UK Airlines respond to Transport Secretary’s comments on Heathrow expansion

Responding to comments today from the Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps MP, that he would like to review the funding of Heathrow expansion, Tim Alderslade, Chief Executive of Airlines UK, the industry association that represents 13 UK-registered carriers, said:

“Whilst airlines support expansion, the Transport Secretary is right to review Heathrow’s funding. Costs are running out of control and the scheme is too expensive”. 

UK aviation reaffirms its commitment to a sustainable future

With climate change in the headlines and the UK Government committing to a ‘Net Zero’ carbon target for the UK by 2050, today UK aviation has come together to reaffirm its commitment to a sustainable future.

Sustainable Aviation – the coalition of UK airlines, airports, manufacturers and air navigation service providers – has set out how UK aviation can meet both its climate commitments and growing passenger demand.

Important progress has been made. While passenger numbers grew by more than 25% between 2010-16, emissions only increased by just over 4%. However, aviation is a challenging sector to decarbonise.

Sustainable Aviation believes that immediate untapped opportunities are the introduction of sustainable aviation fuels – which could reduce emissions in 2050 by nearly 25% and make the UK a world-leader in the technology – and critical airspace modernisation, which is currently underway.

But crucially, carbon reduction is a global issue requiring a global response, which is why Sustainable Aviation is urging Ministers to continue engaging through the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to agree a meaningful world-wide long-term emissions reduction target consistent with the requirements of the Paris Agreement.

This will build upon the global carbon offsetting scheme CORSIA which from 2021 will allow aviation to compensate for the emissions it cannot yet eliminate by paying for high-quality, independently verified emissions savings in other areas.

Speaking today at the aviation industry’s annual Aviation Reception, Neil Robinson, Chair of Sustainable Aviation will say:

“Aviation is a UK success story and fully accepts its role in helping the UK meet its carbon targets. Aviation wants to grow but it wants to do so sustainably.

We want to work with Government to see what more we can and should do to enable aviation to go further and faster in reducing our emissions, including through modernising UK airspace, investing in the creation of low-carbon technologies and delivering Sustainable Aviation Fuels at scale.

Fundamentally, aviation is a global industry and needs a global solution. While we can reconcile future growth with more stretching climate goals, this can only work if the UK continues to work with international partners, giving leadership to the international process.”

Baroness Vere, Aviation Minister, said:

“We continue to lead the world through the International Civil Aviation Organisation to develop global measures to tackle aviation emissions. The support of the UK aviation industry is vital to tackling climate change and ensuring the sector becomes one of the greenest in the world.

“With their investment we are modernising our airspace to make flying quicker, quieter and cleaner.”


Sustainable Aviation (SA) is a coalition of the main stakeholders from UK airlines, airports, manufacturers and air navigation service providers who have come together to set out a collective and long term strategy to enable a sustainable future for UK aviation.

UK aviation’s progress to date:

• UK aviation is committed to cutting CO2 emissions from all flights by 50% of their 2005 levels by 2050 – and recognises the need to do more.

• We have de-coupled aviation growth from growth in emissions: while passenger numbers grew by more than 25% between 2010-16, emissions only grew by just over 4%. This is thanks to, among other things, considerable investment in the latest aircraft technology as well as improved operating procedures and air traffic management.

• As a result of airlines purchasing new aircraft technology, SA airlines have improved their fuel efficiency by more than 13% since 2005. New aircraft like the Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 are up to 30 percent more fuel efficient than the aircraft they are replacing.

• Airspace modernisation has the potential to reduce UK aviation’s emissions by as much as 10% by 2050.

• Sustainable aviation fuels are a ‘bridge’ to fully electric aircraft and deliver at least a 70% life cycle carbon saving compared to using fossil fuel.

• The UK Government, supported by industry, has achieved a world first with a global deal on aviation emissions (CORSIA) at the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). No other transport mode has an equivalent deal, which aims for carbon-neutral growth from 2020. This is a crucial step towards SA’s objective of halving net emissions by 2050.

