Air travel important for healthy economy
Friday 12, November 2010
The ash cloud crisis in May highlighted the importance of air travel and its benefits, said senior airline executives London’s World Travel Market, the world’s largest meeting of travel industry professionals.
With goods waiting to be exported on the other side of the world and restaurants empty of tourists here, Colin Matthews BAA CEO said: ‘The ash cloud crisis brought a degree of balance to the debate about the costs of aviation and showed the extent to which we are dependent on aviation for our global economy.’ Stephen Kavernagh, Aer Lingus’ Commercial Director, added: ‘Air travel can be more effective environmentally than rail, car, bus etc. when you consider use of concrete, steel and other factors.’
Over-reaction to the volcanic ash was another issue, with a third of the world’s airline capacity grounded, agreed senior representations of Aer Lingus, Pegasus Airlines, Emirates, Birmingham Airport and BAA, whose airports include Heathrow and Edinburgh. Kavernagh said, ‘You can’t take chances with safety but there was enough experience globally to have re-opened air space earlier. Prolonged further, many airlines could have gone under.’
Birmingham Airport Chief Executive Paul Kehoe blamed a lack of leadership and credited airline bosses from BA and KLM for getting onto planes to check the severity of the ash. He said the airline industry lacked its own Al Gore, ‘someone saying what a brilliant job you do. Otherwise we’re always on the back foot and we lose out to environmentalists.’
A current controversy is increase in Air Passenger Duty (APD). President of Emirates airline Tim Clark said, We need to work harder to persuade people that we add value,’ adding that Emirates will ‘adjust if demands falls off.’ Newcastle is one area that has benefitted from routes via the Middle East increasing trade to £300m.
Matthews also warned of the long-term impacts. ‘If it’s more expensive to fly from an UK airport, people will make other choices. The new affluent Chinese middle-class for example will holiday in France – in fact, France get six times more Chinese visitors. ’ Pegasus Airlines’ Sertac Haybat reported that after domestic taxes were lifted in Turkey, revenue increased and passenger figures went from 10m to 20m. ‘European goverments should learn from this.’
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