to fall in 2010. Without the year's exceptional events, with snow, strikes and volcanic ash all affecting aviation, passenger numbers overall would likely have been level with 2009."

"Although airports in the South East of England were less affected, airports in the rest of the UK saw significant falls in passenger numbers, with some now facing financial challenges as a result. Airlines have in the main coped well with unprecedented drops in passenger numbers, increasing load factors and sustaining margins where possible."

"Overall, the outlook for aviation is still uncertain. A return to robust economic growth should see increased passenger numbers, but this will be affected by other costs that bear on the sector, such as high oil prices and taxation, and by the availability of capacity. Congestion in the South-East could also see more customers flying from regional airports, or via other European hubs to travel to or from the UK."

The decrease in passenger numbers was more marked in the second quarter of the year, with a drop of -9% compared with the same period in 2009. In large part this reduction was due to the Icelandic volcanic eruption in April leading to the closure of large segments of European airspace. During the summer months, passenger numbers were broadly flat, while the adverse weather over Christmas led to a fall of -2.4% in passenger numbers during the fourth quarter.

Apart from months affected by snow, volcanic ash and strikes, passenger numbers handled at UK airports were similar to those carried during 2009, suggesting that underlying demand was broadly flat during 2010.

Regional airports were proportionately more affected than London airports:

* At the London airports - Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton and London City - the fall was -2% to 127 million passengers. The largest decline in percentage terms was at Stansted (-7%), followed by Luton (-4%) and Gatwick (-3%). Conversely, Heathrow was broadly flat (-0.2%) year on year, serving 66 million passengers in 2010. London City Airport handled 2.8 million passengers, -0.6% fewer than in 2009.

* At the regional airports - those other than the London airports - traffic contracted by -5% to 83 million passengers. Manchester, the largest regional airport, saw passenger numbers fall by -5% to 17.7 million.

In 2010, the majority of UK airport passengers (122 million) were bound for, or arriving from, geographical Europe - representing a fall of -2.9% from 2009. Within this, the largest absolute increase was in passengers travelling to and from Turkey (up by 557,000, an increase of +11%), with the largest fall in passengers travelling to and from an individual European country being Spain (including the Canary Islands), where numbers fell by -6% (1.7 million), a trend already observed in 2009.

There was a -2.9% (0.6 million) decrease in passengers on flights to and from North America, to 19 million in 2010. Passengers travelling to and from the remaining international destinations (outside Europe and North America) totalled 31 million in 2010, a slight increase of +1.8% on 2009.

In 2010, 20 million passengers took UK domestic flights, representing a fall of -9% (two million) on 2009, demonstrating a reduction in market share of domestic traffic that has been apparent for a number of years, the CAA noted.

A continuing theme from the previous year was the decline in passenger numbers on charter flights, a drop of -6% (1.5 million) to 23 million in 2010 compared with 2009. The reduction in passenger numbers onboard scheduled flights to 188 million was proportionately less than on charter flights, with -3.1% (six million) fewer scheduled passengers in 2010 than in 2009.

During 2010, air transport movements (landings and take-offs of commercial aircraft) at UK airports fell by -5.7% to two million.


HEATHROW REVISITED: THE MAYOR'S NEW AIR WAR

London's airports are too full, but will a plan to remedy the problem take off?

The Economist - 10 March 2011

A NEW round of air wars looms, and more than London's transport links is in the firing line. Boris Johnson, the mayor, has written to the chancellor of the exchequer, George Osborne, asking him to consider examining "the case for the delivery of a new aviation infrastructure [and]? increased aviation capacity" to serve the capital. Carefully timed before the budget on March 23rd, Mr Johnson's ploy could reopen a long and bitter argument over what sort of airport capacity London needs and where to provide it.

With only two full-length runways and over 66m passengers a year using them, Heathrow airport is at bursting point. It is also hemmed in by homes, making any expansion unpopular. The Labour government's plan for a third runway there was defeated in 2008 after opposition from Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, environmentalists and people living under the proposed flight path.

Mr Johnson's contribution to the debate was to propose a brand new airport on an artificial island in the Thames estuary, purpose-built and capable of operating around the clock. "Boris Island" was dismissed by the Tory leadership as an expensive flight of fancy: too far from London to attract business travellers without costly new transport links.

But the Mayor is not the type to give up easily. At the start of this year, he produced a study calling for either a four-runway hub airport on a new site in the estuary or increased capacity at existing airports nearby, such as Gatwick or Stansted. Mr Johnson is a Tory - but his proposals are explicitly opposed to his party's repeated assurances that no expansion of London's main airports is planned.

The mayor argues that Heathrow is falling behind continental airports. It serves just 185 destinations, compared with over 200 from Paris's Charles de Gaulle and 300 from Frankfurt. A business-friendly capital, he says, needs to make flying in and out more attractive. That means more capacity.

Mr Johnson has a point, but his campaign is one part aviation and one part raw politics. He is thought to harbour leadership ambitions, and if so must have his eye on a fight one day with Mr Osborne, currently his most likely rival. The green Conservatism espoused by David Cameron has no deep roots in the party; Mr Johnson's case for putting business first will resonate with many. Mr Osborne, for his part, is under pressure as chancellor to show that he has a recipe for restoring growth (see Economics Focus). The mayor has been at pains to carve out a distinctive position on London and its interests, pointing out an "aviation-shaped hole" in government plans to boost the capital as an enterprise centre.

City Hall isn't remotely in a position to impose a new Boris Hub on the south-east, but talking about it can create trouble for Mr Johnson's rival on the political runway. No doubt that has occurred to him.


BAA TO PROPOSE £50M INVESTMENT PLAN IN RESPONSE
TO HEATHROW WINTER RESILIENCE ENQUIRY REPORT

BAA Press Release - 24 March 2011

BAA today announces that it is developing a £50 million Heathrow resilience investment plan, which it will recommend to airlines and the Civil Aviation Authority in April. The plan will allow Heathrow to implement all the recommendations of the Begg Winter Resilience Report.

Heathrow's proposed improvements will include:
* Revised airport snow plans, including new equipment, increased staff resources and training
* Crisis management processes
* Systems for command and control and communication between the airport community (including airlines) and passengers
* Passenger care and support, in addition to that provided by airlines under EU legislation.

BAA's chief executive Colin Matthews, who commissioned the report, said: "Following December's disruption, we invested in new equipment, people and training to enable us to respond better to snow in future. We are now putting together a comprehensive action plan to implement all 14 Begg recommendations. I am pleased to have secured agreement from the chief executives of British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, British Midland International, NATS and the CAA to establish a Heathrow partnership for passengers which meets regularly to publicly reinforce Heathrow's collective commitment to make every passenger's journey better than the last one."

"Our aim is to better serve passengers in normal times and at times of disruption, whatever the cause. I thank David Begg and his panel members for exploring what happened at Heathrow in December and providing these important recommendations. If the entire Heathrow community learns from this report, and works more collaboratively to promote passengers' interests, then this is a pivotal moment for the airport and its reputation. We clearly understand our role in keeping Heathrow open, unless for emergency or safety reasons, but to do that and to achieve the highest standards of passenger care, we need to work more closely and collaboratively with airlines and them with us, and all agree on the necessary training and investment."

?Heathrow is among the most congested airports in the world and the lack of spare capacity means that unlike every other British or European airport, we have literally no room to move when disruption occurs. This means that any problem, large or small, that slows down the rate of aircraft arriving at or leaving from Heathrow, will disrupt many people. Passengers will win as airlines, the airport and others work together and in some cases put aside historic differences to make Heathrow a better experience for passengers."

BAA Chairman Sir Nigel Rudd said: "The Board fully supports the decision to accept the recommendations in David Begg's report and develop the executive plan. We are encouraging our management team to dedicate all the necessary resources and engage positively with airlines and others to ensure that extreme weather conditions are better handled next time for the sake of passengers. Our response to the enquiry report and our on-going commitment to making Heathrow better is reflected in our £1 billion a year capital programme that is building a new Terminal 2 and modernising the airport's existing terminals."

Notes to editors:
BAA's chief executive, Colin Matthews, announced the Heathrow Winter Resilience Enquiry on 23 December 2010, and appointed Professor David Begg, a non-executive director of BAA, to chair a panel of independent experts in winter airport operations and passenger, regulatory and airline interests. The members of the panel were as follows: Professor David Begg (Chairman); James Cherry; Ben DeCosta; Josef Felder; Sir Malcolm Field; Jim Hunter MBE; Mary Rose Loney; Murray Sigler; Robert Sutton; Mark Swan (Observer); Roy Williams; David Quarmby CBE (Adviser to the Enquiry); Philip Langsdale (Enquiry Secretary).

Today, Heathrow has 166 individual pieces of snow-clearing equipment, including sweepers, de-icers, blowers, gritters, under-wing tractors and snow removal lorries. This compares to 47 in December. The airside operations team now has 269 people available and trained to support snow-clearing operations, compared to 117 in December.


RYANAIR PAYS £40,000 TO SACKED PILOT
WHO HANDED OUT UNION LEAFLET

Ryanair pilot Captain James Anderson sacked after handing a union leaflet
to a stewardess during a flight, has won £40,000 from the airline.

News Airlines - 23 March 2011

Ryanair have paid out £40,000 to pilot sacked for handing out a union leaflet Ryanair have paid out £40,000 to pilot sacked for handing out a union leaflet.

Mr Anderson was flying from Stansted airport to Majorca in June 2009 when he gave the Unite flyer to a stewardess who was worried about her job. The £70,000-a-year pilot was later sacked for gross misconduct after Ryanair said his actions could have endangered passengers.

Mr Anderson, who is now a freelance pilot, claimed it was only a brief exchange and did not breach policy. At the time of the incident, the plane was on autopilot and there was a second pilot in the cockpit.

The 45-year-old captain, who was backed by pilots' union Balpa, was due to begin a four-day hearing at the East London Employment Tribunal on Tuesday. But lawyers and union reps thrashed out a settlement with the airline.

After the hearing, Mr Anderson, who lives in Cambridgeshire with his wife and has a daughter with Down's Syndrome, said: "I just want to get on and look after my family."

Ryanair, famed for its tough stance on unions, was defiant. A spokesman said: "We have no problem with pilots distributing leaflets on their own time, but not during a flight when they should be attending to the aircraft."


BAA BRUSHES OFF OWNERSHIP BLOW

Sinead Holland - Herts & Essex Observer - 24 February 2011

STAFF at Stansted Airport have this week been told to keep calm and carry on following the latest twist in the ownership saga.

The Supreme Court last Thursday (February 17) refused leave for BAA to appeal against the Competition Commission's (CC) order to sell the Uttlesford hub and one of its two Scottish airports. However, there is now speculation that the operator, which is owned by Spanish construction giant Ferrovial and investors in Canada and Singapore, will look beyond the UK legal system to continue its fight.

BAA is also still talking to the CC about reconsidering its 2009 order to sell. A spokesman confirmed the watchdog was "currently examining whether there have been significant developments" and a verdict could be reached in around a month.

Since the decision - which was designed to increase capacity, competition and choice for passengers - was made, Government policy has changed and the coalition has ruled out new runways in the South East.

A Stansted spokesman said bosses and staff were focused on ensuring the airport operated in a way which satisfied passengers now and would ensure it was a desirable investment - if and when it is sold in the future. He said: "There's a very clear recognition here that 2011 is going to be as tough as, if not tougher than, any of the previous three years. The message to staff from management here and from [BAA chief executive] Colin Mathews is 'the best thing you can do is your job the best way you can'."

Passenger numbers are expected to dip to 17.5m this year before rising again. The spokesman said: "The short term is going to be really tough, but in the medium to long term there are very good prospects. If and when we need to go onto the market I don't think anyone could say they would be buying a busted flush - Stansted is still the third busiest airport in the UK."

However, Stop Stansted Expansion's economics adviser, Brian Ross, said after the latest legal blow: "BAA has now launched more appeals than Wayne Rooney, with the result that the airport has been in a state of limbo for three years and has been losing customers in droves. Prolonging this state of limbo is neither in the interests of the local community nor the airport's employees. BAA should now accept the Supreme Court's ruling and bring this damaging period of uncertainty to an end."


STORM CLOUDS GATHER OVER STANSTED

BAA may be forced to sell the airport at the worst possible time, as the Supreme Court refuses its appeal against a Competition Commission ruling

Karl West - Sunday Times - 20 February 2011

BAA must decide whether to pursue its case through European courts, or bite the bullet.

Yew Tree Cottage in the village of Takeley is on Essex county council's "at risk" register. Ever since a fire ripped through the building almost three years ago, it has been in a state of disrepair.

The owner of the building is BAA, the airports operator. Its critics say it has done nothing to maintain the property since the blaze. Although BAA rejected claims it has neglected it, the rundown state of the building will be no surprise to residents of Broxted, Duton Hill, Great Easton and Tilty - all villages around Stansted airport.

The Heathrow and Stansted operator owns more than 300 homes and other properties in the area around the Essex airport. It bought them with the intention of knocking them down to clear the ground for a £4 billion second runway and terminal project. Like Yew Tree Cottage, those plans are now falling apart. The expansion was kicked into the long grass by the Government's opposition to runway development in southeast England. A precipitous fall in passenger demand caused by the recession had already left the plans in jeopardy.

Last week, BAA came under increasing pressure to sell - not just the houses but the whole airport. It is not a good time to be a seller of either.

The Supreme Court in effect hoisted a for-sale sign over Stansted and either Glasgow or Edinburgh airports, after it refused to hear BAA's latest appeal against the Competition Commission's recommendation to break its stranglehold on London and Scottish airports. This has already resulted in the 2009 sale of Gatwick to Global Infrastructure Partners for £1.5 billion. BAA must now decide whether to continue to pursue its case through the European courts, or bite the bullet and put the travel hubs up for auction at a low point for the aviation market. The commission will decide by next month whether there has been any significant change in the market since it made its original recommendation.

Carol Barbone, campaign director for the Stop Stansted Expansion group, reckons the operator has been planning for the inevitable for some time. "We understand BAA is directing any interesting business opportunities to Heathrow because it does not want to give anything to Stansted if it is going to have to sell it," she said. BAA rebuffed her claim as "ridiculous" and "without foundation".

Industry sources said there will be no shortage of interest in the airports but doubted whether BAA would be able to get a decent price. Chris Tarry, aviation analyst and consultant, said: "This is likely to be one where there is a big difference between what the vendor thinks it is worth and what the buyer thinks it is worth."

BAA will probably decide to sell Glasgow, which has experienced the biggest passenger fall north of the border. This is sure to alert Global Infrastructure Partners, which is likely to run the rule over it. However, it will not be allowed to bid for Stansted because it already owns Gatwick and London City.

Stansted should attract interest from those that lost out on Gatwick, plus others, including Citigroup's infrastructure fund, Manchester Airports Group with Borealis, the Canadian pension fund investor, and Macquarie's infrastructure fund.

BAA's Spanish owner, Ferrovial, has towering debt of £22 billion, £13 billion of which is held by BAA, so the group will be keen to squeeze the best deal from bidders. The latest figures from BAA show passenger numbers at Stansted fell 5.8% in January. The data also showed a 7% fall in passengers to 18.5m in the 12 months from February 2010 to January 2011. This is a long way from the 2007 peak of 23.7m and it makes a mockery of the Labour Government's plans for BAA to spend £4 billion, later reduced to £2.2 billion, on a second runway and terminal.

The investment plans were based on Labour's wildly optimistic forecasts in 2003's aviation White Paper, predicting Stansted would be handling 35m passengers a year by 2015, rising to 68m by 2030 - even more than the 66m that used Heathrow in the past 12 months.

Barbone said: "We would have been stuck with a white elephant airport and a second runway that nobody wanted to use." She said the latest figures for January represented the 39th month in a row of falling passenger numbers at the airport, with "no sign of stabilisation".

