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Aviation policy: APD cut, capacity advice and regional airports

PlaneThe government is really being pressured to develop a better aviation policy, though there isn’t much of one now. Similar to what has already been happening over the last year or so, more support has been revealed for an Air Passenger Duty (APD) cut, while an MP has committed to following recommendations of an independent review on aviation capacity and an airport boss has called for regional airports to be used more.

A study commissioned by the Airport Operators Association (AOA) suggests that 82% of Britons support a reduction in APD. The tax is paid by all passengers who fly from British airports, and many believe that the levy should be cut, or at least frozen. The responses of 2,097 travellers demonstrate the support most of the public and business leaders have for aviation in general to help boost inward investment, jobs and exports, as well as ensure flying stays affordable.

Ed Anderson, the chairman of the AOA, says that the draft aviation policy framework isn’t an integrated policy that will help boost airports or the nation’s economy. This is a huge mistake, which is why they are releasing their own policy document in the hopes of focusing the government’s minds. Aviation policy plays a huge role in resolving ongoing issues of economic growth, so they have created an integrated aviation policy to show what could be done.

The survey has been welcomed by Stansted Airport, which supports the A Fair Tax On Flying campaign. Head of public affairs Chris Wiggan says that it’s great the survey highlights such robust support for APD to be reduced. The UK’s aviation tax is the highest in the world, with rates 8.5 times more than the average of other European nations. Business is being lost to rivals, and it’s damaging the economy. The British Chamber of Commerce recently found that the tax may cost the economy £10 billion in lost growth, as well as up to 25,000 fewer job positions, in the next 20 years.

On the matter of airport capacity in the south east of England, Transport Minister Simon Burns has made a commitment to accept the recommendations of the independent review on the matter. He said his party will back and implement the commission’s findings, which is being led by Sir Howard Davies. The results are due to be published in 2015. Before this commitment, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has only vowed to consider the recommendations.

Shadow Transport Secretary Maria Eagle seemed to welcome Burns’s announcement. She says the government has spent an entire year delaying a decision on airport capacity after Labour first proposed an independent commission be created. Even after Sir Howard was appointed to lead the commission, ministers continue to avoid making decisions by asking him to delay the report until after the next election.

In line with making decisions on airport capacity, Robert Sinclair says that the government needs to look to regional airports to boost air travel. The Bristol Airport chief executive says that, as the issue is being debated and new schemes are costing billions, it’s important to remember that a major amount of capacity already exists in the nation’s regions.

Sinclair continued that the aviation policy should encourage that this capacity be used and that private sector investment be made in long-term infrastructure. This will ease airport congestion in the south east of England, as well as help to rebalance the UK’s economy. His airport is very well positioned to create jobs and boost economic growth. A very tangible and clear aviation policy that supports investment and growth is needed.

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