Realising The Potential Of UK Regional Airports Spotlights Need For National Aviation Strategy
RCA Chief Executive Andrew Bell calls for the creation of a coordinated National Aviation Strategy to power regional airports’ post pandemic recovery.
We are at a pivotal moment for regional airports in the UK. Caught in a perfect storm between the impact of the COVID pandemic and the accelerating need for a more sustainable, environmentally balanced sector, what we do next will be critical to the entire industry’s long-term viability.
This week, the All Party Parliamentary Group for the Future of Aviation’s inquiry into the recovery of the British aviation, travel and tourism sectors and the UK economy will crank into action, as officials and committee members begin to sift through the evidence submitted by players from across these industries.
The inquiry itself is wide ranging in approach, seeking to address a range of questions from how best to encourage consumers to return to international travel to how to make the UK a leader in sustainable aviation. These are laudable intentions, but for many working within the industry, the answer for airports is actually very simple.
The UK urgently needs a coherent, meaningful national aviation strategy to provide a much needed framework for regional airports to operate and grow within. All of the current debate is appropriate in its place, but a meaningful strategy is key to developing viability and a secure long term future.
That’s why we have today published RCA’s updated 2022 manifesto, urging the Government to act now and implement five specific policies as part of a coordinated national strategy designed to give our existing regional aviation infrastructure a redefined and effective purpose.
You can read the full manifesto here, but the central steps are clear:
- Accelerate the reduction in domestic Air Passenger Duty (APD) by introducing planned cuts immediately, and support new connectivity through an expansion of the PSO and other route support mechanisms.
- Designate any regional airports that applies as a Freeports, providing new opportunities to support their long-term survival.
- On Net Zero targets, engage the regional aviation sector’s already extensive capabilities and transform the existing infrastructure into a coordinated team effort towards a sustainable future.
- Expand the enterprise zone network to cover regional airports, addressing regional imbalance for economic growth and making regional airports attractive skills clusters to invest in.
- Invest in transport infrastructure to maximise the connectivity of regional airports, creating the links that will help realise their potential economic impact.
Regional airports have tremendous potential to provide more connectivity to more people, and a home for more highly skilled and innovative aviation and non-aviation related businesses and their employees. In order to unlock this potential, however, bold decisions need to be taken now.
These decisions cannot be taken in isolation. In order to have proper effect, the entire UK industry needs to progress in a coordinated fashion around a set of clearly defined and understood goals for both the national and regional air infrastructures. Disparate piecemeal measures will simply not do the job. The potential of regional airports is abundantly clear. Without the very specific and targeted support measures outlined above however, this potential will be wasted, undermining the UK’s opportunity to build on the existing attributes of regional airports and further increase the economic benefits that they can offer both to their regions and the country as a whole at this critical stage.