Tarry cited Stansted's business profile as a base for low-cost carriers as one of the main reasons for its continued poor performance. Customers of budget airlines tend to be more sensitive to price fluctuations. The economic downturn forced the likes of Ryanair, Stansted's biggest customer, and EasyJet to raise fares and cut capacity by moving planes to more profitable routes.

In a submission to the Competition Commission's BAA market investigation only last month, Ryanair said the collapse in passenger numbers at Stansted was "because it was too expensive for airlines to invest in capacity" when there were better offers from rival airports. At its peak, Ryanair had 42 planes based at Stansted airport - it now has 32.

Ryanair claimed Stansted's runway is currently operating at about half its capacity, citing the "lack of attractive offers to airlines". "With a reduction in prices, customers would want to fly from Stansted... if the prices remained as they were, the timing of a second runway would remain a long way off," it added.

Ryanair claimed Stansted has the highest charges of any airport it uses. It said the charge levied on the airline per departing passenger had risen from about £5 in 2006-07 to £15 or £16. The airline said: "Airports in the UK and Ireland just are not competitive any more. People still want to travel in a downturn - they just want to travel for less."

The tough economic climate may be at the heart of Stansted's woes, but other factors have contributed to the turbulence. Gatwick, under new ownership, is beginning to compete more aggressively and is winning customers from its former sibling.

Air Berlin has just moved its Hanover and Nuremberg services from Stansted to Gatwick with the help of British Airways, which gave it some slots at the airport. The German airline insisted it has no plans to move other routes. But an industry source said it wants to move its Dusseldorf and other minor routes to Gatwick when it can get the slots for them.

Stansted could face a further high-profile defection as Air Asia X, the budget long-haul service to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, is understood to be in talks with Gatwick about taking its business there. Sources close to Air Asia X confirmed the carrier had "exciting plans" for Gatwick, without revealing what these were. BAA said it had received no indication from the Malaysian carrier that it may be considering a move.

Even so, the uncertain outlook is likely to work in favour of the predators now circling Stansted. Being a low-cost carrier base was one of the reasons cited for Stansted's poor performance.


INFRASTRUCTURE FUNDS EYE UK AIRPORT DISPOSALS

Kiel Porter - Efinancialnews Online - 24 February 2011

Last week's decision to deny UK airport operator BAA leave to appeal against a ruling that it must sell Stansted and either Glasgow or Edinburgh airports is drawing interest from infrastructure funds even before the sale process officially gets underway.

Among the funds believed to be monitoring the BAA situation are Industry Funds Management, Global Infrastructure Partners, Macquarie and Borealis Infrastructure - the infrastructure fund arm of Canadian pension plan OMERS.

Frederic Michele-Verdier, the investment director for IFM, said: "It's easy to see why funds would be interested in the assets, particularly the Scottish ones. Regulated assets like airports offer stable cash flows with the potential to realise significant capital gains."

The interest from the infrastructure funds comes amid a rash of potential sales of European airports over the next 12 months. Athens airport is already on the market and the Spanish government is currently tendering for advisers ahead of the planned sale of Barcelona and Madrid airports later this year.

In last week's ruling, the UK's Supreme Court found that BAA, majority owned by Spanish conglomerate Ferrovial, could not appeal against the Competition Commission decision in 2009 to force it to sell three of its British airports. BAA has already sold Gatwick with the other two due to be sold by 2011 under the original timetable.

BAA is still awaiting the response of a report submitted to the Competition Commission in which it argues that the sale process should be reviewed because poor traffic numbers at the airports over the last 18 months may result in lower-than-expected valuations. The commission is expected to report back to BAA in March.

The decision comes at a difficult time for BAA, which agreed to offload its 65% stake in Naples airport in Italy for ?150m ($207m) to F2i SGR, an Italian infrastructure fund, in October last year to focus on investments in its UK airports.


BAA ANNUAL RESULTS 2010

BAA Press Release - 22 February 2011

BAA (SP) Limited, the owner of BAA's two London airports of Heathrow and Stansted, today announces its results for the year ended 31 December 2010. Some financial information is also included in respect of its immediate parent company, BAA (SH) plc.

* Strong recovery in Heathrow traffic tempered by volcanic ash, strikes and snow
* Group passenger traffic of 84.3 million with underlying growth of up to 3.4% at Heathrow
* Revenue up 4.9% reflecting higher tariffs and exceptional retail performance
* Adjusted EBITDA up 9.2% enabling continued significant capital investment at Heathrow
* Reduced pre-tax loss due to lower exceptional items and fair value adjustments
* Subordinated debt refinancing completed and BAA's overall capital structure strengthened
* Strong increase in profitability and investment in improving facilities anticipated in 2011

Colin Matthews, Chief Executive Officer of BAA, said: "We delivered a robust financial performance in 2010, despite the volcanic ash, strikes and snow that affected major airports across Europe and North America. Strong passenger growth at Heathrow in the second half of the year reflected the ongoing improvement in the global economic climate."

"We continued to strengthen and diversify our funding position by raising £2 billion of new financing, underpinning our investment in upgrading Heathrow. BAA is undertaking the UK's biggest privately funded development with the airport's new £2 billion Terminal 2 which will offer passengers a quicker and easier transfer experience by grouping the Star Alliance airlines together."

"Significant progress has also been made in renovating older terminals and we are investing nearly £250 million in a new baggage tunnel between Terminal 3 and Terminal 5 to speed up passengers' journeys."

"In 2011, we expect to deliver a strong increase in profits and cash flow, enabling us to make further investments in improving facilities and further strengthening our financial position."


HS2 'WILL BRING BIRMINGHAM AIRPORT CLOSER TO LONDON'

Birmingham Airport Birmingham Airport said it had the capacity for another nine million passengers. The proposed new high-speed rail link between the city and London could be a solution to runway capacity problems in the South.

BBC News - 23 February 2011

Proposals for the 250mph rail link show it will take 39 minutes to get from Birmingham International to London. Opponents say it will ruin the environment and that there is no case for it.

Chris Crean, from environmental campaign group Friends of the Earth, said it was important that full analysis work be done to see if HS2 would be a green form of transport. He said: "The really important issue about the aviation sector is that it does not pay the full cost for the pollution that it causes."

Birmingham International station is situated next to Birmingham Airport. London Stansted airport is a 45-minute journey from the capital and getting to London Heathrow by the underground system can take 50 minutes from parts of the city.

But a spokesman for Stansted said people from the Midlands already had direct rail access to the airport. He said: "Stansted already has a direct rail link to central London taking just 45 minutes, which is up and running with new trains coming this year. We also have daily rail services from Birmingham New Street, so people from the Midlands also have direct rail access from Stansted to more European destinations than any other airport in the world."

When London's Crossrail is up and running, in about 2012, it will take about 45 minutes to get to Heathrow from the centre of London.

John Morris, of Birmingham Airport, said the airport had the capacity for another nine million passengers and added that the South East's runways were "over heating". "There is very limited runway capacity and we are part of the solution to that," he said. "We don't need to build more runways when we have another nine million capacity tomorrow." The airport currently handles up to 10 million passengers a year.


RYANAIR ACCUSED OF 'FINANCIAL BLACKMAIL'
IN AIRPORT SUBSIDY ROW

John Mulligan - The Independent - 17 February 2011

Ryanair has been accused of "financial blackmail" by the chamber of commerce that operates a regional French airport after the airline sought an increase in subsidies it receives from the region.

Ryanair has been receiving ?1.4m a year in subsidies for operating services to and from the city of Pau in southwest France, about 50km from the Spanish border and the Pyrenees. It is understood that Ryanair told the local chamber that it wanted an additional ?100,000 per annum to retain services from Pau's airport to destinations such as London Stansted, Brussels Charleroi and Paris Beauvais.

The airline has been flying to Pau since 2003 and last year is understood to have carried 120,000 passengers in and out of the city's airport. But the local chamber of commerce said yesterday that it would not yield to Ryanair, with a chamber official describing the carrier's demands as "intolerable".

Current deal
The current deal that Ryanair has with the chamber expires in April. The chamber has claimed that if Ryanair decided to pull out of the airport, overall passenger numbers there would not be significantly impacted.

A Ryanair spokesman declined to confirm yesterday whether the airline had sought the increase in financial support, but claimed that losses incurred by the airport had been partially due to its decision to back routes inaugurated by other airlines that had failed to live up to expectations. The spokesman said that no decision had yet been made on whether or not the airline would axe its services to Pau.

The spat came as Ryanair also said yesterday that it intended to row back on a decision to expand services at Barcelona's Girona Airport after a newly-elected local government said it would not adhere to a deal struck between its predecessor and the airline. According to the airline, it had inked a five-year extension deal last December that would result in up to 10 aircraft being based at the airport.

Ryanair claimed yesterday that the new government of Catalonia, which came into power soon after the extension was agreed, has refused to honour the terms of the deal. The airline will not now base the additional aircraft at Girona, where it accounts for almost all of the 4.8 million annual passenger traffic.


HEATHROW NIGHT FLIGHT OPPONENTS:
STUDY SHOWS SLEEP DEPRIVATION INCREASES
RISK OF HEART DISEASE AND STROKE

Paul Teed - Richmond & Twickenham Times - 17 February 2011

Sleep loss: Study shows sleep deprivation increases risk of heart disease and stroke, say Heathrow night flight opponents

Campaigners opposed to Heathrow night flights have said sleep disturbance increases the risk of heart disease or a stroke. Hacan Clearskies said a study released by Warwick University found people who suffer from chronic lack of sleep also have a greater chance of suffering from high blood pressure and cholesterol, diabetes and obesity.

The group launched a new email campaign after the university published the report, to persuade MPs to join its fight against night flights. John Stewart, chairman of Hacan Clearskies, said: "The evidence is overwhelming. Sleep disturbance damages our health. We are calling on people to back our email campaign to end night flights at Heathrow before 6am."

Heathrow said the the high-value air cargo industry relied on planes arriving at the airport during the night so companies can deliver items such as perishable goods and mail the next day. Business passengers also need to arrive early in the morning to transfer to other flights or travel to other parts of the country.

The airport added that delayed late evening departures can also lead to them taking off at night.


NOT GUILTY OF ANNOYING AIRPORT
BY COMPLAINING ABOUT AIRCRAFT NOISE

Press Release - Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign - 16 February 2011

An elderly lady was recently arrested, at the instigation of Gatwick Airport, for lodging too many complaints with the airport noise complaints line. She was charged with the criminal offence of using a telephone to cause annoyance or anxiety - although she only spoke to an airport answerphone set up to receive noise complaints.

Ann Jones of East Grinstead has been found NOT GUILTY. As Ann told the court: "It was not me annoying the airport: it was their aircraft which were annoying me."

GACC chairman Brendon Sewill commented: "It is a disgrace that this case was ever brought. It has wasted a great deal of police time, court time and public money, and has added to the suffering of an elderly lady."

Ann Jones had adopted the tactic of ringing the airport answerphone each time she heard a plane. Although unusual, the court decided that this was not illegal. As Ann said: "What is the point of having a complaints service if one can't use it to complain?"

The court heard that each of her calls was prompted by a specific aircraft (she did not call during periods when aircraft were routed elsewhere) and often drew attention to the fact that she had been woken by aircraft as early as 5.30am.

"Many of our members are frustrated" Brendon Sewill told the court "by only getting an answerphone, never a real person." The court also heard that the airport staff were under instructions not to discuss Mrs Jones' complaints with her nor to make any response, and that Mrs Jones last had a response from the airport in 2006 and was naturally frustrated and angered by the airport's refusal to respond.

"We hope that Gatwick Airport will now find better ways of handling complaints from people distressed by aircraft noise," said Brendon Sewill. "Misuse of the legal system to intimidate complainants is unacceptable."

Ann Jones was charged under Section 127 (2) of the Telecommunications Act 2003 which states that:
'A person is guilty of an offence if, for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to another, he -
(a) sends by means of a public electronic communications network, a message that he knows to be false,
(b) causes such a message to be sent; or
(c) persistently makes use of a public electronic communications network.'

She got in touch with GACC who turned to the Environmental Law Foundation. They put her in touch with a top London firm of solicitors, Bindmans LLP. She was represented by Ben Silverstone, barrister, and by Laura Higgs, solicitor.

Ann Jones is in poor health (aggravated by aircraft noise). She has asked that all press or TV enquiries should be handled by GACC. Please respect her privacy.

Note: Airlines have been exempt since 1920 from legal action for the nuisance caused by noise.


NEW HOMES IN ESSEX FROM TAYLOR WIMPEY

News Environment - 22 February 2011

Taylor Wimpey is set to offer Essex property-seekers a wealth of new living opportunities at The Firs at Priors Green, its brand new development of houses for sale in Takeley.

Leading housebuilder Taylor Wimpey is creating a stunning new development of new homes in Essex within an idyllic rural setting. The Firs, conveniently located in the already established new village development of Priors Green, will be a beautiful collection of two, three, four and five-bedroom houses in Takeley, bordered by open fields.

Each of the homes within this selection of property for sale in Essex has been carefully designed using materials which reflect the traditional architecture of this delightful corner of the county, while the development will retain a selection of green open spaces for the new residents to enjoy.

The first new houses for sale in Essex at The Firs at Priors Green are set to go on sale later in the year, and would-be purchasers are being urged to register their interest without delay to ensure they can take their pick of the plots.

Michael O'Leary, Regional Sales and Marketing Director for Taylor Wimpey, says: "High-quality new homes in Essex are always in demand, so property-seekers should register their interest now to be among the first to receive the latest information about this exciting new homes development. The Firs at Priors Green will be attractive to a wide range of home-hunters in Essex, Bishops Stortford and the surrounding area - from first-time buyers and downsizers through to growing families and executive couples."

"The superb development offers a peaceful rural lifestyle within easy reach of London and Stansted Airport - so contact us today to be able to take your pick from this delightful selection of homes."

The new village of Priors Green is nestled amid the rural landscape between Little Canfield and Takeley, near Stansted, amongst rolling fields and beautiful woodland. A new community centre and nursery have already been built with work on new local shops in the heart of the village due to start later this year. Families will appreciate that a new primary school is also planned.

Takeley village itself offers a selection of facilities including a primary school, while the larger village of Great Dunmow is just four miles away and is home to a wide selection of wonderful shops and speciality stores, pubs, restaurants, cafťs and bars. It also boasts its own leisure centre and swimming pool, parks and children's play areas, tennis courts, bowling greens and riverside walks.

The surrounding countryside can be explored on footpaths and cycleways, while just a mile away from The Firs at Priors Green is Hatfield Forest National Nature Reserve, with 1,000 acres of woodland and two ornamental lakes.

Meanwhile, the bustling market town of Bishop's Stortford is just six miles from the new homes, boasting top name stores such as Marks & Spencer, Waitrose, Sainsbury's and Next, as well as a host of leisure activities including a sports centre, cinema and ten pin bowling.

The new homes are served by excellent transport links, with the M11 just over three miles away, while rail and coach connections - as well as international flights - are provided at Stansted Airport, less than two miles from the development, putting central London and Cambridge within easy commuting distance.

To register an interest in the new homes at The Firs at Priors Green, property-seekers can visit the Taylor Wimpey website at: taylorwimpey.co.uk

OUR COMMENT: No noise map supplied! We have been campaigning for more information on noise exposure in order to better assess the risk of noise annoyance in areas round airports. The number of flights passing overhead, and the timing of the flights are important and also the maximum level of noise experienced as the plane flies over. At present the only noise maps available are those showing average noise levels. This is not adequate for anyone wanting a realistic assessment of likely noise exposure.

Pat Dale


BOEING UNVEILS NEW 747-8 INTERCONTINENTAL

US planemaker Boeing has unveiled the latest version of its jumbo jet

BBC News - 14 February 2011

The 747-8 Intercontinental will seat 467 passengers - 51 more than the current 747 - while burning less fuel, the firm says.