Sustainable Aviation is calling for:

• We need a dedicated Office for Sustainable Aviation Fuels (OSAF) to help make the UK a world-leader in the technology. £150m would support flagship commercial sustainable aviation fuel plants being built across the UK.

• Government must continue to prioritise and support airspace modernisation to end wasteful stacking and allow more fuel-efficient flights.

• Government should commit to funding the Aerospace Technology Institute beyond 2026 to help speed up innovation.

• The UK must lead international efforts towards agreeing a global long-term emissions reduction target consistent with the requirements of the Paris Climate Agreement.

CORSIA and offsetting:

• International aviation and shipping remain outside of the scope of UK domestic CO2 targets, and so are not subject to the net zero 2050 target – consistent with the international approach to emissions reduction that Government has agreed.

• The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) agreement on carbon neutral growth, and CORSIA, complements the ambition of the Paris Agreement (where in 2015 195 countries adopted the first-ever universal, legally binding global climate deal aiming to keep a global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius) and constitutes the most significant international climate-related agreement by any sector since its adoption.

• CORSIA, plus the technological and operational measures will help UK aviation reach its current 50% reduction goal by 2050.

• However, Sustainable Aviation is urging UK government to continue engaging with member states at ICAO, with a view to ICAO agreeing a meaningful long-term emissions reduction target being adopted at the ICAO General Assembly in 2022 which is consistent with the requirements of the Paris Agreement.

UK airlines Aviation Strategy Green Paper response

Responding to the deadline for submitting responses to the Government’s Aviation Strategy Green Paper, Tim Alderslade, Chief Executive of Airlines UK, the industry association that represents 13 UK-registered carriers, said:

“Airlines believe we need a strategy that meets the Government’s stated ambition of promoting sustainable growth for our sector, which makes such a vital contribution to the UK’s social and economic life. We understand aviation has to earn the right to expand and that’s why we’re committed to halving our emissions by 2050, and working with national governments to agree an ambitious plan that can deliver a zero carbon future.

“We want to continue connecting families and businesses across the regions and to the world, delivering excellent value for money, and doing more to make air travel accessible for passengers.

“Provided it can be delivered sustainably, we also support additional capacity where it is needed, as long as operational resilience is prioritised and it does not lead to higher charges for passengers and cargo operators.”

The Aviation 2050 strategy should:

Build UK connectivity

• Promote the further liberalisation of international air transport, the modernisation of obsolete restrictions on airline ownership and seek to establish an ambitious new relationship with the European Union that protects all current market access.
• Support the delivery of Heathrow on time and with no additional costs to airlines, and ensure any domestic slots that are not used are available for general use.
• Support airport expansion where it is needed, provided it is privately funded – with Government not picking winners – and that airport charges do not increase and operational resilience is built in. This support must be contingent upon the UK being able to meet its commitments on carbon reduction.
• Commit to an Airports Connectivity Study to improve understanding of where bottlenecks occur with respect to surface access, and which airport connectivity projects should be included in national rail and road infrastructure investment programmes.

Strengthen competitiveness

• Set out a clear roadmap to cutting and eventually abolishing the negative impact of APD on economic growth and route connectivity.

Support sustainable growth

• Support and strengthen the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA), working with member states at ICAO to agree a meaningful work stream aimed at signing off on new long-term targets on emissions reduction at the 2022 General Assembly, rather than pursue unilateral measures.
• Make the UK a world-leader in the use of sustainable aviation fuels and boost support for research and investment in new technology.
• Support an approach to noise that fully implements the Balanced Approach and is far more proactive in ensuring local planning decisions – in particular on housing – are consistent with the needs of a growing airport.
• Direct the Department for Transport to play a vital leadership role in making the case for airspace modernisation through a concerted Government-led communications and education campaign, ensuring proper independence within the governance structure, with airspace fully modernised by a target date of 2025.

