Expanded UK hub must connect to regions

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Airlines must secure sufficient slots at an expanded hub airport in the South East of the UK to maintain services at smaller airports, a UK parliamentary report has found.

The Transport Select Committee of the UK government’s lower chamber, the House of Commons, made the call in a dossier called Smaller Airports, which it published on Friday 13 March.

The committee’s report explores how the government can support regional connectivity, and says the government’s Department of Transport (DfT) should assess particular areas. It feels the DfT should look at how new slots might be allocated, whether some slots could be ring-fenced for domestic services to smaller airports and what proportion of slots would need to be allocated to flights to smaller airports to support regional connectivity effectively.

The report also makes reference to the Airports Commission which the UK government set up in 2012 to consider the country’s runway capacity. The Commission will report after May. The committee report says: “We encourage the Airports Commission to reflect on the role of smaller airports in its final report. In particular, it should consider how new slots at an expanded hub airport in the South East might be allocated to services to smaller airports in the UK.”

The Airports Commission will give its final recommendations to the government, after the UK’s general election in May, on where it thinks runway capacity should be expanded. The commission has put forward three options to increase capacity. Two are at Heathrow Airport, one to build an additional runway and a second, to extend the northern runway. The third option is a second runway built at Gatwick Airport.

Liverpool John Lennon Airport says it shares the same concerns as the committee and its chief executive officer, Andrew Cornish, urges the UK government to take action to help, “safeguard the vital role of regional airports”. The airport has already publicly expressed support for Heathrow.

Newquay Cornwall Airport managing director, Al Titterington, welcomes the report’s findings: “We agree for regional airports to thrive they need access to any new runway capacity built and we urge the government to give this significant weighting when it considers the report this [June to August]”

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