Airport capacity hampering UK trade

The UK risks losing millions of pounds of export and trade opportunities unless it boosts the number of direct flights to the fastest growing world economies, a report by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has warned.

The UK is falling behind major European competitors by failing to win new direct connections to countries such as Brazil, Russia and China, 'hitting long-term export potential, damaging competitiveness and deterring inward investment,' it said.

According to the CBI, one additional daily flight to each of the eight largest-growth markets would boost UK trade by as much as £1 billion a year, with every 1,000 passenger increase generating up to £920,000 in new business.

Chief policy director for the CBI, Katja Hall, said: "Boosting exports is critical to our long-term growth. Every day we delay expanding our connections, we risk falling further behind our competitors. Firms in high-growth economies are not waiting for us to make a decision before taking their business to countries with much better flight links."

The advice comes ahead of an interim report by the Independent Airports Commission on the country's airport capacity due later in the year. The full report is expected to be published in 2015.

For the medium-term (from 2020), the CBI is calling for:

  • New runway capacity for the south of the UK to address the current constraints at Heathrow 
  • Improvement to the UK's infrastructure, including better public transport to airports.

For the long-term (from 2030):

  • To consider a new airport for London to meet long-term passenger and freight demand
  • To provide 'excellent' connectivity to London and the wider UK transport network, including motorway and high-speed rail links.