But Boeing has won just 33 orders for the passenger version of the plane so far - from Lufthansa and Korean Air Lines. However it has also sold 74 of the cargo version of the plane, which has already flown.

The new plane was unveiled to a crowd of 10,000 Boeing employees, their families and invited guests in the same hangar where the first 747 was seen in 1968. "Of all the airplanes that we've built, there is one that is identified more closely with Boeing than any other, and that's the 747," said James Albaugh, head of Boeing's commercial airplane unit.

Other features of the Intercontinental include new wings, a new tail, a sharper nose, state-of-the-art engines and a new cockpit. And while it carries fewer passengers than the Airbus A380, it will be the world's longest airliner.

Boeing said it was confident it would receive more orders once the passenger plane enters service later this year - although the first delivery will be for an unnamed VIP customer. It also hopes that US president's fleet of two planes - Air Force One - will eventually be replaced with 747-8s.

The first Boeing 747 was launched 42 years ago, with more than 1,400 sold until the 747-400 was withdrawn from sale last year. Its new model is seen as competition for the Airbus A380 superjumbo.

But many analysts say carriers were interested in smaller wide-bodied planes such as the 787 and the Airbus A350 which are designed to bypass busy hubs and take passengers closer to their final destination. On Monday, Boeing will give an update on the progress of its long-delayed 787 Dreamliner - whose late arrival has heavily damaged its credibility.

Factfile: Airbus A380

The world's largest passenger aircraft, the Airbus A380, made its debut commercial flight in October 2007 with Singapore Airlines from Singapore to Sydney. Qantas took the plane in 2008, flying the route between Melbourne and Los Angeles. Air France and Lufthansa also fly the Airbus A380, but its largest customer is Emirates, which in June ordered 90 so-called superjumbos. However, since the start of the global recession several airlines have postponed orders, including Air France KLM Group, Qatar Airways and Virgin Atlantic Airways.

The A380 superjumbo project was first conceived in the early 1990s as an eventual successor to the Boeing 747, which has now been the world's mainstay long-haul aircraft for more than 30 years. However, Boeing has hit back by stretching its 747, with its 747-8.

Development work of the A380 began in earnest in 1993. The project, designed to challenge Boeing's hold on the long-haul flight market, is valued at about $24bn (£15bn) and each plane has an average list price of $347m (£215m). With its twin decks of seats, the aircraft can carry 555 people in separate seat classes, or 840 passengers in an "all economy class" configuration. The aircraft is designed to incorporate amenities such as bars, lounges, beauty salons and duty-free shops, according to operators' specifications.

A cargo version of the plane - designated the 800F - would be the world's first "triple-decker" freight aircraft, though it is not clear whether this will ever be built.

Green technologies

Although the A380 plane can carry 35% more passengers than a Boeing 747, it consumes 12% less fuel per seat, a rate of consumption comparable with that of an economical family car, manufacturer Airbus states. The plane's vast size also gives it a more efficient seat-distance cost than its rivals. The A380 uses a number of pioneering technologies, including a new, lighter material Glare - GLAss-REinforced fibre metal laminate. Used in the upper fuselage, this aluminium/glass fibre composite offers better resistance to corrosion and impacts. The aircraft can be powered by either Rolls-Royce Trent 900 or Alliance GP7200 turbofan engines.

OUR COMMENT: Will they - won't they - significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions - needed to meet climate change reduction targets? Will they - won't they - be much less noisy when actually taking off and landing?

Pat Dale

CO2 CAP FOR AVIATION SECTOR MOVES A STEP CLOSER

Peter Koh - EUAviation - 16 February 2011

A decision on the level at which CO2 emissions from the aviation sector will be capped under the EU's Emissions Trading System will move one step closer next week, when a committee of officials from the European Commission and EU member states meet to restart discussions on the sector's contentious historical emissions data.

From next year, when the sector joins the EU?s cap-and-trade scheme, aircraft manufacturers, airlines, airports and airspace-navigation companies will have to buy 15 percent of their emission allowances at auctions.

A decision on the cap, originally due in 2009, has been held up by disagreement over the technical details of how the sector's historical emissions should be calculated. According to EU legislation, the cap is to be set at 95 percent of the sector's historical emissions.

The International Air Transport Association has argued that the commission's initial calculations excluded certain data, which could result in fewer allowances for the sector. Final accounting for the cap has also been delayed by the inclusion of Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway into the ETS, and the need to calculate a cap for these countries. The EU began discussion with the three European Economic Area countries on the subject in January this year.

The 'comitology' committee of officials from the commission and member states, responsible for implementing detailed aspects of EU regulations, is expected to reach a final decision on the aviation sector's cap 'early' this year.


TRAINS OR PLANES? THE GREAT EUROPEAN TRAVEL TEST

Trains offer a relaxing, comfortable alternative to planes, but just how do they stack up in terms of cost and speed? Nick Trend compares popular routes by air and rail.

Nick Trend - Daily Telegraph - 24 February 2011

I had a letter recently from a monk called Brother Michael. He is an unusual character who holds, or has held, several Guinness World Records for air travel. These include: most flights in 24 hours (42); most flights in 30 days (128); and the world's longest air ticket (unlikely to be beaten in the age of electronic ticketing).

What struck me more than his list of broken records, however, was Brother Michael's motto: "Never a train, always a plane". In that, I suspect, he is even more unusual. I would guess that most of us, given the choice and not too greater difference in journey time or fare, feel the opposite, and prefer railway travel to taking a flight.

I certainly do. The whole experience is more relaxing. You have more personal space, more control over where you sit and when you move around; more of the journey is spent travelling rather than queuing or waiting. In addition, your luggage is not limited or charged as extra, and, as long as it's not snowing the wrong kind of snow, you are probably less vulnerable to serious delays and cancellations (and, of course, rail travel is probably more environmentally friendly than flying).

So, with air fares steadily rising, and the European railway infrastructure steadily improving, I have had a look at how fares and journey times from city centre to city centre now compare. The result is an interesting one. Obviously, for the quick hops through the tunnel, from London to Paris and Brussels, there is no competition from the air. The train is not only faster but cheaper.

But for destinations beyond these obvious end stops, you need to change trains in Paris or Brussels (or sometimes Lille). As a result, the journey time increases significantly. To Cologne, Tours, Lyon, Amsterdam and Marseilles, for example, the train journey takes up to an hour more than the flight. This alone is probably not enough to put off those of us who enjoy rail travel, but a bigger drawback is that in all these cases the train fare is dearer, in some cases significantly so. I suspect, however, that it's a difference many would be happy to pay, especially when they consider the cost of getting to, or parking at, the airport.

Travelling farther down the line - to La Rochelle, Geneva and Bordeaux - the equation starts to tip more strongly in favour of air travel, with a journey time at least two and a half hours faster and return fares about £20 lower.

However, you can still do the journey comfortably in a day, and you might even want to consider the attraction of breaking it in Paris, or in Brussels. By spending a night in one of these cities en route, you can make longer rail journeys seem much less of a marathon, as well as enjoying a different dimension to your holiday.

Alternative starting and finishing points

Of course, the usefulness of any of these comparisons to any one reader is limited, since the length of your journey will depend on where you start from. If you live in the North or West, the train may look an unattractive option to any destination on the Continent, especially if there are flights from a nearby airport. If you live in the south of England, and especially central London, or if you have access to the Eurostar stations at Ebbsfleet and Ashford, then the train really comes into its own.

If you want to see journey times at a glance from starting points other than London, the Eurostar website has an excellent interactive graphic (click on the "Destinations" tab on the home page). This graphic provides another useful insight. It throws up the many destinations that are far easier to reach by train than plane because there are no convenient airports with direct flights.

Perhaps the way in which high-speed rail makes the biggest difference to imaginative travellers is in the easy access it offers to beautiful historic cities such as Dijon (4hr 40m), Rouen (4hr 29m), Reims (3hr 45m), Strasbourg (5hr 9m), Antwerp (2hr 53m), Ghent (2hr 58m), Bruges (3hr 25m) and Aachen (3hr 32m).

Comparisons

For the journey times cited on the right, I have assumed that the traveller is starting and finishing in central London. I have allowed 40 minutes to get to the airport and 90 minutes' check-in time, plus 60 minutes to get through customs and immigration and travel to the centre of the destination. I would say that is pretty generous.

If you travel without luggage, and you are the sort of person who is happy to cut check-in times finer than that or you can get to the airport more quickly, simply deduct the appropriate amount of time.

Fares quoted are the cheapest returns advertised by Eurostar, and the cheapest returns offered from London airports drawn from a search on the website www.skyscanner.net.

I have included the cost of checking in baggage (£18 with easyJet, for example), and any fees for using a debit card to pay for the ticket. All fares are subject to change without notice and will vary according to the dates and times you want to travel.


TRAINTRAINPLANEPLANE

How long?How much?How long?How much?
Brussels2hr 40m
(1hr 55m*)
£694hr 20m
(1hr 10m**)
£153 (with British Airways from Heathrow)
Paris3 hr
(2hr 15m*)
£694hr 20m
(1hr 10m**)
£78 (with easyJet from Luton)
Cologne4hr 54m
(4hr 9m*)
£964hr 30m
(1hr 20m**)
£68 (with easyJet from Gatwick)
Amsterdam5 hr
(4hr 15m*)
£1144hr 15m
(1hr 5m**)
£70 (with easyJet from Stansted)
Tours5hr 18m
(4hr 33m*)
£894hr 30m
(1hr 20m**)
£78 (with Ryanair from Stansted)
Lyon5hr 42m
(4hr 57m*)
£1094hr 50m
(1hr 40m**)
£93 (with easyJet from Gatwick)
Marseille6hr 16m
(5hr 31m*)
£1195hr 15m
(2hr 5m**)
£78 (with Ryanair from Stansted)
La Rochelle6hr 58m
(6hr 13m*)
£1094hr 30m
(1hr 20m**)
£78 (with Ryanair from Stansted)
Geneva7hr 13m
(6hr 28m*)
£1054hr 40m
(1hr 30m**)
£68 (with easyJet from Stansted, Gatwick or Luton)
Bordeaux8hr 2m
(6hr 17m*)
£1094hr 40m
(1 hr 30m**)
£77 (with easyJet from Luton)

* time from station to station    ** time spent in the air


A VIEW FROM OVERSEAS

Britain's airports battle for passengers, airlines... and survival

Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA) - 11 February 2011

There was a time when any self respecting city craved its own airport. In 2011, such is the pressure from powerful environmental lobbies over emissions, noise, turbulence and wake vortex, protection of bird habitats etc, in addition to consistent economic pressures, that some cities have lost, or could lose, their airport. And as they are mainly in the private sector in the UK, some politically left-leaning councils don't seem too concerned.

Loss of service at US airports has been a regular feature for the best part of a decade. Between 2007 and 2008, at least 97 small city airports across the US lost all airline service according to the Air Transport Association. Hardly any city was spared capacity reductions and that was before the recession. As CAPA recently reported the three worst affected primary and hub level airports are Cincinnati (with 2.75 million seats available in Dec-2001 down to 841,000 in Dec-2010); Pittsburgh (2.8 million down to 897,000 in the same period); and St Louis (3.5 million down to 1.45 million).

In California, there is a debate about what to do with Los Angeles World Airports, Ontario Airport where passenger numbers have been tumbling and staff have been shifted to LAX. A lease or even outright sale is a possibility (as is closure, apparently) and it isn't clear who would buy it.

But most of these communities that have lost air service altogether are small ones such as Youngstown, Ohio; Rutland, Virginia; Greenbrier, West Virginia; and Hot Springs, Arkansas. Some are little more than general aviation strips, while most of them hosted no more than a few turboprop commuter flights to the nearest secondary hub each day, from where passengers would take a larger turboprop to a main hub like O'Hare or Atlanta and onwards from there. The alternative, the secondary level hub itself, isn't usually too far away, and accessible by private vehicle in a country where long distance driving is a part of life.

Primary city airports at risk in UK

The situation in the UK is a little different, involving primary cities that are key to any successful private sector growth strategy to make up for the deep public sector cuts that are starting to take effect and, if it is symptomatic of the way the business is going, then it is worrying.

An early casualty may well be Plymouth, a major city in the relatively isolated south-west of England that serves as a regional centre for the counties of Devon and Cornwall. Many people are at least vaguely aware of Plymouth if only from the historical connection; it having been where Drake famously insisted on finishing his game of bowls on the Hoe, before going off to defeat the Spanish Armada in 1588. It remains a major naval base, though serving a much smaller British navy. It is a city of 250,000 people but the catchment area for its airport runs to more than 1.5 million.

Plymouth lost its air service to London Gatwick Airport following the takeover of Air Southwest by Eastern Airways, and an 18% rise in operating costs at the London airport. Local politicians are attempting to get the 1160m runway extended so that it can handle large business jets but that was an ongoing saga for many years before without a successful resolution. The increasing costs at London airports generally that followed the loosening of regulation in 2010 and, specifically, airport charges at Heathrow that can be as high for domestic flights as for international long-haul services means this isn't a unique case by any means.

British Midland International has axed its London Heathrow-Glasgow services (up to seven times daily) altogether and is threatening to reduce them on the London-Manchester route, for the same cost reasons. For bmi and its parent, Lufthansa, the Heathrow slots are much more valuable for medium-haul use to its Middle East and CIS destinations.

But this leaves Plymouth with half of its previous air service by passenger volume and it is quite possible its owner, Sutton Holdings - which sold Air Southwest last year - may sell the airport off for housing. Part of it has been sold for that purpose already after the shorter runway closed in August 2009. It is a serious matter for local business. Road connections to the bulk of the UK are poor, as are rail services. Newquay Airport (see below), an alternative for the region, will also lose its Air Southwest Gatwick link but retains one through flybe, which will have a monopoly on a lifeline route and couldn't be blamed for applying monopoly pricing. flybe also flies out of its Exeter main base. But both airports are 35-40 miles from Plymouth, which will lose much of whatever attraction it had for domestic or foreign inward investment along with its air service.

In the north-east of England, about 450 miles from Plymouth, another airport potentially under threat is Durham Tees Valley (DTV), previously known as Tees-side Airport, and serving possibly the last remaining bona fide industrial city-region (heavy engineering, chemicals, pharmaceuticals etc) in England.

Ryanair has announced it will suspend its weekly summer DTV-Alicante service, reportedly due to increasing charges at the English airport. DTV introduced these charges (GBP6 per person) because it needs them to survive. Many European airports have learned not to impose any charges where Ryanair is concerned because it will simply up sticks and leave. The Alicante route (collectively some of the best supported routes out of the UK owing to the very large presence of British expatriates on the Costa Blanca) is Ryanair's only service from DTV, after cancelling services to Dublin folded, and failed to entice bmibaby into setting up a base (and which led to a court case which DTV won).

That just leaves a handful of domestic services by niche operator Eastern Airways, a few seasonal charters, a critical link to Amsterdam by KLM and some military test flights to keep it going. One of the airport's USPs - that it has its own railway station - is nullified both by the distance from the rail station to the terminal and the fact it is one of Britain's infamous "ghost stations" with only two services a week. Efforts to attract cargo traffic haven't paid off.

A cargo and maintenance village was proposed, but then the operator, Peel Airports changed the planning application to one for an industrial estate, which suggests that could be the eventual fate of the entire site. Moreover, DTV is sandwiched between other, larger airports such as Newcastle and Leeds Bradford, and Ryanair has shifted its Alicante service to another small airport to the south, Humberside. Part of the Manchester Airport Group airports, Humberside itself was heading into danger a few years ago and placed on MAG investors's "potentially for disposal" list in 2008, but business picked up - though it is hardly thriving.

