New report reveals £24bn contribution of UK based airlines to the UK economy including over 1 million jobs and vital connectivity

August 7th, 2023

  • New report has revealed that each UK-based aircraft directly supports 400 jobs and £27m UK Gross Added Value (GVA) – compared to 100 jobs and £7m GVA where overseas airlines operate UK routes
  • Every two additional departing flights added by a based aircraft creates another job in the wider UK economy
  • UK airlines transport around 20 million overseas visitors per year to the UK who spend £14 billion – taking total UK jobs supported by UK airlines to over 1 million
  • Benefit is expected to grow by generating £111 billion for the UK economy and £41 billion in GVA by 2050

As the UK enjoys its busiest summer travel period since the pandemic, a new report has revealed the vital importance of UK-based airlines to UK jobs and growth. The new report by Steer, commissioned by Airlines UK, examining the strategic and economic contribution of UK-based airlines to the UK economy, has shown that having airlines basing themselves in the UK matters significantly for job creation, UK connectivity and future economic growth potential.


Read the full report here.


The start of the UK school holidays saw the busiest travel weekend since before the pandemic with over 2 million Brits heading overseas, while UK Border Force expects over 34 million air arrivals coming through the UK over the coming months. Most of these travellers are carried onboard airlines with bases at UK airports. This new research has shown that UK-based aircraft generate four times the jobs and economic value for the UK, compared to an aircraft serving the UK based at an airport overseas.

Moreover, as UK-based aircraft predominantly serve the routes from the UK’s regions and cities outside the South-East – where an overseas carrier is unlikely to step in – UK-based airlines provide UK travellers, businesses and exporters with essential connectivity and choice helping keep costs for consumers and businesses lower.

Key findings from the report also show:

  • UK airlines who are members of Airlines UK have over 900 UK-based aircraft located and maintained in facilities across the country, employing local people directly as well as supporting jobs within supply chains

  • UK-based aircraft provide the significant majority of the UK’s unique international connectivity (73%) and serve 85% of international routes and all domestic routes

  • Airlines with a UK operating certificate carry nearly 800,000 tonnes of air cargo annually – contributing to the 40% of the UK’s non-EU trade by value carried onboard aircraft

  • By 2050, the economic benefits of UK airlines are expected to grow and, by 2050, generate £111 billion of output and £41 billion of GVA

As well as the significant economic benefits to the UK of a growing airline sector, the report also highlights the need for a competitive aviation environment in an increasingly global market, especially where countries are supporting their domestic aviation industries to meet the costs of vital decarbonisation. If the share of passengers carried by airlines based in the UK fell 10% by 2050, the UK would lose tens of thousands of jobs and around £5bn in GVA that would otherwise be benefitting local communities.


Tim Alderslade, CEO of Airlines UK, said: “As we hit peak summer travel, this report showcases the huge value that based airlines bring to the whole of the UK, not just for leisure travel but also for UK businesses and companies trading overseas. This highlights the importance of keeping the UK a competitive place to base and grow an airline and, critically, the vital role of effective partnerships between Government and our sector on our path to net zero”.  


Aviation Minister, Baroness Vere, said: “As this report recognises, the UK is a global leader in aviation connectivity and innovation, supporting jobs and businesses across the country.

“The Government is committed to working in partnership with UK airlines and the wider industry to seize the opportunities that aviation decarbonisation can bring, through the Jet Zero Council and funding commitments such as £180 million to support the development of the UK SAF industry.”

Johan Lundgren, CEO, easyJet, commented: “The significant value of airlines like easyJet, with 178 aircraft based in the UK, is absolutely clear. Not only do we enable UK trade around the globe and bring visitors into the UK, but also ensure hard-working families can connect with friends and family, do business and enjoy well deserved holidays across Europe.

“The UK is easyJet’s largest market with more than half of our passengers flying to and from UK airports and over 10,000 people employed across the country. We continue to invest in the UK with a new three aircraft base in Birmingham opening next year and the benefits of this couldn’t be clearer with the creation of around 100 direct and many more indirect jobs and this also demonstrates our confidence in the resilient strength of demand for travel and connectivity in the UK.

“Decarbonising aviation is a major undertaking for which the whole sector is coming together and government and policy support is vital to help us to ensure a sustainable future so these benefits continue to be realised for the UK economy and society.”

Sean Doyle, Chairman and CEO, British Airways, said: “As we experience our busiest summer travel period since 2019, the report shows the value that UK airlines bring to the economy and how much our island nation needs the connectivity that airlines offer. With more than 250 aircraft based in the UK, British Airways makes a uniquely important contribution to the jobs and prosperity that aviation delivers.

“While we must all work together to ensure the aviation industry remains competitive, we must do so with sustainability at the heart of this. We must continue to work closely with industry and Government to effectively decarbonise our industry. This includes making the UK a competitive place to develop sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) and getting the right policy support in place to produce more SAF right here in the UK, to ensure a more sustainable future for aviation.”


Shai Weiss, CEO, Virgin Atlantic, said: “UK airlines, including Virgin Atlantic, enable essential connectivity and trade that creates vital jobs and economic growth.”

“It’s crucial that UK Government acts on its behalf and sees UK aviation as a strategic asset, with policy that supports a thriving and globally competitive aviation sector, including an affordable hub airport at London Heathrow. UK leadership in decarbonisation can only be achieved through radical collaboration between industry and Government to create the right conditions for accessible Sustainable Aviation Fuel at scale, one of the best levers available to achieve net zero 2050 ambitions and unlock green growth.”