Aviation and airports


UK 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:

Reforming aviation regulation

We’ve removed 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 beyond the EU are subject to bilateral and multilateral Air Services Agreements (ASAs). These determine how often and on what basis international air services operate. The government wants to make these agreements less restrictive so that airlines can operate freely and competitively. To do this we seek to liberalise the ASAs that the UK is a party to and remove unnecessary restrictions.

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.

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’re running 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 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.

Airport capacity

The independent Airport Commission regularly consults as part of its investigation into options for short, medium and long term extra airport capacity.

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.