Doncaster

Also owned by Peel Airports and its 65% investor YVRAS airport-services, the brownfield Doncaster-Sheffield airport, which opened in 2005, sometimes gives cause for concern, too. It has found it difficult to hang on to important airlines such as easyJet, whose five-route network was supposed to add 300,000 passengers a year, came and went within eight months (and after easyJet had abandoned East Midlands Airport to move to Doncaster-Sheffield for cost reasons). Its Ryanair portfolio is minimal, with just three routes. An Aer Arran-Dublin service (on behalf of Aer Lingus) also lasted just a few months while the "Robin Hood" airport has also lost its Flyglobespan long-haul flights and those of Thomsonfly without any replacement.

It is very heavily reliant on one charter airline, Thomson, supported by Thomas Cook with a smaller programme. This industrial region of the UK, with a large share of ex-mining towns, is still wedded to the tradition of the vacation package. Also on a small but important network by Wizz Air that mainly services worker-immigration traffic from Poland. Passenger traffic climbed steadily to almost 1.1 million in 2007 but since fell back to 836,000 in 2009. Provisional statistics for 2010 indicate a small gain, perhaps 5%. There is ample space for land use at what was a large air force base but lack of on-site freight forwarders has hampered cargo growth. The airport's future might lie in an aviation-focussed business park being developed nearby, drawing on established and evolving steel industry skills in and around Sheffield.

One of the problems the airport has is based on image, in the sense it is oriented towards Doncaster rather than Sheffield. The former is a large town of 285,000 but Sheffield is Britain's fifth largest city and a regional centre with international recognition. While the airport is only 3.5 miles from Doncaster it is 18 miles from the more important Sheffield and there is a feeling that the people of Sheffield have not taken to it. Sheffield business travellers are still inclined to use Leeds-Bradford Airport over 30 miles to the north and with poor road access, especially since it was transferred into the private sector, attracting a Ryanair base as well as being the principal airport for Jet2.com. Sheffield did have its own, separate, airport, a short runway Stolport also owned by Peel Airports, but it closed in 2008. If not Leeds Bradford, Manchester is also accessible and particularly from the western side of the region.

Peel Airports lacks a trail-blazing anchor airport

Peel Airport/YVRAS's main airport holding is at Liverpool, where traffic growth has been strong, if inconsistent, over a decade but it fell back again dramatically in Nov and Dec-2010 and the winter weather can't be entirely to blame as Merseyside and the west coast of northwest England was spared the worst of it. Both Ryanair and easyJet, which represent about 90% of the traffic, over-expanded at Liverpool and have had to make adjustments. EasyJet is growing at nearby Manchester in a way that is complementary to its focus on the business traveller, and the number of routes there is now over 70% of the total at Liverpool.

But it is what happens next with Ryanair that is exercising the imagination. Ryanair introduced nine new routes changes at Manchester in 2008 but in August 2009 they were withdrawn in a dispute over fees and shifted to Liverpool or Leeds Bradford. Since then there has been an across-the-board management change at Manchester and Ryanair has been welcomed back to commence four sun vacation routes. The terms under which this is taking place have not been revealed, ie who wilted first, and especially as Manchester has traditionally sought to protect its fast diminishing charter business, which now accounts for only 43% of the total traffic, down from 60% 10 years ago. Ryanair is talking about bringing an extra 5.0 million passengers per annum to Manchester, by building on these four Spanish and Portuguese routes with more of them in the future. But 5.0 million passengers pa is the entire annual throughput of Ryanair, easyJet and other airlines at Liverpool. It is difficult to imagine how this can be done without switching some of those routes from Liverpool, which Ryanair has hitherto supported well - despite having tinkered with its route network there it has 43 routes at present.

The war begins

In a previous edition of CAPA's Airport Investor Monthly it was suggested that a war might break out between Manchester and Liverpool following the change of management at the former and the investment by YVRAS at the latter, which was followed by statements from the new Liverpool CEO to the effect that it would start to challenge Manchester in the long-haul segment. We may be seeing the first shots fired in that skirmish.

From a financial viewpoint the omens are not good. Peel Airport Holdings reported a loss of GBP26 million in the 12 months ended 31 March 2010, which is double its loss for FY2009, on the back of a 15% year-on-year decline in revenues to GBP41 million. In comparison, MAG, which has not had the best of times either, reported an operating profit of GBP49.7 million (-3.7%) on revenues of GBP203 million (-0.4%) in the six months ended Sep-2010. While profit has not been a widely used word at Liverpool in its entire history under various owners, the real concern comes from the fact there is no truly successful anchor airport for the group, of which 35% ultimately remains part of Peel Holdings , which is essentially a property developer and one that is moving back in that direction. YVRAS has a job on its hands to achieve the level of success it no doubt craves for these airports.

No casino, no airport

Yet another airport in turmoil is Blackpool on the north-west England coast and possibly best described as England's answer to the US's Atlantic City but without the gambling. The town bid for the UK's only super casino licence several years ago, hoping a successful application would encourage inward as well as outward traffic but the government then changed its mind and scrapped the process altogether. Blackpool is another airport that has witnessed a withdrawal by Ryanair; on this occasion for having introduced a passenger charge - a GBP10 per passenger airport development - upon which the LCC simply walked away. Its main supporter now is the LCC Jet2 with a couple of regular services, but Jet2.com itself threatened to pull out in 2010 because the airport was unable to service its late night arrivals and departures. What saved the day was when the airline took over the job itself.

South-east is not immune

The south-east of England is not immune, despite being the wealthiest part of the country. It has possibly the largest collection of airports serving scheduled, charter, cargo, business and general aviation traffic of any metropolitan area, anywhere, and not all of them can be successful (though most are).

Those airports include Heathrow, Stansted (both BAA) ); Gatwick, City (both GIP) Luton (Abertis airports); Southend /London (Stobart Group); Manston Kent (Infratil Europe); Biggin Hill (Regional Airports); Farnborough (TAG Group); White Waltham (Berkshire); Elstree (Hertfordshire); Stapleford (Essex); Denham (Buckinghamshire); Blackbushe (Hampshire); Redhill (Surrey) and, on the periphery, Southampton (BAA); Oxford - which calls itself London Oxford - (Oxford Aviation Services Ltd); Bournemouth (MAG); Cranfield (Bedfordshire); Shoreham/Brighton City (West Sussex) and Cambridge (Marshall Aerospace).

Northolt to enter the ATC maze

As a result of the British government's impasse on further airport infrastructure (see Airport Investor Monthly #76, Jan-2011) it is now being suggested that yet another airport be thrown into the equation by partly converting RAF Northolt in north-west London for use as a commercial airport as "Heathrow North", despite the fact that it has been mistaken for Heathrow before - the runways also run east-west and are in the line of sight of aircraft approaching Heathrow - prompting concerns about putting another airport in to the ATC maze around London.

Lydd may have run out of time for its runway extension

The one airport in the southeast that appears to be most at risk presently is not on the list above. Lydd Airport, on the southern Kent coast and the closest UK airport to mainland Europe, has been trying for several years to re-invent itself as 'London Ashford' (a nearby town that is also a station on the Eurostar rail line) and attract commercial air services to supplement what is a reasonably thriving general aviation and business jet FBO. But in order to do so, Lydd needs a longer runway (by 300 m) and a new terminal building, costing GBP25 million. The project has been held up for almost five years as a public enquiry has been successively delayed (it is now slated for 15-Feb-2011) and in the current climate it is more likely than ever that the government will not wish to see it go ahead. Should that happen it would throw into question Lydd's long-term viability.

MAG's Bournemouth Airport has also found the going tough of late, and only a short time after it was the group's star performer. Palmair, a locally based airline and tour operator that was, almost unbelievably, voted in the top four airlines in the world by readers of a global consumer magazine in 2008, suspended then cancelled its services there after many years of operations, blaming the competition latterly offered by Ryanair. But Palmair only has one aircraft. Ryanair (which has 262 and counting) also suspended winter operations while Flybe and bmibaby suspended single destination services. Now it appears Ryanair will return for the summer 2011 season but with only three weekly winter flights remaining (all charter) the airport could close down for five months and no-one would notice.

The Managing Director recently stated the airport's owners are "in it for the long haul" (a phrase beloved of Infratil, the owner of Glasgow Prestwick airport, (see below), despite the "massive challenges" of recovering demand. The airport now aims to increase business flights from the present 5% of operations and "fill the hole" in destinations in northern Europe, starting with the UK. The airport handles 800,000 passengers per annum, but the management believes this could be increased to three million. But with a recent change of top management at MAG the clock could be ticking.

There are several other examples of UK airports facing up to a tough future right now, including Newquay (on the north Devon coast), where Ryanair has ceased operations this year. In its favour is the fact that, almost uniquely in England outside of London, Newquay can attract inbound foreign tourism, even on designated scheduled services, such as Lufthansa's seasonal service from Dusseldorf courtesy of its international reputation as a surfing centre. Others might be Norwich, where Flybe and tour operators cut back heavily on flights at the beginning of the recession though the airport has rallied again since then.

In the case of many eastern UK airports a key to survival is to retain at least a daily link with Amsterdam, as Norwich (and, so far, Humberside and Durham Tees Valley) have done as that permits access to the Air France network. Moreover KLM is a renowned air fare discounter, which adds to the appeal of the Amsterdam connection. Also Glasgow Prestwick which is heavily dependent on Ryanair, while the Irish LCC seems uncertain about its long-term future there. Finally, Dundee Airport (also in Scotland), which is down to just two regular routes, operated respectively by CityJet and Flybe. Fortunately, one of them is to London City Airport which is quite a coup when weighed against the suspension of British Midland International's up-to-seven-a-day services to Glasgow from Heathrow.

Coventry challenged, but can rise from the ashes

What can happen to an airport when the viability runs out is epitomised by the story of an airport that came out of nowhere so to speak, grew phenomenally quickly, then closed down, all in the space of five years. The city is Coventry, population approximately 300,000, near Birmingham in the English midlands. Best known for live cargo (eg horses) flights, general aviation and pleasure trips, its lease was bought by German tour operator/airline TUI, which installed its own LCC and attracted so much traffic from Birmingham and East Midlands airports that it went through 0.5 million passengers in the first year and was heading towards a million the next.

But its infrastructure was of a temporary nature and wholly unsuitable to bulk traffic. TUI had assumed it would get planning permission for a new terminal but it did not. Some municipal councils in the UK appear to detest aviation as much as the central government does. In this case it was not Coventry's council, but a neighboring one that caused all the trouble. Without the new terminal and associated parking the business plan was untenable, the airport was sold on a couple of times then simply closed for business in 2009. Since then a saviour has been found in a local businessman who runs a company named Patriot Aerospace and Coventry has come full circle back to general aviation and pleasure flights with a little cargo and (growing) business jet activity thrown in. It has ambitions to resume commercial services but that would appear to be some time in the future.

Too many airports, so some must go

There are more than 40 commercial airports in the UK; a country that (aside from Northern Ireland) is just 700 miles long by 300 miles at its widest, all vying for each other's diminishing business in a political climate that isn't going to get any better any time soon. That is too many and their number is almost certain to decrease even if the economic climate was starting to change before the GDP figures for 2010 suggested that a double-dip recession remains a distinct possibility.

Of course, it is not only in Britain that airports are under threat in the British Isles. There are 13 airports in Ireland (Eire), supplemented by Belfast International, Belfast City and Londonderry in Northern Ireland; 16 in all, for a population of some 5.0 million. There are six or seven airports dotted around the western part of the country alone, where the population is only 2.0 million. Already Ryanair has successfully argued against the continuation of Public Service Obligation (PSO) route support schemes on the basis that Ireland's much improved road system, delivered courtesy of EU funding, means Dublin Airport is now easily reached by surface transport from much of the country. As most of these airports have little in the way of international traffic they are simply becoming redundant.

In addition there is a private sector proposal to build yet another airport in the centre of the country and to the west of Dublin, in County Offaly, and close to the home of retiring Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Brian Cowen. Conceived before the recession, the Irish financial crisis and the introduction of the EUR10 tourist tax (since reduced to EUR3) the entrepreneurs envisaged it would not take traffic away from Dublin Airport but would provide relief. Dublin Airport, which has lost 6.0 million passengers in three years, certainly needs relief right now, but of another variety altogether. But as Ryanair's O'Leary has stated categorically: "There is not a hope in hell it will happen", then it probably will not.

OUR COMMENT: What a tale of woe, cut throat competition and undoubtedly waste of both resources and investment. It is reminiscent of some of the battles fought during the development of the rail system in Victorian England when, for instance, rival train companies raced to cross the Tamar into Cornwall. A national airports policy is surely overdue.

Pat Dale


THE INVESTOR'S ANGLE: RYANAIR/EASYJET

Financial Times - 31 January 2011

Ryanair and EasyJet might seem much of a muchness to Europe's travellers, but to investors they are a class apart. Shares in Ryanair, which is the more profitable and reliable, usually trade at a deserved premium to those of its smaller rival.

During the past six months, that premium has narrowed on signs that EasyJet is pulling itself together at last. Carolyn McCall and Chris Kennedy, the new chief executive and finance director, promised to fix embarrassing operational mishaps, such as cabin crew finding themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. They brokered a truce with Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou, EasyJet's founder and largest shareholder, who has been agitating for less growth and more profit. The pair also came up with a reasonable strategy: buy fewer planes, attract more business travellers and lift pre-tax profit per seat from £3.36 last year to £5.

Ryanair also plans to slow down and increase fares after several years of breakneck growth. It is still better at the execution, though. In January, EasyJet reported stagnant revenue per passenger in the latest quarter, sounded the alarm on oil prices and said its loss in the six months to March would be double that of a year ago. Ryanair, meanwhile, reported a 13 per cent rise in revenue per passenger, revealed prudent oil hedges and reaffirmed its full-year profit guidance. Ms McCall and Mr Kennedy have not worked at an airline before and could use some decent macroeconomic (and meteorological) conditions while they settle in. Instead they face oil prices touching $100 a barrel - particularly painful for low-cost airlines.

The gap between EasyJet's valuation (about 8 times next year's expected earnings) and Ryanair's (about 11 times) should widen again. In difficult times, investors can expect to pay extra for an experienced pair of hands.


GOVERNMENT ALLOWS AIRPORT FLIGHT EXTENSIONS

Gethampshire Online - 11 February 2011

FARNBOROUGH Airport has won its fight to nearly double the number of flights taking off or arriving each year.

The airport will now be allowed to cater for 50,000 flights every year, almost twice the 28,000 current limit. It can also now host 8,900 flights on weekend and Bank Holidays - up from the current 5,000 cap.

The government decided on February 10 to allow airport owner TAG's appeal to have the extra flights after Rushmoor Borough Council initially blocked the move. The inspector who conducted the appeal in 2010 recommended the refusal be overturned, saying the economic benefits outweighed the harm of pollution, noise and risk of an accident. "While there would be some harm in respect of increased noise, the degree of harm would be moderate," David Richards wrote in a 157-page report.

Transport Minister Philip Hammond and local government minister Eric Pickles made the decision, despite saying the noise from the planes produced "demonstrable harm" and risk a plane crash was "significant" but "not exceptional".

The ministers said pollution from the planes was "more properly dealt with" by the EU Emission Trading Scheme, which will oblige major carbon dioxide producers to pay the government for their emissions. Rushmoor Borough Council has the right to appeal to the High Court within six weeks.

Recent Comments on this report from residents and others.

The economic benefit was such a load of tripe:

1) 90% of the private jet traffic is London originated or destined, typically just 2.5 passengers per huge jet, spending their money in London or smuggling it out to off-shore havens. No additional benefit to Rushmore. None of those passengers stay around in Farnborough, use Farnborough services, restaurants etc. They jump in London-hired cars when the aircraft lands and buzz of up the M3 to London - where does that contruibute to the local economy? The vast majority of passengers are non-UK domiciled paying no tax or paying tax elsewhere, certainly not to the local authority.

2) Those pilots staying overnight in the Aviator Hotel are lining the pockets of TAG, who own the hotel of course. No benefit to Rushmoor - the hotel already exists, the staff are already employed.

3) The extra 40 landings a day will require a few more terminal staff and ground handling staff to cope, no more than that.

