The UK Aviation Strategy will have six objectives that aim to improve the world’s third largest aviation network


Passengers will be placed at the heart of UK aviation as the sector’s future was mapped out in a new Government plan.

The Department for Transport has revealed its Aviation Strategy proposals in a new report titled Beyond the horizon: The future of UK aviation.

As well as promising better customer service, it also focuses on security, environmental impact and developing innovation, technology and skills – while creating new international relationships following Brexit.

Its broad remit is to “achieve a safe, secure and sustainable aviation sector that meets the needs of consumers and of a global, outward-looking Britain”.

Aviation Minister Baroness Sugg said: “Our world-class aviation industry has a proud and accomplished history, from pioneering the first international routes to championing consumer choice.

“Working with industry, we want to improve the flying experience from booking to arrival, ensuring passengers are truly at the heart of the aviation sector.

“This demonstrates our commitment to creating a transport system which works for passengers as we build a Britain fit for the future.”

Here’s a breakdown of what was in the report:

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UK aviation in numbers

  • Passenger numbers have increased by more than 20 percent in the past five years, with 268 million people passing through UK airports in 2016.
  • Record passenger numbers have been recorded in each of the past three years, with higher passenger growth at Stansted, Edinburgh, Leeds Bradford and Glasgow than ever before.
  • This is likely to increase to 410 million passengers by 2050, the Government believes, as demand responds to better connections, cheaper flights and greater choice.
  • The UK has the third largest aviation network in the world, with direct flights to more than 370 international destinations in more than 100 countries worldwide.
  • The sector contributes at least £22 billion to the UK economy each year – consisting of £14 billion from the air transport sector and £8 billion from the aerospace sector – and is estimated to support more than half a million jobs.
  • It is also home to the world’s second largest aerospace sector, producing hi-tech aircraft parts such as wings, engines and advanced systems.
  • In 2016, UK tourists spent more than £25 billion in the EU across 53 million visits and EU citizens spent nearly £10 billion in the UK across 25 million visits.
  • Outside of London, the UK has six airports with more than five million annual passengers, alongside 30 smaller regional airports.
  • Two of the EU’s top five airline operators are from the UK – easyJet and British Airways, while a significant proportion of Ryanair’s operations are to and from UK airports.

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Main features of the Aviation Strategy

The Aviation Strategy includes six objectives that will form part of a long-term aviation policy to 2050 and beyond. These are:

  • Help the aviation industry work for its customers – providing better information about journeys to passengers, enhancing consumer protection such as compensation agreements, minimising delays, improving disability access and reducing disruptive passenger behaviour such as that associated with alcohol.
  • Ensure a safe and secure way to travel – Prioritising highest safety risks, playing a key role in raising international safety standards and developing innovative solutions for aviation security such as through hand luggage screening equipment
  • Build a global and connected Britain – Establishing ambitious new relationship with the EU on aviation, maximising UK’s influence on international standards while helping to develop capacity of other nations, reducing barriers to freight movement and setting out an approach to promoting exports
  • Encourage competitive markets – Ensuring operators are delivering the right outcomes for consumers and looking at whether regions are suitably connected to the rest of the UK or key overseas markets
  • Support growth while tackling environmental impacts – considering need for framework to allow airports to grow sustainably, regulating sector properly to address noise and air quality impacts, and modernising airspace to deliver cleaner, quicker and quieter journeys
  • Develop innovation, technology and skills – encouraging greater data sharing between aviation organisations, helping to advance automation and electrification of aircraft, and better understanding of skills shortages

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Boosting links between the UK and China

An international treaty with China enabled direct flights to be set up between Manchester and Beijing, which has more than doubled the value of goods exported by businesses from Manchester Airport to £115m since the route started in June 2016.

In the first seven months, 55,000 passengers were carried on the route, with Chinese tourists now spending £138.7m annually on average in the North of England.

The number of Chinese students based in Manchester has also grown.

A new air services agreement (ASA) with China increased the number of passenger services allowed to operate from 40 flights per week to 150 flights per week, with 50 of those services flying to and from UK airports outside London.


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Process for delivering an Aviation Strategy

The first phase of its development was in July 2017 when the Government invited the public and industry to comment on its proposed aims and objectives, policy priorities and a timetable.

After publishing the report, it will now publish detailed policy proposals in a green paper in autumn this year, followed by a final Aviation Strategy document in early 2019.


What are businesses saying about it?

Neil Carberry, managing director for infrastructure and people at employers’ group the CBI, said: “Aviation is already a major UK success story, and ensuring the sector flourishes is key for our economy.

“Alongside approving the third runway at Heathrow, progress on a long-term strategy for the whole of the UK’s aviation sector will be encouraging news for businesses.

“A clear and practical plan is vital to opening up international trade, boosting growth in every region and delivering the industrial strategy.

“But with airports and airlines needing to make investment decisions now, the Government must also provide a clear policy framework that enables the best use of existing capacity at the earliest possible opportunity.”

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Airlines UK chief executive Tim Alderslade added: “The strategy is an opportunity to recognise the value and importance of aviation to the UK – in particular in a post-Brexit world – and identify how Government and industry can work together to meet rising passenger and freight demand, whilst continuing to deliver for the consumer.

“We’re looking for a strategy that will seek to address some of the key challenges facing our sector – including putting in place a well-funded and effective border operation that can meet future growth, modernising an outdated system of airspace management, and dealing with an ever-increasing rate of aviation tax that does so much to damage our connectivity.”