Aviation sector has played a big role in UK economy. The sector provides £18.4 billion to the UK Gross National Product and currently employs over 234,000 workers across the nation (Prowse, 2012). Factors such as inexpensive price ticket and growth of low cost airlines play a big role in the increasing number of passengers in UK aviation sector. Aviation sector provides international connectivity that UK needs in order to succeed in a competitive global economy. Heathrow as a major UK airport is not only act as a prime hub in UK aviation industry, they also act as a prime hub for the European countries. Heathrow attracts many investments coming to the country, driving trade and tourism and thus boosting the UK aviation industry’s international reputation. However, the UK aviation sector can only continue to grow if the capacity and facilities at UK airports is growing too. The current debate over capacity of UK airports has been going on for several periods, predominantly in the South-East of the country. The numbers of passengers are increasing significantly every year, and this growth will continue regardless of whether the capacity of the airport is sufficient or not. There are many considerations that can be taken into account as potential solutions for this capacity constraints problem. Some of the possible solutions are; building a third runway at London Heathrow Airport, others are by directing passengers into London other airports such as Stansted, Gatwick and the new Thames Estuary airport. Another possible solution is by looking at UK regional airport such as Birmingham and Manchester, this in order to help UK to remain competitive as a global hub in the world. However, the improvement of UK airspace has to be taken into consideration in regard to improve the efficiency and to free up the capacity of UK airport. In this report, there will be a discussion about the issues and debate surrounding the UK airport capacity and what better solutions should be implemented in order to tackle the capacity problem.
2. Demand and Capacity Analysis
Demand for air travel is not spread equally within the UK. Most of the air travel is coming to London and South East area. According to UK aviation statistics by CAA in 2010, there were 211 million passengers using UK airport at that year and 127 millions people are using London airports as their journeys. According to figures from the Department for Transport, it has been estimated that there will be a constrained capacity demand of 500 million passengers per annum (mppa) by 2030. In the South East area itself, the unconstrained demand would be 300mppa, which is 60 percent of the nation wide total (Dft, 2006). The large number of demand in the South East airport is not only come from air travels by UK residents around South East area. Many of them who make the trips are foreign residents coming as a tourist, on business as well as international students. The main destination for their air travel is usually in Greater London area. At the moment, Heathrow airport currently serves 990 weekly departures, this amounts to twice the number of departures from its two closets rivals; Paris with 484 weekly departures and Frankfurt with 450 weekly departures (Milne, 2012). Figure 1.1
Airport Capacity Across Europe
Source; House of Commons, 2012
3. Implications of Forecast Demand Growth
In a document entitled ‘Aviation Policy for the Consumer’, CAA underlined some of its findings relevant to the implications of growth in forecast demand. Some of the key points are (travelweekly, 2012); •
Although there is an economic uncertainty in UK and Europe at the moment, the growth of economic elsewhere in the world is predicted to stimulate substantial growth in aviation demand for the next 20 years. •
The growth in demand will lead to increased route choice for consumers in some regional airports. •
Capacity constraints in UK airports,...
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