FLYBE CEO THROWS DOWN GAUNTLET TO GOVERNMENT DURING KEYNOTE ADDRESS AT FIRST BRITISH – IRISH AIRPORTS EXPO IN BIRMINGHAM
Leading regional airline’s Saad Hammad highlights issues most affecting the aviation industry that require urgent governmental action
8th June 2016
In a plea during the opening speech at the first British Irish Airports Expo at Birmingham’s NEC today (8th June 2016), Flybe’s CEO Saad Hammad threw down the gauntlet to the UK Government on the three key issues that the head of Europe’s largest regional airline believes is holding back the UK aviation industry and the wider UK economy.
He contrasted the Irish Government having published a National Aviation Policy in 2015, with a clear set of actions to drive the development and growth of Ireland’s aviation sector, with that of the UK that still does not have a coherent or holistic national aviation policy or action programme. “This I believe,” he said, “is a mistake and one which the whole aviation industry should be arguing to have corrected.”
High on the agenda of issues is the punitive Air Passenger Duty (APD) that the Irish Government, like many others across Europe, has abolished. Hammad again called for it to be ditched completely or at the very least made more equitable. APD is levied disproportionately on regional flights and a typical domestic passenger can be charged up to 19 times the tax per mile of a passenger on a long-haul flight. “APD is not just a barrier to regional development - it is also a barrier to tourism,” he said.
The Government also continues to ignore the importance of regional aviation connectivity in its aspirations to create a Northern Powerhouse. “The Government-funded £43 billion HS2 will not be able to fulfil this aspiration in the foreseeable future. It will not reach Manchester for at least 17 years! The Regional Air Connectivity Fund that focuses on start-up routes during their initial phases needs to be bigger. The Fund contributed only £7m this year to start-up regional routes. It also needs to fund permanent connectivity as well as additional frequency investments on existing regional air routes.”
In closing, Hammad stressed that the government could no longer afford to stall on the issues of airport capacity and expansion at either Heathrow or Gatwick. When that decision is made, Hammad requested the UK Government make a commitment that any incremental runway capacity features guaranteed and affordable slots for regional routes served by smaller aircraft. “A future hub airport in London needs to be a truly ‘national’ asset rather than something built solely to serve South East-based passengers or global passengers connecting through the South East” he said. Flybe, he added, had proposed to the Government that it was prepared to operate scheduled services from RAF Northolt as an interim solution until a new runway is built in 15-20 years’ time, giving the UK regions some of the immediate connectivity benefits of a new south east runway with none of the environmental disadvantages.
“I believe we, as the voices of the industry, need to continue to lobby government hard to deliver meaningful change not only for the industry – but more importantly for the benefit of the travelling public.”
The two-day British-Irish Airports EXPO is the first exhibition of its kind in Britain or Ireland and has attracted 150 exhibitors and in excess of 2,000 airport industry executives.
Issued by the Flybe press office:T: 0845 675 0681 E: [email protected]
Notes to Editors:
Flybe, Europe's largest regional airline – 214 routes serving 10 countries from 75 departure points, 36 UK/38 European airports* (all routes on sale Apr’16 – Mar‘17); operates more UK domestic flights than any other airline (UK CAA Apr ’15 – Mar16); one of only two UK-based carriers in top 20 global airlines punctuality league table by OAG (Jan ’16) and named top UK airline for punctuality in report issued by UK consumer watchdog Which? (Dec 2014); named ‘Best Short-Haul Airline’ at the 2016 Business Travel Awards (Jan ‘16);is the largest scheduled airline by air traffic movements at Belfast City, Birmingham, Cardiff, Exeter, Glasgow, Isle of Man, Jersey, Manchester, Newquay and Southampton airports(UK CAA Mar ’16);operates fleet of76 aircraft – 51 Bombardier Q400, 9 Embraer 195, 11 E175 & 5 ATR 72s; codeshares with BA, Air France, Etihad, KLM, Finnair, Aer Lingus, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Virgin Atlantic and Air India; has three franchise partners, Loganair, Stobart Air and Blue Islands making it only UK airline brand with 70% coverage of reporting airports (UK CAA Mar’15); has own globally recognised Training Academy in Exeter with flight deck and cabin crew simulator facilities, 26 classrooms and 150-seat conference facility.
*Flown under the Flybe brand (30 routes/11 airports exclusively served by Flybe’s franchise partner, Loganair: and 3 routes and 3 airports exclusively operated by franchise partner, Stobart Air)