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New runway would add hundreds of pounds to holidays in extra carbon costs, say campaigners

8 August 2016

A new runway at Heathrow or Gatwick could spell the end of budget flights from the UK’s airports, because of charges that would have to be added to meet the UK’s legally binding climate change limits, according to a report published today by the Campaign for Better Transport.

Last summer the Airports Commission recommended that a new runway should be built at Heathrow airport. The Commission claimed that building a new runway is in line with the UK’s limit on carbon emissions. But new analysis of the Airports Commission’s figures shows that they expect carbon prices to soar if a new runway is built, potentially adding hundreds of pounds to the cost of plane tickets from UK airports. 

According to the report, Air Traffic Controls, the increase in costs of return tickets by 2050 if a new runway is built would be up to:

  • £99 from Birmingham to Malta
  • £99 from Edinburgh to Malaga
  • £106 from London to Athens
  • £127 from Manchester to Tenerife
  • £148 from Newcastle to Sharm El Sheikh
  • £221 from London to Florida

This means a family of four would have to pay up to £883 more for a return flight from London to Florida. 

The new research unpicks the complex measures the Airports Commission has claimed will allow UK climate commitments to be met, despite a new runway at either Heathrow or Gatwick substantially increasing carbon emissions from air travel. 

Air Traffic Controls shows that the Airports Commission’s plan to increase ticket prices in order to discourage travellers and so reduce carbon emissions would spell the end of low-cost flights – putting foreign holidays out of reach for people on low incomes. 

Leo Murray, one of the report’s authors, said: 

“There has been far too little scrutiny of the Airports Commission’s proposals for squaring airport expansion in the South East with the UK’s climate change targets, with the details hidden deep inside hundreds of pages of technical reports. Our analysis reveals the Airports Commission’s approach to the climate change problem to be a combination of wishful thinking and reverse engineering. 

Building a new runway while still meeting our climate change commitments is expected to add hundreds of pounds to the cost of flights from all of the UK’s airports if the Commission’s proposals are enacted.” 

Stephen Joseph, Chief Executive of Campaign for Better Transport, added: 

"This important report is very clear, if the Government approves a new runway in the South East it risks either breaking the national carbon budget, or pricing those on lower incomes out of the sky entirely. 

The Airports Commission uses heroic assumptions about technology and efficiency improvements which are at odds with the Government’s own analysis. Worse, the huge sums the Commission proposes adding to the cost of plane tickets to allow a new runway to be built have so far gone almost unnoticed, and have not featured in the debate about expansion. 

There are other options. For example, a Frequent Flyer Levy would keep things affordable for those who only fly occasionally while making sure those who fly much more frequently are faced with a price tag that reflects the impact of what they're doing." 

For further information contact:

Leo Murray on 07834 768 743 / leo@fellowtravellers.org or  Richard Watkins, Press Officer, at Campaign for Better Transport on 020 7566 6494 / 07984 773468 or richard.watkins@bettertransport.org.uk


Notes to Editors 

Air Traffic Controls: the hidden costs of a new London runway is published on 00.01hrs Monday 8 August by the Campaign for Better Transport.

The report developed three scenarios for increases to flight tickets after the construction of a new runway, according to the Commission’s assumptions and projections. In all scenarios flight ticket prices would be expected to increase if a new runway is built. The prices outlined above show the costs from the scenario with the largest increase. Please see Tables 1, 2 and 3 in the report for full figures on carbon prices implied for the UK’s most popular routes in a range of different expansion scenarios.

On the 19th July, the Lord Bishop of Salisbury, Nick Holtham, called for Air Passenger Duty to be replaced with a Frequent Flyer Levy during a Lords debate on the Carbon Budget Order 2016. See Hansard:http://goo.gl/8MFbKI