UK airports response to Transport Select Committee report on Smaller Airports

Responding to the publication of the Transport Select Committee report on Smaller Airports, Darren Caplan, Chief Executive of the Airport Operators Association (AOA), the trade association representing UK airports, said:


“We wholeheartedly agree with the Committee’s assessment that smaller airports are key enablers of social and economic prosperity. They help to facilitate the trade of goods and services, contribute to a vibrant tourism sector and encourage business investment into and within the UK. They are also important employers in their own right, helping to create thousands of jobs in the local communities which they serve.


“The past few years have been tough for many of our smaller members, with airports such as Plymouth, Blackpool and Manston either closing or no longer offering commercial operations. Passenger numbers are now on the whole going in the right direction and airports are busy announcing ambitious investment programmes in their terminals and facilities. However, as the Committee rightly concludes, there are things that the Government can and should be doing to make it easier for them to expand their businesses.


“Reducing Air Passenger Duty (APD) is the single biggest thing that could enable airports to attract new routes and increase their passenger numbers. We were pleased that the Treasury announced the abolition of APD on children in the 2014 Autumn Statement, as well as the removal of the longest-haul bands C & D in the 2014 Budget, but the fact remains that APD is the highest aviation tax in the world and is increasingly putting the UK at a disadvantage compared to our nearest international rivals. It also disproportionately impacts smaller airports.


“We continue to believe that the situation with the Smith Commission and the eventual devolution of APD to Scotland, when it happens next year, offers a real opportunity to see a sizeable reduction in the tax across the whole of the UK. We welcome the announcement that the Treasury will soon publish a review and discussion paper on APD and will be making the case that no airport should be disadvantaged by devolution. We therefore welcome the Committee’s conclusion that the Government’s response should be to act strategically and in the national interest.


“We will also continue to advocate for a proportionate policy and regulatory regime which takes account of the nature of smaller airport operations.”