18 October 2021 - Virtual
10 November 2021, Virtual
London, UK - November 2021
Although 292 million passengers travelled through UK airports in 2018, traffic growth more than halved on the previous year to 2.7 per cent.
Figures released by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) reveal passenger growth dropped dramatically from 6 per cent in 2017 and 6.7 per cent in 2016.
The fall in growth is down to fewer people travelling between the UK and the EU, according to the Airport Operators Association (AOA), dropping to 1.3 per cent compared to 7.6 per cent in 2017.
Domestic passenger growth also slowed to 1 per cent versus the 1.7 per cent seen in 2017.
However, long-haul routes are performing well, with passenger numbers on non-EU routes growing 6.7 per cent year-on-year compared to 5.1 per cent in 2017.
The figures come on top of a report by European airports association ACI Europe, which showed the UK was one of three countries in Europe (in addition to Moldova and Serbia) where direct connectivity declined year-on-year in 2018, dropping 0.8 per cent.
AOA CEO Karen Dee says the CAA’s figures are ‘troubling’ and that the government needs to create an ‘ambitious’ aviation strategy.
Dee commented: “Aviation growth benefits not just people looking to travel, but supports high-quality jobs in the aviation and tourism industries right across the UK. Furthermore, aviation connectivity enables businesses to travel and export. This growth and the benefits it brings to the UK economy cannot be taken for granted.
“Ensuring the UK has the right connectivity is crucial for the government’s Global Britain ambitions. Airports expect to hear an ambitious message of support for sustainable aviation growth in the government’s planned Aviation Strategy, including on making best use of existing capacity and investing in airports’ surface access.
“Action should also include a reduction in Air Passenger Duty [APD], which acts as a brake on connectivity growth. APD is the world’s highest departure tax – double the rate of the next-highest such tax in the EU, Germany. Airspace modernisation will also be needed to boost growth by preventing rising delays, reducing noise and emissions, as well as freeing up airspace capacity for travel to new destinations.”
The AOA’s concerns add to a 2018 report by Frontier Economics that showed the UK could be missing out on as many as 66 new routes because the rate of APD makes them financially unviable.
Airlines expressed outrage at chancellor Philip Hammond’s autumn 2018 Budget announcement, which included an increase in long-haul APD charges for 2020/21.
MPs from across the political spectrum recently joined forces to create an All Party Parliamentary Group on Air Passenger Duty Reform to encourage the government to reduce the UK’s departure tax.