| 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 - 15 October 2014
Where the Parties stand
With a General Election only a few months away shortly after which the Airports Commission will deliver its final recommendations, airport capacity in the UK was high on the agenda at the party conferences.
Labour will not make any decisions until it sees the Airport Commission's final report. It will not commit in advance to accepting the Commission's final recommendations but Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls said in his main conference speech that an incoming Labour Government would prevent "dither and delay" over the need to boost airport capacity in the south east. In addition, Shadow Transport Secretary Mary Creagh pledged that a Labour Government would make a "swift" decision on the Commission's final recommendations. The Independent interpreted this as "a significant shift in policy" and a softening of Labour's previous hostility to a third runway at Heathrow.
The Conservatives also were circumspect on airports policy, saying that having established the Airports Commission, it was now a matter of waiting for the Commission's final report, which would be delivered shortly after the next election, and then taking matters from there. Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said that the Commission's recommendations would carry a great deal of weight but he stopped short of making any commitment to accept and implement the recommendations. Chancellor George Osborne told the Conservatives that transport infrastructure could prove to be a key battleground for the election but again he was tight lipped and gave no hint of his party's preferred option for a new runway in the south east. Meanwhile, Boris Johnson continues to reject the Airport Commission's short-listed options saying that neither Heathrow nor Gatwick was a suitable location for a new runway. The London Mayor and his team continued to argue for a new airport in the Thames Estuary, and failing that, for the development of Stansted into a four or five runway to replace Heathrow.
At the Lib-Dem conference Nick Clegg suffered an embarrassing defeat when he failed to win a key vote aimed at changing his party's policy of opposing any new runway in the south east. The party leadership wanted to change their policy so that it opened the door to expansion at Gatwick and Stansted whilst remaining firmly opposed to a third Heathrow runway. However, after a heated debate at conference the membership overwhelmingly rejected the proposal and re-affirmed existing policy. Prospective parliamentary candidate for Saffron Walden Mike Hibbs said: "Whilst I strongly support Stansted's contribution to the local economy, I cannot see any economic justification for another runway, particularly while there is unused capacity." See the Herts & Essex Observer report.
The future of aviation: point-to-point or hub-and-spoke?
The bosses of Gatwick and Birmingham airports, speaking at a fringe meeting at the Conservative Party conference, called on the Airports Commission to make recommendations for airport expansion which would promote competition and choice across the UK. The sub text was that they both opposed further expansion of Heathrow and instead wanted the Commission to support an extra runway at Gatwick and, longer term, a second runway at Birmingham. CEO of Birmingham Airport Paul Kehoe said business passengers wanted to fly direct and so the answer was a network of airports, enabling all UK regions to plug into global growth opportunities. This view was shared by Gatwick CEO Stewart Wingate who said that a second Gatwick runway would support the need for greater connectivity as well as increasing competition which, he argued, was essential for delivering choice for passengers and businesses all across the UK. Brian Ross, SSE's economics adviser who attended the same meeting, said: "Gatwick and Birmingham say the future is point-to-point travel rather than hub-and-spoke and are using this argument to support the case for growth at their airports rather than at Heathrow. Heathrow however would also support expansion of Birmingham and Gatwick provided it got a third runway. It will be up to the Airports Commission - and ultimately the market - to decide whether the solution is point-to-point or hub-and-spoke, or - as is more likely - a combination of the two." See the New Civil Engineer report.
Flight paths: No net benefit for Stansted communities
There would be no net benefit for communities near Stansted Airport if NATS were to implement new flight paths it proposed in June, says Stop Stansted Expansion. Daytime flights from the existing south-east (Dover) departure routes would switch to the existing east (Clacton) departure routes, doubling daytime flights on the Clacton route and quadrupling the number if Stansted expanded to maximum capacity. More people would be overflown more intensively on the Clacton route (2,400) compared to those who would benefit from reduced flights on the Dover route (1,470), and people living under the Dover route would not benefit from any reduction of overflying at night. Air traffic would also intensify near Hatfield Forest, a Site of Special Scientific Interest. SSE has recommended that the proposed changes should - at the very least - be postponed until they can be assessed in the context of the much more significant airspace redesign planned for 2018/19. SSE says reduction in CO2 emissions and fewer delays arising from flight path changes would be negligible. NATS Departure Route Proposal at London Stansted Airport Consultation can be viewed here.
