UK aviation connectivity at threat from European competition
The UK’s aviation connectivity is under pressure from airports in other European countries, a report released today by ACI EUROPE – the trade association for Europe’s airports – reveals.
While the UK as a whole retains the top spot for connectivity in Europe (based on a composite measure of the number of destinations, the frequency of services and the quality of the connections), countries like Spain and Germany are hot on its heels, particularly in terms of direct connectivity. This is because UK airports are seeing their European competitors grow their direct connectivity more rapidly. For example, Germany has better connectivity to China, Brazil, South Korea and Japan than the UK has.
UK airports operate in a competitive environment, working hard to attract airlines to serve new destinations and encourage them to expand existing services. Airports are, however, constrained in what they can achieve compared to their European competitors. A number of UK airports are already congested, constraining their network development and limiting connectivity gains, resulting in gains to one destination often coming at the expense of another. More UK airports are predicted to fill up over the coming decade.
Secondly, the UK levies the highest aviation tax in Europe: for long-haul destinations it is double the level of Germany’s aviation tax, which is the next highest. This is a major hindrance to UK airports as they seek to convince airlines to fly to the UK. With the high fixed-cost of APD, those airlines often opt to fly from an airport in a country that has no or low aviation tax – to the detriment of UK connectivity.
Chief Executive of the AOA, Karen Dee said:
“The ambition to become a truly global Britain demands excellent aviation links. Aviation is one of the UK’s success stories but our position at the top of the leader board is under threat. Figures released today show that in order to maintain and grow our connectivity, the new Government needs to reduce the burdens faced by UK airports compared with our European competitors.
“First and foremost, the Government needs to move ahead urgently with its National Policy Statement and its Aviation Strategy, setting out how they will unlock additional connectivity. This should include how additional capacity will be made possible at all airports that are capacity-constrained or will be in the coming years. It should also include surface access investment, unlocking the bigger catchment areas for airports that help attract airlines.
“The second priority should be to address the significant burden posed by Air Passenger Duty. Our nearest neighbours charge little or no aviation tax which gives them a distinct advantage over the UK. Levying the highest aviation tax simply is not compatible with growing the UK’s essential aviation connectivity.”