Andrew Brookes

Andrew Brookes

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Air League welcomes the Airports Commission Interim Report

The Airports Commission’s independent review into UK airport capacity and connectivity Airports Commission’s interim report concluded that there is a need for one net additional runway to be in operation in the south east by 2030. There is likely to be a demand case for a second additional runway to be operational during the 2040s.  These conclusions reflect assumptions about future demand growth, and are consistent with the Committee of Climate Change’s advice to government on meeting its legislated climate change targets.

The Air League has long argued that Heathrow is the only practicable site for the UK hub airport and while the Commission will continue to examine the Thames Estuary options, Sir Howard’s team effectively holed ‘Boris Island’ etc. below the waterline when they reported that these would cost up to £112bn. The airlines would pay for Heathrow expansion – the taxpayer would have to pick up such a tab for an Estuary option, which would make ministers blanch in the current economic climate.

The Report outlined detailed study proposals for new runways at two locations:

  • Gatwick Airport
    • Gatwick Airport Ltd’s proposal for a new runway to the south of the existing runway
  • Heathrow Airport (two options)
    • Heathrow Airport Ltd’s proposal for one new 3,500m runway to the northwest
    • Heathrow Hub’s proposal to extend the existing northern runway to at least 6,000m, enabling the extended runway to operate as 2 independent runways.

The next phase of its work will see the Commission undertaking a detailed appraisal of these three options before a public consultation in autumn 2014.

The Commission has not shortlisted proposals for expansion at Stansted or Birmingham: there is likely to be a case for considering them as potential options for any second new runway by 2050. In its final report the Commission will set out its recommendations on the process for decision making on additional capacity beyond 2030.

The report endorsed recommendations that the Air League has made to improve the use of existing runway capacity, including

  • an ‘optimisation strategy’ to improve the operational efficiency of UK airports and airspace, including
    • airport collaborative decision making
    • airspace changes supporting performance based navigation
    • enhanced en-route traffic management to drive tighter adherence to schedules
    • time based separation
  • a package of surface transport improvements to make airports with spare capacity more attractive to airlines and passengers, including
    • the enhancement of Gatwick Airport Station
    • further work to develop a strategy for enhancing Gatwick’s road and rail access
    • work on developing proposals to improve the rail link between London and Stansted
    • work to provide rail access into Heathrow from the south
    • the provision of smart ticketing facilities at airport stations
  • trials at Heathrow of measures to smooth the early morning arrival schedule to minimise stacking and delays and to provide more predictable respite for local people

The Commission shrewdly recommended the establishment of an Independent Noise Authority to provide expert and impartial advice about the noise impacts of aviation and to facilitate the delivery of future improvements to airspace operations.

Overall, the Commission is to be applauded for taking a fresh, comprehensive and transparent study of the issues. The Air League takes issue with the Commission’s statement that “the UK enjoys excellent connectivity today” – a Far Eastern entrepreneur flying into Heathrow would not be able to fly-on to Inverness, Newquay, Prestwick, Humberside, Teesside or Liverpool. However, while the capacity challenge is not yet critical, the Commission is right to note that it will become so if no action is taken soon and no net additional runway is provided by 2030.

The Air League encourages the government to act on the Interim Report’s recommendations to make the best of the UK’s existing airport capacity. Without such action, there will only be adverse impacts resilience, connectivity, economic growth and passenger experience. As a global hub and economic engine for growth, UK plc. deserves nothing less.

Air League Press Release, 20th June: UK AVIATION POLICY


The Air League welcomes the Prime Minister’s recent strong support for the development of new port facilities at Tilbury to help maintain UK’s global competitiveness and access to world trade. The Air League also endorses the Deputy Prime Minister’s support for the Aerospace sector when, celebrating the first flight of the A350, he said “The A350-XWB maiden flight is significant for Airbus, Rolls Royce and the aerospace industry – it shows the Government’s long-term aerospace industrial strategy is the right approach to ensure the UK remains Europe’s No 1 aerospace manufacturer”.

