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New study shows airport expansion will destroy UK jobs

11th March, 2009


For immediate use

A new study of the employment provided by airports and airlines from the economist Brendon Sewill concludes that the Government should stop giving people false hopes about the number of jobs which would be created by the expansion of airports (1). The study, published today by the Aviation Environment Federation (AEF), shows Government claims that airport expansion will help create thousands of new jobs to help the country through the recession to be based on unreliable statistics. In fact, it finds that if the expansion results in more UK tourists going abroad then the forecast growth in air travel is likely to lead to a net loss of jobs in this country.

Sewill shows that the old rule of thumb that 1 million extra passengers using an airport is likely to create 1,000 extra jobs is no longer valid. The efficiency of low-cost airlines means that far fewer jobs are created by airport expansion than in the past. The move towards low-cost airports, where modern technology replaces manual jobs, will accelerate that trend.

The study reveals that, between 1998 and 2004, when the number of passengers using UK airports rose by 30%, the number of people employed directly at airports went up by only 3%. Research by York Aviation, a consultancy close to the aviation industry, found that despite a predicted increase of 110% in passenger numbers at the country’s airports between 2004 and 2030 jobs would increase by only 21%.

Sewill argues that the York Aviation research takes no account of the number of jobs that will be lost to the UK if the number of Britons holidaying abroad continues to rise. Last year the UK’s aviation tourism deficit – the difference between what British air passengers spend abroad and visitors by air spend in the UK – was about £17 billion. That deficit is at present costing the country around 900,000 jobs.

The Sewill study concludes that, because most of the predicted expansion is to cater for UK citizens going abroad, the Government’s plans to double the amount of air travel is likely to lead to a further net loss of 860,000 jobs by 2030.

Brendon Sewill said: “The Government, aided by the aviation industry, is perpetrating a hoax that airport expansion is vital to the economy and will help us though the recession. Councillors and planning officers are being misled by exaggerated claims that the expansion of their local airports will create lots of extra jobs. For example, ten years ago Manchester Airport claimed that its second runway would create 50,000 extra jobs whereas in practice employment at the airport has increased by only 4,000. The Government should admit that – when spending abroad is taken into account – its airport expansion plans could actually produce a serious net loss of jobs”.


Notes for Editors:

(1). The report and executive summary are attached here.

For further information:

Brendon Sewill 01293 863 369 or 01293 862 373

Tim Johnson, Director of Aviation Environment Federation, 0207 248 2223

John Stewart, Chair of AirportWatch, 0207 737 6641; 07957385650