Promoting sustainable aviation


UK airlines and airports carry more than 200 million passengers and over 2 million tonnes of freight every year. These numbers are forecast to increase in the future.

We need to make sure that airports and airlines provide the domestic and international connections the UK needs to grow and prosper. We will take into account the climate change impacts of air travel and the impact of noise on people living near our airports. We will continue to make sure that air travel is safe and secure.


Improving our airports

To meet the aviation needs of the UK, we are:

  • creating the aviation policy framework which balances the economic benefits of air travel with its impact on the environment and local communities
  • setting up an independent commission to look at what extra capacity we’ll need in the short, medium and long term
  • running a trial of operational freedoms to improve punctuality and reduce delay at Heathrow airport
  • investing in a new rail link from Heathrow to the west of England and south Wales by 2021
  • allowing foreign airlines to pick up passengers at Gatwick or Stansted when flying to other destinations, leading to more new routes
  • building on the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics to promote a range of UK airports and to target new carriers, particularly those in emerging markets such as Latin America, India and south-east Asia

Reforming aviation regulation

We’re removing old and unnecessary regulations by:

Air traffic services

To improve air traffic services in the UK, we’re:

  • working with the National Air Traffic Services (NATS) to bring the public and private sectors together to plan how to manage increasing demand for air traffic services
  • using air traffic forecasts to predict demand for air travel up to the year 2020, so that government departments, the CAA, airports and airlines can plan their services

International aviation

Air services to non-EU countries are subject to Air Services Agreements (ASAs). These give countries the right to operate international flights between 2 territories. The government wants to make these agreements less restrictive on UK established airlines so that they can operate freely and competitively. To do this we are aiming for agreements which allow airlines the freedom to set their own fares and to increase capacity to meet demand for air travel.

Aviation security and safety

We work with the CAA to monitor the safety and security of passengers and freight. To do this we:

  • publicly list aircraft that are banned from operating in the UK
  • require operators to have effective quality assurance and safety management arrangements
  • research health issues regarding aeroplane cabins, deep vein thrombosis, disruptive behaviour and air quality   We’re also modernising the regulatory regime for aviation security to promote innovation and efficiency, ensure the best possible passenger experience and bring it into line with better regulation principles.

To coordinate foreign registered airlines and aircraft coming in and out of the UK, we issue aviation permits. The permits certify that the aircraft are insured and safe, and the crews are competent and fully trained.

Building on a similar and successful approach in aviation safety, we’re moving to a more outcome focused risk based (OFRB) method for security regulation. We will introduce security management systems (SeMS) – a systematic way of managing security.

We will run a series of pilot schemes in which industry operators will develop the SeMS approach. Once we’re satisfied that SeMS is sufficiently robust and beneficial, we’ll begin to roll it out. This will give us a sound basis for the development and piloting of the OFRB approach.

In June 2011, we did an impact assessment on reforming aviation security and collated a summary of responses to the consultation.


In May 2010, we announced in the Queen’s Speech – Airport Economic Regulation Bill, our intention to reform the law on the regulation of airports. In July 2010, we detailed our proposals for reform, and in March 2011 we introduced the Civil Aviation Bill in Parliament.

In June 2010 we announced the creation of the South East Airports Taskforce, chaired by the Minister of State for Transport, to explore how to make the most of existing airport infrastructure in the south-east of England. The taskforce issued its final report in July 2011.

In March 2011 we published developing a sustainable framework for UK aviation: scoping document. This document asked a series of questions about the future direction of aviation policy. We used responses to the scoping document to inform the development of the draft aviation policy framework which we published in July 2012 for consultation.

In August 2011 we published our response to the advice from the Committee on Climate Change to the previous administration on options to reduce the CO₂ emissions from aviation below 2005 levels by 2050. Alongside this response we published new aviation demand forecasts and an assessment of the relative cost-effectiveness and abatement potential of different measures for reducing UK aviation CO₂ emissions to 2050.

To shape this policy, we used economic and statistical analysis, appraisal, evaluation, modelling and research.

Who we’ve consulted

Aviation policy

Between March and October 2011 we engaged with the devolved administrations, aviation industry, business community, environmental groups, local authorities, local residents’ groups and stakeholders in the English regions as part of the developing a sustainable framework for UK aviation: scoping document. Between July and October 2012 we consulted the same groups on the draft aviation policy framework.

Aviation security

The consultation document Better regulation for aviation security set out proposals to modernise the regulatory regime for aviation security. The intention is to bring it into line with better regulation principles, promote innovation and efficiency and improve passenger experience.

Bills and legislation

The Civil Aviation Act 2012 sets out the government’s plans to reform the regulatory framework for civil aviation in the United Kingdom. It enables the CAA to modernise the way it operates and meet the needs of customers more effectively.

In June 2008 a revision of the Single European sky legislation was adopted to meet future safety, capacity and efficiency needs at airports at a European rather than a national level.

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