Airport body lobbies around expansion plan

Airport Operators' Association head of media and public affairs Michelle Di Leo has pledged to ramp up lobbying work surrounding the possible expansion of UK airport capacity.

A consultation period on the future of UK air travel was extended following a High Court ruling in November and Di Leo - who replaced Andrew McCall at the trade body earlier this month - said there was 'a danger that during the delay people will lose sight of the importance of growth'.

Di Leo said the AOA's media and lobbying work would stress how a failure to expand airport capacity would damage the UK economy and cost jobs.

'We plan to increase our contact with MPs to ensure that when the White Paper arrives they are fully aware of what airports are doing to responsibly grow aviation in the UK,' said Di Leo.

'We will push key messages on responsible, sustainable growth,' added Di Leo, who left her former job as public affairs manager at public transport firm FirstGroup last month.

She insisted the AOA had a 'proactive' approach to mitigate the impact of airport growth, saying some AOA members were helping to fund airlines' research on 'quieter and cleaner' aircraft.

Strong opposition to airport expansion comes from AirportWatch - a coalition of environmental and protest groups set up last year.

In addition, councils such as the London Borough of Hillingdon - where Heathrow is located - and Medway Council in Kent, where there are plans for a new airport near the village of Cliffe, are lobbying on the issue.

The consultation period was extended to include options relating to Gatwick Airport. A new consultation document is expected to be published in the coming weeks.

McCall moved to become government affairs manager at Ford's Premier Automotive Group (PRWeek, 6 December 2002).

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