Hodges quits GMB to head comms for Freedom to Fly

GMB director of comms Dan Hodges has quit to head PR for the aviation industry's Freedom to Fly campaign.

Hodges is to join the campaign, set up a year ago by airlines, airports and transport unions to lobby for airport expansion, at the start of March.

He takes over from former John Prescott special adviser Joe Irvin who, it is understood, is to return to academia.

During his three years at the GMB Hodges was known for steering a series of hard-hitting advertising and PR campaigns, including the 'Who are the Real Wreckers? campaign which targeted firms involved in public private partnerships.

Late last year transport secretary Alistair Darling announced that the Government's white paper on the future of air travel will be delayed until next autumn.

A number of options have been mooted, with some - like the proposals for an extra runway at Stansted - triggering local protests, including lobbying by local authorities affected.

Freedom to Fly, which also involves air user groups, is calling for the construction of three runways in the south-east, as well as extra capacity at regional airports.

Hodges' move comes as the GMB prepares to elect a new leader, with general-secretary John Edmonds set to retire later this year.

It is understood that a search for a replacement comms director will start after Edmonds' successor has been announced.

Before joining the GMB Hodges was an account manager with Media Strategy and also had a stint at the Road Haulage Association as its press and public affairs manager.

He pledged this week that the Freedom to Fly campaign would adopt a more robust stance in dealing with criticism of airport expansion from, in particular, local protest groups.

Hodges said that in his new role he would be seeking to 'redress the balance' regarding coverage being gained by high-profile anti-airport expansion protestors such as celebrity chef Jamie Oliver. While this would not be 'aggressive', Hodges did say that the campaign's stance towards figures such as Oliver would be 'more confident' in the future.

A spokesperson for Oliver said that the celebrity chef is against specific expansion plans for Stanstead and that he is certainly 'not against airports'.

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