4) Extra residency of based aircraft and engineering support of those aircraft benefits primarily TAG who own the hangars and run the primary engineering business - a few more engineers may be employed. Go and ask how many more young people who live locally each one of the airport-based businesses will employ in the next few years - next to zilch.

5) Is Rushmore going to earn any more than they are already destined to in business rates derived from TAG and the airport? No. The new hangar being built was being built regardless of any outcome of this appeal. No more hangarage can be built under the planning constraints, so no more business rates potential.

6) Are TAG kindly going to offer to pay all Rushmoor's costs for this saga? No. So the council tax payers are worse off from day one.

Somebody explain to me in layman's terms how the good citizens of this area benefit financially now over the status quo? TAG's just added millions to the value of their asset of course (a business based overseas) and devalued by millions the value of houses directly affected. Great - spot on, well done everybody, great day for democracy - not.
A Kingston, Farnborough

".... and risk a plane crash was ?significant? but "not exceptional".

So maybe you supporters might like to move your wife/husbands and children into the risk zone. Maybe your kids should fill the schools under the flight path.

The ministers said pollution from the planes was "more properly dealt with" by the EU Emission Trading Scheme

And as their lungs fill with the exhaust and avgas fumes you could also share our sense of delight that someone somewhere made some money by trading in the carbon emissions.
PJT

"The ministers said pollution from the planes was "more properly dealt with" by the EU Emission Trading Scheme, which will oblige major carbon dioxide producers to pay the government for their emissions." This says it all - the residents of Farnborough won't benefit but the usual fat cats will.
Rose Johnson


AFTER THE BATTLE, THE PROBLEMS CREATED
HAVE NOT GONE AWAY

Residents unsure over future of Stansted runway homes

BBC News - 14 February 2011

The airport will dispose of the homes gradually so as not to flood the market

People living on what would have been the second runway at Stansted Airport say they face an uncertain future.

The airport's operator BAA bought over 200 homes and other properties as part of their plans to build the new runway. After the withdrawal of its application in May 2010, it announced it would be putting these properties up for sale. Heather Hider, who lives in one of the properties currently being rented out by BAA said she wanted more clarification about their plans.

"It's a horrible way to live," said the resident of Mole Hill Green, near Takeley. "I can understand their reluctance, they don't want to show all of their cards, but they do need to talk to the resident tenants. They need to, and probably will, give us more than a statutory legal notice if we are to go, so we can plan accordingly."

When the airport operator bought the land and the properties on it, it was envisaged the buildings would be demolished to make way for the proposed second runway.

Now the goal posts have moved, they aren't going to be demolished, they have to spend some money on these properties - Heather Hider, local resident.

However, with that now not going ahead after the withdrawal of the application last May, they have been left as landlords to those living in them.

A Stansted spokesperson confirmed in a statement they plan to dispose of the properties over an extended period of time in "a discrete and sensitive manner. In the meantime we are fully aware of the need to maintain this estate and to ensure where possible that the properties are fully let," it added.

Mrs Hider, who has been renting her home for two years, is on a contract that means she could be asked to leave with just a month's notice. She said one of her major concerns was over the maintenance of her home. "When they originally took the portfolio on, it could be understood that they wouldn't go into a major refurbishment or investment programme, because ultimately it would be throwing good money away," she said.

BAA Stansted withdrew their application for a second runway in May 2010

"But now the goal posts have moved, they aren't going to be demolished, they have to spend some money on these properties. There are minor maintenance issues with this property. For example I need new sheds," she added. "I don't expect them to buy me new sheds, I can understand that they won't want to invest that money. But if I knew I was going to be here for two years I would buy my own, I would invest money in the garden."


TRAVEL INDUSTRY MAY UNITE
OVER DAMAGING AIR PASSENGER DUTY

Lisa Davidson - News Carrantal Online - 14 February 2011

A campaign against the increasingly damaging effects of Air Passenger Duty on long-haul flights and holiday bookings may unite the UK travel sector.

Leading travel firms, British Airways and ABTA are planning an attempt to unite the industry in a campaign to demand the government makes no further increases in APD. Reports recently received reveal a significant reduction in bookings to Band C long-haul destinations, although a corresponding increase in bookings to short-haul European destinations was also recorded.

The campaign, involving airline associations and major package tour operators as well as BA, ABTA and BAA, will be launched 23 March, ahead of the 2011 budget announcements. Details of the plan were fist given at the UK Inbound travel convention by BA general manager Jim Forster during a discussion on APD's impact on visitors to the UK.

According to Mr Forster, the industry as a whole had opposed APD since its introduction, but had failed to make its voice heard due to still-ongoing disagreements on the format within the sector.

At present, the industry is split into two camps, one favouring keeping the tax as a passenger levy and the other favouring a move to a 'per plane' levy. The latter option is preferred by ABTA and most of the low-cost airlines, with BA and scheduled carriers favouring the passenger levy but opposing any further increase in its amount.

Mr Forster believes coalition government officials have used the conflict between the two sides as an excuse to ignore the issue, adding evidence was being gathered across the industry of the impact of the tax on travel businesses. He stated 'taxing people out of the skies' is not the way to deal with the environmental problems caused by air travel, as the economic cost to the tourism sector is too high.


CREDIT CARD 'RIP-OFF' CHARGES TO BE INVESTIGATED

Airlines, cinemas and other companies which levy a credit card charge when booking tickets are ripping off customers and the practice needs to be officially investigated, one of Britain's leading watchdogs has claimed.

Harry Wallop - Daily Telegraph - 11 February 2011

A family of four booking a ticket on some low-cost airlines have to incur a £40 fee with many airlines when paying by credit card, while some cinemas charge 60p for each ticket booked online. The increasing amount of transactions that now happen online has made the problem worse, the watchdog said.

Which?, the consumer watchdog, has launched a so-called Super Complaint against credit card surcharges. A Super Complaint, which only a small number of bodies are allowed to issue, ensures that the Office of Fair Trading conducts a preliminary investigation, with the option to undertake a full-scale review. Which? calculated that the charges add up to at least "hundreds of millions" of pounds each year, with most of them unjustified.

The cost to the airline would be around 20 pence to process a debit card payment and no more than 2 per cent of the transaction value for a credit card, it claimed. While Ryanair charges a family of four £40, the same family would be charged £38 by Flybe and £5.50 by easyJet. Which? also has found that local authorities, estate agents, cinemas and even the DVLA are now beginning to levy excessive charges for paying by card.

The organisation is calling for all charges to be proportionate and for all charges to be made completely clear at the start of the transaction process.

Peter Vicary-Smith, the chief executive of Which?, said: "There's simply no justification for excessive card charges - paying by card should cost the consumer the same amount that it costs the retailer. Companies shouldn't be using card processing costs as an excuse for boosting their profits."

"Low-cost airlines are some of the worst offenders when it comes to excessive card surcharges but this murky practice is becoming ever more widespread, from cinemas to hotels and even some local authorities."

Prashant Vaze, head of fair markets at Consumer Focus, the Government-funded watchdog, backed Which?'s super complaint, saying: "Consumers are fed up with paying these surcharges. Often they have no other option, especially for internet transactions where there is no alternative to using cards. The worst offenders even ask for surcharges on a per person basis."

"Any debit or credit card charge should only be cost reflective. For far too long firms have made a quick buck through confusing and unfair card charges, which bear no relationship to the costs levied by payment agencies. We hope the Which? super-complaint forces the OFT to take further action against companies padding their profits with unfair excess charges."

Ryanair denied it was ripping off customers. A spokesman said: "Ryanair does not levy any credit or debit card payment 'surcharges'. Even our administration fee is avoidable by passengers who use our recommended MasterCard Prepaid."


REMEMBER THOSE EMISSIONS? 'BONFIRE OF THE QUANGOS'
THREATENS CLIMATE CHANGE COMMITTEE

Respected body risks losing independent status
Public bodies bill flawed, say Greenpeace and WWF

Allegra Stratton, Political Correspondent - The Guardian - 13 February 2011

The independent status of Britain's key climate change is under threat, climate-change groups have warned, because it has been included on a list of quangos whose structure could be altered at the discretion of ministers.

The committee on climate change (CCC) was established by the Climate Change Act 2008, the first piece of legislation of its kind in the world. It has already played a role in policing plans for reducing the UK's carbon emissions and is respected by business groups, energy companies and green organisations.

The government is pushing forward David Cameron's promised "bonfire of the quangos", with ministers convinced they can save money by slimming the number of these institutions through the public bodies bill going through parliament.

The CCC appears in schedule seven of the bill, covering "bodies and offices subject to power", meaning that, while the committee is not imminently due for abolition, its independent status could be altered, possibly without an act of parliament.

There is concern that decisions over the CCC's future could be determined by the opinion of the minister for the Cabinet Office, a member of the government who may not necessarily have a knowledge of climate change matters. Francis Maude holds that position at present.

Greenpeace and the WWF said they had concerns about the possible impact of the legislation.

Colin Butfield from WWF-UK said: "When it was set up, it was meant to be free to advise government. Business had to have faith that whatever happened in politics, the CCC would not be subject to the whims of politics. Giving the power to the secretary of state to do what they like - making a previously independent body start having to think of its political patrons - this would be unbelievably damaging to the CCC."

Greenpeace's executive director, John Sauven, said: "If this proposed legislation passes in its current form, Francis Maude will have the power to castrate the world-leading Climate Change Act at the stroke of a pen. This bill is flawed and is seemingly born of an ideological hostility to public bodies which hold government to account and bring about better policy."

"The CCC has a reputation for offering ministers fearless advice, but it is doubtful it will be able to do that if a guillotine is hanging permanently above its head."

David Kennedy, chief executive of the CCC, said it was watching the effect of the public bodies bill on the watchdog: "We recognise the bill could have implications for us. We have fought very hard for our independence and prize [it] very much."

A government source emphasised the CCC and other organisations on schedule seven would be protected. "Their impartiality will be completely protected," the source said. "All that happens to quangos on this list is that we may look at how administratively they are organised, so it may be that it can be merged with another organisation. But I doubt that and actually think it will remain exactly the same. It will not be abolished."

"We have introduced safeguards to the bill that will require both houses of parliament to take action before any change can be made to bodies on schedule seven."

But the former minister Lord Adonis, director of the Institute for Government, called for schedule seven of the legislation to be scrapped. He said: "It is vitally important that independent watchdogs like the CCC cannot be abolished or threatened by mere ministerial order. Primary legislation should be required, and schedule seven, which gives ministers the unilateral power to abolish independent watchdogs, should be removed entirely."

If the legislation is passed, a future CCC - possibly merged with another group - will have more reason to court the opinion of government ministers to ensure survival in its current form. Observers warn it may become less fearless in its pronouncements on climate change and government policy.

CCC advice forms part of the basis of energy policy formulation. Putting it on an insecure footing could send a bad signal to investors considering putting money into sometimes insecure ventures such as clean energy projects.

In opposition, Cameron and Nick Clegg championed the body. They applauded its role as an independent institution charged with advising government on how to deal with and mitigate climate change and setting carbon budgets. It has a remit to report to parliament on the progress being made by the UK to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

It was down to a report by the CCC that the UK committed in law that it would reduce carbon emissions by 34% by 2020 compared with 1990 levels.


HOPES OF 30% CUT IN GREENHOUSE EMISSIONS DASHED

EU energy chief fears target would lead to a too-fast process
of de-industrialisation as compared to current 20%

Fiona Harvey - The Guardian - 10 February 2011

The UK government's plan to push Europe to deeper cuts on greenhouse gas emissions has been dashed by the EU's energy chief.

GŁnther Oettinger, the EU's energy commissioner, dealt a heavy blow to the hopes of several member states that have been pressing for a target of slashing emissions by 30% by 2020, against the current 20%.

He said the tougher target would force industries to move to Asia. "If we go alone to 30%, you will only have a faster process of de-industrialisation in Europe," he said, citing the steel industry as one of the likely casualties. "I think we need industry in Europe, we need industry in the UK, and industry means CO2 emissions."

Europe could only adopt a tougher target if other major economies were also willing to do so, he said. "We are willing to go to 30% if big global partners will follow us, but if not we won't."

Governments and political leaders have been wrangling for months over the EU's targets. Last spring, the EU's environment commissioner, Connie Hedegaard, published research that suggested the steep fall in emissions that followed the financial crisis and recession meant it would be far easier and cheaper than before for Europe to slash emissions

Moving to the higher target would cost about €81bn (£68.4bn) a year by 2020, or 0.54% of GDP, according to the European commission's research, compared with a cost of €48bn for the 20% goal. But the move would quickly yield benefits including more green jobs, better health outcomes from less air pollution, and would make reducing emissions beyond 2020 much easier.

Though Hedegaard stopped short of recommending the higher target, the analysis was seized on by Chris Huhne, secretary of state for energy and climate change, who gathered the support of his French and German counterparts and a large coalition of businesses and investors to push the commission to the 30% goal They argued that it would give European industry a headstart in its race with China to dominate the rapidly growing global market for low-carbon technology.

By providing a stronger signal on emissions, it would also help companies to avoid the problem of stranded assets, whereby long-term investments made now in high-emitting technology, such as gas-fired power stations, could become obsolete decades before their intended lifecycle was up.

Environmental groups strongly supported the higher target, warning that the current goal was too weak to give the world a chance of fighting climate change.

But several large industry lobbying groups have rejected the proposal, arguing that it would place too great a burden on European businesses already weakened by the recession. The CBI, the UK employers' organisation, along with its Europe-wide counterparts, said it would jeopardise jobs and growth. Several EU member states including Italy and Poland also oppose the plan.

The fall in emissions resulting from the recession did not make the 30% target easier to reach, Oettinger argued last night. "[It shows] the best thing for CO2 emissions is a crisis, so do we need longer and deeper crises?" he asked. "Look at our deficit - we need growth, and we need more industry."


CORPORATION RENEWS CALL FOR THIRD RUNWAY

Julian Harris - cityam.com - 31 January 2011

URGENTLY needed expansion of London's aviation capacity should be provided by existing airports such as Heathrow, the City of London Corporation said today. Passenger demand will increase with economic recovery, it said, arguing that time is too short to wait for a new airport in the Thames estuary.

Mayor Boris Johnson favours the construction of a new airport in the south east. "A new hub airport could offer a possible long-term solution but such a project would take decades to become fully operational," said Stuart Fraser of the City of London Corporation.

"We are operating in a competitive market, where talented individuals and institutions are highly mobile," he added. "London and the UK cannot afford to stand still while our rivals across the globe are building for the future."

At the 2007 peak, 140m passengers passed through London-serving airports. This fell to 130m in 2009 due to the effects of the recession, yet demand, particularly from businesses, is set to rise this year. "Most firms interviewed suggest that their demand for air travel has now returned to positive territory and further increases will be fuelled by business growth," Fraser said.

Expansions to London City Airport, Stansted, and Gatwick should be considered alongside Heathrow, they said. The group admitted that this could involve "potentially unpopular decisions," but argued that "limited connectivity, reduced service quality and price pressures" could undermine London's competitive position.

However, the coalition government continues to oppose the construction of a third runway at Heathrow. "We have made clear that we do not support the construction of additional runways at Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted," a department for transport spokesperson said.


BORIS JOHNSON 'ON COLLISION COURSE'
WITH MINISTERS OVER AIRPORT EXPANSION

Ross Macmillan - 24dash.com - 16 January 2011

London Mayor Boris Johnson is "on a collision course" with the Government over airport expansion, it was claimed today.

The Government has ruled out new runways in south-east England, scrapping Labour's plans for a third runway at Heathrow airport. But this week Mr Johnson will release a report that makes the economic case for increased aviation capacity. The report will come out as Mr Johnson joins business leaders in London at a seminar to discuss the need for increased aviation capacity in the capital and south-east England.

