| CAMPAIGN UPDATE - AT A GLANCE
A summary of current events in SSE's campaign against expansion of Stansted Airport
and other recent news related to the expansion of airports and aviation - as at 5 February 2014
SSE calls for end to "scourge" of night flights
Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) has called on the Government to end "the scourge of noisy night flights". SSE was responding to a Department for Transport (DfT) consultation, which proposed that Stansted should continue to be allowed 12,000 flights a year between the hours of 11.30pm and 6.00am. This is more than twice as many as are permitted at Heathrow. The 12,000 cap was set in 2006 when Stansted was still expanding rapidly and the Government anticipated that a second runway and more night flights would be needed. Today Stansted is handling 30% less traffic than in 2006 and its plans for a second runway were cancelled in 2010.
Stansted handled 8,500 night flights last year and SSE is pressing for this number to be reduced to an annual maximum of 7,500 from October 2014 and further reduced by 500 flights each year until night flights are totally phased out. SSE has also calling for an immediate ban on the use of reverse thrust by aircraft landing at Stansted during the night, other than in an emergency. SSE also highlighted the particular disturbance caused by night flights at Stansted Airport because of its rural location where background noise levels are generally very low. SSE has told the DfT that British Airways' decision to end its cargo operations at Stansted means the reduction target is achievable. SSE's submission can be viewed here.
Residents challenge Stansted Airport over compensation
Residents of Burton End have challenged Stansted Airport's management over their refusal to pay compensation relating to permission granted 15 years ago for the expansion of the capacity of the airport to 15 million passengers a year. The airport has argued that it is not obliged to pay any compensation until the completion of the final stage of the 1999 expansion project, notably the 'Echo Cul de Sac'. This was originally due to be completed in 2001/02 but has been repeatedly postponed and is not now expected to be built until 2019/20. However, according to one interpretation of the legal position, the deadline for compensation claims could be about to expire. The challenge is being led by ROBE (Residents of Burton End), whose Chairman, Michael Belcher, questioned Stansted's Managing Director, Andrew Harrison, about the issue at a recent meeting of the Stansted Airports Consultative Committee (STACC). Andrew Harrison acknowledged that this had been a longstanding issue which had given rise to considerable ill-feeling in the community. He said that the Manchester Airport Group (MAG), as the new owners of Stansted, wished to undertake "a proper and responsible review" before reaching any decision. He asked to be given time to do this because it would involve sourcing and reviewing relevant documentation, much of it dating back many years.
Ryanair losses despite more passengers
Stansted Airport's biggest customer, Ryanair, made a £28.8m loss in the last three months of last year because of weakness in sterling against the euro and lower fares, down an average of 9%. The fall came despite a 6% rise in passenger numbers. Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary attributed the poor financial results to promotions and lower fares, reported the BBC. Despite the overall profit drop, "ancillary" revenues such as reserved seating, priority boarding and credit card fees rose by 13%. Michael O'Leary said that Ryanair had now implemented a series of initiatives aimed at reforming its "abrupt culture". It now had allocated seating on all flights, charging passengers five euros to select their preferred seat. It appeared that sales of reserved/allocated seats would exceed the revenue loss from cutting airport and bag fees.
Stansted wants to be in for the long haul
Stansted Airport is hoping that its current revamp will help to attract long haul airlines. Having recently done deals with its main airline customers Ryanair and easyJet in an attempt to boost budget flights, the airport is now targeting carriers such as Emirates, reports financial agency Bloomberg in an interview with Stansted's chief financial officer, Neil Thompson. About eight million people drive by the airport annually to other London airports according to Civil Aviation Authority data, said Mr Thompson. The airport is hoping to make long-haul carriers aware of the airport's proximity to Cambridge and the business potential offered by science and technology facilities based there. Operating profit at Manchester Airports Group (MAG), which owns Stansted, Manchester, East Midlands and Bournemouth airports, rose to £108.2m pounds in the six months to September 30 from £60.8 m a year earlier. Stansted contributed £31.5 m of the gain.
"Must fly, new client to meet"
Video conferencing is no substitute for pressing the flesh when it comes to developing new business, according to a scheme by environmental group WWF to cut emissions by discouraging business flights. Results of the scheme, designed to show that new runways were not needed, suggests that even green-minded companies often see no alternative to flying, reports The Times. WWF acknowleged that video conferencing was unsuitable for building relationships with new clients. The distance travelled by air fell sharply for the first three years after companies, including Microsoft, BT, Marks & Spencer, Lloyds TSB and BSkyB, joined the "One in Five" scheme, which aims to help organisations cut a fifth of their flights in five years. However, the fourth year showed an annual increase in both long-haul and short-haul flights. Emissions from the companies' flights fell by 36% in the first three years but rose by 4%, or 1,200 tonnes of carbon dioxide, in the most recent year. WWF believed that businesses would continue to fly less - not more - in future and that decisions on UK airport capacity needed to reflect this fact. Companies profited by flying less, it said.
Heathrow investors warned of runway risks
A third runway at Heathrow would be "politically undeliverable", according to MPs, local authorities and residents who are targeting Heathrow's investors. The Campaigners will highlight the potential risk to shareholders of spending millions of pounds developing detailed plans, when they are likely to face the same level of opposition that led to a previous scheme being ditched in 2010, says The Telegraph. John Stewart, chairman of Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise (HACAN), said: "The last Labour government failed to get through its plans for a third runway. The opposition from residents, environmentalists and politicians of all parties was just too great. Three years on, the prize which Heathrow Airport wants above all else remains politically undeliverable." A spokesman for Heathrow said a poll conducted by Populus found that people in west London are more likely to vote for their MP if they support Heathrow expansion than if they oppose a third runway.
Stansted Airport traffic figures for 2013
A total of 17.8m passengers travelled through Stansted Airport in the 12 months to December 2013, an increase of 2.2% over the previous year. This is the first annual increase for six years and the Airport's passenger throughput is still more than 25% down on its 2007 peak. The number of flights in 2013 was almost exactly the same as the previous year (131,373 compared to 131,399 in 2012). This is 30% fewer than were handled at Stansted's peak in 2007 and less than half the 264,000 flights permitted under the Airport's planning permission.
Stansted row over pricing
The decision by the aviation regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority, to remove Stansted from economic regulation on the grounds that the airport does not have substantial market power has caused a row with its biggest customer, Ryanair. The airline's director of legal and regulatory affairs, Juliusz Komorek accused the CAA of "regulatory failure which will again harm consumers as Stansted will be able to further increase airport charges whenever it wishes, without any reference to competitive price levels". Charlie Cornish, chief executive of Stansted's owner, MAG, welcomed the CAA's decision to "step back from regulating Stansted". He said that the long-term deals with airlines, including Ryanair, would see the airport continue to grow over the next decade.
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