How do cheap flights abroad help the economy?

It's questionable whether an increase in cheap flights abroad, and an influx of people into generally low-grade jobs will improve the economic well-being of the area, says a report by the Aviation Environment Federation in its response to BAA's masterplan to expand Southampton Airport.  In fact tourism takes Ł15 billion more out of economy than it puts back in, it says.

The report, which you can download in full here (88k pdf file) says: “The claims of economic benefits at Southampton and at sites around the country are obviously intended to help the operators gain approval or at least acceptance by the public of airport expansion.

"But the economic benefits are then used, implicitly or explicitly, to try and convince people that the social and environmental downsides must be accepted. The term “balance” is frequently used. However, the government’s Sustainable Development strategy makes clear that economic, social and environmental progress need to made simultaneously. Trading off the environment for the economy is no part of Sustainable Development. We recommend that [local councils — Eastleigh and Southampton] and local communities do not support, either explicitly or implicitly, the notion of trading off the environment for the economy.”

Along with a wide range of issues, the report says the masterplan makes a “crucial omission” in not mentioning the extent of noise nuisance, either in terms of reported or anecdotal evidence, or in terms of actual recorded or estimated noise levels.

“Likewise there is no mention of sound insulation in the masterplan, which presumably means that BAA does not intend to offer help, even if noise gets worse. It should be noted that noise insulation is offered at various airports, including City of London and BAA’s own airports of Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted.”

Neutral complaints' line
Neither is there mention in the masterplan of noise monitoring, which, the report says, the “polluter should pay for”.  And to allay local concerns, the Aviation Environment Federation suggests a complaints' line should be set up in a neutral location, staffed independently of BAA, with costs met by BAA — again in accordance with the polluter pays principle.

The report also looks at various other aspects of the masterplan, including a detailed response on the environmental issues around airport expansion.

Download the full report


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