The Air League is however perplexed that the Government does not see fit to similarly support the continued development of the Air Transport Industry and its contribution of some 1 million jobs and £50 billion to the UK economy through confirming the availability of new, vitally needed, additional runway capacity, particularly at or near the UK’s only hub airport, London Heathrow. The Government’s only commitment is to another Inquiry into capacity, whilst our global competitors continue to invest in new runway infrastructure enabling them to surpass London as the leading global air transport hub.

The Air League has responded to the Davies Commission and the House of Commons Transport Committee Inquiry into Aviation Strategy, supporting the need for new runway capacity and stressing that the only viable option for development of a UK hub airport is at London Heathrow. It supports the development of new runways at Heathrow and the potential use of Northolt to secure improved UK regional access to London and the Heathrow global network.

The Air League recognises the essential role that the UK’s regional airports and other London Airports play in meeting the diverse demands of all segments of the air transport market, including freight. But the most pressing need is to secure capacity to enable improved UK regional and global connectivity at or near the Heathrow hub.

Calls by some for increased use of regional airports or to split the hub across a number of London airports fail to recognise the history of failure of UK air transport policy and airport development or the reality of the market. For over 30 years successive governments and the BAA promoted a twin hub policy using Heathrow and Gatwick. That policy failed; every time regulatory restrictions on use of Heathrow were lifted, airlines transferred there in order to benefit from the higher traffic volumes, yields and improved profitability at the UKs hub airport.

There is nothing other than the market preventing increased use of regional airports. Analysis of data from the UK CAA shows that 31 million business passengers use London airports, some 20 million at Heathrow alone, compared with 3 million at Manchester and 2 million at Birmingham.

It is airlines who invest in route development and air service networks. Airlines focus on maximising revenue through serving the densest markets and those offering the highest yields, which means maximising the number of business travellers, achieving the highest economies of scale to improve efficiency and reducing unit costs. For the long haul and legacy airlines that is achieved by focussing operations at major hub airports such as Heathrow.


Traffic mix at selected UK airports


Business %

Leisure %

























East Midlands



Leeds Bradford









Business passengers


  • 31 million at London Airports
  • 3 million at Manchester
  • 2 million at Birmingham


Source: Analysis of UK CAA data.

For Further Information contact:
Terry Holloway
Vice Chairman, The Air League
Broadway House, Tothill Street, London SW1H 9NS
Telephone: 01223 373227 / 07785 316763


Air League and ALT Annual Reports

Air League and ALT Annual Reports

The below links provide access to the Air League and Air League Trust activities and financial performance for 2012.

To access the documents please click on the links below:

Air League

Air League Trust


2011 Annual Reports

The 2011 Annual Reports for The Air League and The Air League Trust are available to download below:


Air League Trust

The Air League


The Director, Andrew Brookes, used to fly Vulcan XM655 on No 101 Squadron and he has arranged a Leading Edge visit to see the old girl at Wellesbourne Mountford on Sunday 22 April 2012. The visit will consist of a talk on the Vulcan in the Cold War in the briefing room of the South Warwickshire Flying School, followed by a guided tour of XM655 both inside and out. The 655 Maintenance and Preservation Society will be on hand to operate the aircraft systems and to show us around. XM655 still has all her Cold War navigation, bombing and electronic warfare instrumentation in place.

We can take a party of up to 50 to Wellesbourne on 22 April. To spread the load, the first 25 will be briefed and shown around between 1100-1230 hrs and the second 25 from 1400-1530 hrs. The airfield cafe will be open for lunch and our visit coincides with an airfield open day, so there will be plenty to see and do.  Priority will be given to Leading Edge members but other Air League members can come along if there are space places. Everyone will be responsible for getting themselves to and from Wellesbourne and each attendee will be asked to contribute £10 to 655 MPS funds. You will need to buy lunch and any other souvenirs.

If you would like to visit XM655 on 22 April, please contact Emma on Please give her your membership number and indicate whether you prefer the morning or afternoon session, or if you could do either.

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