By Daniel Hunter

The pressure is on for the Government to decide on a plan for the future of UK aviation, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said today (Monday), as it set out its proposals to meet growing demand for air travel.

The Chancellor announced his ambition in the Budget to double the UK’s annual exports to £1 trillion by 2020. Ensuring we remain open for business is critical to this, as the UK does 20 times more trade with countries it has direct air links to.

But current capacity constraints mean that we are losing out to European rivals on new routes to emerging markets. If this trend continues, the UK risks becoming a less attractive place to do business and invest.

Calling for a firm plan within 18 months, the CBI wants the Government to take urgent decisions on:

· maximising capacity at our existing airports, allowing more flexible use of the two runways at Heathrow, and improving customer service at various airports

· building a new runway to serve the south of England at one of the existing airports, to meet increasing demand in the medium-term, and allow expansion at regional airports

· exploring all options, including a new hub airport for London, to serve the UK’s needs in the longer-term.

“Our proposals for the future of aviation in the UK will help us to tackle rising demand in the short, medium and long-term across the country," John Cridland, CBI Director-General, said.

"This is not an “either or”, we need to act now and across all fronts to remain a world class business destination, and boost our trade with emerging economies.

“To achieve the Government’s laudable aim of doubling our annual exports by 2020, the UK must improve its connections with fast-growing markets such as China, India and South America. This means providing the capacity for airlines to put on new flights.

“Right now, our major airports are losing out to other European destinations. More of our regional UK cities are connected by air to Amsterdam than to Heathrow, and we have no links at all with many of the major Chinese cities. Businesses don’t want the main UK aviation hub to become Schiphol or Frankfurt.”

Frankfurt now serves 225 destinations in 111 countries and, with a fourth runway opened recently, has ample room to grow. Heathrow by comparison serves 176 destinations in just 90 countries, and can only open new routes by closing down existing links.

The UK has been unable to meet rising demand for flights to growth markets in China. There are now seven major cities in China served by the airports in Frankfurt, Paris or Amsterdam that are not served by direct flights from the UK, including Chengdu, Xiamen and Qingdao. Germany is served by 60 direct air links a week with Chinese cities — twice as many as the UK.

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