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Flybe, Europe’s largest regional airline, has today (Monday 30th November) called on the Government to review the Ministry of Defence’s refusal to give consideration to opening up RAF Northolt to a limited number of new Flybe domestic routes, linking underserved regions to London.

30th November 2015

Last week the Government’s Spending Review did not include Flybe’s proposal to operate twice-daily return services to an initial five UK regional destinations from Northolt. This was despite the opportunity this afforded to provide improved regional connectivity to London, regional access to Heathrow Airport and much needed additional contribution to Government finances.

The proposal, which is independent of any decision on the Airports Commission’s recommendations on airport capacity in the South East, would bring the advantages of additional runway capacity to serve UK passengers in the immediate term and without requiring any taxpayer funding. The failure to back Northolt undermines the delivery of the Government’s vision for the Northern Powerhouse by limiting access to London and onward global connections. This proposal would provide immediate regional connectivity, whereas HS2 is not expected to reach the North West until 2032.

A lack of proper consideration for this proposal also means that the Ministry of Defence’s decision is walking away from substantial benefits:

  • Flybe routes out of Northolt would generate an estimated £3m in income to the Royal Air Force and a further £4m in Air Passenger Duty revenue to the Treasury.
  • This proposal would benefit 300,000 passengers a year from all over the UK, giving them fast access to and from Central London and Heathrow, from regional airports not currently served by either Heathrow or Gatwick. Flybe would look to provide a fast bus link to Heathrow for connecting passengers.
  • Local Northolt residents would benefit as Flybe would use only its highly efficient turboprop aircraft, which are quieter than the private jets that today mostly use Northolt. Flybe proposes that its flights would replace an equivalent number of existing private jet movements, so there would be no increase in the number of flights at Northolt. As Flybe’s Q400’s are quieter, total noise would reduce for local residents.
  • This proposal would immediately give many of the domestic benefits of additional runway capacity in west London, at no cost to the Exchequer, pending any opening of a third runway at Heathrow.

Saad Hammad, Flybe’s Chief Executive, said: “Northolt has, for too long, been the preserve of the elite with their private jets. The Government is in danger of turning its back on an opportunity that would benefit hundreds of thousands of people in giving immediate regional air connections to London and beyond through Heathrow’s long-haul network. Other ways to offer connectivity to the Northern Powerhouse are many years away. In the meantime, this proposal would raise £7m additional revenue per year for the government at a time when it is making painful fiscal decisions. The local residents of Northolt are also being denied an opportunity to reduce noise. Opening-up Northolt would provide many of the domestic benefits of additional runway capacity now without any additional noise impact.”


Maitland – 020 7379 5151
James Drewer – [email protected]
Andy Donald – [email protected]

Notes for Editors
RAF Northolt is currently used by private executive jets, VIP’s and RAF transport. Two-thirds of aircraft movements at Northolt are private commercial and less than 30% by RAF aircraft. The National Connectivity Taskforce described Northolt as a “grossly under-utilised national asset”. It is 15 miles from the centre of London and only 10 miles from Heathrow Airport. South Ruislip station (Central Line underground and Chiltern Railways) is easily accessible either on foot or by a short shuttle bus from Northolt airfield, with frequent fast services into London. The access road (A4180) has over 15,000 vehicles per day. Flybe’s services would add up to 250 vehicles per day, absorbable without the need for any additional road improvement. Flybe would plan to investigate, with Heathrow airport, a direct bus shuttle link between the two airports for connecting passengers. Flybe is Europe’s largest regional airline, operating at 34 UK airports and carrying more than half of all UK domestic passengers. Routes that Flybe would like to investigate out of Northolt include; Liverpool, Prestwick, Inverness, Teesside, Doncaster and Londonderry. Proposal: Flybe submitted a proposal to the Ministry of Defence for opening-up RAF Northolt to new domestic routes, whilst Heathrow is constrained by having only 2 runways, as part of the government’s Strategic Defence and Security Review. Noise: This is a noise map (attached) showing how much lower the noise footprint would be at Northolt from a Flybe turboprop would be compared to a BAE 146 Whisperjet.