"Boris Johnson is on a collision course with the Government over basic airport policy," said John Stewart, chairman of anti-Heathrow expansion group Hacan. He went on: "The Government has pretty clearly set out its opposition to expansion at south-east England airports. Boris Johnson is opposed to expansion at Heathrow but it could be that he is still keen on his plan for a new Thames estuary airport."

Mr Stewart added: "I don't think there is an economic case for expansion at London airports. If you put all London's airports together - Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, London City and Luton - you have more airport capacity than for any other city in the world."

Labour had supported a plan for a short, third runway and a sixth terminal at Heathrow but the expansion was cancelled when the coalition Government took power last May. Plans for a second runway at Stansted airport in Essex have also been abandoned, while another runway at Gatwick in West Sussex has also been ruled out.

In the meantime, the Government plans to publish, in March, a "scoping document" about UK aviation. Then in July recommendations from a taskforce set up to assess operational improvements at London's major airports are due to be published.

A spokesman for the Mayor of London said: "The Mayor is not on a collision course with ministers. The Government has announced that it is developing a new sustainable aviation policy and wants to hear people's views. That includes the Mayor speaking up for London. No. 10 and the DfT are aware of the seminar."


THAMES ESTUARY AIRPORT 'NOT DO-ABLE'

Pilita Clark, Aerospace Correspondent - Financial Times - 23 January 2011

Boris Johnson's idea of putting a new airport on the Thames estuary is economically misguided and would be impossible to build, says the head of the UK's second-largest long haul international airline.

"It's very noble but it's just not do-able or deliverable and it's the wrong side of where the locus of the economy is," said Steve Ridgway, chief executive of Virgin Atlantic. "Hong Kong did it but we could never do that with the south-east being so congested," he told the Financial Times.

"We've had 60 years of Heathrow being the number one airport and being the number one international airport. Realistically, if you had your time again you probably wouldn't put it there, but the fact is it is there and it's driven the whole shape of the UK economy."

Mr Ridgway's comments are the most critical by an airline head since Mr Johnson, London's mayor, last week stepped up pressure on the government to reconsider its opposition to airport expansion in the south-east. Mr Johnson launched an aviation report by Daniel Moylan, deputy chairman of Transport for London, that called for a four-runway hub airport either on a new site or through the expansion of existing airports such as Gatwick or Stansted.

British Airways which is based at Heathrow, said it was "interested to hear proposals for a new hub airport in the south-east as a long-term means of addressing the lack of capacity". But it added: "As two hubs are not viable, we need to understand how such a move will affect the thousands of airport employees and businesses in the Heathrow area. Given lead times for a new airport will be lengthy, the issue of a short-term solution to today's lack of capacity needs to be urgently addressed."

UK business and aviation leaders fear the government's decision to ban new runways at any of London's three main airports risks weakening the economy as airlines shift to airports with greater capacity in cities such as Paris, Amsterdam and Frankfurt.

But the comments by Mr Ridgway, whose airline operates from Gatwick and Heathrow airports, reflect the concern some have about where Mr Johnson's bid to push the debate forward will lead. "We certainly back the debate about what is UK limited going to do about airport capacity and the long-term economic performance of the economy," said Mr Ridgway.

"We don't support the Thames estuary solution. I think what we're pushing for is to make sure we don't lose out in the debate and clearly the French and the Germans and the Dutch are not going to sit back and not drive their industry and I don't want to see the UK economy disadvantaged by inadequate infrastructure."


BORIS AND STANSTED CAPACITY

Saffron Walden Reporter - 20 January 2011

REMARKS on airport capacity made by Boris Johnson have been called into question by official Stansted figures this week. Piling on the pressure for the creation of a new London airport, possibly on an island in the Thames Estuary, the Conservative Mayor of London announced that "the capital's airports are full" and "all of our runways are rammed".

However, Stansted Airport figures reveal that the mayor is wrong.

Currently the single runway at the Essex hub is handling around 18 million passengers a year. But the airport has permission to up that to 35 million per year. So even though the airport lost support for a second runway when the Coalition took over last year it still has a remit to grow extensively in terms of numbers.

A Stansted Airport spokesman said: "The coalition Government, while already confirming it does not support additional runways in the south east, has made clear its priority is to create a sustainable framework for UK aviation. Boris Johnson's opinion will be one of many in the debate about airport capacity and how the aviation industry best supports economic growth and addresses its environmental impacts."

"Our focus at Stansted is to manage the sustainable growth of the airport within the constraints of our single runway, working with our local communities. In doing this, we can continue to support the international trading links upon which the UK's future social and economic prosperity depends."

Mr Johnson was speaking after a report into UK aviation was released on Tuesday. The report, overseen by Transport for London's deputy chairman, Daniel Moylan, said that Heathrow, and with it the city of London, was losing out to European rivals.

"The capital's airports are full, our runways are rammed and we risk losing jobs to Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Madrid or other European cities should we fail to act," Mr Johnson said. "We need to start planning for a brand new airport that can help meet the ever-increasing demand for aviation and act as a hub, particularly to the rest of the UK."

Mr Moylan said Britain's economy could suffer without a new hub airport and that Heathrow, owned by BAA - as is Stansted - was slipping down the airport rankings.

The number of destinations that can be directly accessed from Heathrow stands at 157. Frankfurt handles 235 and Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport handles 224.

The report also indicated that Heathrow handles around 75,000 more passengers a day than it was built for. Plans for a third runway at Heathrow were scrapped when the Conservative-Liberal government took office in May.


GATWICK CHIEF HITS AT UK AVIATION POLICY

Gill Plimmer - Financial Times - 26 January 2011

Speaking ahead of a conference expected to underline growing business frustration with the moratorium on expansion, Sir David Rowlands, a former permanent secretary at the transport department, said the government lacked "evidence or analysis" to support its position.

"This government doesn't even have a strategy; it's ludicrous. There is no evidence or analysis to back the government's policy. The government is sitting on its hands while passengers suffer."

David Cameron ruled out building more runways at Heathrow, Stansted and Gatwick within days of taking office last year, to the consternation of business groups who believe it will make London less accessible. The government is due to start consulting on its aviation strategy next month, with the outcome published in 2013.

Sir David, who left the department in 2007, dismissed the idea that regional airports would soak up the the overspill from Heathrow, Gatwick and Stanstead because they are already "busy enough".

According to the latest government predictions, air passenger numbers will nearly double to 455m a year by 2030, with 230m of these using airports in the south-east.

The previous government, British Airways and airport group BAA have all warned that Britain's economic competitiveness will be damaged without a third runway at Heathrow to connect it to new destinations in emerging markets such as China. "Business can't get to China by train; and this is where the business is," said Sir David.

Gatwick airport was sold by BAA in December 2009 to a consortium led by Global Infrastructure Partners, an investment firm, in a £1.5bn ($2.4bn) deal. Sir David said the airport had no plans to build a second runway but had reserved land for one in order to keep its options open.

OUR COMMENT: Is there really a shortage of airport facilities?

Pat Dale


STANSTED STILL WAITING FOR FLIGHT NUMBERS TO TAKE OFF

Herts & Essex Observer - 15 January 2011

FLIGHTS at Stansted Airport have hit a 10-year low.

The latest figures confirmed by BAA show the Essex hub handled 143,335 commercial flights compared to 146,500 in 2000. The number of passengers also declined, dropping seven per cent last year to 18.6m passengers compared to 20m passengers in 2009. At its peak in 2006/07, just over 24m passengers passed through the airport.

Although Stop Stansted Expansion has recognised the Icelandic ash cloud and bad weather at both the start and end of the year hit traffic, the campaigners have used the latest data as justification to renew their call for a 50-year moratorium on a second runway for Stansted.

BAA abandoned its G2 project last when all three main political parties made it clear they oppose expansion. SSE pointed to a BAA forecast indicating that it expects a further decline this year to around 17.6m passengers a year before business improves. SSE campaign director Carol Barbone said: "It's hard to believe that just eight months ago BAA was still pursuing its planning application to make Stansted a two-runway airport bigger than Heathrow today, wasting millions of pounds in the process."

"Even now the company still insists that it hasn't abandoned its ambitions for a second runway despite the blight and unhappiness this continues to cause in the community. What better opportunity to restore community relations and faith in BAA than to give the long term guarantee of no second runway which is so sorely needed?"

SSE also wants BAA to sell around 250 properties purchased in preparation for G2 and said the moratorium would give confidence to buyers.

A BAA spokesman said: "The coalition Government has made its position very clear with regard to a second runway at Stansted. We have moved on and our focus right now is to manage the airport within the constraints of a single runway; working with and listening to our local communities. In addition to this, the airport provides a significant contribution to the regional economy and employs over 10,800 people."


CHARTERED INSTITUTION OF WATER AND ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT - AN END TO CHEAP FLIGHTS

Press Release - CIWM - 13 January 2011

In recent years, air travel has become cheaper but the real costs are masked.

Many flights are sold with misleading headline prices which encourage people to take trips they might not normally have considered. CIWEM believes that air fares should be advertised with the final price that will be charged to the consumer, alongside the carbon emission associated with the flight. The prices paid by customers do not reflect the environmental costs due to subsidies, tax breaks and the lack of a real economic value attached to the environmental damage done by aviation's emissions.

CIWEM believes that the Government needs to add VAT to fuel, helping make aviation pay for its environmental costs and provide significant funds to reinvest in other transport infrastructure. This could amount to £9 billion per year for the UK Treasury and help meet the UK's target of cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 80 percent by 2050. UK domestic flights and international departures are one of the fastest growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions and are currently responsible for around 6 percent of our total emissions.

Although one in five of the world's international flights depart or land in the UK, air travel is mostly undertaken by the wealthiest 20 percent of the population, with people on low incomes rarely flying; therefore calls for aviation to pay for its environmental costs are not necessarily regressive.

CIWEM's Executive Director, Nick Reeves OBE, says: "Whilst aviation is important for global commerce, CIWEM believes there needs to be a wider debate in the UK about the role of aviation in achieving a low carbon global economy. There must be an end to misleading advertising of air fares that encourage air travel, replaced with headline prices that reflect the true cost to the consumer. And UK subsidies, taxes and duties need to be reassessed to help aviation pay for its environmental costs, deter short haul aviation and provide funds to reinvest into other transport infrastructure like high speed rail."

OUR COMMENT: Are more flights really essential?

Pat Dale


AIRPORT LOBBIES AGAINST DEPARTURE TAX INCREASE

Manchester Evening News - 30 January 2011

Whitehall chiefs have faced renewed calls for special departure tax rates for regional airports such as Manchester. Research by think-tank Northern Way has concluded the north west suffers more than the south east as a result of increases to Air Passenger Duty (APD).

It comes as Emirates' UK vice-president Laurie Berryman said the airline could be forced to review its position at UK hubs if the tax continues to rise. He backed Manchester Airport Group's (MAG) call for varied rates of APD to be introduced across the UK, as opposed to the current one-size-fits-all policy.

Mr Berryman, based at Emirates' Wilmslow office, said: "There should be a strong political lobby on how the coalition government can lead us out of difficulty. It's very important not to overlook the importance of air travel to the overall economy. We would strongly oppose any plans to increase levies on air travel."

APD generates £2bn a year for the Treasury and is touted as a green tax but critics say the cash it raises does not go towards environmentally-friendly schemes. On November 1, 2009, APD on economy short-haul flights to Europe went up from £10 to £11 and it rose again to £12 in November 2010. Duty on flights to the USA, Russia and the Gulf has jumped from £40 to £60 over the past two years, while a Caribbean flight saw its APD rise from £40 to £75. Meanwhile, economy flights to Australia more than doubled from £40 to £85.

There are also allegations the tax is flawed. For example, a 7,000 mile flight to Hawaii attracts a lower levy than one to Jamaica - 4,500 miles away - because Washington DC is closer to London than Kingston and the duty is based on distances between capital cities.

Introducing regional variations to APD was key finding of the study carried out by the Northern Way, a partnership between the north of England's three regional development agencies.

Speaking in London at a conference on A New Strategy for UK Aviation, Northern Way transport director John Jarvis said: "At the moment APD - the tax on plane tickets - hits the north more than the south east. Incomes are lower and there are fewer business travellers than at airports such as Heathrow. This means the market is more fragile and the flat rate of tax has a bigger impact on demand in the north."

"It is therefore harder for airlines to develop and sustain new routes and this impacts on the connectivity with international markets that a growing northern economy needs. Heathrow is the best internationally connected airport in Europe and connections to international flights at Heathrow are an important part of the north's offer."

"But commercial pressures created by the limited capacity and high airport charges at Heathrow mean that only Manchester and Newcastle airports now have air links to Heathrow. Without these routes the north's international connectivity will worsen but the reality is that they under increasing threat now."

Mr Berryman added: "If APD goes up, any tax expert will tell you, it will hurt air travel because people will think twice. It certainly makes you think, it makes other countries which don't have levies more attractive. It's very interesting Ireland saw APD as hurtful to the industry, as did Holland."

At the end of last year, Aviation Minister Theresa Villiers said the government was considering raising APD on flights from congested south east airports. That was in response to a question from MAG's external affairs director Jonathan Bailey.

He said: "We want to continue to fulfil our role as a job creator for our region and if the government is serious about rebalancing the economy and promoting private sector growth, then this is an area that they could seriously look at. Regional airports want to retain their long haul services but passengers tend to be more price sensitive than at the London airports. The current regime makes regional airports less attractive to airlines and we've already witnessed it discouraging airlines from developing the new routes that we want."


BRUSSELS EYES DAMAGES PLAN FOR SNOW-STRICKEN AIRLINES

Rachel Hall in Brussels - Financial Times - 19 January 2011

The European Union's top transport official said airlines should be able to get compensation from airports if the hubs do not live up to industry standards intended to prevent a repeat of last month's snow travel chaos.

Siim Kallas, the European transport commissioner, said the EU was eyeing regulations that would require airports to upgrade systems to avert the kind of weather-related shutdowns that bedevilled most of Europe last month, adding that compensation requirements could be part of the rules.

Calling last month's response to the storms "unacceptable", Mr Kallas said that planning to prevent a similar crisis next winter would be left to the aviation industry. But he added the EU could be called upon to ensure that high quality standards are met. "If we succeed to create such standards and contingency plans, this is a ground for airlines to go and ask compensation from airports," Mr Kallas said.

Mr Kallas made his remarks following a meeting of the chief executives of 13 major European airport operators, including Terry Morgan, head of BAA, which runs London's Heathrow and Stansted airports, and Ad Rutten, head of Amsterdam's sprawling Schiphol airport.

Mr Kallas said he had requested European airports to compile separate reports on their contingency planning, which he asked to be submitted to his office ahead of a new package of regulations the European Commission is preparing for this summer.

In December, 35,000 scheduled flights were cancelled and about 7m passengers were left stranded at airports throughout Europe, spreading chaos at the start of the Continent's heavy Christmas holiday travel season. The total cancellations were more than all that occurred in 2009.

At a post-meeting press conference, Mr Kallas criticised the full chain of air transport services, particularly slow snow removal and airports' failure to provide sufficient de-icing products. Airlines themselves came in for little criticism. Although Mr Kallas said airport services underperformed, he acknowledged "underlying structural problems" that contributed to the chaos. Many European airports are already operating close to full capacity. Commission data estimate that demand at 40 of Europe's largest airports will be 25 per cent more than they can handle by 2030.

The air travel industry was beleaguered last year by both the December chaos and the April eruption of an Icelandic volcano that sent an ash cloud across Europe, cancelling flights for almost a week. Mr Kallas said his office received significantly more complaints during the ash cloud than the snow cancellations.

In order to meet travellers' needs, Mr Kallas said one of the lessons drawn from the Christmas shutdowns was the need for airports to keep passengers better informed on how long they are stranded for and when they might be able to resume travel.


STANSTED AIRPORT TO INCREASE FINES FOR NOISY PLANES

Herts & Essex Observer - 25 January 2011

STANSTED bosses are aiming to turn down the volume of residents' complaints by at least doubling the fines for noisy aircraft. Penalties for the worst offenders will be increasingly tough as part of the new clampdown in response to community concerns.

