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Aviation’s Economic Downside

When this report was first published in August 2001 it made uncomfortable reading for the government and the aviation industry. By drawing together data about flying’s impact on the UK economy, it put the lie to the industry-sponsored myth that aviation was good for business. In fact, it found that the industry costs the country more than £11 billion each year in tax breaks, hidden subsidies, ill health and environmental clean up.


Foreword by Caroline Lucas MEP (Green Party, South East England)

When this report was first published in August 2001 it made uncomfortable reading for the government and the aviation industry. By drawing together data about flying’s impact on the UK economy, it put the lie to the industry-sponsored myth that aviation was good for business. In fact, it found that the industry costs the country more than £11 billion each year in tax breaks, hidden subsidies, ill health and environmental clean up.This new edition of Aviation’s Economic Downside will make uncomfortable reading for all of us. In July 2002 transport secretary Alistair Darling announced the most ambitious programme of airport development in British history, claiming expansion is needed to meet projected growth of some 300 per cent and that the UK needs new airports to meet business demand and maintain London’s competitive edge. This report shows these claims are simply not true. The high projected growth in demand for flying is a product of the cheap flights made possible only thanks to the billions of taxpayers’ pounds being used to prop up the industry. And business reliance on flying is a consequence of the same policy: the deliberate creation of an uneven playing field for transport, with taxpayers’ money being spent on subsidising cheap flights rather than investing in greener alternatives.Seasoned campaigners living in the shadow of Heathrow and elsewhere have already mobilized widespread opposition to the plans. In my constituency, proposals for a brand new airport the size of Gatwick on the banks of the Thames estuary, at Cliffe in Kent, have caused particular alarm and generated some very active local anti-airport campaigns. But the threat is more widespread than that: a plan has been proposed to give Stansted three more runways, multiply its passengers throughout by ten (to 122 million) and turn it into an airport twice the size of Heathrow. Manchester airport, which recently built a second runway as part of a £525 million 10-year expansion, wants to grow to 41 million passengers per annum by 2015, from 15 million in 1995. All over the country, airports are seeking to expand regardless of the consequences.But the proposed expansion to the aviation industry poses a far greater threat to us all than a local campaign seeking to conserve its own environment can tackle, however large or well-organised the individual group concerned. We need a concerted, co-ordinated, national effort to explain why any airport expansion would be an unsustainable drain on the UK economy and major impact on both the local and the global environment. We need to realise that the issue is not about whose back yard airports are built in, but whether we build them in any back yard at all.Aviation’s environmental downside is already well documented: a scientific consensus has emerged on the industry’s contribution to climate change and ill health. This report contributes to our understanding of the economics of flying, and the clear picture that is starting to emerge: that the much-vaunted economic benefits of our aviation industry are a mirage, disappearing when you look closely.Please see links below for more informationAviation’s Economic Downside – Full Report The UK Green Party’s Website

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