By Jonathan Davies

The expansion of the UK's airport space is "critical" to the future of the UK economy, according to business lobby group, CBI.

A report published by the CBI calls for a "single UK hub with spare capacity" where passengers are easily able to travel to a range of destinations is "critical to the UK’s long-term sustainable growth".

It has called on the Airports Commission to set a clear plan for the next Parliament for work on a new airport/expansion to begin by 2020.

The CBI believes that creating as few as eight new flight routes to emerging, high-growth markets could generate £1bn every year in trade.

“The Chancellor has set businesses ambitious targets for increasing the UK’s exports, and there is simply no way of achieving these goals without upping our game in emerging markets," said Katja Hall, CBI Deputy Director-General.

With Heathrow already at full capacity, the CBI says the UK is falling behind the rest of Europe in terms of direct flights to emerging markets.

Ms Hall said: “Our analysis last year demonstrated that connectivity is the lifeblood of trade, but it also highlighted that the UK is already falling behind, so every day we delay making a decision, makes matters worse.

“First and foremost, UK business wants action. There can be no more excuses — we need to see the Airports Commission deliver a strong case for new capacity and a clear schedule for delivery, and politicians to commit to spades in the ground by the end of the next Parliament.

“But this research shows that while all airports have a role to play in growing the UK’s connectivity, not all airports play the same role.

“While no-one can predict the future of air travel, the track record shows that it tends to be hub airports that deliver the new connections to emerging markets that we desperately need.

“With Heathrow full and the UK slipping behind in the race for new connectivity, it is essential that the Airports Commission delivers a solution that addresses the ticking time bomb of our lack of spare hub capacity.”

The report warns however that the Airports Commission cannot afford to ignore the UK’s wider network of airports in its recommendations if maximum connectivity is to be achieved. As well as expanding the range of direct connections on offer across the UK, the report demonstrates that where competition exists on routes, airfares are significantly reduced. Using transatlantic flights as an example, the research shows that routes that are served by multiple airports at each side tend to be as much as £500 cheaper than those served by just one destination at each end.

As a result, the report warns that the Airports Commission must deliver a solution that injects competition for routes wherever possible, urging the Commission to deliver an action plan that boosts ground access infrastructure to airports across the UK, as well as kick-starting the process of deciding where a second new runway in the south-east might be required by 2050.

Last week, Mayor of London Boris Johnson reiterated his belief that a new airport in the Thames Estuary would be the best option. In a report released by his office, the Mayor said the option would boost jobs more than any other on the table.

Other options include a third runway at Heathrow, extended a Heathrow runway and a second runway at Gatwick.

Which option would you most like to see implemented? Which would benefit your business most? You can email your reactions to

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