Danny Rogers: Aviation body has crucial battles to win

Word reaches these shores of a fresh PR and lobbying initiative by UK-based airlines and airports, a move that may be long overdue.

Danny Rogers: Aviation body has crucial battles to win
Danny Rogers: Aviation body has crucial battles to win

The new body is understood to replace Flying Matters, the pro-aviation coalition - including tourist bodies, airlines, aerospace firms - that was formed in June 2007.

Sources say that broad-based body, which lobbied MPs, briefed media and ran ad campaigns, will be superseded by a new, more focused body backed by the core aviation operators: British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, BAA and Manchester Airport.

The reasons for a more powerful lobbying and media campaign are obvious and pressing. Surging oil prices will this year deal a shattering blow to the profits of global airlines. And British airlines and airports will suffer more than most, thanks to high domestic taxes and a sluggish economy.

For many years airlines - which have already had to deal with terrorism fears, ash clouds and recession - have also been wrongly viewed as pariahs by successive governments in the name of 'environmental concern'.

And yet there is little evidence that the increasing amount of money reaped from so-called 'environmental taxes' like Air Passenger Duty has actually been spent on green initiatives.

Instead the major impact has been the escalating cost of airline tickets. You have probably noticed just how expensive it has become to fly, even on so-called 'budget' carriers such as easyJet. But then the tougher aviation climate has cut down the choice available to consumers, with the loss of carriers such as Buzz, Go and SilverJet.

So there are some fundamental arguments that any new aviation lobbying body needs to win.

For a start there are often double standards when it comes to flying. You will find that many of those who advocate heavier restrictions on airlines will be those who will comfortably afford several long-haul holidays each year.

Equally, aviation is potentially one of Britain's greatest exports. British Airways was not called the World's Favourite Airline for nothing and Sir Richard Branson has launched ground-breaking airlines in many countries. And Heathrow's Terminal 5, despite its disastrous launch, now represents the gold standard in airport experience.

Aviation is one of the things in which we Brits naturally excel. So good luck to the new initiative, but one major proviso: if the profits do come back, then please invest them in cleaner, quieter planes, and a complete overhaul of Heathrow Terminals 1, 2 and 4.

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