Reasons Against Expansion
What You Can Do
have been expanding for years,
yet we are currently in an economic crisis. Southampton's
passenger numbers for March 2009 were 12.3% lower than those for March
2008. So it simply does not follow
that airports need to expand to respond to increased demand. Click here to
see the letter business leaders have written protesting plans for the
More passengers obviously means more
profits to the airlines,
air operators, and other companies directly involved in running the
airport or the airlines, but who
else does it benefit economically? If the answer is local
businesses, surely the same benefits would still arise if an
alternative, greener method of transport was used.
- but how many?
The consultancy firm Oxford Economic
Forecasting estimated in 2004 that the aviation industry directly
employed around 186,000 people, using figures provided by the Air
Operators Association. The term 'direct employment' is taken to
mean all jobs in an airport (including in the shops and cafes), and
jobs outside airports such as in airline offices and air traffic
control. There were also around 200,000 million passengers in
2004, so the passenger-staff ratio is a little over 1,000 : 1.
However, the OEF studies also showed that this number of jobs is only a
3% increase on the number of jobs in 1998 (180,000), even though
passenger numbers rose by 30%. Furthermore, York Aviation were
commissioned by the Air Operators Association to study future trends in
employment. Their conclusion was that increase of 237 million
passengers (104%) would only produce an extra 39,000 jobs (21%).
This amounts to 166 staff for every million passengers, rather less
than the figure traditionally accepted, of 1,000 staff per million
passengers. The low cost airlines are moving to lower the figures
even further. Ryanair's passenger staff ratio is already 10,000 :
1, as a result of moves to may low-cost even lower.
Then there are claims of 'indirect employment' (in companies which
supply the industry, such as aircraft manufacturers, fuel supplies,
airport shop supplies, etc), 'induced employment' (jobs created when
aviation employees spend their earnings) and 'catalytic employment' (in
firms which choose to locate in an area because of the transport links.
Indirect and induced employment figures are far-fetched and involve
double counting. Jobs involved in producing aircraft fuel are
hereby included in fugures for both the aviation industry and the oil
industry. If every industry did this, there would be more jobs
than people in the UK. Induced figures could lead to an infinite
number of jobs. When a pilot spends his money at his local baker,
this then provides work for the flour mill, the farmer, the hotel
workers, where the miller goes on holiday . . . . . we could go on
indefinitely. Most of these jobs are not even in the local area,
and many are not even in the UK.
Airports often talk about more firms moving into the area if their
airports expand (with no discussion as to whether there is land
available for firms to move in). In most cases a firm moving to
the area will be moving out of another area, which will thus lose
jobs. In any case, the idea is old fashioned, as many businesses
are cutting back on air travel in favour of electronic communication
In 2006, the OEF sent out surveys to around 6,000 companies to find out
how many regarded local air services as important. The
accompanying letter stated that the survey was being carried out for
Department of Transport in relation to its aviation policies.
Only 165 replied, and only 16 of these regarded local air services as
important. 97% of these companies clearly did not think air
services were important enough to spend 10 minutes filling in a survey.
certain industries are losing out as a result of airport expansion.
Another piece of research commissioned by Friends of the Earth in
2005 revealed a net deficit in tourism caused by airport expansion.
This is because airlines fly more British tourists out to spend money
abroad than they fly foreigners in to spend money here. In the South
East, the figure for this tourism deficit was 2.7 billion. A bigger
airport would exacerbate this.
(To be fair, the airlines no longer
claim that airport expansion will benefit the tourism industry, but
concentrate on business travellers.
you concentrate on business travellers, it is possible to make a case
that airport expansion could bring economic benefits in at least the
short term. It is certainly not possible, however, to prove that
economic prosperity could not happen without the expansion of the
to the poor?
groups A, B and C fly much more than socio-economic groups D and E. At
Southampton, the ABC group makes up 85% of all passengers, the DE
group just 15%. It is not
that the poor cannot afford the flights; they simply cannot afford
the holidays at the other end of the journey.
The thinking of both
the aviation industry and the
Department of Transport is dominated by short-termism. The White
Paper’s projections were based
on the assumption that oil prices would remain stable at 2002 prices
- $25 a barrel. Since then, the price of oil has fluctuated wildly,
reaching as high as $200 in July 2008. During this time, some short
haul flights, including some from Southampton to Newquay, were
withdrawn because of this.
production is widely expected to peak and begin to decline within the
next decade. When it does so, oil prices will go through the roof. You
can be sure that when this happens, air passenger numbers will
plummet, and the industry will slump. Jobs created by airport
expansion today will be lost when this happens.
We urgently need to
build an economy which is fair and sustainable, and which embraces
cleaner and greener technology, rather than continuing to base our
economy on hig-impact development.