Last month, in its submission to the Airports Commission’s discussion paper ‘Aviation Connectivity and the Economy’, the Freight Transport Association said that expansion in the international air freight sector is vital to the UK economy. As a global centre of business, air freight is key to being able to meet market demands and maintain connections with cities and businesses across the world.
While air freight itself is deemed important, it’s the support the industry offers to businesses and other industries which are key importers and exporters such as telecoms, electronics, and financial services. Without air freight, items would take longer to reach their destinations, no next day delivery would be available to far away places, and urgent deliveries for pharmaceutical or medical companies would be almost non-existent.
Heathrow currently processes more air freight than all the other airports in the UK combined, and competes against major European based mixed use hubs such as Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam. But the range of destinations Heathrow can serve is reducing due to lack of slots and, the FTA say, needs to be able to expand in order to meet current and future demand from not just air freight needs, but also air passenger requirements and international trade.
Chris MacRae, FTA Policy Manager said: “The UK economy would benefit from an improved quality of global hub located in the UK. The greater the range of direct destinations, the easier it is to trade with other parts of the world. The UK’s international competitiveness is likely to be impaired unless current airport capacity is expanded to cater for growth in international trade”.
The FTA believes that further expansion is necessary, specifying additional runway capacity is required, either through the introduction of new airports or the expansion of existing sites. It’s interesting to note that whilst current air freight operations don’t measure particularly high when talking in weight, it makes up around 40% of the UK’s extra-EU trade according to DfT The air freight end-to-end journey. With such high value placed on the industry, expanding can only mean increases in business for many industries, greater reach as more destinations are added, allowing the UK to remain competitive in global markets.
Should the expansions go through it won’t just be businesses that benefit, individual air freight customers will be able to send their items to more locations, air passengers would have greater choice in destinations, and the economy could get a boost as more air freight can be processed. The sky really could be the limit.