Airport CEO condemns London aviation infrastructure
In a wide-ranging article published on social media channels, Stobart Aviation CEO, Glyn Jones, offers his thoughts on how air travel has become so miserable and what he believes can be done about it.
Glyn believes the main reasons why air travel has become the trial it so often is, rather than the wonder that it was - and could still be - are as follows:
• London’s airports are full
Or they will be very soon. DfT forecasts that the major South East airports will reach absolute capacity by 2030. Glyn believes this situation will actually start this year – a full 13 years ahead of forecast.
• London airspace design is 50 years old and the recent facelift (LAMP) didn’t work
A key objective of the London Airspace Management Programme (LAMP) was to “pave the way for wider modernisation of airspace to deliver more efficient flights, saving fuel, and reducing CO2 emissions.” In key respects, the opposite appears to be true.
• Political prevarication has let London down
Ideas have been under assessment since the early 1940s and still we have no operable decision on a third runway (let alone a fourth).
• On time performance (OTP) is abject
The small matter of getting the aircraft away on time, every time (defined as “early to 15 minutes late”). At one of the South East’s flagship airports, in August (peak holiday season) almost half of all flights were late.
• Rail access to London airports is a joke
Airports in the South East can lay claim to two dubious mantles, one, operating the slowest ‘express’ service in the industry, and two, operating the UK’s most expensive stretch of railway.
In the ‘What can we do about it’ section of his article, Glyn offers the following proposed solutions:
• Make some real progress on SESAR (Single European Sky). Big airspace wins have to be at European level – not just within the UK
• Hold politicians to account – vote with our feet, it’s how business markets work, why should it be any different in politics?
• Deal credibly with large infrastructure planning. It is complex. It is also adversarial, lengthy, uncertain of outcome, massively consumptive of resources and, expensive bordering on the obscene. In aviation, and especially airspace, capacity is always king, yet the planning system appears to offer it only ever as a last resort. We must find a way to make the complex simpler and the planning system needs to be solution based. The situation at present offers neither; indeed, we have turned the matter of dealing with our complex planning system into an industry in its own right. This has to change.
• Place the consumer at the heart of the airport experience. Permit airports to charge for facilities and benefits and, in turn, hold airports to account for delivering what is promised. Let the market really decide if it wants a maximum five-minute wait at security, by charging for it. And oblige those who want to sell that service, to fund it.
• Introduce rail franchises to airports and make it easier for airports to bid for them. At London Southend, the airport operates the train station. Why not extend that to operating an airport rail franchise too? Specified with the needs of the airport passenger in mind, not simply as an add-on to an already congested commuter service.
• Kite-mark airports in On Time Performance (OTP). And use the information to drive competition and service quality.
Glyn said: “There’s a common thread here. The market. That is the real driver of service and solution based planning. Operating airports like a service rather than as infrastructure businesses, responsive to passenger as well as airline and real estate customer needs, for me, is the heart of the solution."
In a positive conclusion to the article, he states: “For me, thankfully, the dream of air travel is still alive and indeed kicking, every day. I believe there is another way to approach air travel in London and the South East.”