In a speech today at the Centre for London, Sir Howard Davies, Chair of the Airports Commission, set out the commission’s developing views on the UK’s future airport capacity needs.

The Airports Commission’s emerging thinking, on which it is inviting comments, includes: 

  • pressure on the UK’s busiest airports is likely to continue to grow even if we take a more conservative view of future aviation demand than the DfT has in the past. This is likely to see levels of future demand in excess of capacity in the south east of England airport system.
  • importantly, this appears to be the case even if future aviation demand is constrained in order to meet the government’s legislated climate change objectives.
  • it is difficult to see how the market alone could resolve the capacity / demand imbalance in the south east. Regional airports are already serving their local markets effectively but it is difficult to see how they can absorb all the excess demand. The tools available to government to influence the location of flights are also very limited.

Taken together, the commission believes that these considerations point to the need for new runway infrastructure in the south east of England in the coming decades.

The full text of the speech can be found here.