Dr Andy Jefferson, Stansted Airport's head of health, safety and environment, exclusively revealed the new charging regime to the Observer this week. He hoped the measure would have a double benefit: reducing the number of infringements and boosting the cash raised for local good cases, because the fines go to the Stansted Airport Community Trust Fund.

He said: "What we try to do is avoid noise infringements happening in the first place, but there will always be situations that we cannot avoid and in that case it's important that the fines are imposed and the money goes to the community."

From March 27, when the summer schedule begins, aircraft departing between 7am and 11pm, which break the daytime noise limit of 94dBA (decibels) by up to 3dBA will be fined £1,000 - twice the current £500 flat penalty. In addition, if airlines exceed the maximum by more than 3dBA, there will be a further fine of £250 for each dBA or part thereof.

In the "night shoulder period", between 11pm and 11.29pm and from 6am to 7am, when the lower limit of 89dBA applies, noisy aircraft will be hit by a £1,000 charge for the first 3dBA of the breach with a further £1,000 penalty per dBA beyond that. The same higher scale will apply during the "core night period" between 11.20pm and 6am, when the lowest noise limit of 87dBA applies.

Dr Jefferson said: "What we have tried to do is make it a much more significant penalty. We got a clear message from the community that they are more concerned about the noise at night."

Aircraft noise limits, which are enforced by the airport's flight evaluation unit, are checked by eight fixed monitors - four at each end of Stansted's single runway, 6.5km from the point where the aircraft takes off.

Dr Jefferson said airlines had responded positively to the tougher sanctions. "Their view is they take a lot of operational and technical measures to avoid breaking these limits - they see it as part of a responsible operation at an airport."

The next step for Dr Jefferson and the airport team is to review the penalties for aircraft which stray from the noise preferential routes when leaving Stansted.

OUR COMMENT: The spirit may be willing but the means of noise control are weak. Large planes, even the latest A380, are still too noisy for comfort and, sometimes, even for health.

Pat Dale


TRAFFIC NOISE BOOSTS RISK OF STROKE: STUDY

AFP - 26 January 2011

Exposure to road traffic noise boosts the risk of stroke for those 65 or older, according to research published online

PARIS - Exposure to road traffic noise boosts the risk of stroke for those 65 or older, according to research published online Wednesday in the European Heart Journal.

In a survey of more than 50,000 people, every 10 additional decibels of road noise led to an increase of 14 percent in the probability of a stroke when averaged for all age groups. For those under 65, the risk was not statistically significant. But the risk was weighted hugely in the over-65 group, where it rose 27 percent for each 10 decibel increment.

Above 60 decibels or so, the danger of stroke increased even more, the researchers found.

A busy street can easily generate noise levels of 70 or 80 decibels. By comparison, a lawnmower or a chainsaw gives off 90 or 100 decibels, while a nearby jet plane taking off typically measures 120 decibels.

"Previous studies have linked traffic noise with raised blood pressure and heart attacks," said lead researcher Mette Sorensena of the Danish Cancer Society. "Our study shows that exposure to road traffic noise seems to increase the risk of stroke."

The study reviewed the medical and residency histories of 51,485 people who had participated in the Danish Diet, Cancer and Health survey, conducted in and around Copenhagen between 1993 and 1997. A total of 1,881 people suffered a stroke during this period.

Eight percent of all stroke cases, and 19 percent of cases in those aged over 65, could be attributed to road traffic noise, according to the paper. The researchers suggest noise acts as a stressor and disturbs sleep, which results in increased blood pressure and heart rate, as well as increased level of stress hormones.

The study factored in the effect of air pollution, exposure to railway and aircraft noise, and a range of potentially confounding lifestyle factors such as smoking, diet and alcohol consumption.

The survey cohort lived mainly in urban areas and was thus not representative of the whole population in terms of exposure to road traffic noise. Proximity to road noise is also related to social class, as wealthier people can afford to live in quieter areas.

OUR COMMENT: Many residents in the area round Stansted Airport live within the 60 decibel contour, and these noise levels are average levels, not maximums. Successive governments have resisted requests for recognition of the effects of regular intermittent exposure to higher noise levels generated by the actual passage overhead of an aircraft.

Pat Dale


AIRPORT NOISE LIMIT 'WILL NOT MAKE ANY DIFFERENCE'

BBC News - 28 January 2011

A woman who lives under a flight path at Stansted Airport says she does not believe bosses at the terminal can do anything to alleviate aircraft noise.

It follows the news that, from March, any planes that breach government limits will face an increase in fines. Airlines will be charged £1000 for breaching the daytime limit, with the money going to fund local projects.

But Irene Jones who lives in the village of Broxted says this will not make any difference. "People like us at either end of the airport still have to put up with the noise," said Irene. "Whatever procedures they put in place to mitigate against the noise doesn't effect us. They can move flight paths, but we're still directly under the flight paths."

The daytime noise limit of 94 decibels is set by the government and monitored by the airport, who check every flight using eight noise monitors, four at the each end of the runway. Stansted Airport describe the fines as a 'preventative measure'. Of the 150,000 flights using the airport in 2010, 20 aircraft were fined.

The airport added the number of complaints about noise have dropped dramatically in the last four years. In 2005 there were more than 19,000 compared to just over 2,000 in 2009.

Irene told BBC Essex they only way to stop the noise problem was to 'stop the planes flying'. "I have suggested, tongue in cheek perhaps, that they should close the airport for a couple of days a week just as they used to do with early closing at the shops."

OUR COMMENT: BAA's quote: "The number of complaints have dropped dramatically in the last 4 years..." Not surprising! The number of aircraft have too!

Pat Dale


FOOD FOR THOUGHT. WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT IT?
WORLD CARBON DIOXIDE EMISSIONS DATA BY COUNTRY:
CHINA SPEEDS AHEAD OF THE REST

The Guardian - 31 January 2011

World carbon emissions by country data is out. See how the US has gone down in CO2 production - and who has gone up.

World carbon dioxide emissions are one way of measuring a country's economic growth too. And the latest figures show CO2 emissions from energy consumption - the vast majority of Carbon Dioxide produced.

A reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions is not only the decided goal of environmentalists but also of pretty much every government in the world. Currently 191 countries have adopted the Kyoto protocol with the aim of collectively reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 63.9% of the 1990 levels by 2012.

The relevant map is produced by Guardian graphic artists Mark McCormick and Paul Scruton. It shows a picture of a world where established economies have large - but declining - carbon emissions, while the new economic giant economies are growing rapidly. This newly-released data is from 2009 - the latest available.

On pure emissions alone, the key points are:

* China emits more CO2 than the US and Canada put together - up by 171% since the year 2000
* The US has had declining CO2 for two years running - the first time this has happened, certainly since these records began
* The UK is down one place to tenth on the list, 8% on the year. The country is now behind Iran, South Korea, Japan and Germany.
* India is now the world's third biggest emitter of CO2 - pushing Russia into fourth place
* The biggest decrease from 2008-2009 is Ukraine - down 28%. The biggest increase is Chile - up 74%

But that is only one way to look at the data - and it doesn't take account of how many people live in each country. If you look at per capita emissions, a different picture emerges where:

* Some of the world's smallest countries and islands emit the most per person - the highest being Gibraltar with 152 tonnes per person
* The US is still number one in terms of per capita emissions among the big economies - with 18 tonnes emitted per person
* China, by contrast, emits under six tonnes per person, India only 1.38
* For comparison, the whole world emits 4.49 tonnes per person

There are other sources of emissions data too, if you want to compare - albeit not as up-to-date:

* The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) gathers the data on world carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. This is only available up to 2008.
* the International Energy Agency (IEA) has global carbon emissions data up to 2008

But what can we say about this data and how close we are to the collective targets in the Kyoto agreement? The Kyoto protocol target emission does not include international aviation and shipping emissions, but this EIA data does. You can't tell this from the notes on the data but the EIA confirmed to us this was the case.

We can determine what the so called 'bunker fuels' are from the data here. But only looking at carbon dioxide emissions doesn't give us the total for all greenhouse gases. So we'll have to wait until the UNFCCC publishes the results of global greenhouse gasses collated data before we can draw any firm conclusions about meeting the Kyoto agreements.


VIRGIN TO HALT AIRPORT FEES IN SNOW PROTEST

Pilita Clark - Financial Times - 9 January 2011

Virgin Atlantic is to stop paying its bills to Heathrow until the airport's owners explain why a heavy but short fall of snow on one day caused the stranding of thousands of passengers in the week before Christmas. In the first sign of an airline acting on its anger over the disruption, Virgin has written to BAA, the airports operator, to say it plans to withhold landing and parking charges due from January 1 until it sees the results of an internal Heathrow inquiry into the disruption, due to be published in March.

Steve Ridgway, Virgin's chief executive, said: "We've told BAA we are going to hold back some of the monies we owe them. Because while we accept, and indeed we did, step up to our responsibilities to look after our customers, we feel they should also feel some of that accountability."

BAA, which is owned by Ferrovial, the Spanish infrastructure group, responded: "Heathrow's conditions of use do not provide any basis for Virgin Atlantic or any other airline to withhold airport charges." Legally, BAA could seize Virgin aircraft for repeated failure to pay airport charges, although the operator would be unlikely to make such a dramatic move, said people familiar with the situation.

Airlines bore the costs of accommodating and rebooking many of the thousands marooned after BAA kept one of Heathrow's two runways closed for more than three days after several inches of snow fell on December 18. British Airways, based at Heathrow, estimates the disruption will have cost it at least £50m, and Mr Ridgway said Virgin expected a minimum cost of £10m.

Colin Matthews, BAA's chief executive, has asked a panel of international airport specialists to look at what went wrong and how to stop it happening again. Mr Matthews agreed to forgo his annual bonus during the public outcry over the disruption.

Mr Ridgway said: "We want this inquiry to really focus on what happened and when the airport reasonably should have reopened and then we want compensation for all the costs we unnecessarily incurred after that. We're going to do that by holding back the fees we pay BAA and when the inquiry comes out we will happily sit down and work out what the right numbers are."

Chaos inquiry

Suggestions that Heathrow's travel chaos was due to the airport's Spanish parent company, Ferrovial, not investing enough in snow-clearing equipment are incorrect, according to the transport expert heading BAA's internal inquiry into the disruption, writes Pilita Clark. "I am surprised at that accusation," said Professor David Begg. In his personal view it was clear BAA, a unit of Ferrovial, was "one of the few companies that has maintained investment levels during the downturn" and received incentives to do so under the UK's airport regulatory regime.

Prof Begg was recently appointed a BAA non-executive director but promised the inquiry he and a panel of international airport experts were conducting into the disruption would be "no-holds barred". He said the inquiry would look at a range of issues such as how much snow actually fell, what the airport's plans were for dealing with it, and how well those plans were executed.

Heathrow gets about £1bn a year in levies from the airlines that use the airport, about half its total annual revenue. The money Virgin is to hold back is unlikely to amount to more than a few million pounds but BAA, the country's largest airports operator, would be loath to see the rest of Heathrow's 90 airline users follow suit. So far there is no evidence of such action, though British Midland BMI has said it is weighing its legal options. BA said its "focus remains on working with BAA".

But executives at several carriers have fumed privately about the impact of Heathrow's failure to resume normal operations as quickly as Gatwick and other London airports. Mr Ridgway said the disruption had left Virgin jets stranded across Europe. "Two of those aircraft went into places we'd never been before like Hanover where it was so cold we then had all the water systems on the aircraft burst. That took 14 days of work by our engineers to get those aircraft back in service," said Mr Ridgway.

BAA has appointed to its inquiry four current or former heads of airports in Canada and Switzerland, which face heavy winter snows regularly. The effort will be led by Professor David Begg, the chairman of the British Chambers of Commerce infrastructure commission, who joined BAA's board last month as a non-executive director.


BAA LIKELY TO HAVE LOST £25M AS A RESULT OF SNOW CRISIS

Airport operator will reveal extent of losses arising
from December snowfall on Wednesday

Dan Milmo - The Observer - 9 January 2011

Heavy snow fell at Heathrow on the weekend before Christmas when Heathrow's owner, BAA, suffered badly from the five days of disruption that followed. BAA is expected to announce a financial hit of up to £25m from this recent Heathrow snow chaos this week, as the airport group becomes the latest aviation company to reveal the cost of the December freeze.

Britain's largest airport operator, which is owned by Spain's Ferrovial, is likely to put the impact at between £20m and £25m on Wednesday, when it will also reveal Christmas traffic statistics for its six airports, which include Stansted, Edinburgh and Glasgow. While BAA's Scottish operations were badly hit, Heathrow will account for most of the losses after suffering five days of disruption in the wake of heavy snowfall on the weekend before Christmas.

The plans of up to a million passengers were affected, and the knock-on effect on landing fees and retail income left the group with a multimillion-pound loss. British Airways, Heathrow's largest airline, put the cost of the snowfall at £50m last week and is considering joining other carriers in legal action against BAA. Air France-KLM, which suffered significant disruption at Paris's Charles de Gaulle airport, lost up to €35m (£29m) as much of Europe was hit by snow.

An hour-long shower covered Heathrow in five inches of snow, which froze aircraft to their stands when temperatures dropped sharply soon afterwards. Lacking the resources to de-ice the entire airfield rapidly, BAA was unable to operate Heathrow at full capacity for five days.

BAA's chief executive, Colin Matthews, has waived his 2010 bonus in the wake of the episode. The group's chairman, Sir Nigel Rudd, is understood to be backing him despite the damaging shutdown.

A source close to the BAA board said the group's reputation and performance had improved significantly since Matthews joined in March 2008, with 70% of passengers at Heathrow now rating their experience as "excellent" compared with 50% when he started. Operational glitches have also been tackled: the airport now loses fewer bags, while nearly all passengers now spend no more than five minutes in security queues.

However, BAA in effect acknowledged that it was underprepared for the snowfall when Matthews immediately sanctioned a £10m investment in snow-clearing equipment. Although BAA's Heathrow and Stansted operations announced an operating profit of £255.7m in 2009, interest payments on a £9.7bn debt burden and one-off charges turned that into a pre-tax loss of £821.9m.


FOOTNOTE

Simon Hoggart - The Guardian - 8 January 2011

Reader Guy Ellis sent me the smuggest, most complacent press release I've ever read. It is from Heathrow owner BAA, and it explains how they are totally prepared for the arrival of winter. New computers! Half a million pounds of extra anti-snow equipment! Half a million litres of de-icing fluid! The only UK airport that didn't close last winter!

A factotum is quoted as saying: "We won't rest on our laurels and promise we'll be ready, waiting and doing everything we can to make every journey better for our passengers..."

This is dated 29th November, just three weeks before a modest snowfall closed the airport and destroyed Xmas for thousands of people - including Mr Ellis, who points out that half a million quid is a fraction of their chief executive's salary and exactly 1% of BAA's losses over the period. Also, he was refunded 3000 pounds for his 2 useless tickets, which means that the compensation for the single 747 flight could have been as much as the money they spent on snow moving equipment that didn't move snow.


ANOTHER FOOTNOTE

VAT increase means aviation avoids £600 million more in tax

Statement by Environmental Aviation Federation - 4 January 2011

Today, 4th Jan 2011, the rate of VAT increases from 17.5% to 20%. This means that aviation's exemption from tax is now worth even more.

It was estimated that if VAT at 17.5% were applied to air tickets and to the price of fuel, it would have raised £4.4 billion pa. (This is a rough calculation. The Treasury have been invited to confirm or alter the figure but have declined to do so.)

With the increase of VAT by 2.5%, the tax avoidance by the aviation industry has increased, at a stroke, by some £600 million pa.