Complaints end Heathrow flight path trials...
Heathrow has apologised after receiving a record number of complaints about noise - an average of 500 a day - following the introduction of new flight paths over Berkshire and Surrey. As a result, the airport ended the trial two months early. Residents said the trial was started without warning and that noise drowned out conversation, disturbed sleep and made some consider moving. London Mayor Boris Johnson said the level of complaints demonstrated that building a third runway at Heathrow would never be acceptable. The trials are part of a drive to overhaul the UK's airspace by 2020 and use more accurate navigation technology. Gatwick, Birmingham, London City and Stansted (see above) are also affected by the plans. However, Heathrow insisted the latest routes being tested "are not indicative of future flight paths". See the Travel Weekly report.
...and proposed airspace changes also postponed at Gatwick
Meanwhile, a trial of new Gatwick flight paths has suffered a similar fate to the Heathrow trial. Gatwick Airport and NATS announced that the proposed airspace changes around Gatwick have been deferred "until more detailed work is done to better understand the available options and next steps". See the Media Centre report.
Lack of Heathrow link threatens regional airports
The Regional and Business Airport Group comprising Exeter, Norwich, Southend, Newquay, Durham and Blackpool airports has been formed to promote the advantages of regional airports and to lobby the government to reduce the impact of regulation and taxes such as APD on smaller airports. The move came shortly before Blackpool International Airport's owner Balfour Beatty announced it would close the airport after failing to find a buyer. Manston Airport closed earlier this year and Plymouth Airport closed three years ago, while Cardiff and Prestwick airports have been taken over by the Welsh and Scottish governments, respectively. Cambridge Airport is to lose its Cityjet services this month, just five months after the flights started. A study by the Smith Institute think tank this summer said that regional airports were suffering due to a lack of direct flights to Heathrow. See the Buying Business Travel report.
Stansted's new lounge offers "champagne dreams"
Stansted Airport has opened a new duty free area as part of an £80m revamp of the terminal building. The 3,000m2 store will "shake that belief that those people travelling low cost don't still have champagne dreams," said Neil Banks, head of customer services. After the stress of parking, check-in and security checks, passengers will pass through the calm of a "transference chamber" on their way to the departure lounge and duty free area where they can spend "positive dwelling time" and discover "instore cocktail mixologists", reports the Essex Chronicle. Check-in desks have been reduced from 129 to 89 as a result of the use of online boarding passes. Manchester Airport Group, which bought Stansted 18 months ago, has committed £260m to improve passenger services and facilities. A Which? survey in August rated passenger satisfaction at Stansted at just 43 per cent. The first phase of the terminal transformation will be officially opened in September.
New hotel planned at Stansted
Manchester Airports Group has submitted an outline planning application for a 329-bedroom hotel adjacent to Enterprise House at Stansted Airport. The proposed site for the hotel is part of the existing staff car park for Enterprise House. MAG proposes to deck the remainder of the staff car park, so that it is on two levels, to compensate for the lost parking capacity. See the Inside Media report.
Stansted recovers to an annual throughput of 19 million passengers
Stansted Airport handled 19.1 million passengers in the 12 months to September 2014, an increase of 8.4% from the 12 months to September 2013. However, Stansted's passenger throughput is still down by over 20% compared to its peak in 2007. Stansted's owners MAG believes that Stansted has the capability to more than double current passenger throughput and serve up to 45 million passengers a year on the existing single runway.
Heathrow expansion a "lost cause" - BA boss
The head of British Airways believes that Britain's political class lacks the character required to force through a third Heathrow runway because it would be too controversial. Willie Walsh, chief executive of International Airlines Group, the owner of British Airways, said: "Historically, politicians have not been brave enough and I don't think they will be brave enough going forward. You need a big shift in the politics of the country." Heathrow expansion was a "lost cause". He warned a Conservative or Labour-led government against choosing Gatwick for an extra runway, adding that the case for growing the capital's second-largest airport is "significantly weaker", reported The Guardian.
