easyJet will today submit its response to the UK Government`s consultation process on airport development.
Europe`s leading low-cost airline will call for:
* Greater market access through the enlargement of Stansted, Gatwick (after 2019) and Luton and for passengers to the west of London through the expansion of Heathrow or greater commercial use of Northolt Airport
* Economic regulation of Edinburgh and Glasgow airports to ensure the most efficient use of scarce resources in Scotland
* CAA to ensure that BAA London airports compete with one another
* Greater environmental commitment through the phasing-out of older aircraft and promotion of industry-wide initiatives to make flying quieter and cleaner.
easyJet is calling on the government to avoid the clarion calls of those insisting on major hub airports and concentrate on providing airport capacity where consumers want it - close to where they live. For this reason, the proposed hub airport at Cliffe should remain where it is - on the drawing board - and any expansion of Heathrow should recognise that its days as a connecting airport for European flights is numbered with impending deregulation.
Instead, the Government should plan for the future - greater point-to-point activity in close proximity to where consumers live. Therefore, easyJet is in favour of expansion at all the major London airports. The need for greater market access for consumers to the west of London is particularly acute - this could take the form of expansion of Heathrow or greater commercial use of Northolt.
Given the mind-numbing length of the planning process in the UK, plans for a second runway at Gatwick to be in service from 2019 should begin immediately. In the absence of expansion at Gatwick, Redhill Aerodrome is an attractive option for short-haul point-to-point European services.
However, BAA`s monopoly ownership of the three biggest London airports implies that consumers are being disadvantaged. Monopolies tend to make competition impossible. easyJet is calling for the UK Civil Aviation Authority to play a more active role in ensuring that a competitive regime exists between the London airports. Consumers will only know they are getting the best deal if Heathrow and Gatwick compete, rather than co-operate. The divestment by BAA of one or more of the London airports should be ultimate, final sanction if a meaningful, competitive regime is not introduced by the CAA.
The situation is even worse in Scotland where BAA controls the three major airports (Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen), but without even economic regulation to ensure costs are kept at a reasonable level. easyJet is totally committed to providing additional direct flights from Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen to points in continental Europe - but not at any price. To get the best deal for consumers, charges at Edinburgh and Glasgow should be set by the CAA: only this way will we know if the scarce airport capacity in Scotland is being used effectively.
easyJet is very concerned about the growing disparity in the level of charges between those airports held privately with unique catchments (such as Liverpool) and those with monopoly or duopoly power in a particular market.
There are substantial environmental benefits to the provision of airport capacity at convenient, local airports as it reduces the need for air passengers to make long road journeys. Moreover, smaller aircraft operating point-to-point services tend to be smaller and thus quieter than the equivalent at hub airports
But there is even more that the government can do in the field of the environment. Not only should the UK be taking a lead to set tough, new noise and emissions targets for the next generation of aircraft, it should be taking steps now to tax the older, noisier, dirtier gas-guzzling aircraft out of the sky - it should be made uneconomical for some aircraft to fly.
Ray Webster, easyJet Chief Executive, said: “The Government must recognise that the hub is dead. Building huge interconnecting airports is a waste of time and a product of yesterday`s aviation world, not tomorrow`s. Now that Brussels has been given the authority to negotiate aviation agreements with countries outside the EU we will soon see the day when a British airline could fly direct from Paris to New York, from Amsterdam to Tokyo or from Madrid to Rio. Why do we need Heathrow in its current form? We don`t. “European deregulation has shown that consumers want to fly direct from convenient airports, so we are calling on the government to provide for growth in Heathrow, Luton, Stansted and Gatwick (post 2019). But airlines can only do so much, airports must be made to compete with one another to increase efficiency and keep costs low. We happen to believe that BAA plc is an excellent manager of airport facilities, but consumers will always be ripped off by monopolies unless the regulator finds a way of introducing a more competitive regime to London airports and stepping-in to ensure the best use of the airport resources in Scotland.”