Deliver for UK air freight

• Recognise explicitly within the Aviation Strategy White Paper the national, strategic importance of UK air freight capacity through its own, dedicated chapter.
• Set out a clear plan for making full use of the UK’s existing freight capability across the country in the short term.
• Seek to implement no further restrictions to Night Flight operations, with no additional airports brought into the night noise regime, and supported by a policy statement on night operations which provides guidance for local authorities on the application of the Balanced Approach to local planning decisions on night controls.
• Appropriate consideration of, and support for, cargo operators should be given in any forward looking strategy to deliver sustainable growth, in particular within Government noise policy.
• The National Infrastructure Commission should be tasked with examining how the UK’s existing air freight infrastructure acts as both a barrier to and enabler of UK air freight – alongside what infrastructure will be required to enable the UK to capitalise on global trends in air freight up to 2050.

Enhance the passenger experience

• Ensure any Passenger Charter is developed collaboratively with the sector and prioritises best practice, voluntary commitments, ensuring there is no confusion with existing legal airline obligations.
• Introduce alcohol licensing airside at international airports to help prevent incidents of disruptive behaviour by introducing robust legal mechanisms to ensure the responsible sale and supply of alcohol in airports.
• Legislate for the removal of miniature bottles of alcohol from all duty free shops airside at airports, and make the use of sealed bags for alcohol purchases mandatory.
• Support a long-term strategy for the UK Border, developed in close coordination with industry, with an accompanying budget to deliver the resources that will be required to accommodate passenger growth without recourse to a passenger charge.
• Commit to a review of the implementation, and economic impact, of EC261 on UK carriers.
• Review the behaviour and business practices of Claims Management Companies with respect to passenger compensation.
• Ensure any consideration of new measures to address issues related to airline insolvency are proportionate to the actual risk to customers of being affected, and avoid introducing unnecessary market distortions or otherwise undermining the competitiveness of our sector, for example via a levy.


UK airlines respond to Heathrow Airport consultation – “welcome further clarity on the detail, but remain to be convinced Heathrow can deliver without costs for airlines increasing”

Responding to the launch of the latest Heathrow Airport consultation on their expansion plans, Tim Alderslade, Chief Executive of Airlines UK, the industry association that represents 13 UK-registered carriers, said:

“We welcome the consultation and further clarity from Heathrow on the detail, but remain to be convinced that they can deliver this scheme without costs for airlines increasing. The economic prize for the UK is enormous if they get it right, but this won’t happen if charges are ramped up and airlines can’t afford to operate there.

“Until we are convinced that charges will remain at today’s levels our support for the runway will remain conditional, and given Ministers have said they will not sign off on the scheme without airline approval this is clearly a critical issue for the airport to address.”

Airline Insolvency Review: “This is not the time to make it more expensive to travel”.

Responding to the publication of the Airline Insolvency Review report, Tim Alderslade, Chief Executive of Airlines UK, the industry association that represents 13 UK-registered carriers, said:

“Airlines face rising costs and this is not the time to make it more expensive to travel. 50p may not sound much but airlines operate on wafer thin margins and passengers already pay over £3 billion each year to the Treasury in Air Passenger Duty. The chances of booking with an airline that goes bust remain extremely small. When it’s happened, airlines have demonstrated their commitment to bringing passengers home through voluntary rescue fares which worked extremely well and without any taxpayer liability.”

Joint statement on Scottish Labour’s parliamentary debate on Air Departure Tax

Responding to the announcement made by the Scottish Labour Party that they will introduce a debate tomorrow calling on the Scottish Government to scrap plans to reduce the Air Departure Tax, Tim Alderslade, Chief Executive of Airlines UK, the industry association that represents 13 UK-registered carriers, Derek Provan, CEO of AGS Airports Ltd, owner of Glasgow and Aberdeen airports, and Gordon Dewar, CEO of Edinburgh Airport, said in a joint statement:

“We have always said that growth in aviation can and must go hand in hand with action on the environment but scrapping this policy will do nothing to reduce global CO2 emissions. As a global sector by nature the only way to achieve this is through international action, and that’s why over 190 countries have signed up to a carbon offsetting scheme that will address increases in total emissions from international aviation above 2020 levels.

