October 18, 2013
AEF has carried out an analysis of CAA (Civil Aviation Authority) statistics on the purpose of flights.
Our analysis shows that only about 22% of flights at UK airports are for business. The figures vary a lot between airports, with London City the highest at 63% and Heathrow at 31%. See report. The proportion of flights by British business people going abroad is even smaller – just 14%. (See detailed results table in the report: International flights, UK pass – 14.3%.)
The proportion of business trips is important because the main argument used by the aviation industry and other supporters of airport expansion is the economic benefits resulting from more business travel. These results show that the proportion of business trips is actually quite small. There is enough capacity at UK airports to cater for any conceivable growth in business travel.
The main reason why airport expansion is said to be needed is in fact because of leisure flying, increasingly low cost flights. There is a range of policy options which would ensure that even if no new runways were built, there would be no appreciable adverse impacts on business trips or the economy.