CBI blasts UK’s costly air capacity squeeze

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has claimed that the British economy is suffering due to the nation’s restricted air capacity.

In its ‘Trading Places’ research, the CBI claims that Britain is missing out on billions of pounds of trade with developing nations, including China, India, Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey, Brazil, Mexico and Russia, and that just one additional daily flight to each of these countries could generate as much as £1 billion in extra trade.

Lack of hub capacity around Greater London was cited as the prime culprit for the assumed loss of trade. With little or no additional capacity at the nation’s busiest airport, Heathrow, former CBI director, Sir Howard Davies, has been appointed by the government to investigate ways to overcome the capacity shortage.

The CBI’s chief policy director, Katja Hall, said, ‘Every day we delay expanding our connections, we risk falling further behind our competitors. Firms in high-growth economies are not waiting for us to make a decision before taking their business to countries with much better flight links. For too many businesses, our lack of direct connections means selling abroad to the fast-growing markets is simply not a realistic option. Firms need frequent direct flights to the widest range of markets.

Investment in improvements to the road and rail links around the UK’s key airports has also been highlighted by the CBI as a priority that the Davies commission should be focussing on in its efforts to maximise the effectiveness of the current infrastructure.

The CBI’s director for business environment policy, Rhian Kelly, commented, ‘The Davies Commission must be bold and set out a clear path forward. It needs to provide all of our airports with a sustainable licence to grow, with the ability to link exporters with new opportunities. This means tackling the growth pinch-points in the air and on the ground. Without convincing plans on aviation capacity, we risk wasting time circling, while our competitors cruise ahead.’