Aviation chiefs seek help to avoid future PR crises

The airline industry is on the verge of securing public affairs

agency help to avert the kind of crisis that has befallen the UK's

beleaguered rail network.

Representatives from the industry - including the British Air Transport

Association, which represents scheduled and charter flight companies

such as British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Air 2000 - have already

been in contact with six agencies.

Among those hoping to handle the account are LLM Communications,

Citigate Public Affairs, AS Biss, BSMG and financial agency Finsbury's

PA arm, FIPRA. Citigate already carries out political monitoring work

for BATA.

BATA secretary-general Roger Wiltshire said details of the brief were

yet to be finalised, but it is likely to involve substantial lobbying

work concerning a Government white paper on the future of air transport,

expected to be published by next year.

Wiltshire fears air transport could suffer the same fate as Britain's

rail network unless industry members get involved at an early stage in

Government decision-making.

He said: 'This is our chance to avoid the problems that have struck the

rail industry. In 15 years' time, unless changes are made, we are facing

serious congestion problems. It is important we get it right.

'This is a crucial time for customers concerning the long-term future of

air travel. That is why we have met with these agencies,' he added.

A key issue for the industry is the possibility of a fifth terminal at

Heathrow. The pounds 1.8bn development has already received 10,000

objections, many from environmentalists and local residents.

The Government is expected to make a decision by October on whether to

give the scheme the green light.

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