Dodgy economics behind plans to expand our…

Dodgy economics behind plans to expand our airports – they won’t tackle unemployment, or bring more money to the UK
2020-09-22 12:11:00
A useful article from the New Economics Foundation looks at the reality of claims about the economic benefits of expanding airports. Traditionally airports have said they are vital for business travel; the reality is that a small proportion of air passengers are on any sort of business trip, and that is especially the case at regional airports. Most air passengers are British people flying on leisure trips abroad (to spend their money there).  Regional airports claim that they merely take passengers who would otherwise have flown from the larger airports, such as Heathrow and Gatwick. The reality is more people take cheap leisure flights from a convenient local airport.  There is always a lot of hype about the number of jobs that airport expansion will create, but in fact the sector has been automating as much as it can, and the number of jobs  – the “job intensity” – is lower than it was in 2007, while the number of passengers has risen significantly. Airports have also reduced squeezed the working conditions of some airport workers, to gain “efficiencies.” NEF says: “Despite what airport executives say, expanding our airports won’t tackle unemployment or bring more money to the UK.” .Tweet     THE DODGY ECONOMICS BEHIND EXPANDING OUR AIRPORTS Despite what airport executives say, expanding our airports won’t tackle unemployment or bring more money to the UK. BY ALEX CHAPMAN (New Economics Foundation – NEF) 15 SEPTEMBER 2020 Given the widely publicised collapse in international air travel, you’d be forgiven for assuming that expanding airports would be the last thing on aviation executives’ minds. Yet planning applications are currently under consideration for Leeds Bradford Airport and Southampton Airport; Bristol Airport just announced they are appealing North Somerset Council’s rejection of their plans; and Heathrow Airport refuse to accept their substandard mega-expansion is dead in the water. The climate case against all of these projects is obvious. Regional airports try to claim that their expansions won’t create new flights – rather, they’ll simply steal flights from other airports around the country. But it only takes one look at the data to debunk this myth. More airport capacity leads to higher passenger numbers – and higher emissions. The last financial crisis slowed passenger growth, but only temporarily, and the sector is banking on a similar recovery from Covid-19. At the national level, the economic case for increasing airport capacity has long been flimsy – and in the midst of a global pandemic and crippling recession, it is even more so. Politicians extolling the virtues of air travel will often refer to the benefits for business, but in reality the proportion of flights taken for business trips has been declining consistently for almost two decades. In 2019, only 15% of UK departures were for international business purposes, and only 4% for domestic business. Around 75% of departures were for international leisure trips. Of this figure, the majority (62%) are UK residents, meaning that far more UK residents fly out for leisure than foreign residents fly in. The picture at the non-London airports looking to expand is even more extreme. Take Leeds Bradford: in 2017 only 7% of departing flights we


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