Stobart Aviation, the owner and operator of London Southend Airport, has called for the UK government to support ways to free up spare capacity at smaller airports across the UK.
Airport capacity is now a significant issue at five out of London’s six airports (Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton and City) with all of them reaching full capacity. Recent punctuality figures from the CAA have shown that 27% of flights were delayed at Heathrow and almost 50% at Gatwick.
London Southend Airport currently serves 1.2 million passengers every year but has the capacity and plans to grow this to 10 million. In its submission to the government’s consultation on National Aviation Strategy ‘Beyond the Horizon’, the airport has identified three straightforward ways for the government to help free up spare capacity at airports like London Southend.
The recommendations are to reform air passenger duty (APD) rather than abolish it; remove APD on flights from smaller airports to encourage airlines to base more flights outside the larger airports; streamline the planning process – applying for planning consent to improve terminals and infrastructure is disproportionately expensive for smaller airports; and provide government support for connecting infrastructure – smaller airports need better rail and road connections so passengers can more easily choose more local alternatives to Heathrow and Gatwick.
Glyn Jones, CEO of Stobart Aviation, said, “With serious doubts that there will ever be a third runway at Heathrow, the government needs to address the airport capacity issue now. The good news is that there is lots of spare capacity in smaller airports up and down the country that with a bit of support could be freed up to help. Unless we act, our two biggest airports are just going to get fuller and fuller with delays and customer service getting worse and worse.”