“The industry has already decoupled growth in aviation from growth in emissions but we accept there is more to do and that’s why we’re investing billions in developing new sustainable aviation fuels to scale and bringing into service hundreds of new, cleaner and quieter aircraft like the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A350 that offer huge environmental improvements on their predecessors.

“We welcome scrutiny from governments on this progress but the danger is that in trying to do their bit for the environment politicians lose sight of the serious work that is already being done by industries like ours and take decisions unilaterally that will do untold damage to Scotland’s international standing.”

“We’ve already seen Norwegian pull all their routes out of Edinburgh and services have been cut at Aberdeen and Glasgow also – including at the latter a sizeable reduction in capacity by Ryanair. This is the highly price sensitive end of the aviation market and just shows that the current sky-high rate of tax is damaging connectivity in Scotland and penalising hard working families whose only crime is wanting to take a well-earned trip away.”


Statement on Scottish Government decision to defer introduction of Air Departure Tax

Responding to the announcement made by the Scottish Government that it will again defer the introduction of the planned Air Departure Tax beyond April 2020, Tim Alderslade, Chief Executive of Airlines UK, the industry association that represents 13 UK-registered carriers, Derek Provan, CEO of AGS Airports Ltd, owner of Glasgow and Aberdeen airports, and Gordon Dewar, CEO of Edinburgh Airport, said in a joint statement:

“The Scottish Government needs to be straight with industry This was a cast-iron manifesto commitment and they have now failed to implement it two years in a row, and in the meantime it is Scottish tourism and connectivity that is suffering, as we’ve seen with Norwegian pulling out of Edinburgh and lost routes at both Glasgow and Aberdeen. The message from airlines and airports is clear – either do what you have promised and get on with it sooner rather than later or be upfront with us that it is never going to happen.”

UK airlines – “welcome Brexit announcement gives passengers and cargo operators certainty and confidence that flights will continue”

Responding to the announcement made by the Department for Transport today confirming protection for flights in a no-deal Brexit scenario, Tim Alderslade, Chief Executive of Airlines UK, said:

“We welcome that the UK has confirmed its plans to allow flights to continue in a no-deal scenario, as the EU has also done. This gives passengers and cargo operators the certainty and confidence that they can continue to fly as normal after the UK has left the EU.”

Airlines UK response to provisional agreement between the Council and the European Parliament on air services connectivity

Responding to the news that the EU’s proposed Regulation on Air Services Connectivity has been provisionally agreed by the Council and European Parliament, Tim Alderslade, Chief Executive of Airlines UK, the industry association that represents 13 UK carriers, said:

“We welcome that the provisional agreement between the Council and the European Parliament reaffirms that flights between the UK and EU will continue uninterrupted in the event of no deal, and that the UK will reciprocate. We look forward to the UK Government publishing the detail of its reciprocal arrangements.”

The demise of Flybmi shows why action is needed to cut Air Passenger Duty today

The collapse of regional carrier Flybmi demonstrates why Government must act urgently to grasp the nettle and finally address the UK’s sky high rates of Air Passenger Duty (APD), the tax paid by passengers on every flight departing a UK airport. Tim Alderslade, Chief Executive of Airlines UK, the industry association that represents 13 UK carriers, said:

“Rates of UK APD are the highest in the world, making it harder for airlines to grow and sustain routes as they battle high fixed costs and wider economic uncertainty. Indeed, the UK was the only country in Europe to see a loss of direct connectivity last year.

APD doubly affects regional UK carriers by effectively taxing passengers twice, £13 on both the outbound and return journeys. The demise of Flybmi highlights the myriad challenges faced by airlines today trying to keep revenues ahead of costs, and should act as a wake-up call for Government which must prioritise a cut to this damaging tax – more important than ever as the UK becomes more reliant on aviation post-Brexit.”