FTA reminds PM of the importance of a UK global hub airport

Inset: David Wells

The Freight Transport Association (FTA) has outlined to David Cameron that air freight should not be overlooked when considering the options for creating new airport capacity in south east England, and further emphasised the importance of a UK global hub airport.

David Wells, the FTA’s Chief Executive, has written to the Prime Minister to stress that the importance of air freight, which, by value, represents more than 40% of the UK’s imports and exports, and plays an essential role in the supply chains of many UK businesses.

“FTA is concerned that the importance of air freight is being overlooked.  It is a common misconception that air cargo is a minor traffic used only for very high value or urgent items.  In actual fact, 80% of freight is carried in the holds of scheduled passenger aircraft using Heathrow airport,” said Mr Wells.

FTA’s Sky-High Value report illustrates that Heathrow is a critical hub for air cargo; it offers 191 destinations, moves 1.5 million tonnes of freight and is vital for UK connectivity to its main overseas markets.

Heathrow is currently operating at 98% capacity and needs to be able to expand to meet the needs of industry.

Mr Wells added: “On behalf of FTA’s members I have written to the Prime Minister telling him that the decline of Heathrow as a viable global cargo hub will increase the costs of freight and logistics across the UK.  Gatwick does not possess the infrastructure to handle the volumes of cargo required.

The Airports Commission – led by Sir Howard Davies – is scheduled to issue a final recommendation on where expansion should take place later this year. Options include a third runway at Heathrow, lengthening an existing runway at Heathrow, or a second runway at Gatwick.

Mr Wells also stated that the Government decision should not be based solely on passenger considerations.

He concluded: “We accept the factors driving demand for new airport capacity and the forecast growth in passengers wishing to travel.  However, passengers are not the sole users of these flights, nor the only beneficiaries of the wider choice of routes.

“Whereas passengers could be persuaded to use a different airport, the diminution of Heathrow as an international air cargo hub favours neither the country nor the economy.”