by business editor Trevor Sturgess
Some regional airports could go out of business if the Government fails to recognise their important role in easing the nation’s capacity crisis.
That’s the warning from Manston Airport chief executive Charles Buchanan.
He argues that direct and immediate action is needed to resolve the short and long-term airport capacity shortages at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted where new runways have been ruled out indefinitely.
In Manston’s submission to a consultation on aviation policy, he urges the Government to look to existing regional airports to buy time for longer term plans to be explored.
"Realistically no new runway will be built in the South East for at least 10 years, probably 15 years, but regional airports can deliver capacity now," said Mr Buchanan.
"The downturn in the economy has seen a number of the smaller regional airports, including some in the South East, operate at a significant financial loss, with the real possibility that it will only be a matter of time before the industry starts to see the closure of some of these currently loss-making airports. Once closed, they will probably be lost forever and not replaced."
Mr Buchanan also wants to see different rates of Air Passenger Duty (APD) applying at congested airports to persuade airlines to operate out of smaller ones like Manston.
Meanwhile, the British Chambers of Commerce has called on the Government to develop an aviation policy that supports business growth and job creation. It also wants ministers to scrap proposed APD increases.
Jo James, chief executive of Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce, said: "In Kent we have a particular interest in aviation policy owing to the controversial question of the expansion of airport facilities within the county.
"If companies are to make the most of the opportunities offered by international trade, it is essential that a cohesive aviation policy is developed, and definitive decisions reached on future developments."