FORTY YEARS OF TAXIING ON UK RUNWAYS

John Kay - Financial Times - 4 January 2011

To be stranded in mainland Europe is not a great hardship if you can occupy a house with a view of the Mediterranean rather than a space on the floor at Charles de Gaulle airport. So this is not another account of hardships endured last month in snow and ice - but it is an inquiry into why the UK experienced the most acute disruption in Europe.

We can start two decades ago with the botched privatisation of the British Airports Authority, since renamed BAA. Before privatisation, it was a government agency with a range of functions - a role in the development of airport policy, responsibility for the infrastructure of state-owned airports, and regulation of activities within the airports themselves (most airport functions are, and always have been, the responsibility of airlines and private contractors).

This combination of activities was not suitable for a public company. Nor was it appropriate for one company to manage all of London's big airports. But pressure from investment bankers seeking the simplest and most profitable route to large fees and from a management wanting little change to their lives beyond higher salaries and greater autonomy led to exactly that outcome.

The new business drove ahead the concept of "airport as shopping mall". This development reached its epitome in Heathrow's Terminal 5, where you can spend all day shopping without realising that the building has another function. Prohibited by price controls from distributing the revenues directly to shareholders, BAA spent heavily on Stansted airport, a white elephant just north of London. Stansted never succeeded as an alternative hub to Heathrow or even Gatwick, but benefited from the growth of low-cost airlines in the 1990s, attracting them with bargain basement prices. Unable to maintain these low charges, it is now losing traffic.

When a "golden share" blocking takeover was removed, BAA was soon the subject of a bidding war. The theory of the market for corporate control claims that takeovers deliver assets to the people who can secure most value for them: the reality is that assets go to those with the greatest hubris. No one imagined, in 2006, that the bidders offered enhanced skills in airport management. The rationale was the opportunity to match Heathrow's secure revenue stream with underpriced debt. The result was a cash-strapped business, with the resulting pressure relieved only recently by very large increases in charges to airlines.

Highly geared businesses are not suited to the long horizons needed for airport planning. Nor is modern British government. Ministers are obsessed with the quest for favourable headlines, while civil servants will "cross that bridge when we come to it". A pretence of democracy enables minority groups to delay public interest goals more or less indefinitely. Heathrow's Terminal 5 inquiry took a decade to reach the inevitable conclusion that the extra capacity was necessary.

This farce, and others like it, convinced many that there must be a better way. But none has been found. The coalition has again delayed construction of a third runway at Heathrow. (Frankfurt has three runways, Paris Charles de Gaulle four, Atlanta five and Chicago O'Hare airport seven.) Heathrow passengers must instead entertain the fantasy that a high-speed rail link to Edinburgh and Glasgow - destinations for less than 5 per cent of the airport's passengers - might one day relieve the congestion.

Britain is a small island, dependent on frequent and reliable air travel. From the distribution of its population, its biggest airport would ideally be north-west of London.

So the story really began 40 years ago. The Roskill Commission concluded then, after an exhaustive inquiry, that the best option was to build an airport at Cublington in Buckinghamshire which would take over from rather than compete with Heathrow. Roskill was, of course, right. Its recommendations were never implemented because of political posturing, which continues to the present day.


BEST SOLUTION - AN EXTRA RUNWAY -
IS NOT POLITICALLY FEASIBLE

Readers' Letters - Financial Times - 7 January 2011

Sir, As a member of the research team of the Roskill Commission and of the many government committees on runway siting since, I was particularly interested to read John Kay's article "Forty years of political taxiing on Britain's runways" (January 5) on the need for additional airport capacity in the south-east.

The problem has been extensively studied and there can be no doubt that an extra runway to the north-west of London and in particular at Heathrow is the best solution for the economy of the UK and for the air traveller. However, the long delay in tackling the problem and prevarication by successive governments has meant that the best solution is no longer politically acceptable and that a sub-optimal solution needs to be sought, be it at a white elephant or elsewhere.

As time goes on, the importance of location will be overtaken by need and a progressively sub-optimal solution will be all that remains. This will be to the increasing detriment of the UK economy as a whole. The longer the delay, the greater will be the cost until no feasible solution will exist. Urgent action is required.

Stan Abrahams
Ditchling, East Sussex, UK

OUR COMMENT: The "best solution?" - for whom?

Pat Dale


RYANAIR FACES OFT PROBE OVER ITS AIR LINGUS STAKE

Belfast Telegraph - 5 January 2011

The UK's Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is to proceed with a probe into Ryanair's near-30% holding in Aer Lingus after it determined that it remains "in time" to examine the acquisition of the stake in the former state-owned carrier.

The OFT said last October that it had initiated a merger investigation into Ryanair's stake to determine whether the airline had exerted "material influence" over Aer Lingus strategy and if the stake-building had led to a substantial lessening of competition. However, the OFT had to first determine whether its opportunity to examine the relationship between the two airlines had already expired.

In announcing its decision yesterday, the OFT's director of mergers, Sheldon Mills, said the agency was still "in time" to review Ryanair's minority stake in Aer Lingus, despite the initial takeover approach and stake having been acquired in 2006. The OFT added it had been unable to act in the matter until the conclusion of appeals of European Commission rulings relating to Ryanair's previous bid for Aer Lingus and its retained holding in the former state-owned carrier.

Had it acted prior to those appeals being concluded, the OFT claimed that there was a risk of "inconsistent outcomes" between any actions taken by the agency and any action that the European courts might have required of the European Commission in relation to the minority stake or the full bid for Aer Lingus.

Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary lashed out at the OFT decision yesterday, saying the airline would appeal the finding to the Competition Appeals Tribunal. He claimed the OFT was engaged in a "wild goose chase".

While listed as Irish firms, both airlines serve customers across the UK. Aer Lingus currently flies from Belfast International Airport to London Heathrow and European destinations including Spain, Portugal and the Canary Islands.

Ryanair controversially withdrew from Belfast in October 2010 following a long-running row over an runway extension at George Best Belfast City Airport. Five routes to London Stansted, Liverpool, East Midlands, Bristol and Glasgow Prestwick were axed. The airline continues to operate services to London Stansted, Liverpool, Birmingham, Glasgow and Faro from City of Derry.


RYANAIR PULLS STAFF AND PLANES OUT OF MARSEILLE
IN ROW OVER CONTRACTS

Michael O'Leary closes maintenance hub after authorities rule staff
must be employed on French, not Irish, contracts

Angelique Chrisafis in Paris - The Guardian - 9 January 2011

Michael O'Leary, the head of Ryanair, is closing his Marseille maintenance hub in a row over employment contracts.

Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary, the unflinching king of cost-cutting, may finally have met his match in the strictness of French employment law. The Irish low-cost airline will close its only French base in Marseille this week in the latest round of a bitter war with French authorities.

O'Leary has been engaged in a stand-off with France since pilots' unions and the state took legal action against him for employing Marseille-based crew on Irish contracts rather than paying higher social security and tax in France. It is the first time Ryanair, Europe's biggest low-cost airline, has faced legal action of this kind.

A furious O'Leary, fearing large fines, said he would remove his staff and from Tuesday, Ryanair will no longer have its Mediterranean hub in the French port. Its aircraft and 200 jobs will be moved to rival airports in Spain, Italy and Lithuania in protest at what O'Leary called the "ill-judged" ways of France. Ryanair launched its Marseille maintenance hub in 2006, boasting that it would open up Provence to tourists and "save" the French from Air France's high fares.

The French low-cost market, with its large number of UK second-home owners, is a key growth area for budget airlines like Ryanair and easyJet. The year that Ryanair based itself in Marseille, a French book called "Help! The English are invading!" detailed how airlines including Ryanair had brought an invasion of foreigners to live in secluded rural France. Local French mayors, airports and chambers of commerce had offered financial incentives to bring low-cost airlines to the regions.

Ryanair quickly became the second biggest carrier in Marseille, bringing in 1.7m passengers last year. But France's second largest pilots' union complained that staff based in Marseille were working under Irish contracts and paying no taxes in France.

O'Leary, who saved 30% on high French social charges by using Irish contracts, said he was abiding by European law because his workers were mobile and worked on "Irish registered aircraft defined as Irish territory". French courts ruled against Ryanair, saying that employees of foreign airlines living in France come under French social security and tax law.

"Sadly, the loss of four aircraft, 200 jobs and 13 routes at Marseille is a high price necessary to demonstrate these are mobile Irish workers," O'Leary said, before axing over half of his Marseille routes and taking the case to the European court of human rights.

The row has showed how dependent the economies of smaller cities can become on low-cost air routes. The argument became political when rightwing MPs and the chamber of commerce sided with Ryanair against unions, complaining that France was backward and uncompetitive. Jacques Pfister of Marseille's chamber of commerce said that Ryanair's presence had brought €550m into the local economy over four years, saying the court ruling was like "putting the brakes on development".

Jean-Claude Gaudin, Marseille's mayor and a key figure in Nicolas Sarkozy's ruling rightwing party in the south, wrote to the president urging him to drop the state action and scrap a decree that foreign airline workers in France should pay French tax. He said the decree, aimed at protecting Air France from competition, was obsolete. Gaudin said unions were totally irresponsible. In turn, they accused him of being O'Leary's puppet.

One local centrist MP begged O'Leary to stay, while the Communist party accused him of blackmail in threatening to quit Marseille. Ryanair said it would continue to fly 10 routes, including London to Marseille, using planes based elsewhere.

The British budget airline, easyJet, which intends to expand in France this year, has also fallen foul of French law. Last year it was fined €1.4m for breaching French labour law by hiring 170 staff under British contracts at Paris's Orly airport.


STELIOS HOLDS FIRE ON EASYJET EXPANSION PLAN

Sarah Arnott - The Independent - 5 January 2011

EasyJet is buying 15 new passenger planes and upgrading an existing 20-strong order to larger aircraft, in the teeth of long-standing opposition to expansion plans from the founder and largest shareholder, Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou.

The decision from easyJet chief executive, Carolyn McCall - who took over in July when her predecessor left under the cloud of an increasingly vicious spat with Sir Stelios - commits the company to ambitious European expansion plans. A muted response to the deal from Sir Stelios yesterday signals a gradual rapprochement between the two warring sides.

One area of contention in the long-running dispute was resolved in October with a brand licence agreement allotting annual royalty payments to Sir Stelios's easyGroup in return for greater operational freedom. But Sir Stelios's complaints on strategy, and repeated call for a dividend, rather than continual expansion, were left hanging.

Ms McCall started the process of compromise. Alongside stellar annual results in November she set out terms under which the company would start paying a dividend - a move welcomed as "a good first step" by Sir Stelios.

The easyJet founder's response to yesterday's aircraft deal with Airbus showed reciprocal restraint. While describing the announcement as "good news at least in the short term" from his perspective as the brand licensor, he also avoided overt criticism in his role as easyJet's largest shareholder. "We shall see if these 15 incremental aircraft will find deployment on profitable new routes and earn the appropriate return on capital employed," Sir Stelios said.

The 15 new planes will be Airbus A320s, bought under an option of a deal negotiated by Sir Stelios himself, when he was still operationally involved with the company. Although easyJet did not disclose the price tag yesterday, the group said it has negotiated a significant discount on the $1.1bn (£704m) list price of the planes. The carrier is also switching an existing order for 20 Airbus A319s to the larger A320 model, as well as taking out an option on another 33 A320s.

Ms McCall said the deal "will help deliver easyJet's strategy of continued profitable growth towards our target of 12 per cent return on capital employed, through the cycle, whilst providing even more flight capacity for our passengers".

The expansion of the airline's fleet is part of plans to grab market share from flag carriers in key European markets such as France. While budget airlines constitute 48 per cent of the British market, the penetration rate on the other side of the channel is just 24 per cent, leaving considerable space for growth, says easyJet. The group has bases across Europe, and is focusing on travel all over the Continent, not purely from the UK and back again.


PIONEERING HYDROGEN FUEL TRIAL
READY FOR STANSTED TAKE OFF

Saffron Walden Reporter - 6 January 2011

PIONEERING new green fuel technology that could drive down emissions and power airport vehicles of the future will be unveiled at London Stansted this Spring.

Britain's third busiest airport will be the first UK company to test a new hydrogen refuelling system (HFuel) and two specially adapted vehicles as part of ITM Power's nationwide Hydrogen On Site Trials programme (HOST).

Stansted Airport's head of health, safety and environment Dr Andy Jefferson said: "Environmental management at London Stansted is critical to the sustainability of our business and is an issue that we take extremely seriously, so we're delighted to be working with ITM Power and launch their ground-breaking Hydrogen On Site Trial project at the airport."

"We are extremely proud of the fact that air quality levels at Stansted are lower than the limits set by the EU. It is by continually focusing on our environmental performance that we will be able to maintain and improve those levels further. The project with ITM is a key part of this strategy and by working in partnership with them, we can evaluate whether hydrogen is a viable alternative fuel for airport vehicles."

The HOST program provides each partner with a one week free trial of the HFuel system and two Transit vans. The results are expected to play a key role in demonstrating the potential and development of ITM Power's hydrogen fuel technology.

CEO of ITM Power Dr Graham Cooley added: "HOST will be the largest multi-sector trial of hydrogen refuelling for transport in the UK, involving 20 major partner organisations. Airports are perfect locations for trialling return to base hydrogen refuelling and we are delighted that London Stansted airport will be the location from which we launch the HOST program."

Stansted's testing programme will begin on March 7, with a special launch event taking place at the airport's Hilton Hotel on the March 8. During the trial, hydrogen produced by the on-site HFuel system will power the two Ford Transit vans. These vehicles will form part of the airport's fleet and will be assessed by staff under every-day driving conditions.


STANSTED BOSS PUTS REBUILDING AHEAD OF RUNWAYS

Sinead Holland - Cambridge News - 4 January 2011

Stansted's new boss Nick Barton says his role is to make the airport a world class facility while building relationships with the community. The airport's latest managing director believes that now growth to 68 million passengers a year has been ruled out by the current Government - and the Labour opposition - co-operation rather than conflict is the way forward.

Unlike his two most recent predecessors, who were parachuted into the high profile post by BAA from outside the area, 44-year-old Mr Barton is Stansted through and through, with six years' experience at the Essex hub and a thorough understanding of both sides of the expansion argument.

He said: "My role here is to make this airport be what it really can be - a world class airport within the constraints of a single runway. The aim is to serve our customers and serve our community. We need to rebuild the airport's relationship with its community. Airports are controversial entities - wherever they are, they are controversial and it's incumbent on me to balance the arguments."

"I know a lot of people have deeply held convictions about the airport, but I'm very passionate about this airport and can see the benefits it produces not just locally, but at a national level. Now the prospect of a second runway has receded, it gives us an opportunity to rebuild relationships."

He pledged to continue pressing for reductions in noise and emissions. Even during the latest winter weather crisis, environmental impact remained at the top of the airport's agenda. De-icing agent was used as sparingly as possible - and then any residue was removed to prevent contamination of local water sources.

The recent snow has also offered an unexpected opportunity to showcase what Stansted has to offer to new passengers and airlines alike. It remained operational while ice-locked Gatwick and Heathrow hogged the headlines for all the wrong reasons and aircraft were diverted from both to the Essex hub.

Mr Barton said: "(The snow) is something we have been holding our breath on over the last few weeks and so far, it's been a spectacular success." He was full of praise for BAA's staff and the 10,500 employees of the almost 200 firms who also work at the airport for their efforts. "They have all been magnificent - I have not seen one example of anyone dragging their feet or failing to deliver, despite the weather."

Currently around 19 million travellers pass through its terminal annually, but unlike its major London rivals, it has the capacity to expand to 35 million a year. While uncertainties remain over Stansted's ownership - now the subject of a BAA appeal to the Supreme Court - Mr Barton is focused on expanding the 20 airlines that currently serve more than 140 destinations in 31 countries from Stansted.

OUR COMMENT: Hopefully this is a true blue New Year's Resolution to be recorded and hopefully executed without undue suffering by either local residents or the surrounding fields and Forests. What about those blighted houses?

Pat Dale


SSE Recent News
News Archive