Stansted must provide adequate transport, says Herts County Council
Stansted must provide "a proper contribution" to road and rail transport infrastructure before the airport is allowed to more than double in size, says Herts County Council. HCC welcomed the publication of the draft Sustainable Development Plan (SDP) by Stansted's owners MAG which sets out how full use of the existing single runway could be achieved beyond the current 35 million passengers a year for which it has planning permission. MAG says the runway could cope with up to 45 million passengers a year, without the need for additional land. In its preliminary response to the draft SDP, SSE argues it is premature to debate development beyond the present planning cap of 35 million passengers per annum when Stansted has not yet even reached an annual throughput of 20 million passengers. SSE has also said that if the airport's development plan is to be genuinely sustainable and based on making best use of the existing runway, there should be a gradual phasing out of night flights and the 270 homes acquired by the airport in connection with the second runway plans should now be returned to private ownership. See the Herts & Essex Observer report.
Nick Barton becomes CEO of Luton Airport
Former Stansted Managing Director, Nick Barton has been appointed Chief Executive of Luton Airport. Nick Barton spent eight years at Stansted in a variety of executive roles culminating in his appointment as Stansted MD shortly before the sale of the airport. Nic was replaced by Andrew Harrison when MAG acquired Stansted from BAA. Luton Airport recently obtained planning approval which would allow the airport to almost double in size to an annual throughput of 18 million passengers which it aims to achieve by 2026. This compares to its throughput last year of 9.7 million passengers. A £100 million investment plan is currently underway. Luton claims it outperformed all other UK airports in August, enjoying record passenger numbers and its busiest month on record. It recorded an 11.8% increase in passenger numbers in August compared to the same month last year. The average increase across all UK airports was 4.4%, according to CAA figures. The increase is being driven by new routes and carriers and a new ten-year deal with easyJet announced in March. See the London Luton Airport report.
Governments must "get serious" on carbon emissions
Governments and world leaders are failing to support aviation in attempts to cut carbon emissions, says Willie Walsh, boss of British Airways. The aviation sector was taking responsibility for its actions with a goal to halve carbon emissions by 2050 but governments must take action, for example, by creating a global cap and trade scheme. See the MRO Network report.
Ferrovial to take back Scottish airports
Glasgow and Aberdeen airports are likely to return to their former Spanish owner, Ferrovial Group, in a £1 billion deal that also includes Southampton Airport. When Ferrovial bought BAA in 2006 it acquired seven airports in the UK as well as Budapest and Naples airports. It quickly sold the overseas airports and was later forced by the Competition Commission to sell Gatwick, Stansted and Edinburgh. The sale of Glasgow, Aberdeen and Southampton will leave Heathrow as the only remaining part of the once dominant BAA empire and so, unsurprisingly, BAA Ltd has changed its name to Heathrow Airport Holdings Ltd. Ferrovial continues to be a shareholder in HAHL but has reduced its stake to 25%. See The Scotsman report.
Ryanair orders up to 200 new 737-Max aircraft
Ryanair has signed a deal with Boeing to buy up to 200 new Boeing 737 MAX 200 aircraft (100 firm & 100 options). If the options are exercised the deal would be worth over $22 billion at current list prices. The new aircraft have exactly the same external dimensions as Ryanair's existing fleet of Boeing 737-800 aircraft but will have 197 seats, 8 more than the 737-800. Ryanair says that the Boeing 737 Max 200 will significantly reduce fuel consumption and noise emissions. According to the Daily Mail the new aircraft will enable Ryanair to squeeze in more passengers per plane and "ramp up fare price wars". Ryanair's Michael O'Leary, said he aimed for the airline to carry 150 million passengers a year by 2024, up from an earlier target of 120 million and up from the 82 million passengers it carried in 2013. See the Daily Mail report and also the Ryanair report.
Largest mega-hub for Dubai
Dubai has unveiled plans to invest $32bn in a desert project to create what is expected to become the biggest hub airport in the world. Dubai's ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum approved the project to expand the city state's second airport, allowing the fast growing Gulf carrier Emirates to move to the facility by the mid-2020s. The first phase of the airport's expansion is for two satellite buildings capable of handling 120 million passengers a year and the hub's capacity could eventually be raised to 240 million passengers a year (more than three times bigger than today's Heathrow). The new Dubai airport would have the ability to accommodate 100 Airbus A380 aircraft at a time. The A380 is the world's biggest passenger jet and Emirates is the world's largest operator of this aircraft type with 53 A380s in service and another 87 on order. Emirates, which already has the world's biggest fleet of long-range passenger aircraft, has another 200 wide-bodied Boeing 777s on order. See the Financial Times report and also the Travel Weekly report.
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